The Abruzzi region of Italy produces some of the finest saffron in the world.
When you buy it from an Italian producer, even with an online purchase, you will get the real quality. Full unbroken pistils of the flower. When I tinctured Italian Saffron, I noticed that the colour of the tincture was not as strong as the one I got from a Saffron bought in Asia.
It is a widespread practice to doctor the pistils with carotene, the colorant that gives the typical saffron colouration to your rice when you prepare the “risotto”.
The carotene allows dealers to add other vegetal materials looking like broken pistils to the “more precious than gold” pistils. Customers are also more satisfied because a very little amount of the doctored saffron is enough to give the saffron colour to foods and it is much cheaper than the real good one.
The link between the colour and the perfume of saffron is remarkable because safranal which is responsible for the typical aroma of Saffron is a degradation product of the carotenoid zeaxanthin responsible for its colour after it has degraded into picrocrocin which in its turn is responsible for its taste.
However Italian saffron is much better for perfumery, the fragrance made from these pistils will have less staining power which is an advantage, and a more beautiful and powerful scent. Read more