The existence of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée for the traditional producers of essential oil or essence of true lavender is a true guarantee and true recognition of their expertise. The appellation d’origine contrôlee is now known as an Appellation d’origine protegee (A.O.P.) or protected geographic origin, and is the only one to bear the name of “Haute Provence”.
The ability to use the A.O.P. essential oil guarantee requires carrying off the oil contained in the Augustifolia variety of lavender or population lavender – no cloned lavender is allowed – with steam. The lavender must come from a strictly defined zone in four different French counties – Drôme, Vaucluse, Alpes de Haute Provence, and Hautes Alpes, and from an altitude of 800 meters minimum. The lavender must meet analytical and olfactive standards, and each batch is analyzed anonymously (blindly) so as not to influence the jury. The French National Institute of Origins and Quality (known as the INAO) issues certification.
The A.O.P. label is a European guarantee, a European extension of the French AOC. It ensures the consumer that he or she is getting a guaranteed origin, high-quality essential oil. Be careful! You often find imported products with no guarantee whatsoever sold under the name of “essential oil of lavender”. Such products are often made with lavandin, or even with synthetic components. Their objective is to mislead the consumer by offering cheaper, poorer quality products. The A.O.P. guarantee is vital to the survival of farms growing true lavender and to the true lavender crop, a symbol of Haute Provence.