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ORANGE FLOWER/PETITGRAIN HYDROSOL
Jeanne Rose

Petitgrain Oil. Petitgrain is produced by steam distilling the leaves and small branches of citrus trees after the harvest of fruit.  The yield is 0.25-0.5%.  The most important of the Petitgrain oils comes from the Bitter Orange tree. Paraguay is a big producer.  Higher quality Petitgrain comes from France and Italy.  Petitgrain has a strong, bittersweet, and floral and somewhat woody odor, sometimes vegetative (bad), dry and a bit leathery. 80% of the yield is made up of linalyl acetate and linaloöl in a proportion of 2:1.  The woody smell is from the sesquiterpene alcohol, spathulenol.  Aldehydes contribute to the odorous principle, even though they are in small amounts.  Another important constituent is the pyrazines with their Galbanum-like green notes.

It is important to mention that the trace components in Petitgrain leads to a good scent and especially in perfumery where they are important when the scent needs to be reconstituted.

The Petitgrain is distilled from the leaves and twiglets when the fruit is pea-sized.

Neroli Oil. 850 kg of carefully picked Orange flowers yields 1 kg of Neroli oil after steam distillation.  Annually 2-3 tons is produced, mainly in North Africa.  The oil possesses a strong. Floral, powdery aldehydic odor, very fresh with a warm base note that resembles freshly dried hay.  It does resemble Petitgrain in its odor and often Petitgrain is used to adulterate Neroli oil.  Ocimenes are higher in Neroli than Petitgrain. Also limonene, linaloöl and linalyl acetate occur in larger amounts than Petitgrain.  Indole, which possesses a powerful exotic floral note at high dilution and a somewhat fresh breast-fed baby poop odor when not diluted, separates and differentiates Neroli from Petitgrain.  This indole odor is sometimes very prevalent in the Neroli hydrosol. Methoxypyrazine contributes to a green character, which also is the interesting green note in Galbanum and Green Peppers.  Nootkatone present in Grapefruit peel is not present in either Petitgrain or in Neroli.

The Neroli is distilled from the flowers of Citrus trees: the flowers are picked and distilled about the end of March for most varieties.

Orange Flower and Petitgrain Distillation. At the end of March 2003, I had the opportunity to distill 5 pounds of pure Orange Flowers for Sweet Neroli Hydrosol obtained from a sweet naval Orange, variety Atwood. The balance of the leaves and flowers was then sent to anther distiller for the Orange Flower and Petitgrain hydrosol.

The trees were grown in the foothills edging the great central valley of California near the town of Lindsay. The trees are grown organically, at 500 feet with a west exposure in full sun and the area is certified organic. The area is irrigated via the San Joaquin River. The soil is USDA Porterville cobbly clay. There is about 12 inches of rainfall per year. The harvest was on Wednesday 3/25/03 from about 15 trees. Harvest weather was overcast to full sun, about 75º F 30% humidity.  It took 6 hours for two persons to fill 13 five-gallon buckets with twigs and flowers. This was transported to San Francisco and arrived on Thursday. Each tree produced about 1 bucket (3.3 lbs/bucket) of easily available twigs with flowers.  This effectively gently prunes the tree of excess flowers and leaves it able to produce more and tastier Oranges.

We started with 43 pounds of twiglets that had blossoms and buds attached. It took three man hours (1 hour for 3 persons) to pick off the flowers and to accumulate the 5 pounds of just-opened flowers.  The fragrance was sweet, intense, floral and fruity with some green back notes. We assembled the still and loaded it at 2 pm with 5 lbs of flowers and 3 gallons of spring water. The flowers were kept above the boiling water with a grid. Distillation ran very well and the distillate began to run at about 2:15. We continued the distillation until 5:45 pm at which time 1.5 gallons of Orange flower hydrosol had been accumulated. The pH changed from 6.1 at 2:25 pm to 5.3 at 2:45 pm and continued at 5.3 until the end. The heads had an odor of fruit, green and floral, the body was floral, fruity and citrus. Distillation was discontinued when the odor began to get green with no floral or citrus notes.

The balance of the leaves and flowers (38 pounds) was sent to the larger stainless steel unit, 1-hour north. A 4 inch copper tube was added to the gooseneck. Two hours of distillation produced 12 gallons of hydrosol. pH began at 5, the scent being green and citrus and as the distillation continued, pH became more acid to 4.4, the scent becoming more rich, citrus and spicy. 3 ml of essential oil was produced from the 38 pounds of twigs and flowers.

This was a wonderful hydrosol, very fragrant and sweet.  It was used in skin care products and simply as a mister.  Several misting products were produced using the hydrosol. Mixed 50/50 with Spearmint hydrosol produced a very refreshing and fragrant fruity, citrus mint hydrosol. Fabulous...

Orange Flower Distillation

We are planning a very exciting event. On the last Saturday in March, Jeanne Rose will be in the Orange Groves of California distilling fresh Neroli Hydrosol. Limited to 20 people. $160/person

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without prior permission from The Aromatic Plant Project.
©Author's Copyright and Jeanne Rose, info@aromaticplantproject.com



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