The Magic of Orange Zest
I visited the new atelier of L’Orangerie to find out more about this luxury brand unique to Monte Carlo. Although I had known about the liquor for a while, as word of mouth spreads fast in a small Principality such as Monaco I had never seen the new premises or tasted the liquor.
The oranges in Monaco in the first few months of the year, as well as the lemons, are in abundance. But the oranges are too sour to eat and apart from making marmalade, which is not so fashionable, they are sadly discarded. Philip Culazzo who is the founder of L’Orangerie recognised an opportunity for these oranges, that literally drop off the trees after reading an article in the local paper.
The Orangerie atelier is conveniently situated near the busy shopping quarter of Place d’Armes flower market, right next to the train station, a hop, skip and jump to the port and with parking not too far away. At the moment this is the head quarters of L’Orangerie but I have a feeling it won’t be the only location for long, with plans to expand in the coming years.
L’Orangerie HQ interior is contemporary and cosy at the same time. The shop is a clever mix of exposed chunky stone and crisp, white painted walls. Spread over three floors with an original fresh-water well running thorough, adds a quaint aspect to the atelier and apparently it is 14 meters deep.
The staff are friendly and eager to invite you to sample their liquor, not surprisingly it tastes of oranges, sweet and sour, but without the icing sugar taste some liquors can be shadowed by. The day I visited the store it was unusually cold with snow in Monaco for the first time in 27 years. The liquor delighted my taste buds and simultaneously left a lingering heat and sweet aroma in the mouth. I can see why it is popular as a summer spritzer and an after dinner liquor.
As well as being delicious to taste, the smell both in the shop and the drink itself is a whirlwind of Christmas nights and hazy Mediterranean days. I had just missed the actual process of making the liquor. The magic is hidden in the zest, which is extracted by hand and left to macerate in alcohol followed by a secret natural process.
A brand new copper still has recently been installed which Culazzo commissioned from the German manufacturers Kothe. This is required to boil the mash from the oranges at 85 degrees. The boiler is quite a work of art, standing at nearly 3 metres in height with polished copper lids and stainless steel tanks. It is an impressive kettle. The Kothe boiler prides itself with triple distillation enabling the mash to boil into vapour which exits via a condenser of cold water, allowing the vapour to transform back into liquid, creating the alcohol, that comes out at 87% proof.
The centre piece of the atelier is the still and to match the impressive piece of engineering, which reminds me of the androids in Star Wars is the sleek packaging of the brand. I love it, the style is very distinctive and a clear indication of the essence behind the product and their direction. It is a simple idea, that has created an exclusive luxury consumer brand that is already gaining a positive reputation in Monte Carlo and locally becoming a house hold name.
L’Orangerie nurtures the environment and sets a great example of how to, with a bit of imagination, use surplus natural products. Turning what was natural waste into an international brand and a commodity that nurtures and cares about the community, and at the same time is tuned into the aesthetics of luxury goods is a worthy achievement.
L’Orangerie is also encouraging the Principality to plant more orange trees which will enhance the streets and provide welcome shade in the summer.
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