Making Hydrosols (Flower Waters)

To buy our hydrosols as Flower Water Body Mist or Concentrate click on:

I love your flower water spritzer (Body Mist), it is so good in keeping my skin hydrated on a long flight’  A Cook (Cyprus)

I make my own hydrosols using whole flowers, petals, healing herbs and fruits grown in my garden or in Cyprus, where my sister lives and gardens. I use the hydrosols as a basis of all my soaps and flower waters and it is this process that makes our soaps so special, unlike any others you may have used.

This is how I make the hydrosols……

Making Rose Hydrosols

My first job is always my favourite when making Rose flower water – picking and packing the rose petals into the pierced flower basket in the copper Alembic still as soon as the dew has evaporated from the rose petals.The basket is handmade in pure copper and flash plated so the copper does not taint the subtle scent of the flower water.

Filling the Alembic basket with glorious striped Rosa Mundi petals, deep pink Ausglobe Brother Cadfeal petals along with the  blushed pink Damask Kazanlik rose petals

My roses look sensational in their large Whichford pots around my garden and the standard Ausglobe Brother Cadfael flowers at head height, allowing me to become completely surrounded in its sublime rich Old Rose scent.

My rose soaps and a posy of roses

I grow the Gallica Rosa Mundi, that was bred prior to the 16th century (Unknown before 1581) with its dramatic striped red and white colouring as well as the Damask Kazanlik (Discovered in 1689) which is the rose used to make attar of rose for parfum.

I love to imagine that the young William Shakespeare courted his future bride Anne Hathaway, with a posy of rosa mundi roses gathered from her family home. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is a thatched farmhouse with large grounds, and both a floral and productive vegetable gardens, overflowing with beautiful blooms, traditional shrubs and fruit. The cottage is in Shottery, a hamlet within the parish of Stratford-upon-Avon and within walking distance of my home.

‘Were not summer’s distillations left

A liquid prisoner, pent in walls of glass,

Beauty’s effect of beauty was bereft,

Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was;

But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,

Leese but their show, their substance still lives sweet.’

William Shakespeare

The petals by the Alembic still

But back to my hydrosol….. I pack as many petals as I can into the basket to the maximise the scent production and hopefully to produce a small amount of rose essential oil.

The belly of the Alembic still is filled with Malvern spring water, then the onion is fitted onto the top of the still.

Packing the petals into the Alembic still

I carry the still, onion and petalfilled basket into my kitchen where I seal the still joints with a traditional collar made with wholemeal flour.

I put the flour paste roll around the head of the bulb and also around the seal between the onion arm and distill pot. It is vitally important that  each seal is secure, as any steam lost can make a difference to the quantity of hydrosol produced.

The Alembic still with the flourpaste seals

Then I put the Alembic still on the gas ring to heat up and wait…….

Once the water boils, steam distillation takes place – the steam is forced through the petals held in the basket scenting the steam, that is then condensed back into a hydrosol (flower water) as the steam cools in the distill pot.

The three parts of the Alembic still, the bulb, the onion and the distill pot

The distill pot has three fluid pipes – one on the left hand of the photo to collect the hydrosol, one on the right hand side to allow the hot water to drain and the second on the righthand side to refill the distill pot to cool the coiled pipe from the onion.

The hydrosol pipe feeds into a green glass bottle where I store the rose hydrosol until I use it in my rose soaps.

The bottled rose hydrosol surronuded by my roses

I produce enough hydrosol for me to make my rose and rose and lavender soaps, and if there is any  spare  I make rose-water floral spray – there is nothing like it to cool me down on a hot day and to enjoy the scent that always makes me smile……..

Once the hydrosol has been produced I very carefully take the Alembic to pieces to cool and to drain off the water left in the Still. This water is often brown and slightly scented, in a green sort of way – not like the clear scent of the hydrosol.

The Alembic still taken to pieces to cool

The wonderful rose petals turn to a pink mush that is put straight into my green compost bin, after a quiet thank you to them for giving up their sublime scent.

The spent rose petals

 We have had a larger Alembic made for us and here she is…..

We are so pleased with her and cannot wait to start using it – but we must wait for the first crop of flowers and herbs to emerge from their winter slumbers before we can start making the hydrosols and oils which are the basis of all of our soaps, liquid soaps, creams, body butters and lip balms.

We plan to sell any excess essentail oils, so if you are interested, please contact me.

