Monday, April 17, 2006

Distilling Rose Oil

How to Make Rose Oil Several years ago, I joined Dr Peter Wilde (pictured on the left) on a fabulous trip through Turkey. I like to visit distillers of essential oils that I purchase to sell through The Essential Oil Company. I like to see how the plants are grown, harvested, handled and distilled to gain confidence in my suppliers and develop a personal relationship with them. This ensures that my customers receive only the best essential oils possible. If you have never been to Istanbul, you are really missing something. This is truly where East meets West. History and mythology. The senses are assaulted from all directions. Sights, sounds and aromas. We travelled in a group from Istabul to the Mediterranean sea. The region around Isparta is the heart of rose production in Turkey The roses are generally harvested during the month of June. The harvest begins at daylight and proceeds until about 10 AM. It's always best to harvest the rose petals while the dew is still on them, and before the heat of the day causes the essential oils to evaporate into the atmosphere. Women do the harvesting. (Men make the tea for the morning break- nice job) Only the rose petals are taken, no green bits allowed. I tried my hand at harvesting but found that I was wasn't built for it. I spent most of my time trying to get the thorns out of my hands, and "unhooking" my shirt from the ever present thorns. Once the rose petals are harvested, they are placed into sacks and loaded onto trailers. Care must be taken not to bruise the rose petals. The rose petals then make the short journey from the rose fields to the distillery. Once at the distillery, the sacks of rose petals are unloaded from the trailer and dumped on the smoothe cool concrete floor . The rose petals are allowed to ferment a bit. Decomposition apparently helps to produce more rose essential oil inside of the petals. The rose petals are left for seveal hours to allow nature to do its work. The room is incredibly aromatic. Ms Dorene Petersen, President of the American College of Healthcare Sciences found the specter of a pile of rose petals irresistible. Overwhelmed by the aroma, Dorene temporarily passed out, reportedly falling into a deep rose inspired sleep . We managed to bring Dorene back to her senses, otherwise she would have been loaded, along with the rose petals into the large distillers. Rose petals are distilled via hydrodistillation. Rose petals are delicate. It is necessary to have the rose petals float freely in water in order for them to be distilled. Steam distillation does not work for rose petals. Once hit with the heat of the steam, the rose petals form mush which does not permit complete distillation. Picture a pot of oatmeal cooking. Looking into the pot, you will see "steam vents". This is exactly what happens to rose petals if steam distillation is attempted. The steam will find its way through these "tunnels" and will not adequately contact with the rose. In addition, the heat and pressure will destroy some of the finer "notes" in the essential oil. So, after allowing the rose petals to ferment a little bit, and with the removal of Ms Petersen, the rose petals are loaded into th distillers. Inside the distillers is about 1500 liters of water. Each distiller is then filled with about 500 kgs of rose petals, and packed to the top, to overflowing. Steam is introduced into the bottom of the steam jacket which surrounds the copper container that is holding the rose petals and water. The steam causes the water inside the pot to boil. This is similar to a "Bain Marie" double boiler. This works quite well. If the rose petals and water were in a pot, without the "double boiler", and heated via direct fire, you run the risk of burning your rose petals. This is due to the fact that the water inside will evaporate as distillation proceeds, and the remaining rose petals will contact the hot sides of the distiller. One thing you never want to do is burn your raw material. The distillery is a two story operation. Rose petals are loaded into the top of the distillers (retorts). When the distillation period is over, the bottom of the retort is opened to remove the spent rose petals and remaining waters. As distillation proceeds, the distillate is captured in a receiving can (Essencier), with the Rose oil (attar, Otto) floating to the top. It's very important to capture the waters which exit the Essencier and redistill the waters to remove the essential oils which haven't adequately separated from the waters. The product of the redistilled waters and and the essential oils which float to the top of the Essencier are then filtered and blended back together. The resulting products are beautiful Turkish Rose Essential Oil and Rose Flower Water (these are the hydrosols that flow from the Essenciers) Turkish Rose Attar (Rose Oil, Rose Otto) is similar to that distilled in Bulgaria. The rose used is the beautiful Damask Rose. Rose Oil is among the favorites used in herbal medicine and aromatherapy.


Quality Essential Oils said...

haha that looks like fun - being able to lay in all those rose pedals. interesting the way they make that stuff. i wonder how many essential oils there are out there...

Distiller said...

There are lots and lots of essential oils out there.

I just finished distilling some fresh leaves of Laurel nobilis (Bay Laurel) on the sweet little island of Syros, in Greece. Timing wasn't quite right, but the oil is lovely nonetheless.

Last week; Rose Geranium, Rosemary and Helichrysum. All distilled in a copper alembic as well as a stainless steel distiller.

Anonymous said...

Would this process work small scale, a i have heard its very difficult to get pure rose oil from rose petals.

Sateesh Janmeja said...

Do you have vacum pump also