Adam Michael has this to say “At the time of writing (06/09/14) the estimated global production of Ylang Ylang essential oil stands at 70-75 tonnes per year. Production is split largely into 4 geographical areas which are COMOROS (La Grande Comore, Anjuan and Moheli), AMBANJA (Northeast of Madagscar), NOSY BE (Island facing Ambanja) and MAYOTTE (Island part of the Comoros – under French administration).
The plant part used to produce the oil is the flower, umbellate in appearance, consisting of 6 petals per flower. When the flower is in its infancy, it is green in colour, has no fragrance and the petals are largely coiled. Across a 14-20 day period the flower gradually develops into a highly fragrant flower and of a rich, vibrant yellow colour. Finally the flower displays a red spotty tinge at the base of the flower and this is an indication the flower contains the maximum amount of oil.
At this stage the flowers are picked and placed in baskets across the early morning (before 10am) to ensure the best qualities and optimum yields. As soon as the harvesting and weighing is addressed it is critical that the distillation process gets underway as the flowers begin the process of fermentation/spoiling.
Distilling Ylang Ylang
Distillation times and equipment used to obtain the oil/fractions will vary from one distiller to the next. Therefore, you will find a lot of contradictory information; I wish to state the information I will now provide regarding the distillation process, is based on the distillers using state of the art apparatus to obtain the oil in its varying fractions.
[General rule of thumb – many big naturals companies such as Robertet are investing heavily in Ylang Ylang – this means distilleries with state of the art stainless steel equipment and the heat sources to power the still will be oil fired or via liquid gas. The result is a better product aromatically and environmentally as the process is more controlled opposed to traditional methods of distillation which will involve a homemade still, logs set on fire to power the still, no control over temperature and material poured off into empty glass bottles. A lot of these traditional distilleries do exist around the Indian Ocean.
Grading Ylang Ylang
Also grading Ylang Ylang is an art and skill in itself acquired over many years. Many of these older individuals who have this knowledge are not involved in today’s grading to the same extent. The younger generation and how they are trained, would seem to be more about yields and profits opposed to delivering something with soul and sparkle. Please note however this is just an observation.
Now usually when we distil oil from a still the material will go into a condensing vessel and pour out into the drum/canister/container. In this instance, the condensing vessel has a tap and at the time of taking out the Ylang Ylang oil/fraction we turn the tap, collect the oil/fraction and close off the tap. The process is continuous and does not stop and start as some websites and reading material suggests – it would not make any sense.
Ylang Ylang Extra
After about one hour to one hour and 30 minutes of firing up the still and letting the steam penetrate the flowers properly, the Ylang Ylang oil is poured out of the tap and collected for usually an hour period and at a density above 0.955. I want to add that at the very start of collecting the Ylang Ylang that the material emits an undesirable aroma. This material is poured off/collected and discarded. After this material we then collect what we will know as Ylang Ylang Extra.
The chemical composition of Ylang Ylang Extra is characterised by a high concentration of p-cresol methylether (approx. 10%), methyl benzoate (approx. 6%), benzyl acetate (approx. 28%), linalool (approx. 9%) and 3-methyl-2-butenyl acetate (approx. 5%).
Side Note: Ylang Ylang Extra Super – This is Ylang Ylang Extra material redistilled in a fractionating column. The idea is a client may exist who does not like a particular note in the Ylang Ylang Extra material. So this material is rectified. The fractions are collected and analysed. The fraction that is deemed as giving off the undesirable note(s) by the client is discarded and the fractions are all put back together again.
Ylang Ylang Grade One
About two hours – two hours and 30 minutes later and at a density between 0.945-0.955 we pour and collect the oil again. This material will be known as Ylang Ylang Grade One.
The chemical composition of Ylang Ylang Grade One is characterised by less of the volatiles found in Ylang Ylang Extra and an increased amount of geraniol, geranyl acetate, and b-caryophyllene.
At the time of writing I understand it is common practice amongst the distillers on the Comoros Island to produce Ylang Ylang Extra fraction and third fraction. Fractions one and two are seldom produced on the Comoros. Then when the client requests Ylang Ylang Grade One/Two or Ylang Ylang complete – the distiller will blend the Ylang Ylang Extra with a proportion of Ylang Ylang Grade Three to create the desired material.
Ylang Ylang Grade Two
After another three hours to three hours and 30 minutes have passed and at a density between 0.932-0.940 we pour and collect the oil again. This material will be known as Ylang Ylang Grade Two.
Ylang Ylang Grade Three
After another six hours have passed and at a density between 0.905-0.910 we pour and collect the oil again. This material will be known as Ylang Ylang Grade Three.
Ylang Ylang Complete
In theory Ylang Ylang Complete is an essential oil in the truest sense of the word – the result of steam distilling plant material. However, this is rarely the case as a genuine Ylang Ylang Complete would have those milky, sour, off notes you smell in Cananga essential oil which is a result of regular steam distillation. Instead, Ylang Ylang Complete as mentioned above is nearly always a creation of varying Ylang Ylang fractions and this is the case with the Ylang Ylang Complete Hermitage sells.
Ylang Ylang Absolute
Ylang Ylang absolute is produced by solvent extracting the flowers and in my opinion is the truest representation of the flowers in their natural state. As you would expect from a solvent extraction, ylang abs is of an intense floral character, very creamy, indulgent, with fruit and spiced tonalities. This is truly a perfume in its own right.