Bergamot: From Harvest to Extraction

Bergamot essential oil (CAS# 8007-75-8), renowned for its uplifting and refreshing scent, is derived from the citrus fruit known as bergamot orange. Bergamot derives its name from the Italian city of Bergamo, where it was originally cultivated. The fruit itself is a hybrid of lemon and bitter orange. Historical records trace its cultivation back to the 17th century, primarily in the Mediterranean region.

Bergamo, Italy
Bergamo, Italy

The extraction process is a fascinating journey that involves careful harvesting, cold pressing, and the distinction between standard and bergaptene-free essential oil. Let's explore the journey of bergamot essential oil from fruit to bottle.

The story begins with the bergamot orange, a small, round citrus fruit with a vibrant yellow color. Native to the Calabria region in Southern Italy, the fruit is harvested during the winter months when its aromatic compounds are at their peak. Skilled farmers meticulously hand-pick the ripest fruits, ensuring optimal quality for the essential oil extraction process.

Bergamot on Tree in Melito di Porto Salvo, District of Reggio Calabria, Calabria, Italy, Europe
Bergamot trees, Melito di Porto Salvo, District of Reggio Calabria, Calabria, Italy, Europe

Once harvested, the fruit is carefully washed and the outer peel is removed. The peel, or zest, is where the coveted essential oil resides. Traditional extraction methods involve cold pressing, where the peel is mechanically squeezed to release the aromatic oils. This method preserves the integrity of the oil and captures the true essence of the bergamot fruit.

Standard bergamot essential oil is characterized by its distinct citrus aroma, with bright and tangy notes. However, it contains a compound called bergaptene, which can cause photosensitivity when applied to the skin. To mitigate this potential risk, bergaptene-free essential oil is also produced. This variety undergoes an additional step called fractional distillation, where the oil is carefully distilled to remove the bergaptene compound while preserving the aromatic profile.

The distinction between standard and bergaptene-free bergamot essential oil allows for versatile applications. The bergaptene-free essential oil provides a safer alternative for skincare and cosmetic formulations. Its removal of the bergaptene compound eliminates the risk of photosensitivity reactions, making it suitable for use in products like lotions, creams, and serums, when you're outside relaxing in the sunlight. Bergaptene-free oil retains the captivating citrus fragrance, allowing for its incorporation in a wide range of beauty and personal care products.

Here at Gallagher, we use bergaptene-free bergamot essential oil, but primarily use a specialty bergamot blend from Givaudan which is also bergaptene-free and poses no phototoxic potential. Check out all of the fragrances we've created featuring bergamot.

Bonus: If you'd like to read more about the harvesting and extraction of bergamot oil, check out Nez, the Olfactory Magazine, Issue #05. Note: The link is not an "affiliate link." We are not sponsored by nor receive any kickback from Nez, but purchase the magazines ourselves and love reading them.

Fragrant regards,
- Daniel & Mindy

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