Distillation of Lavender Oil

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Summer is officially here.  The mercury of the thermometer is climbing and the flowers of the lavender is blooming almost fully.  The scent of the flowers are attracting the bees in the lavender fields.  LAVENDER BEE

This is also the moment that the distillers are getting their distillery ready : checking the distillation stills, contacting their seasonal workers, etc….

 

A sharing experience from a guide :

Distilation_Santal,_AlambicLast summer, I’ve discovered the way to distillate lavender essential oil. What a great experience ! Surrounded by a golden and purple patchwork of wheat and lavender, we turned on a little car track. Guided by a plume of smoke, we kept going till a kind of open-air hangar. Even being in the car, we already could smell the strong perfume exhaling from the still.

A tractor was carrying giant bales of lavender towards a vase 500 kilos each, told by the workers. Smiling but working hard, there were about 4 people trying to fill the vase with the “straw” of lavender. First, they put one bale, quickly joined by a second one. How could this quantity of flowers and stems enter into the vase ? lavande 1

The answer came with a huge tyre (like on the monster trucks) hanging from chains. It was filled with concrete and must weigh tons ! The workers placed it above the bales and jumped on it to press the lavender. Finally, everything was inside the vase and they could close it tightly.

The next stage was warming up the water at the bottom of the still. The dry lavender, already passed into the vase from a precedent distillation, was burnt into a big oven to boil the water and make it evaporate. I don’t know how they can work at this hot temperature all day long in the middle of summer !

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The steam then passed between the flowers, brought the essence of lavender and arrived to a tube (swan neck) going down. The producer asked us to follow him down the metal stairs as we could see the completion of  this activity : the essential oil. Turning on a little tap at the top of a small vat, he collected the liquid in a bottle. Keeping it still, we could observe the separation into two parts. The essential oil was much lighter than water, therefore it floats  to the top. So they could collect only the essential oil.

So easy to understand but so hard to do ! Thank you guys for this nice demonstration !

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