Making Orange Blossom Hydrosols in Cyprus

It was a beautiful sunny May morning in Cyprus when my sister Amanda, Connie, Flossie and I went gathering for a basketful of orange blossom flowers. We walked up the dirt path to the orange grove in brilliant sunshine, and the scent of the blossom was heady in the air. The trees were abuzz with bees and in the dappled sunshine of the undergrowth we had to watch out for basking snakes.

Judith and Amanda with a bough laden with orange blossom and ripe oranges

We picked the flowers by pinching the flower heads just behind the nodes, so we were able to maximise the scent for our hydrosol.

A basket full of Orange blossom

Our fingers became saturated with sticky pollen from the anthers, but we didn’t mind as the scent was wonderful and so uplifting.

The heat of the sun really brought out the incredible scent of the orange blossom. In the grove there were lemon, grapefruit and orange trees, but the orange scent was the most potent.

Me hiding in the shade….

I picked the orange blossom from the orange trees in the shade, as the sun was just too hot for me. The trees were pruned to a manageable height of between ten and twelve feet high and were festooned in both oranges and the blossom.

We use the orange blossom to make a hydrosol, or flower water, that is the floral base for our soaps and to make a flower water spitzer that I sell in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Walking home through the orange groves

Lavender Hydrosols

Late July or August is time for the Lavender hydrosols to be made as the flowers are just beginning to open and are filled with wonderful oils.

Lavender hydrosols are one of the most straight forward to make, as the flowers are robust and if overheated do not take on the burnt or scolded scent so quickly – although when I was learning to use the Alembic still I managed to produce a hydrosol that made my eyes water with the pungent aroma!

Violet Hydrosols

Trying out Violet flower water today, my sister (Amanda Saurin from Wellgreen Lewes) made some earlier in the week and said it smelt very green, sharp but with a soft grassy dry down – can’t wait to smell it! It will take a while as I need to gently coax the scent form the plantmatter…

Voilets packed into the Alembic still

Violets packed into the Alembic still

2013-04-05 08.08.52The colour of the flowers is such a deep violet, just like the param violet sweetie I had as a child – memories of scents can take you right back to the moment can’t they?

So finished making 500ml, not much but such an amazing scent, much greener, fresher with an undercurrent of flora buds – very pleased with it. This will go into our new range of perfumes and solid perfumes and bring a depth to the scent mixes.

The distilled violet flowers

The distilled violet flowers

Lilac and Lily Hydrosols

Trying out making Lily and Lilac flower water today – I’m sure it will be wonderful! I will use the flower water in our creams and body mists, and if it is really fantastic I will double still it to make a concentrate….

Well, the combination of liles and lilac looked so beautiful but smells top note green with just too much farmyard – so sad! If you really let the scents drift, you can catch a fleeting sweetness of the flower water, but a lesson learnt – no to this combination!

So any flower waters for sale claiming to be lily or lilac check thoroughly before buying as it might just be a fragrance rather than a pure, natural scent….

Scottish Adrnamurchan Heather, Bog Myrtle (Sweet Gale) and Scots Pine Hydrosols

I have been trying out all sorts of flowers and herbs like Scottish Heather, Sweet Gale (Bog myrtle) and Scots Pine for a range of flower water sprays to frighten the Scottish midge!

I can now be classified as a travelling distiller and I thought I would show you some photos of Camas Inas and my still….

....and we even add a rainbow into our hydrosols!

….and we even add a rainbow into our hydrosols!

Our Alembic Still full of Ardnamurchan Scots Pine needles in Camas Inas

Our Alembic Still full of Ardnamurchan Scots Pine needles in Camas Inas

Scots Pine

Scottish Heather

Shakespeare’s Sister’s Soap


36 Responses to Making Hydrosols (Flower Waters)

  1. Franci says:

    Thats is sooooooooooooooo amazing, theres no worsd to discribe it all
    Be much blesed!!
    I have to get hold of one of this!!!
    I feel sad cos have not idea where should even start looking!!

  2. Cassie says:

    I would absolutely love to make Hydrosols with my flowers! Where would you recommend finding a decent priced Alembic? Thank you for sharing such delights!

  3. Evik says:

    Hello Judith, I find your blog amazing – I already attempted to make my own flower waters, but without a good alembic (kind of kitchen made “pot” alembic), and the results were rather… deceiving… I was looking exactly at the same Alembic some time ago, but was not sure if it is good for what I wanted. A small question about the floral waters – how do you preserve them, do you add some preservatives and if not – how long do they “survive”? Thanks!

