Let’s go on an olfactory journey to Calabria to discover a sweet and tangy citrus fruit that has been a favorite ingredient of noses for centuries: bergamot! This natural raw material offers fruity and citrusy notes to the compositions, announcing a wind of fragrant freshness! Discover the history and secrets of this unique fruit.
The short history of the bergamot
A mysterious origin
Although it has been used for decades, the origin of the bergamot is still uncertain. For the botanist Giorgio Gallesio, the citrus fruit would be the result of a cross between a lime (a lime tree) and a bitter orange (from the bigaradier). For others, it would be an hybrid created accidentally from a lemon tree during the 14th century. And these theories can be true because this acidulous and bitter fruit resembles a large orange, but of green color.
And the origins of its implantation are also mysterious. A first hypothesis says that the bergamot takes its name from the Spanish town of Berga (located north of Barcelona) where it was cultivated. It was Christopher Columbus who brought the bergamot tree back from the Canary Islands. Another theory states that its name comes from the Turkish “berg-armadé” which translates as “lord’s pear” (due to its shape). The citrus fruit would then have been imported by the Crusaders from the East. Finally, others claim that the bergamot would take its name from the Italian city of Bergamo where the Duke of Lorraine would have discovered it after a stay in an abbey in which the monks distilled bergamots from Calabria.
The culture of the bergamot
Botanically, bergamot comes from a fruit tree, the Citrus Bergamia from its Latin name. The tree produces small white flowers with great fragrant powers, of which a small quantity will produce fruit. This pear-shaped fruit has a thick and green skin that turns yellow when ripe. The bergamot is mainly cultivated in southern Italy, from Calabria to the Ionian coast in what are called “bergamot gardens”. It is also found in the Ivory Coast, Brazil and Guinea. The harvest takes place in winter and is done entirely by hand to avoid damaging the precious bark.
Bergamot is mainly cultivated to extract an essential oil from its peel. The fruit is very acid and bitter and is almost never consumed. However, it is used to flavor teas, in certain confectionery such as Nancy bergamots, or in oriental cuisine, in a candied version.
The use of bergamot in perfumery
Before being integrated into many olfactory compositions, the skin of the bergamot was often used in other ways. In the 17th century, “bergamots” were small boxes made from the peel of the fruit. They were made in Calabria, Sicily but also in Grasse, democratized by the glovers-perfumers who sought to diversify their activities because of the very high price of the skins. Easy to make, it was necessary to cut the fruit in two to empty it delicately. Once dried, the shell was decorated with patterns painted with Indian ink and then varnished. These small perfumed boxes were a present that was usually offered at Christmas.
But bergamot really owes its olfactory fame to the eau de Cologne. As early as the 14th century, Calabrian producers understood that by pressing the bark on a sponge, they could obtain a very fragrant substance. The essence was first used for its curative properties. It was not until the early 1700s and the perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina that bergamot essence became the flagship ingredient of a new product in vogue: eau de Cologne. The essence of bergamot, along with lemon, petitgrain or orange, became the prerogative of this fresh composition which will cross the times.
A tonic essence
To obtain this precious essence, fresh bergamots are stored to “warm up” so that their skin softens. Then, the cold expression method is used to press the peel. The fruit goes through a machine that will peel the zest to extract all the essences. It is also possible to use essence of bergamot petitgrain, which is obtained by distilling the leaves and tops of the tree.
It takes no less than 200 kilos of fruit to obtain 1 kilo of bergamot essence. Its fragrance is sparkling, fresh and floral at the same time. The essential oil brings a real elegance to compositions thanks to its multiple facets. It is a round and sweet scent that also diffuses green, bitter and acidic tones. We also identify nuances of lavender and pepper. In short, the essence of bergamot is almost a perfume in itself!
Thanks to its tonic freshness, bergamot is often found as a top note in the olfactory pyramid of a fragrance. Emblematic of colognes, it is also integrated in more concentrated perfumes to lighten the compositions. It brings a citrusy facet that combines perfectly with chypre, oriental or fern accords. Perfumers also use it a lot in flowery-green associations that reveal vegetal and tonic notes. Moreover, it plays a role of binder and fixative and is also very appreciated for its “unisex” aspect which suits both feminine and masculine juices.
The bergamot and us
At Carrément Belle we are also big fans of the refreshing and bewitching scent of bergamot. Its essence is thus integrated in several fragrances of the Collection.
The green and luminous wake of label rose
In the eau de parfum label rose, what first tickles the nose is a green and fiery start. Bergamot brings a playful and citrusy flight alongside lemon and orange bigarade. Its wake continues towards a floral heart where the freshness gradually dissipates to envelop you in a musky and elegant fragrance.
Freshness SO sensual
In the oriental SO, bergamot invites itself in the top note to release with orange a first citrusy shiver. The floral facet of the bergamot will then exhale a certain sweetness. This fresh and invigorating impression will become more and more sensual thanks to the bewitching amber. A sunny fragrance that will make your skin tingle!
Just like SO, the eau de parfum kilim is part of our oriental scents. In this composition, the bergamot brings a fruity and sweet aspect which allows to invigorate more powerful notes such as the patchouli or the benzoin. The combination of this freshness with warm notes exhales a fragrance that you won’t soon forget!
With alfred kafé, bergamot is harmonized in a fern and aromatic accord. This time it is in the heart of the fragrance that this essence is revealed. It brings languorous notes alongside mint and sage, to melt in the middle of a field of soothing lavender. The contrast between the power of coffee and these greener nuances is to be savored without moderation!
How about enjoying a fresh and festive cocktail by the water? This olfactory proposal is offered to you by alõ! From the very first drops, the fragrance opens with a shivering note of joyful citrus. Bergamot makes this composition sparkle and is in harmony with ginger and pink berries, to then take you to the open sea with its marine nuances.
Did you know the origin of bergamot?
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