Osmanthus Distillation (Archive Jan 2014)

Happy new year! 
Ahh, Osmanthus fragrans, one of the most delicious aromatics I can think attempts to grow this wonderful flower for distillation has been spoken of here, and the subsequent knowledge that the plants I invested several hundred dollars in were mislabelled at the nursery was a heavy blow to my heart. Three years on they are still healthy and have doubled in size but no sign of ANY flowering. Anyway I have trying a one off 'plan B' to capture that wonderful aroma again just for myself. Three years ago I had secured a small amount of genuine osmanthus hydrosol which had been imported from India into New Zealand. I was using it for a range of natural skin care products for a client, but when the source of the hydrosol dried up I turned my last few litres into a gel to incorporate into other things. Just over 3 litres remained and due to the time frame I wouldn't want to use in skin care products now, even though it had been well preserved, so I have decided to distil the gel and see what happens. The gel was made up of osmanthus hydrosol, xantham gum 1% and naticide a plant based preservative made from vanilla and almonds.  The pH was 4 and I have poured 3 litres into my copper alembic still (3 litre still) from Alembics NZ.

The gel boiling over through the condenser.

pH test of 2nd distillation attempt

The mess!

Make sure you cover your condensor with cold running water to avert disaster!

incorrect distillate-not consensed

Filtering the distilled gel
The final 3 distillates- L-R last distillate, first gel and clear almost water at end.

However approximately 20 mins into the distillation i took my eye of the ball (well the condenser) and disaster struck. This little still doesn't have a thermometer in the condenser so I was going very much by touch- the condenser was still cool to touch and i thought I could nip away for a few minutes and do something- but alas no a loud gurgling and bubbling noise soon erupted from my still room. At first i thought the hose was disconnected and water was going everywhere -but no- the gel in the still was bubbling down through the condenser and not being condensed as no water was going through it.
I stopped the process at this time (it was only about 25 minutes into the process). I managed to salvage approximately 1600 ml and the rest was either on the floor or gone to the 'angels'.

Second time around I paid more attention but it still did the same thing after 20 mins.- it went from a low drip of a clear liquid to suddenly pouring out thick and fast! I manged to distill approx 300ml of cloudy aromatic mobile liquid with a specific gravity (SG) of 1.090. The rest was still quite gel like with a SG of 1.170. I poured this through a coffee filter into a clean bottle. Each product smelt slightly differnt, with the mobile liquid smelling 'cleaner' and less sweet. Both had the original aroma of the osnamnthus and vanilla/almond.
I guess at the end of the 2 I now have a really sterile aromatic product which I can play with for me- may be a luxury soap for my self. the lesson is- don't leave the still! The pH of all the variations was between 4-5.

Posted: Tuesday 4 January 2022