Friday, August 19, 2011

Turning Distillation Into a Science

Breughel-like scene of an herb garden in Liber de Arte Distillandi Philosophica

In 1500, Hieronymus Brunschwingk wrote the Liber de Arte Distillandi Philosophica (Book on Intelligent Distilling). Before this, distilling of essential oils was an unperfected art and the book strove to turn it into a science. It noted that tinctures of herbs in alcohol were resistant to decay and gave the advice that herbs should be distilled in vessels of lead. The “heremetic” sealing of the distilling vessel should be tight so that the essential oils do not volitalize.

An early distilled oil was the herb rue, then cinnamon soon followed. By the 16th century, pine, frankincense, gum mastic, costus, cedarwood, benzoin, and sweet flag had all been distilled. The list soon included agarwood, anise, cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, mace, pepper, sandalwood, and juniper. During the 17th century, ambergris, thyme, asafoetida, coriander, dill, labdanum, marjoram, mint, carrot seed, orris, ginger, saffron, and wormwood had all been put in the still.

Source: Morris, Edwin T. Fragrance: The Story of Perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel. New York, 1984. Pp. 134.

No comments:

Post a Comment