THE ART OF INFLOWERING 

Enfleurage is a millenary extraction technique utilized in perfumery to capture the fragrance of flowers. It differs from the equally ancient distillation for the delicacy of the extraction mode. The flowers do not tolerate treatments at high temperatures. Soaking them for extraction in hot conditions would destroy the highly thermolabile aromatic terpenes and would mean wasting them. This method was developed by the Egyptians. It reached advanced technical levels in France during the XVIII century and from there it arrived in Parma, where the legend reveals that it was utilized to extract the essence of the violet. Therefore, this does not imply that it is just merely a case whereby this technique is utilized by us, but it stems from a precise choice, partly dictated by technical needs, and partly undertaken for a theme of historical adherence. The underlying physical-chemical principle is adsorption. An alchemist would probably quote the principle like dissolves like. The concept does not change: in a nutshell, enfleurage takes advantage of the capability which a fat has to naturally absorb the fragrances from the lipophilc and volatile molecules contained in the essential oils of flowers. Practically, a huge amount of fresh flowers, renewed with reloading cycles on a daily basis, is placed in contact with a fat that gradually become saturated with essence. The mode in which a liquid perfume or, as in our case, an edible essence, is obtained from this ointment, will be illustrated shortly.

A valuable element

The vision of transferring this technique to the spirits sector, placed together with the cultivar botanical of Parma, represents the inestimable value of our gin. In the same way as our violet, enfleurage is distinguished by its uniqueness and history. This sui generis method is praised for its long past history. And as in the case of many things that belong to the past, a personality survives in it that modern industry sometimes forgets. It is noted that the product chains of modern times are developed with the aim of satisfying the public demands related to the aspects of quantity and speed. But the universe from which the enfleurage comes, on the other hand, it forms its own sphere and represents all the contrary of that world. In modern perfumery creations, for example, the olfactory representation of the violet is obtained via the usage of synthetic molecules named ionones, an approach that ensures scalability for companies. The technique used by us, on the other hand, is based on the absence of short cuts and on the conviction that in order to offer a genuine product, it is essential to make all the efforts required by nature. It is a difficult and opposing choice, in our days, which implies a high price to be paid. The length and laboriousness of its proceedings, as well as the patience of manpower and a product yield immoderately unproportioned in terms of time usage and the utilization of flowers, have all led in a certain way to disregard this ancient tradition. But the reward for who professes it, is priceless. The quality of the product obtained in this way, surpasses any other natural extraction techniques known to us, in terms of refinement and authenticity of the original perfume. What the enfleurage, turning into art, is able to capture is the scent of the flower, its most intimate olfactory trait, in other words, the scented essence emanated after it has been picked and then brought to the nose.

The procedure 

The first step consists in the preparation of fat inside frames called chassis. In the past, each one had two glass sheets slightly spaced from one another, forming a floor and ceiling of the structure and a wooden frame to enclose them. We opted for totally glass frames. In the interior of these frames, fat, which is the extracting solvent, is spread on the inside surface of the glass sheets. In the past, animal matter was used, mixing pork fat and ox lard; we preferred to use vegetable fats, using biological, vegan and cruelty free coconut oil. The substitution of certain materials is not to be intended as being uncompliant to the tradition without any reason, but rather as a choice respecting the hygiene-food and eco-sustainability safety requirements. Also the use of cold rooms, which represents a new element from the traditional procedure, follows similar principles. We consider the premature deterioration of the flower as a waste of the scent’s life. Thanks to an attentive temperature and humidity control, we recreate an ideal and stable environment in laboratory in order to store the chassis, eliminating the risk of development of decay phenomena and reducing bacterial proliferation. Once the fat has been prepared, the inflowering procedure is started. During the blooming season, the flowers are collected every morning after the dew has dried up. All impurities on the flowers are washed away and are then placed in large quantities on top of the layer of fat spread on the glass sheets. Once the distribution has been terminated, the frames are sealed and left to settle. It is left to settle for about 24 hours, during which the final functional activities of the flower emit a delicate perfume to the fats. The aromatic transfer takes place with different modes on both sides of the frame: in the lower one, there is a direct contact between the flower and the fat, in the upper one, there is an indirect contact, in which the fats absorb the volatile terpenes emitted by the petals. In fact, the process is based on the movement of molecules conditioned by the characteristics of lipophilicity on the one hand, volatility on the other hand. Without overestimating the real capabilities of the transfer of the flower, avoids capturing the odours of decay, which would disrupt the environmental scent in the collection chambers. Once the flowers have released all that can be given, it is time for them to be removed and replaced with fresh flowers. Enfleurage and defleurage are at work uninterruptedly on an alternate basis according to repetitive reloading cycles. At the end of this process, the fat is removed from the frames, and an extremely scented substance is collected, called pommade. At this point, a numerical mark is assigned, called the floral index, which indicates the number of the inflowerings applied on it. We inflower our violet for 30 days in spring, therefore obtaining a Pommade n° 30. This substance, as it is, could be utilized as a cream or balsam, which is used by many herbalists, but perfumers and…gin producers, follow the procedure towards obtaining a liquid product. The next phase is called lavage de pommade, in which the fat is dipped in alcohol. The perfumery sector would use denatured alcohol, for obvious reasons our formula requires neutral wheat alcohol. The lipo-alcoholic mixture obtained was then poured into the interior of containers, called batteuses, and was subjected to an action of rotating forces by the use of mechanical arms. We make use of a magnetic stirrer, which permits a high level of precision in terms of intervention in relation to the force and time intervals of the mixing operation. These operations, which are to be understood as a sort of maceration that Mixology recognizes in the expression of fat-washing, give raise to a migration of aroma, which from the fat is transferred to alcohol. At the end of this phase, of the duration of 30 days, the fat, which if at first constituted the solvent has now become the solute, has completed all its functions and can therefore be removed. A separating funnel helps to discard the coarse part of the fat phase of the mixture. A passage in a freezer room, which determines the solidification of the residual oily particles, paves the way for various filtration cycles. On completion of these procedures, an Extrait n° 30 from enfleurage is obtained, an alcoholic tincture which conserves the violet essential oil in its interior. It is ready to be poured into our gin at extremely calibrated doses.
Batteuses. The lavage de pommade of tradition
Chassis of yesterday
Magnetic stirrers. The lavage de pommade innovated
Chassis of today