Thursday, March 25, 2010

Co-Distillation

I've been messing around a bit with co-distillations to obtain special hydrosols, and I'm gearing up to collect the materials to co-distill for essential oil (lemon flower, lemon leaf and lemon fruit co-distillation). There's just something about co-distilling that's a little more exciting than creating single distillates. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get.

Who could have imagined that a co-distillation of rose buds, sandalwood, orris root, violet flower, frankincense resin, acacia flower, ambrette seeds, palo santo wood, and henna powder would result in a crisp, spicy (like cinnamon), slightly woody, and vanilla-balsamic hydrosol? Or that as this hydrosol dries, it becomes more tolu-like and deepens in scent? It's meditative, this scent. Happy. And a little bit magical.

Another mad alchemist/perfumer I know (Nathaniel) has made Eau de Melisse Carmes, aka Carmelite Water by co-distillation. He commented to me that it was an eye-opening experience. I tend to agree that the entire co-distilling concept is eye-opening. The way in which the raw materials blend and marry is entirely different than how they would react if, say, one were to blend the essential oils together in a bottle. There's a synergy to co-distillation.

I have a bit more to learn about distillation in general, but I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it. I haven't ruined a batch yet. And there have been two really spectacular oils achieved through my bumbling -- a bright, cheery frankincense, and a sweet, lemonade-y lemon oil.

I recently purchased a copy of "The Practical Distiller", a reprint of a book published in 1809 (yeah, 1809), but it's mostly about distilling whiskey, gin, brandy and "spirits". I'm interested in the section that discusses how to conduct and improve the practical aspects of distillation.

So maybe one of these days I will somehow manage to blow up the kitchen . . .

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