From the flower to fine lavender AOP essential oil
Distillation is an art! Its precision successfully transforms this magical flower into top-quality essential oil, recognised since ancient times for its medicinal benefits as well as its subtle and refined fragrance. At every harvest, aroma-therapists and fine fragrance perfumers contend for the supply of this precious and inimitable juice.
Let us remember that “population” fine lavender essential oil is a rare and precious luxury product. Its production is limited at just 15.000 kilograms per year for the whole world. As proof of this exception, it is the only French plant to be protected against counterfeits by its quality label AOP “lavender from the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence”. The members of the Lincelé family have always felt privileged to be able to produce this natural treasure - the “Blue Gold of Provence” - in the midst of their lavender-growing estate.
The gestures of our ancestors
The gestures of the Lincelé ancestors working at the still have been precisely copied over five generations. The family perpetuates a secular tradition, a guarantee of high quality for their essential oil vintage. Their expertise is rewarded each year by the AOP certification for the whole of their essential oil production, representing ten per cent of the world-wide production of this precious nectar. All the Provence fine lavender distillers agree on the inherent qualities of a well-distilled essential oil. From the moment of the first exhalation, its voluptuous bouquet of powerful, complex and generous aromas should possess the potential to seduce. Its sensuality must please the nose as well as the mind. Fine lavender is a compelling creator of emotions.
We would like you to share with us the privileged and festive moments of the harvest and distillation. Visiting a lavender field in full bloom presents an opportunity to de-connect from the real world. It is an ecstatic and exhilarating experience. The emotional effect is difficult to express in words. We invite you to come and experience it for yourself.
The fundamental principles of effective distillation
The Lincelé family never compromises tradition and continues the exact distillation techniques inherited from its forebears. Here are some of these fundamental principles.
The maturity of the flower
First of all, it is essential to distil the fine lavender flower once it has reached full maturity. Otherwise it will not be able to express its authenticity and specificity so strongly linked to the soil and to the micro climate of the dry Provence mountains.
The pre-withering of the flower
Following this, particular attention must be paid to “pre-withering”. This process allows the freshly cut flower to dry naturally in the sun for the time required for it to lose the majority of its water. If this delicate operation fails, the distillation of the wet flower will take longer and be incomplete. The water vapour will have difficulty penetrating the flower, the water acting as a hydraulic seal. What’s more, the essential oil will take on an inacceptable odour of freshly cut grass. To avoid this major problem Georges Lincelé initiated a pioneering technique which consists of leaving one row of grass between every six rows of fine lavender. With the help of a telescopic conveyor, the cutter is able to place the lavender on this empty space called an “andean”. In this way the lavender has enough space to dry out in the Provence sun. The underlying grass prevents rotting, as air circulates under the cut lavender. The pre-withering lavender is gathered mechanically using a self-loading trailer. Depending on the weather, this can take between 24 and 48 hours. The “pre-withering” technique requires great expertise acquired over many years.
The third factor of success is to carry out total distillation. The water vapour penetrates the flower, extracting the essential oil which is naturally contained in very small secretion glands. Fine lavender essence contains no less than 300 natural chemical molecules. The smallest are the aromatic molecules, prized by perfumers. They will be the first to be carried away by the water vapour. Further distillation is necessary in order to be able to remove the larger elements which constitute essential oil. These are the “coumarins”, molecules which confer upon the essential oil its healing properties. Certain less meticulous producers practice “short” distillations which save time and cost. Indeed, the majority of the constituents of essential oil are extracted during the first half of the distillation process. At this stage, the quickly-distilled essence will not obtain AOP certification, as the required analytical tests carefully check the composition of the essential oil. The Lincelé family takes great care in all the stages of distillation. The temperature and the water vapour pressure need to be constantly monitored. If the water vapour is higher than 100 degrees Celsius, the essential oil will take on a “burnt” odour.
Allowing the essential oil to rest
Like wine “grands crus”, fine lavender essential oil needs to mature slowly to allow the essence to stabilise. The precious casks of essential oil are stored for a minimum of five months in the cellars of the “Château du Bois » estate. They are then packaged in small bottles, ready to be marketed.
It is important to allow the time needed for this period of maturation. This requires patience. The result is a true revelation for the senses, beginning from the moment we detect the preliminary caressing olfactory notes.