Friday, September 3, 2010

Fragrant Failure

La Reine Victoria Rose -Exquisite Bourbon scent

Fragrant Failure! What a beautiful color...
      A couple years ago a friend gave me a kit she bought online to distill perfume at home. I know the exorbitant cost of even the smallest tabletop distillers, so I was unsure what to say to such an unexpected gift. She then told me the kit was cheap and that I shouldn't worry about the cost. Relieved, I was then amused when I opened the box to find the most basic of contents; a canning jar, a cork with a hole in it that had a cap in the hole. A piece of copper pipe bent into a curlicue and another (stainless steel) pipe bent into a stand, two small amber vials with caps and a 1 inch length of plastic tubing. Also, should not forget to mention the mimeo type of copy quality "instruction book"that was included. The box touts the contents thusly, "PERFUME KIT - Capture your favorite fragrances, including the beautiful scents of your very own garden! Create:  Perfume . Hand Lotion . After Shave . Cologne . Scented Soap! Kit Contains: A decorative glass enfleurage- retort, a distillation condenser, practice ingredients (there were none of these in my kit), and a complete booklet of instructions to make exotic and valuable perfumes from your own garden. Use roses, lilacs, violets, juniper berries and balsam needles."
Note: The canning jar is called "a decorative glass enfleurage"! Wow. Who knew?
collecting La Reine Victoria for  distilling
heating the petals in the sun with the cork
I followed the instructions -honest!

the equipment set up and running

I used the kit for the first (and last) time yesterday and I'm calling my day a Fragrant Failure. I had to phone the kit's manufacturer twice to ask questions about the illegible and incoherent instructions and they were very nice, wanting to be helpful, but unable to talk intelligently about the kit they sell. To say I had a bad feeling about how the project would fare is an understatement but I forged ahead.  I collected a 1/2 pound of petals early in the day. I used a 1/4 pound of distilled water in the jar (One of my phone calls was about using water instead of lard, which is the only option offered in the paperwork. I pretended to be a vegan and asked where I could find instructions that did not use animal fats. The answer was to substitute water for the fat and proceed with the instructions. I did what I was told.)  I set up the equipment (no easy feat! It was tricky getting the stand to work.) I heated a pan of water on the stove, set the canning jar in the pan while keeping it attached to the copper piping on the stand on the counter and proceeded to heat the whole mess for the day. Nothing happened. Well, some steam was already in the jar from sitting in the sun for a few hours earlier but other than the rose petals wilting into the water in the jar, nothing happened. I finally called it a day and turned the whole thing off and left it to cool. This morning, dejected at the waste of 1/2 pound of perfectly wonderful and fragrant rose petals that I could have turned into freezer jam, I went to wash the "equipment" but first strained the water from the jar - Lo & Behold! A 1/2 pint of the most beautifully colored and wonderfully fragrant rose water was my reward. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with my "Fragrant Failure" but when I do, you can be sure I will report in.
It was a strange way to get the most amazing rose water ever. Now I will probably repeat my Fragrant Failure next year


  1. You did not use a condenser - that is something to surround the copper condensing coil that would have cooled the steam to fluid. All you did is decoct the rose petals. Get a useful still if you want to distill.

  2. JeanneRose, Thanks for the comment! I covet your stills. I am assuming the co. that made the absurd kit my friend got for me could not afford to include a condenser for their ridiculous retail price of $24.99! They do not mention a condenser anywhere in their instructions or give info for making one. I would have made one (if that is even possible) had I known I was supposed to. Alas, I am truly a fragrant failure. I am off to do something I'm good at now so I can raise my flagging self-esteem! Happy Labor Day Weekend to you and yours.