|One of our Chinese export punch bowls, ca. 1800,|
filled with Bitter Orange potpourri
However, there is one potpourri out there that I love, and which I make a point of buying every year when the weather turns cold and the heating season begins. It is called Bitter Orange, and it is made by a company called Agraria. I recommend it to you, Dear Reader.
It is the most marvelous potpourri there is.
Agraria makes its Bitter Orange potpourri in small batches of fragrant dried flowers and orange slices, cinnamon sticks, cloves, lavender, natural oils, and other exotic organic ingredients. Bitter Orange is lovely—citrusy, floral, spicy, and woodsy. I fill an antique Chinese export bowl with it every year at this time and place it in our drawing room at Darlington House, where its scent deliciously pervades the room.
I first learned of Bitter Orange back in the early 1980s, shortly after it became available in New York. I vividly recall my introduction to it, in the living room of a large apartment on the Upper East Side that belonged to the parents of a classmate of mine from Yale. I remember sitting in a chair in the room and wondering "What is that marvelous scent, and where is it coming from?" and my then delight in learning that it was a potpourri called Bitter Orange from a small company named Agraria, based in San Francisco. The mother of my friend had just bought it at Henri Bendel, the only store in the city that stocked it at the time, and she was quite pleased with herself for having done so.
At the time I had never seen or smelled potpourri before. It seemed rarified and exquisite to me, and I was entranced by it. This was long before potpourri had become a degraded mass-market commodity found in every gift-shoppe, drug store, and big box retailer in America. It was very special, then. Bitter Orange created a sensation in New York when it was introduced to the city in the mid-1970s, where it became known as "the Park Avenue potpourri," as it was immediately popular among the city's uptown smart set.
I had to have it. I went to Bendels at the next opportunity I had and bought myself a box of it. I was shocked at how expensive it was, but that didn't deter me. I simply had to have it.
And I've been buying it ever since.
Agraria's Bitter Orange has spawned many imitators over the years, but none have succeeded in replicating its signature scent or quality. It is unique. Bitter Orange was the foundation of Agraria's subsequent success, and today the company's products are widely distributed, a testament to its vision and the integrity of its offerings. I'm pleased that they have been so successful.
If you are not already a fan of Agraria's Bitter Orange potpourri, Dear Reader, I recommend that you get some, because I trust that you will love it, as I do. But be forewarned: it is addicting.
Agraria's website can be found here.
Please note: Reggie has received nothing from Agraria for making this recommendation, nor does he expect to do so. He is recommending Bitter Orange potpourri to his readers for the sole purpose of providing them with pleasure, his goal in writing this blog.
Photographs by Boy Fenwick