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Travel Blog #150 - Aromatic Farm Tour and Distillation

Travel Blog #150 - Aromatic Farm Tour and Distillation

You are likely aware that Tom Barefoot's Tours carries hundreds of activity companies on all the Hawaiian Islands consisting of thousands of individual tour choices. You are also probably aware that we regularly go out in the field and have experienced hundreds of these tours first hand over the course of years. I could certainly say though that the Olinda Farm Tour and Distillation at the Aromatherapy Foundation of Maui on the slopes of Olinda Maui, far and away fits the description of "unique".
The day I visited the farm and enjoyed the three-hour tour was in mid-May on a beautiful spring day. Though I have little understanding of things botanical this is not true of my dad, Tom, and particularly of my step-mother Doreena who both own the property that the Foundation leases for its distillation experiences. Doreena has been an aromatherapy specialist for decades and has attended classes and seminars all over the world in this fascinating field of work.

Aromatherapy distillation video

The farm itself lies at about the 3000' mark in elevation and looks down with the most spectacular view at the central valley which extends between the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala. On the property itself the volunteers of the Foundation have planted approximately 900 aromatic plants which are used for viewing and teaching purposes but also are used for distillation. At the very top of the property has been constructed a distillation pavilion which is where the plants are distilled into their essential oils and their hydrosols or floral waters. The first order of the day however is to go down into the fields and cut the plants that will be distilled on that specific day. Our group went down into the fields armed with a set of pruning shears and a bucket and we began cutting. The plant we distilled that day was lemon-rose geranium. We were told to just pick the juicy tops and leaves from the upper portions of the plant as they would likely be the most potent. Just cutting the leaves and branches created enormous aroma and soon our hands were covered with the unique scent that seemed to satisfy our breath in a very invigorating fashion. Because the aroma was so prominent at this point, we wondered just what the smells would be like after the distillation process was over and we were soon to find out.

We next took our botanical bounty back up the hill to the distillation pavilion where all the magic was soon to happen. The still itself was made in Portugal by a family that has been making this type of ambelic still for centuries. The actual design of the still is so totally efficient that there have actually been no major changes to the design since ancient times, and the art of distilling goes back thousands of years. We emptied our bucket into the basket in the central part of the still and packed it tightly for the best airflow of steam. A fire was lit under the still and the pure Maui "Iao Valley Stream" water was boiled to the point where it raised through the central basket taking the molecules of lemon-rose geranium with it. The steam continued to rise until it was forced down through a copper coil that dipped through a cool chamber of water. The cold water forced the steam to condense and after about thirty-five minutes of heating we had the first drops of floral waters dropping into the beaker at the end of the distilling cycle. Before we could actually see the floral waters coming out we could actually smell its scent which flushed out in an initial burst that was easily recognizable by all the participants who were seated in the pavilion.

You will start by gathering the aromatic plants.

After a period of about a half an hour or so we had accumulated a multiple jars of the hydrosols and a small beaker of the actual essential oil itself. To our surprise, the oil actually came out in a teal blue color and for every bit as much aroma as was found in the floral waters there was so much more in the oil. We siphoned off some of the floral waters into individual spray bottles which we were given for our day's experience and were permitted to take home. The little spray bottle was my constant companion for weeks to come and every time I sprayed the fine mist onto my face I was reminded of the beautiful day and extraordinary experience we enjoyed that day in Olinda.

These distillations usually take place twice a week on Tuesday and Friday mornings. These interesting and informative tours are designed for small groups of usually not more than a dozen people and so you'll have lots of personalized attention for all your questions to be answered. The process is fascinating and the property, views and aromas from all the aromatic plants are simply phenomenal. You'll likely learn a lot at one of these farm distillation tours and you'll have a great time as well.

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This is amazing! We changed the dates of our trip so we could be there for this. SO EXCITED!!