Recently I had the privilege to be able to visit Calabria, to take a peek and a sniff behind the scenes, on the fields and in the factories of Capua 1880.

95% of all bergamot in the world comes from Calabria, the most southern part of Italy. Of the more than 110 tons of bergamot produced per year, Capua 1880, a renowned family-owned business, processes more than half of this amount. Capua, now run by the fifth generation in the family, is an innovative and very socially conscious company.

Bergamot, an aromatic citrus fruit, is much loved by perfumers and about 65% of all fine fragrances, use bergamot in their formulae to a greater or lesser extent.

Some interesting facts we learned while in Calabria:

  • Capua was founded in 1880 as a family-owned company and is now run by Gianfranco and his sons Rocco and Giadomenico.

  • There are 3 different sorts of bergamot used in fragrance, ‘Castagnaro’, ‘Feminello’ and ‘Fantastico’ (all citrus bergamia).

  • The bergamot plant is grafted onto the trunk of a bitter orange tree and so they live on in total harmony without taking over each other’s scent.

  • The essential oil is obtained by scraping the peel of the fruit. As you can see in the film below, this can be done using 2 different techniques and machines (the so-called Sfumatrice and the Pelatrice).

  • By way of molecular distillation, different fractions can be separated (and so create different odor profiles) and filtered; for instance, removing less desirable components such as bergapten and furocoumarin which can cause sun-sensitive (photo-sensitivity) reactions.

    2 parfumeurs in focus in een bergamot veld bergamot oogst Tanja Deurloo tussen de bergamot oogst 3 verschillende types bergamot voor en na schaven van de schil het wassen

    From left to right, top to bottom:

    1. Perfumers Andrew and Christophe, also impressed by the bergamot fields.
    2. The new harvest is being brought in by local farmers.
    3. Tanja amazed and delighted by scent, nature, tradition and technique.
    4. The 3 different types of bergamot: Fantastico, Feminello and Castagnaro.
    5. Bergamot before and after scraping the peel (by a Pelatrice machine).
    6. Fresh bergamot fruit is being washed in a ‘water bed’.

      With a very special thanks to Capua 1880, for their hospitality, openness, and inspiration. Also, a very special thanks to Christophe Laudamiel for the invitation!