The Stills and the Distillation Process

It is important to distill when the flowers are at their optimim maturity. The freshly-cut lavender is left to dry for a couple of days in the fields prior bringing to the distillery.

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The steam distillation is the best way to achieve a quality essential oil and steam must not be hotter than 100°C. It takes about 130 kilos of fine lavender flowers and only about 40 kilos of lavandin to make one litre of essential oil. image 2
The whole stalk of flowers are tightly packed into a vessel leaving no air pockets in between them. The stills use a pressure gauge. The boiler which runs on recycled distilled lavender heats up the still. The pressurized steam rises, and this steam carries off the essence of the flower. The steam-essence mixture rises through the goose-neck condensation tube, called “col-de-cygne” (which means ‘swan neck’) where it cools off and becomes liquid.

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The liquid mixture goes into a separator (in French – a “vase florentin”, or Florentine flask) where it settles. The essential oil rises to the top, for it is lighter than water. The essence-infused water remains at the bottom for it is heavier than the oil. The separator has two taps – the one at the top to draw off the essential oil, and the lower tap to draw off the distilled water, also known as hydrosol, a therapeutic by-product of distillation. This floral water can be used in cosmetics and for certain therapeutic treatments.

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The Lavender Museum exhibits a collection of stills that dates from the 17th century. It shows a film explaining the harvest and distillation process and during the lavender season, there will be a demonstration as well.    musee de la lavande

 

 

 

The lavender harvest begins usually from mid July to mid August.

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