What is your relationship to Corsica?
I come from Lumio, a small village in the Balagne region about 15 minutes from Calvi. I moved to Ajaccio for my studies before returning here with my friend Milou, to set up our company Gaec de L’Astratella. Initially, nobody believed it would go far. The industry was in its infancy compared to Provence.
But it has grown rapidly everywhere in Corsica, and this has brought us luck in a certain way. Today, my husband Bati and my son Lisandru have joined the project, so we really are a family business.
What attracted you to this profession?
Initially, Milou and I are really went looking for adventure. We wanted above all to work from our native town. With this desire in mind, we sought to set something up, without knowing whether it would work or not. But at the time, we didn’t have family responsibilities so decided to give it our best shot.
My biggest joy is doing what I like, surrounded by nature. Corsica is beautiful, overflowing with the abundant maquis scrubland, which shares all its benefits through essential oils. It is particularly gratifying to have managed to create something in Corsica, but even more so, in the village where I grew up.
What are the different stages of cultivation and distillation of the Immortelle flower?
In the early 2000s, we only practiced "wild" harvesting, though of course with the permission of the owners and authorities concerned. Then, the industry developed throughout the island and so we set up farms in parallel. To begin with the set-up was rather muddled, but when L'Occitane turned to the Immortelle in 2005, the industry became better supervised throughout the territory.
Today, we work around 10 plants throughout the year. That makes for very busy days, but that's what we love, what makes us happy. For the Immortelle, harvest takes place every June. Milou, Bati, Lisandru and I take care of the crops, while our 3 workers take care of the manual harvest. In the process, we each distill with pot stills 1,200 liters, and thus process 500 kg of fresh plants.
What do you consider the vital qualities of a good essential oil?
To do this job, it’s essential to love nature. To obtain a good essential oil, there are of course parameters to respect: constant pressure, a floral water of quality, the right temperature of the tank and the condenser, but, above all, one must distill with love!