Idrolati Artigianali, A Kinfolk garden, Acque Aromatiche, Aromaterapia, Distillazione Vapore

primary product of distillation

'Hydrosols are the condensation water co-produced during steam distillation or hydrodistillation of plant material for aromatherapeutic purposes'.

Usually distillation is undertaken to obtain the essential oils contained in the plant material, but occasionally distillation is undertaken specifically to produce the resulting plant water. The production of hydrosol should use freshly harvested plant material that is certified organic or free of pesticides and chemicals, sustainably harvested, and composed of only one identifiable botanical species. Distillation should be slow and at low atmospheric pressure for prolonged periods and use pure, uncontaminated water to preserve all the therapeutic components of the plant material, with the intention that the resulting products are intended for therapeutic use without further processing'

As I was taught, 'you cannot get a quality hydrolate if you only distil for the essential oil' (Rose 1999)

The essential oil industry focuses on separating volatiles from distilled water. We focus on enticing the volatiles to remain in solution, not on separating them from the distillate.

What characterises a Hydrosol as the primary product of our distillations?

FRESH PLANT MATERIAL To obtain a quality Hydrosols, it is necessary to choose fresh plant material harvested in its 'Balsamic Time', since in Aromatherapy Hydrolates also heal thanks to their high concentration of water-soluble substances; in distillations to obtain essential oils, plant materials being dry have lost their water and thus part of their therapeutic properties.

VEGETABLE TO DISTILLATE RATIO 1:1 - This means that for every kg of fresh plant material placed in the still, up to 1 kg of hydrosol will be obtained (1 kg of plant material will produce up to 1 litre of hydrolate). There are other advertised ratios for hydrosols, but I believe they are suitable for commercial-scale distillations for essential oils, where the hydrolate is a by-product; these ratios are not suitable for alembics.

COPPER ALEMBIC - Distillation in copper alembics makes the product finer and cleaner. Hydrosols distilled in copper alembics have a pleasant taste and smell, they do not need to decant for months to lose the so-called 'STILL NOTE' of distillations with stainless steel stills. Moreover, copper has been used for centuries for its antimicrobial properties and purer water.

SOURCE WATER - It would take an entire article on water, but for now we limit ourselves to writing that water is life. Exquisite hydrosols are made from exquisite water; great care must be taken in the choice of water for distillations; we usually use spring water from the Alta Murgia in Apulia.

LOW TEMPERATURES, FOR A LONG TIME - When distilling is done on industrial stills, using higher pressure and temperature, the time needed for extraction is reduced. In stills, which work at low temperature and atmospheric pressure, it takes time to properly extract a plant.This means that in order to extract all the components of a plant, one must work at low temperatures and do long distillations to allow even the heaviest components to be extracted.

Commercially distilled essential oils and Hydrolates, which are a byproduct of that industry, are normally steam distilled in large batches, hundreds or thousands of kilograms at a time, in large stainless steel stills. Often an external source of pressurized steam is used to blast the molecules of the plant material. Some distillation units use pressure to manipulate the temperature of the steam. These types of distillations are often fast and furious, where volume is the difference between profit and loss; little consideration is given to their by-product, the Hydrolate. Most of these essential oils are used in the fragrance and flavor industries, where price and volume are the key factors. Those trained in aromatherapy avoid these commercial essential oils and Hydrolates as they do not contain all the therapeutic components that the plant contains. Just as we know that not all essential oils are of high quality, so we have learned that not all Hydrolates are the same. In the world of fine arts, there are as many styles of painting as there are artists. The same is true for distillers: we may not all agree on what makes a better Hydrolate, but quality handcrafted Hydrolates are truly true works of art.