A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled. (Raymond Chandler)
The ancient art of dedicated distillation for Hydrosols
There is something magical about using a copper still. It is an unhurried process which I often sit with - it's that enchanting. I probably sound like I've been inhaling too many fumes, but if you were with me whilst my Still bubbled away, you would know too, it is somehow alive.
Distillation has been performed since the earliest ages of metal and the History of Distillation is worth a read as detailed by this Alembic copper still producer from Spain. We purchased our Stills from them - they are beautifully hand made and their staff very helpful. Even international shipping was a breeze.
Stainless steel is used in more industrial operations that can take increased heat and pressure and much shorter run times. Usually such operations are focused on fast, essential oil production with the hydrosol a bi-product. I doubt they sit by theirs.
Our focus is Hydrosol creation
- a water based, one atmosphere, gentle, drip, drip, drip distillation lasting several hours.
After gathering fresh plants, once any dew has dried, we comminute them carefully, adding the result to base pot or column or both depending on the plant selected. Roots and woody stems go in the pot where they can withstand the higher temperatures of gently bubbling rainwater.
From here comes the heavier, base notes of a distillate, the 'last to leave' if you like. Further up, the flowers and leaves filling the column are only touched by whisps of steam, extracting the higher, more ephemeral compounds including the now you smell it, now you don't, tantalising scents.
Each distillate is subtly different in keeping with the seasonal conditions often containing a hundred distinct biochemicals. In drier times, the hydrosol yield may be less but it is often richer and more concentrated. What Nature takes with one hand, she often gives back with another. We distill for potency, not a particular amount, taking small test samples as the distillation proceeds to check taste, pH and fragrance. We collect and bottle directly in glass and offer beautiful blends or simplex single herbs for a range of spritzers, toners, conditioners and sprays. Hydrosols are self-preserving and thus 'preservative free', lasting for about a year from distillation if kept kindly out of sunlight and heat.