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Interning in Robertet

steam distillers
steam distillers
steam distillers

We began in the main building, which houses the offices and laboratories (which was designed by Monsieur Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel tower) and then entered the more industrial sections where the extraction of the natural raw materials takes place. The first area is dedicated to the extraction of absolutes- ranging from musk ambrette to lavender to tonka. The machines here are smaller than the regular distillers and perform only part of the functions required to yield the precious pure absolutes.  (To outline briefly, once the plant matter has been washed successively with a solvent, and the solvent removed, the resulting semi-solid concrete is washed again a number of times with ethyl alcohol to separate the waxes from the material of olfactive value, or, the absolute. After every wash, the resulting slurry must be drained like cheese curds through a fine cloth tied over a large barrel. Or, depending on the absolute in question, a preferable method may be to strain the mixture through a cylinder containing perlite which acts as a purifying medium. Once the waxes are washed clean, the alcohol is distilled off in a vacuum and the thick syrupy and highly fragrant absolue is left. )

Next was the hydrodistillation and distillation warehouses where many huge stainless steel extractors were in action, despite the intense summer

distillers or space ships?

Soon after, we entered a smaller warehouse and I was told that this was where the most traditional and basic equipment and extraction techniques were implemented to distill the fabulous orris butter from the sliced, dried and aged rhizomes of the Iris. Inside the aged old office, the wooden shelves displayed small stacks of the precious butter yielded after many hours of steaming the sliced rhizomes. Orris butter is a highly expensive product (due to a very low yield and the long time

orris extraction

Next stop is at the very bottom of the Robertet grounds, is a modest and rambling lab, complete with a plethora of amazing pyrex flasks and tubes and glass vacuum extractors and bubbling bottles and a stunning view out toward the mountains in the direction of Nice. Here, one quite young chemist, Dominique, is working to create new natural materials. I smelled some of the products, including a chilled vial of a molecularly distilled ylang ylang that is another product made exclusively for Chanel. It was exquisite! -very sweet and pure, without the slightly medicinal or ‘dirty’ aspects of normally distilled oil. This is one of the main reasons for molecular distillation, or even fractionated oils, where various fractions are separated out and only the best quality, olfactively, are chosen. The re-created composite oils are missing the less desirable notes but have not been manipulated with anything other than a bit of heat, and not even much of that because in a vacuum, the heat can be kept extremely low. Because

more precious than gold

in the perfumery lab

To name some names, some of the companies that Robertet has created products for are Gucci, Escada, Dior, l’Occitane, L’Oreal, Armani, plus many many more. The products created for these name brands are created from beginning to end by Robertet (and other similar companies like Mane, IFF

the old smoke stack

* In 2006, Robertet generated 221 million euros in turnover with 50% of sales in flavours, 35% in compositions and 15% in raw mterials/ingredients. Sales are worldwide with the US taking 40% and Europe 38%.   And, in case anyone is interested in an purchasing raw materials from Robertet, the base minimum order per product is 500 euros .   This is a big company dealing with the big players in the industry. In the shipping area yesterday, I saw an order being prepared and included was a aluminum bottle of Rose Absolute of about two gallons in volumn….worth an absolute fortune!

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