Happy new year!
Ahh, Osmanthus fragrans, one of the most delicious aromatics I can think of....my 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
|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.