The greatest perfumers travelled to Reunion Island to hunt down the best geranium essential oil in the world: Bourbon geranium. The perfumeries in Grasse swore by geraniums grown on Reunion Island, which were considered to be of exceptional quality. Back then Bourbon geranium, originally from South Africa, was one of the great treasures of the island.
Today geraniums are still grown, mainly in Saint-Paul (in Guillaume, Petite France, Maïdo, in the highlands in the west of the island), above an altitude of 1,000m. There are a 30 or so craft distilleries in these areas. You can visit these farms which are still in operation, producing essential oil. On the way, you will also find welcoming guest houses and tables d'hôtes.
 

The farmer will passionately explain all the steps in the distillation process, you will be able to join in, maybe enjoy a cup of tea and no doubt leave with a small bottle of this delicate perfume.
"The producer plunges the leaves into a still heated with a wood fire. This "cooking" causes the essence to condense into vapour, which is then chilled in another container and then passed through the coil into the "Florentine vase". This operation takes at least four hours, with the log fire being continually fed by hand". ​

Bourbon geranium essential oil is produced in the traditional way with a still, using all the benefits of artisan distillation. It is actually extracted from the very fine hair on the plant and not from the flowers.
 
The plant is grown all year long, but to produce a high quality oil, harvesting takes place before the flowers bloom, i.e. from May to September. It takes 300 to 400kg of leaves to get between 0.5 and 1 litre of essential oil.
 
There are different varieties of geranium on Reunion Island with very different perfumes: rose, mint, lemon, camphor.
These days Bourbon geranium is used in cosmetic products and in paramedical treatments or as a room fragrance. This product also has medicinal properties.
It can be used to perfume your food. In the kitchen geranium adds its extraordinary fragrance to rhum arrangé, syrup, brioche, salad, jelly, ice cream, pastry and stuffings and sauces too.
 
Geranium is sold in the market in Saint-Paul and at the Maison du Géranium.​
 
For information about guided tours: Reunion Island Tourism information and booking platform - Tel. 0262 90 78 78 - http://explorelareunion.com