Odor profile: A refined note coming from stamens of Crocus sativus, a small flower in the Iris family known since antiquity. Its odor profile is bittersweet, leathery, soft and intimate, with an earthy base note.
As is the case with most other fragrances in the collection, and can hardly be called a mono-aroma: It is a rather intricate composition, rich in details and alternate storylines.
Saffron as spice, has been known since ancient times. Visually, saffron looks like thin orange or crimson-red threads 1 to 1.5 inches long. They are dried stigmas from the flower Crocus sativus, a relative to iris.
In order to obtain 1 kilo of the saffron spice, you need approximately 200,000 flowers (each flower contains exactly 3 stigmas) – it is no surprise that saffron is among the most expensive spices in the world, 1 lb of saffron costs more than $1,500 (or $3,500 per kilo.)
So it's obvious that perfume materials sourced from saffron are not budget ones. A freshly picked flower practically does not smell at all, but in the process of drying, safranal – a defining molecule of the saffron scent – occurs upon degradation of the glycoside.
Saffron does yield a small amount of essential oil. It has to be distilled in an inert atmosphere, otherwise the oil is easily oxidized, since it is extremely unstable. Previously, saffron was used mainly in the form of tinctures, obtained by heating the stamens with ethanol. Nowadays, they use a supercritical CO2 saffron extraction, some manufacturers offer saffron concrete and absolute.
Yet saffron is an ambiguous perfume note. The basic tone of saffron is sweetish, woody-spicy, with violet and tobacco facets; it is grassy-coumarin, oriental, with light alcohol-rum aspects.
But there is a quality of saffron scent that makes it stand out among all other spices: a characteristic phenolic nuance, often described as leather and iodine (medical). And here lies the dividing line: Some people love this strange hypnotic nuance, and some associate it with hospital smells and it frightens them.