    • judithsoap says:

      Thank you Evik!

      So pleased you are trying out making Flower Waters, they are wonderful to use – both on their own and incorporated into our soaps.

      I do not add any preservatives, but keep them cool in a fridge. I always keep everything really clean with no dipping into the green glass bottles with fingers or dippers, and I decant from the 500ml bottles to smaller bottles when they get 50% empty to minimise the air in the bottles. It is worth reminding you that a film of essential oil naturally occurrs as part of the distilling process, which also helps keeps the Flower waters/hydrosols fresh.

      My Flower Waters keep their scent for at least two years, although they lighten, I have not found them to go ‘off’.

      What do you want to make with your Flower Waters?

      Warmest regards


      • Evik says:

        Thank you Judith for your fast answer. Indeed, keeping the bottle filled is a very good idea. For the essential oil part – so you always leave a small EO layer, hummm, that is smart! I want to use flower waters mainly for my own homemade creams, lotions, hair waters, shampoos. I do always try to keep everything as clean as possible. However, never tried a flower water in a soap – find it too expensive, but maybe once I start to make mine, I will happily try it. Did you try lavender flower water in a CP soap? Does it keep its fragrance?

      • judithsoap says:

        Hello Evik,

        Yes, I use each of the flower waters I make in my cold process soap. The soaps then carry a gentle, pure scent that is a joy to use!

        I have just developed a fabby soap for my Scottish range made with sweet gale flower water that has the most amazing scent, a herby/citrus note, and pink heather flower water that has a sweet honey scent to it. I have found it works on me as a midgie confuser – anything to get away from their bites…..

        It is such fun experimenting with the Alembic still – but no wish to make alcohol!!!

        Hope you had a good weekend


  4. Evik says:

    Hi Judith, its again me, thank you for your answer and sorry for not responding sooner! If the soaps keep the scent, I am looking forward to try it. So far I just tried kind of lavender infusion in cold water, but it did not scent the soap :-/ I will keep you informed about all my advances with alambic (once I buy it, but its on my list 🙂 )
    And yes, I wish you a flowery and scented new year! May your flowers bring you new inspirations…

    • Austin says:

      You’ll get more scent if you distill your lavender water to make a true hydrosol, rather than making tea like you did. Also, try reusing the same lavender water multiple times with new flowers. That should do the trick. For soap, though, you’d be better off using about .4 to .5 ounces of lavender oil per pound of soap for a mild lavender scent. 🙂 Be careful using lavender oil, though, my first batch of soap I made was a lavender soap & the lavender smell was too strong… it had a harsh, medicinal/camphorous smell that isn’t there when lavender is properly diluted.

  5. Lady PineFeather says:

    Wow, this post filled my senses with all my favorite smells and then some…what a lovely way to make a living! Thank you for sharing your hydrosol making process.

  6. honey says:

    I just felt so at peace looking at your site and the process of flower water making………………truly beautiful. I live in the Caribbean and I was wondering where can I get a small alembic? I am thinking I can try my hand at this. The Gallica Rosa Mundi is so beautiful, can you suggest where I might be able to get a plant? I have never seen one of that in my region. thanks so much for all your help 🙂 Have a great hydrosol day.

  7. Thanks 4 the info. I’m going 2 use myne as facial toners, add drops of: Pure, Organic Argan Oil, Lavender Essential Oil, Vit-C Powder, Hyaluronic Acid and a blend of 18 other Essentials Oils and Exotic Fruits plus Pure Coconut Water n Aloa Vera. Keep chilled and use as a Facial Spray Toner and on my Hair throughout the day to hydrate, Feed and Restore. The Rosa and Chamomile Hydrosol Waters are welcomed ingredients, now that I’ve finally taken them out of closet and researched what they can be used for! Thank You Again for ALL the wonderful information, it was very helpful now that I’m making HOME-MADE Beauty items. Debbie Stephenson, Ventura, CA

    • judithsoap says:

      Hello Debbie,

      What a fabby idea to use the combination of oils and hydrolates as a facial toner/hair spritzer!

      As a toner, it works wonderfully within my range of skincare goodies but I will try it on my long hair (My hair is nearly down to my waist)

      All the best Debbie, and if you want to run any ideas past me, please do!


