“Un rêve, une ambition: faire de la qualité!”(A dream, an ambition: making quality!) – Véro, Lavender Farmer & Distiller.
Our lavender is sourced from an exquisitely beautiful and tranquil farm sitting in a remote location high up in mountains (1400 m) of the Haut Verdon. Lying against the cloudless blue sky, the endless swathe of shades of lavender was enchanting. It’s easy to see why this area, made famous in the twenties because of its production of the extremely fine Barrême lavender, is now protected.
The farm is very small with only 15 acres of crops in production at present.
The Secret Behind Its Magical Growth
The fundamental secret is simply that it comes from Haute Provence. It’s that unique blend of the climate, the altitude, the sun, the soil, the humidity. Essential Oils, just like Wines are about terroirs (Provence, altitude), wine yard (true population vs clones), harvesting (green or dried) and distillation methods (old alembics or ‘caisson’)… These cannot be emulated growing lavender anywhere else in the world. Then, of course it is the careful timing of our harvesting and the rigorous sorting of the blooms that ensures you only get flowers at their optimum moment of chemistry.
The plants are cared for in a very unique way. The fastest way to propagate lavender is through cuttings, a standard practice which produces clone plants. However, every one of our farm’s plants has been grown from seed, allowing the plant time to achieve its own integrity and personality. Traditionally when you look at lavender fields the colour will be that gorgeous rich uniform purple because every plant is identical. Each propagated cutting is a clone of its parent. But by sowing from seeds you create an utterly ethereal magic.
Standing in the field you can see lavenders of every different hue. Some grow to be lighter, others darker, their beauty enhanced by the fact that each seed is genetically different from another. Herein lies the source of our lavender oils quality. We are one of the last producers to farm this way, a fact about which we are understandably very proud.
Dancing amongst all these colours are so many insects! Butterflies, bees, you name it, it is feasting on the nectar and joyfully carrying pollen from plant to plant. The presence of an apiary on our operations prohibiting the use of any kind of pesticide. The soil is nourished using organic fertilizer, and weeds… They just have to be pulled out, because there is a zero tolerance for any chemicals that do not naturally occur on the farm.
Method of Extraction
When the lavender is harvested during July and August, unusually, it is dried for several days before the distillation begins. This traditional method is now extremely rare because it is far more labour intensive than modern ways but the producer’s patience and dedication is repaid by an essential oil which is sweeter, with a far softer aroma.
The oil has been steam distilled very slowly. The speed is not necessarily by design but the battered old copper alembic that makes, by far, the finest oil likes to take its time! For many producers the steel version is faster allowing them to make far more product in a day, but there are benefits from being made to wait. You wonder what the je ne sais quoi is when you inhale our bewitching lavender? Probably the difference you perceive, is time!
It can be very difficult for the average person sourcing essential oils to identify the origin and thus the quality of a particular lavender essential oil. Often, products imported have been made from lavandin or have been reconstituted using synthetic ingredients. Often these are sold commercially under the name "Lavender Essential Oil”. This is intended to lower prices but, of course also compromises quality.
What Does AOP Mean?
Specifically: AOP (appellation d’origine protégée - protected designation of origin). It is a European standard of quality.
Samples are taken from our farm every year of the new batches to conduct physical, chemical and olfactory tests. These are performed by an independent laboratory designated and approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. Each is sampled and examined under anonymity to exclude the possibility of bias...
Of paramount importance are geographical location, the altitude, the soil and climate. These are referred to as « terroir ». Only producers of four French geographic areas (Drôme, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes), whose crops are grown at altitudes of more than 800 metres may ask for their production of essential oil to be considered for Haute-Provence lavender AOP selection.
Accolades For Our Lavender Essential Oil
2009: Obtained Silver Medal at the national competition of fine lavender oil.
2008: Obtained Gold Medal at the national competition of fine lavender oil.
“One of the best lavender essential oils”
Danièle Ryman – Aromatherapy expert, with over 35 years of experience on aromatherapy, aromacology, health and beauty
“The most beautiful oils I have ever seen. A very fine lavender Alpine. Extremely useful for pain relief particularly in joints”
Jill Bruce – Aromatherapist and author of The Garden of Eden, one of the founder members of the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA)
“I love the soft high note of Sanatio’s AOP Lavender. It is gently ethereal and you seem to be able to discern the gentlest rush of a breeze through the flowers. It breathes tranquillity. I adore it.”
Elizabeth Ashley – Aromatherapist, The Secret Healer, Author of 18 books, UK Director of NAHA (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists)
Shop the Story: Sanatio Naturalis AOP Fine Lavender Essential Oil (1400 m)