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Monaco's Secret Gem, The Orange Distillery, Interview

editorial & arteditorial

20 November 2018
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In the quest for stories and admiring people, the next interview wants to show you a "dream-come -true story", a place so unique on Monegasque territory that will put you under its spell on an instant. From the history of Monaco to getting back to its roots up to its new modern times, Philip Culazzo discovered its fragrance under a new vision: creating his own distillery, right in the heart of Monaco, the land of all dreams.

Philip, you have chosen Monaco to develop your concept and story, a country known in the entire world for  its glamorous aura  ... can you give a short presentation of yourself to our readers and how the idea came up?

Exactly! It's a very famous and beautiful part of the world! I am lucky enough to have come here since I was born because my father was born in Bordighera so I used to come here since I was a child. Population in Monaco is 37000 people, but we have 3, 5 million people who come here to visit. And, there are so many people around the world who never had the chance to visit or to come to the South of France and experience Riviera. So, my idea started from two points of view: one side was the place, Monaco. People want to have a sort of attachment to it but, at the same time, there are very few products that are made in Monaco because it's such a small territory.

So, your concept was created under the signature Made in Monaco?

Yes, exactly! The Monaco spirit! We make spirits! L'Orangerie is the first distillery open in the history of Monaco. The idea was to bottle something that people could either taste when they come to Monaco or, else, bring home with them. The idea was to create something that is high quality, handmade and at a very accessible price. From all the tourists that come to Monaco, the percentage of those who can afford a yacht or a private jet or a suite at the Hotel de Paris is limited. Obviously, Monaco attracts that clientele, as well, but it's a small part.

Many come here, they see all the glamour and leave empty-handed. There are a few things and the Government supports the economy and new ideas by tax free and having as many sales inland in order to keep the state strong. And, also, when people come it's important that they can find something that's from here, not just a t-shirt or a baseball cap.

The concept goes directly to the Mediterranean's heart! The orange is the main symbol of the concept! It all started from this?

It started, also, with the history of Monaco because my idea was to create a Monaco speciality. There are few specialities so I said "let's create something that has resonance and a link to Monaco!"

If you look at the history of Monaco up to the 18OO, Monaco's territory was far larger and the whole area to Menton, the area behind Monaco and Cap d'Ail were all part of Monegasque territory. And the economy was an agricultural one. So, the two products that came from Monaco were citrus fruits and olives. And farmers would trade their products in Port Hercule, in a natural harbour. And the Palace would tax the farmers on their products to generate income. And this was before tourism.

Then, Monaco ceded some of the territory back to France and it became the 2 sq km. The train line came, the casino was built ...

... and the glamour began!

Yes!

Image may contain: fruit and food

So, you want to go back to the roots, to Mediterranean symbols like the orange!

It's the citrus! We have 600 orange trees that grow in Monaco, something it's native here and that we can recycle. The oranges that we collect, 85% of them were going to the incinerator before we started this project. 

And now?

Now, we bring them here, we peel them by hand, we macerate the peel, and with the juice, we ferment the juice, we distil the juice. We have the eau de vie, a spirit.

And you do it here?

Everything is done here!

That's fantastic! What is the procedure, in fact?

We harvest in January and February, we bring the wooden boxes that you can see ...these wooden boxes must have 60 or 70 years. They were used for collecting apples in Italy. They belonged to the grandfather of the distiller who works here. We recovered his boxes and we use them to collect the oranges and everything is done by hand. The oranges are not treated with any sort of pesticides or chemicals. Once they're taken off the tree, they have quite a short life so the idea is to hold them in these boxes so they can be processed before they go bad.

And, after this?

We bring them downstairs, we wash them, and we peel all the oranges. We have hand peeling machines but everything is very manual. We peeled around 280 oranges by hand.

Is it a difficult procedure? How many hours does it take to conclude the procedure?

It took a month and a half! The aroma was so powerful, so mesmerizingly beautiful that it was a pleasure to work with! So, we had people from all over the area coming to see what was going on because they could smell the oranges. It's a nice environment to work in.

We peel the oranges, we use the peel to make the liqueur and we take the juice from the oranges, we ferment the juice and distil the juice and that makes us the second product which is a spirit, an eau de vie with bitter oranges. That part isn't ready yet because we need a minimum of two years for ageing before we can bottle that.

How many times do you do this type of procedures by year?

We do one distillation of eau de vie but we have continuous production of liqueur which is easier to have more because it comes from the peel, while the spirit, we can make very little, like 600 bottles per year.

And all this equipment, that I can see here, helps you with the technical part of the production?

Yes! One here is made in Germany and is made for making concentrated floral spirits. So, if you want to make vodka, you wouldn't use this kind of a still because you want to make a very pure product. We have it covered with three plates but if you want to make vodka, you need about 30 or 40 plates. We need to have it five times higher and you keep on redistilling, redistilling and redistilling until you bring the product to absolute purity. Our idea is to maintain as much character as possible as we don't want to have a pure neutral spirit, we want to have spirit with plenty of aroma so we're trying to keep the aroma of the orange through the distillation process. We want to create the spirits with lots of character, not neutral spirits.

There's a certain Monegasque legislation towards this kind of activity?

It took quite a long time to get permission but because Monaco follows France's legislation, it's basically the same.

So, you have two products ...

We have two products that are created with bitter oranges and new products now in development which will be available soon.

Like?

... (Small hesitation and laughter)

That's a secret?

Kind of a secret! One is made o carob tree, the national tree of Monaco and the other is the citrus liqueur made of five different citrus fruits that grow in the area. So, these are the two new products that we are working on, at the moment.

The idea is to expand the range ...

The idea is to have as many products as we can that have real meaning for Monaco. We are lucky that we are independent, no other bigger company above us pushing us. It's all about creating unique, high quality, and reasonably priced products.

And unforgettable products, too!

Absolutely! Everyone knows the Casino, the yachts...

Yes, that's another secret gem of Monaco land! And, for Monaco, is great that it brings another signature to it!

Yes! It's a great relationship because we are trying to put Monaco in the best light possible and we have a great support.

Journalist: Andra Oprea

 

 

 

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