  8. Austin says:

    I’m so excited for spring time. I have so many plans for hydrosols… dandelion, orange blossom, lilac, rose, prunella… There are also these mysterious flowers in my back yard, I haven’t identified them yet but they grow on a bush & have a beautiful soft vanilla smell. Really looking forward to making some beautiful things! I hope this year is twice as good as the last ❤

    • judithsoap says:

      Hello Austin,

      Your plans to distill so many flower just makes me smile – it is additive isn’t it!

      Let me know how you get on as I am interested to hear about your results. I tried Lily and it was revolting – too green and slightly farmyardy!

      Warmest regards


  9. Sara DeHart says:

    Your photographs are lovely. I am writing a Kindle book on the use of Lavender Hydrosol to treat burns. I would love to have permission to use two of your photographs in the book. I will attribute the photographs to you and cite your website. Thank you for considering this option.

  10. Sara DeHart says:

    Judith, Your ISP did not accept my e-mail at the the address listed above. Please advise me on contacting you directly about use of 2 of your lovely photographs. I sent the relevant part of my text with photographs from the Kindle book that will be published within the next 30 days. Sara

  11. Evik says:

    Hi Judith! It’s been a while, but I did not forget 🙂 Guess what I got for Christmas – an alambic! I tried a lavender and lemon flower water, the lavender one was better, it smelled as a real one. But it takes so long to make… I still have to make the cooling, for now I just poured cold water in by hand… not practical!

  12. judith says:

    Evik what a super present!
    For cooling the condenser coil I use a plastic garden hose fitted to my cold tap from the sink and attached to the top tube (as hot water rises) to the condenser – it is flexible and I can regulate the cold water easily.

    You can see how I set up the Alembic in the top photo left hand side. The hose is bright green

    Do you think you could try that?

    Let me know how you get on….

    Warmest regards


    • Evik says:

      Yes, that should work, I was thinking already of something like that 🙂 Excellent, I will let you know.
      One more question – you mention overheating – how can I overheat Alambic? Just to know what not to do… thank you so much!

  13. simone slater says:

    Hello. I don’t know if you can help me or not. I’m going to make rose hydrosol using the inverted lid with ice method to collect the steam that drips down into a bowl. So this is the distilled hydrosol. My question is how long will this last without preservatives since it is distilled? Thanks Simone

    • judithsoap says:

      Hello Simone,

      So pleased to hear you are trying out distilling.

      With refrigeration the hydrosol should last 12 months without loosing too much scent, but it is best fresh.

      All the best with your experimentation and do email back if you have a question.


  14. simone slater says:

    Thanks for your reply. Just one more question. I have read you can freeze it in ice blocks so you can just pull out what you need for the week. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks.

  15. simone slater says:

    Hi there. Just wanted to say that I tried this in the homemade way with an inverted lid and ice method collecting the steam in a glass jar, and it worked well, except it was clear and had no smell. The water left in the pot with the rose petals smelt more like roses and was a nice color. I used mostly deep red rose petals. From what I gather it should have a nice rose smell and slight color? Am I doing something wrong.

  16. judithsoap says:

    Hello Simone,

    it sounds as though you either don’t have enough rose petals or possibly the incorrect type of rose that doesn’t have the strong scent.What type were you using?

    Roses need to be coaxed to give up their scent, so very slow heating is needed to get to a rolling boil, then take the heat down to a soft shimmer with the bubbles just breaking the surface.Keep going for about half an hour to an hour depending on the amount of water you have in the pan.

    Hope this helps, let me know how you get on

    Warmest regards


    • simone slater says:

      Hi there. Well I did pick roses that really didn’t have a smell. I used 6 roses and about 11/2 litres of water. I really just steamed it, barely simmering for 50 minutes. The water left in the bottom had a more rose smell.
      I didn’t realise I needed fragrant roses. Nobody ever really says that in their explanations. I have read quite a few descriptions on home distilling. I will try again. Thanks.

    • simone slater says:

      No, I live in Tasmania. Thanks for your quick response. I will try some of my other roses when they flower. I know some of them have scent.

  17. judithsoap says:

    Hey Simone,

    It sounds as though you have the process sorted, I think the roses may have let you down…

    The old fashioned roses are by far the best, David Austin sells some of the best scented roses, that is where I get mine from. Are you in the UK?

    Warmest regards


  18. judithsoap says:

    Hey Simone,
    Pick your roses after three days of hot sun first thing in the morning when the dew has just dried on them to maximise the scented oil production in the rose.

    All the best


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