Synonymous with the Italian region of Calabria, the knobbly yellow-green bergamot fruit (Citrus bergamia) is one of the foundational ingredients of modern fragrance, as important to perfumery as it is to the landscape in which it grows. To truly appreciate this green gold, it is essential to understand its unexpected origins and unique qualities, so read on to dive into the heart of Calabrian bergamot, and explore the exquisite fragrances from The House of Creed that contain it.
A Hidden Gem
Harsh, stark, yet undeniably beautiful, remote Calabria sits on the tip of the toe of Southern Italy. Enduringly difficult to get to, its wild mountains and secluded beaches remain rarely explored by tourists. The high, rugged mountains protect the area from cold northerly winds, allowing warm air from Africa, fertile alluvial soil, and a perfect balance of sunshine and rain to create a unique microclimate - one that produces bergamot oil of such superior quality that Calabria is responsible for more than 90% of the world’s production.
Bergamot trees, with their glossy dark green leaves, are instantly recognisable here, growing in the narrow plain between the foothills of the Southern Apennines. A bitter tasting fruit, bergamot ripens from green to yellow and comes in all shapes and sizes, free from the aesthetic restrictions placed on supermarket fruits. Whether a bergamot resembles a small lime, large orange, or even a wrinkled pear, the sunny and fragrant oil lying just beneath the surface is the same. But this au naturel approach to bergamot begins long before harvest time. It starts with the growers, and one company is of particular interest to The House of Creed - their own supplier, Capua 1880.
A Family Thing
Like Creed, Capua is a family-run business. It has been producing essential oils from its fields for five generations, and is now responsible for 65% of Calabria’s bergamot output. Twin brothers Rocco and Giandomenico Capua run the day-to-day business, with the head of the family, Gianfranco, at the helm. “It’s a family business still managed by the family and that direct family relationship with the customers is also still important. There’s no middleman. Family is in the company’s DNA” says Rocco.
Much like Creed, each generation of Capuas is responsible for steering the company through a new age. Where Creed has evolved from tailoring to perfumery, Capua 1880 originally grew floral oils such as jasmine and neroli, until Gianfranco and his parents decided to focus on citrus oils like bergamot. Many techniques have been employed to extract the exquisite oil over the years. Bergamot fruits are so full of oil that initially, a sponge was simply pressed against the skin and then squeezed out into a container. Today though, there are more efficient methods, such as sfumatrice - crushing the fruits whole and separating the oil from the juice, and pelatrice - where the rind is grated to release the oil.
The scent of sunshine, sharp green notes and deep, peppery incense fill the air as this precious oil is extracted. It is an evocative experience for Giandomenico; “It is the smell of my childhood” he says. “Our father would come home, and my earliest memories are of the smell of him” Rocco adds. “I still have it in my nose, the smell of citrus oils on his clothes, that’s the smell of the company, the smell of family.”
Future, Past & Present
To Capua 1880, the protection of Mother Nature’s future is hugely important. “As the world’s biggest producer of bergamot, we have a big responsibility to take the lead in caring for the land, taking notice of climate change and protecting this unique environment” explains Rocco. They invest in the preservation of the region’s biodiversity by rediscovering old plant varieties, improving irrigation, using more efficient equipment and encouraging organic cultivation, to secure the future of bergamot for subsequent generations.
Its future is in safe hands with the Capua family then – but what of bergamot’s past?
The product of cross-pollination between lemon and bitter orange trees, bergamot originated in the Calabrian region in the 17th century. Ever since Giovanni Maria Farina, born in 1685, used bergamot as the base of his new invention, Eau de Cologne, it has played a starring role in the world of perfumery, becoming highly sought after and used in all kinds of fragrances, from fougères to chypres and even floral fragrances. This versatility is also apparent in bergamot’s present.
A dual usage ingredient, bergamot works as a fixing agent to help make fragrances last longer, bringing together all the other elements, a bit like an orchestra conductor. But when used as top note, bergamot’s fresh scent shines as a main character in its own right - bright, sunny, complex notes uplift and intrigue the senses of the wearer. It is for this reason that Calabrian bergamot can be found in a great many of The House of Creed’s most notable fragrances - but despite this shared note, each one boasts an entirely unique olfactive experience.
