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Summer distillation

September 8, 2011

Alembic copper still for hyrodistillation

I can be such a green eyed monster!   I love a good demo and I like to see how things are made or happen.   Last year at my local farmers market, where the bulk of my soaps are sold, a new vendor that sells honey, soaps and other related products brought an encased beehive so you could see the bees at work.   Things like that make our local market very special.   So, after much pondering what I could demo,  I  decided I wanted a small still to demonstrate how some varieties of essential oils and hydrosols are made.

This is my second summer doing distillation demos and I’ve had so much fun with my still.  It sits up high at the market and attracts many people who are curious about it and a lot who can tell you moonshine stories, too.   Here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia  there is a lot moonshine history.

My still is for distillation of plants for hydrosols (think “floral water” like orange and rose or even witch hazel). It also produces tiny amounts of  essential oil.   Essential oils are what gives my soap their scent.  I purchase my essential oils,  since I don’t have acres of land, equipment, strong men  and a nice mediterranean climate.   Not totally necessary, but it sure helps!

There are lots of different types of stills and mine is for water or hydrodistillation.  This means that the plant material sits in the water versus dry distillation where the water is below the plant material and steams up through the dry or fresh product.  Copper sweetens the distillate by binding the sulfur and yeast.   Copper also reduces bacterial contamination.  In non-copper stills you have to age it to lose what is called the “still” note.

I’m currently distilling rose geranium for facial toner and I will be distilling off and on this fall both at home and at the Harrisonburg, VA Farmers Market.    I’ll try to post soon on just what is a hydrosol and when I will have some for sale.   In the meanwhile, you can learn more about distillation history from Elise V. Pearlstine, a natural perfumer, aromatherapist, soap maker, wildlife ecologist and blogger.

For a history of distillation:

For Elise’s blog:

If only I had half her talent!

Lori Curry ~ Adventure & Discovery ~ Summer Distillation 2011

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2011 5:05 PM

    Hi Lori – It’s so great that you demonstrate distillation! I love your still, I am lusting after one just like it. Keep up the good work!



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