ODE TO THE ORANGE BLOSSOM
«A continuous breeze arises from the perfumed gardens, a breeze that inebriates the mind... That aroma, suddenly enveloping you, mixing the delicate sensation of perfumes with the artistic joy of the mind, immerses you for a few seconds into a well-being of body and soul that comes close to true happiness». Guy de Maupassant- Sicily -
SPLENDOR OF WHITE LIGHT
The Zagara, the Sicilian flower par excellence, is the fragant blossom of the citrus trees; the word Zagara derives from Arab terms “zahara” (to shine) and “zahr” (flower): "Splendour of white light" .
Neroli has a sharper, more delicate aroma with a pleasantly bitter top note, a floral, herbal, green body and a floral, orange flower dry-out. It's lighter than the more overtly feminine orange blossom absolute which is more indolic and lusher, heavy and rich, warm, but also delicate and fresh, long-lasting odour, closely resembling the fragrance of fresh bitter orange blossoms. Its fragrance is not unlike that of jasmine, less intensely floral, but with a greater freshness. Petit grain is more bitter and has a masculine edge. And of course bigarade is the very flavour of morning marmelade.
The grace and delicacy of the floral aroma that their light petals release into the air offer a sense of absolute purity: in the 18th century, the sophisticated Duchess Anna Maria Orsini di Bracciano, the Princess of Neroli, fell in love with this special fragrance, declaring it as the only, fascinating scent – in the form of essential oil – to apply to gloves and lace, and even her bath water.
Neroli, Petitgrain, Orange Blossoms, Bigarade
The amazing tree which produces those wonders of nature is citrus aurantium var. amara (or bigaradia), commonly referred to as "bitter orange tree".
The methods which produce different materials: neroli, orange blossom absolute, biagarade, petit-grain
Cold-pressing the fruit peel yields bigarade, the essential oil of the bitter orange; distilling the twigs gives you petitgrain ( the same method gives petit-grain from other citrus trees such as lemon petit-grain, mandarin petit-grain etc); and the orange blossoms provide you with neroli (neroli comes from steam distillation of the flowers) while the same flowers can yield orange blossom absolute when treated with solvents to extract their essence.
Distill the leaves, twigs and flowers together and you have petitgrain sur le fleur.