Bergamot Fragrances for Him
The freshness of bergamot makes it the perfect addition to any fragrance intended to uplift, inspire and rejuvenate. Iconic and sensual, Aventus tantalises from the moment it first hits the skin, thanks to an opening blend of fresh, sunny bergamot, fruity apple and blackcurrant and enticing pink pepper.
Despite sharing similar top notes, Viking Cologne has an altogether different impact – bergamot and pink pepper blend with lemon and mandarin for adventurous, aromatic excitement upon every spritz. Masculine and seductive, Himalaya captures the rugged landscape of the eponymous mountain range with exhilarating fresh citrus notes of lemon, mandarin and bergamot, alongside gunpowder and warm spices.
Inspired by family holidays in the Mediterranean, the bergamot in exuberant, uplifting Erolfa mingles with aromatic herbs and juicy fruits, creating a comforting, warm, yet invigoratingly fresh fragrance. Similarly uplifting, but altogether different, Neroli Sauvage is an homage to the classic scent of neroli – together with bitter orange, grapefruit and lemon, bergamot brings to life the vibrancy of an Italian garden.
Beneath its sunny disposition, bergamot possesses a subtle complexity, lending itself well to perfumes of an especially sophisticated, elegant nature. Spice & Wood, part of the exquisite Les Royales Exclusives collection, celebrates the classic gentleman, with irresistible notes of apple, bergamot, iris, cloves and Tonkin musk to create a powerful, luxurious fragrance - the epitome of refined masculinity. Every bit as elegant, Millésime Impérial creates a stylish air, with sophisticated fresh notes of refreshing violet leaves, bergamot and juicy blackcurrant balanced with buttery iris and vibrant marine accord.
Opulence abounds in Royal Oud, where bergamot provides a citrus twist, lifting the luxurious notes of oud, frankincense and guaiac wood to new heights of olfactive elegance.
Woody, spicy fragrances benefit from bergamot’s fresh green tones, which just like the leaves of a forest, provide a coolness that balances warmth and intensity of ingredients like tree barks and exotic spices. Bois Du Portugal, inspired by the forests of the Iberian Peninsula, invokes a mysterious richness through spicy, woody notes like cedar and sandalwood, with an aromatic intrigue from lavender and bergamot.
Capturing the wild vetiver that adorns the majestic mountains of Indonesia, Vétiver Géranium possesses an evocative and almost mythical quality, where fresh, crisp apple, lemon and bergamot create a luminous opening, and an unexpected blend including geranium, cinnamon, rose and ambergris provides the ultimate in scented escapism.
A symbol of success and perseverance, Viking is a fiery fragrance that bursts forth with bold opening notes of bergamot, lemon, peppermint, pink pepper and absinthe, before drying down into to powerfully rich, warm fragrance.
Bergamot Fragrances for Her
For any perfume that evokes the magic of flowers in full bloom, bergamot is an essential accompanying note. Its complex fragrance is often described as having a floral edge to it, an aromatic sweetness that blends seamlessly with the jubilant nature of flower extracts. Fleurissimo is the perfect example – classically beautiful, inspired by a bouquet of flowers, bergamot mingles exquisitely with romantic, elegant notes of tuberose, violet, iris and Bulgarian rose. Glamorously ethereal, Jardin D’Amalfi is an ode to the sights and scents of the Italian coast, with bergamot alongside mandarin and pink pepper to elegantly dazzle and delight.
Effortlessly elegant, empowering and bold, Aventus for Her is the feminine counterpart to Creed’s iconic Aventus.
A fruity, floral ode to the modern woman, revitalising bergamot blends with crisp apple, pink pepper and fresh lemon, before this characterful fragrance blossoms into a charming floral heart, to captivate and inspire the wearer. A floral tribute of a completely different nature, Tubereuse Indiana is a hypnotic, narcotic blend of heady tuberose florals, balanced perfectly with fresh bergamot, and enriched by sweet vanilla and warm ambergris. Similar in its opulence, Royal Princess Oud is a celebration of feminine glamour and strength, with captivating florals and lively bergamot giving way to a majestic, velvety base of vanilla, musk and cedarwood.
An Enduring Cornerstone
Bergamot’s rich history, extraordinary versatility and exquisite scent have made it a vital part of the perfume world for over four hundred years. So many fragrances benefit from its sunny, fresh and peppery fragrance, and with the passionate and dedicated growers that can be found at companies such as Capua 1880, it seems that bergamot will play a leading role for many years to come.