The Ylang Ylang of Comoros

Off the coast of southern Africa, the Comoros archipelago stretches its high reliefs above the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Its tropical islands host an exceptional fauna and flora on which reigns a flower with a golden color. It is called ylang ylang, meaning the flower of flowers. She has had the pride of place in perfumes for a long time. Once distilled, its fragrance is found in more than 300 bottles from the most prestigious workshops on the planet. It is one of the most widely used raw materials in luxury perfumery.

Yet, this precious essence is in trouble. Inherited from the colonial past, production techniques are now outdated and difficult to renew. In this country, ranked among the poorest in the world, international perfumers and local NGOs are working together to rebuild an exceptional sector that benefits all; with creators from the north and producers from the south.

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Ylang ylang, the greatest of Bali’s flowers

Popular small island in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali abounds with a variety of flowers and large plants. The Balinese place a unique emphasis on flowers and perfumes, which punctuate their lives. But the scent that is probably the most cherished among the Balinese is ‘Sandat’, which is more commonly known as ylang ylang. Ylang ylang is a flagship ingredient in perfumes due to its sweet and exotic scent. At the beginning of October, I arrived in Bali to discover more about this small fragrant flower.

The ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tree from the Annonaceae family and is native to Southeast Asia. Although within Balinese culture these trees are often maintained at a height of 2-3 meters, they can reach 30 meters in their natural habitat. The flowers, shaped like disheveled stars, start out a soft greenish color before maturing to a bright yellow. The trees blossom year round but most abundantly during warm and humid seasons.

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