I haven't posted for a while as for the last 6 months I have either been preparing to move, moving or unpacking. I managed to bring most of my precious aromatic plants with me from the warmer North Island to the colder South Island and now winter is coming (in the best Game of Thrones way) I will have to be vigilant with them to make sure frost doesn't get to them. I had transferred most to pots before hand and let them harden up for a few months and had a nervous wait for 2 weeks until they arrived by road after being cooped up in a shipping container the whole time. I had invested in soil hydration crystals and had watered them throughly everyday before hand and packed then up with wet newspaper as well. They made it without any casualties- a finger lime, some lemon myrtles, osmanthuses (or is that osmanthii?), Rosa damascenas, a bergamot, yuzus, a hawthorn and a couple of other special roses. I sold off heaps of others to pay for the shipping. Since arriving at my new place I have planted lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary and calendula all for either distilling or infusing. A vegetable garden has also gone in which has been a constant battle to keep my beloved cats off. The garden is spiked with skewers but they seem to manage to work their around them! Since arriving I have done one gin distillation using aromatics from my garden to supplement the regular gin aromatics. This batch had a decidedly lime aroma with lemon myrtle and some dried citrus rinds from my old garden. I have managed four aromatic distillations for hydrosols, mainly experimental trying out my new set up and also to use up some of the 100 litres hydrosol I brought with me.
My small 5 litre copper alembic still from www.alembics.co.nz is perfect for small batches of hydrosol. I don't try and remove any essential oil. My initial set up had the still in the garden on an electric hotplate with a continous supply of running water (I'd catch the water and save for plant watering, washing the car etc as we have been on water restrictions). Whilst it works fine it is very weather dependent and having en electric cable running across the lawn with a hose pipe made me quite nervous! Previously I had a special still room which was purpose built and plumbing especially for the still and piped gas hot plate. However that set up is not practical to retrofit. I have since tried a couple of distillations using the hot plate and setting it up by my kitchen sink. One of the distillations I used blocks of ice to keep the coil cool- saves on having to have running water but does need replacing every so often as I found out. However it does mean you can leave the still for a few minutes.
I decided to give my cats a treat and distill some cat nip/cat mint hydrosol for them. One cat responds well to cat mint (Nepeta mussinii) and the other responds to cat nip (Nepeta cataria). I had planted one of each for them and in a few short weeks both had become rampant in their little sun trap. I have dried a lot to see them through winter so decided to do a distillation combining both. It has a distinctive aroma and I have misted it around them and they seem to enjoy it. For this I had a good few handfuls of fresh plant material and about 1 litre of water. I distilled off about 250ml and you can see by the photo it is quite a yellow colour. The bottle says catnip but it is both of the varieties.
My most recent distillation was the first time I distilled fresh ginger. I decided to try this as a combination using previously distilled lemon verbena hydrosol as the liquid part. I chopped about about 250 gm of fresh ginger and covered with boiling hydrosol and left for about 60 minutes to soften. I then popped this in the still with more lemon verbena hydrosol to a total of 2 litres. I always add my liquid boiling to reduce the time of heating up the still. This one took a bit longer than the green leave plants. this would be expected du to the fibrous nature of the ginger.I didn't peel it before hand as I figured the commercial ones wouldn't either. After about 30 minutes highly aromatic hydrosol started coming out and it was very easy to see an oily film on the top of the hydrosol. the combined aroma of both fresh ginger and loom verbena was certainly a delight. I left the still running for a good 90 minutes and from the 2 litres I got around 750ml of quality hydrosol. I possibly could have continued for another 30 minutes or so but the aroma was certainly starting to wane a little bit by them. this hydrosol I am using purely as a room fragrance.I may use some to make a gel base as an after shave gel as their is definite masculine hint to it.
Posted: Tuesday 4 January 2022