The bitter orange tree is a quite generous tree for high perfumery.
From it we manage to extract three precious essential oils: orange blossom oil, neroli oil and petitgrain oil.
Although they derive from the same tree, they are given different names as a result of the extraction process that is responsible for giving them different scents.
Starting with petitgrain, this essential oil is extracted from the leaves and buds of the orange blossom. The result is a green scent, intensely fresh, not far from the aroma of crushed orange tree leaves.
The hardest thing is to distinguish the orange blossom oil from the neroli oil, as both are extracted from the same flower – the orange blossom – harvested, usually by hand, in late April to early May.
But what truly sets them apart is the extraction process used to obtain their oils.
Orange Blossom Oil
Thus, orange blossom oil is obtained through an enfleurage process (rarely used nowadays due to prohibitive costs) or solvent extraction. It has a dark orange color and a very intense floral scent, rich and warm but also delicate, fresh and long-lasting.
On the other hand, neroli oil is obtained through a steam distillation process. The odor is more pronounced and closer to the traditional “cologne”. It releases a light, citrusy, green, floral aroma but with hints of honey and orange subtly at the base. Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt are its main producers.
Since then, the term “neroli” has been used to describe this essence. It is also said that Neroli oil was loved by Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette, who wore the fragrance every day as a cologne/after shave and perfume, respectively. Another fun fact is that neroli oil is apparently one of the ingredients in the secret recipe for Coca-Cola soda. It is used as a flavoring ingredient in the open source recipe, although some variants consider it optional due to the high cost.