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