I was fortunate to land on American soil in time for the lavender harvest…..and even more fortunate to begin a new relationship with our Napa Valley organic lavender farmers, the Kahns. I will talk more about Bob and Sharon in a later post, but for now I want to share the abundance of the harvest!
I touched down in mid July and didn’t waste any time to get to the Kahn’s ranch in South Napa. Their property is on the back of a ridge so you have to meander through winding roads until the valley opens up and subsequently dead ends into their property. As I headed into the open valley, I spotted their driveway up ahead…outlined with cypress trees. It wasn’t long until I reached the gate…and soon was surrounded by olive trees….as I ascended, I could see the lavender in the distance…hundreds of lavender plants…well 1,200 lavender plants to be exact. For a moment, I thought I was back in Tuscany…..
I was in a loaner car that was not 4 wheel drive and couldn’t make it up the dirt road….so I parked it and began the trek up. As I meandered up the winding gravel road, I could smell the lavender in the air. As I approached the distilling shed, it became more pronounced. Ah…..I took a deep breath in and closed my eyes…there is life after Florence!
Bob met me at the top of the drive….and although I knew different, he seemed as if he’d been farming organic lavender all of his life….we said our hellos and proceeded into the distilling shed…as my foot hit the cement floor, I was taken back by the potency of the air….it was not a typical flowery lavender aroma…it was woody….and green….and flowery…it was the entire plant….it all of it’s glory….I couldn’t help but breath deep.
I was so excited to be there…something I had dreamed of for years. Bob and his distiller Gabe ran through the process with me. I had an understanding of distillation but watching the process was fascinating….and their passion was infectious. I LOVE listening to people who love what they do and are trying to produce the best….in total alignment with mother nature. I find it incredibly inspiring and could sit and listen for hours. I had more things to accomplish that day but I could hardly pull myself from the shed. It was the company, yes….and the aroma…it was so different….so pure….real….wow….I wish this could be a scratch and sniff blog!
Pulling myself from the shed, I walked the property with Bob and got up to speed on both their lavender and olive harvest. We talked about Italy….about lavender….about life….about olives….about their new cats…about rattlesnakes…by far one of the best business meetings I’ve had. He then led me into the room where they kept the oil that had been distilled to date. Lined up in a cupboard were 34 oz. jars of the essential oil…about 10 in total I believe…and total production was predicted to be about 20 max or 680 oz….yes, that is it folks….680 oz. max of organic Napa Valley lavender essential oil. As I looked at all the bottles, I couldn’t help but smile…wow…here we were…it wasn’t too long ago that I had met the Kahns by chance….and their story fed the inspiration for our Napa Valley Bath line…and now here we were…it was happening….it was time to unleash the dream.
We smelled the different dates of oil….they had different characteristics….overall the oil was intense…the scent in the shed was nothing compared to that in the bottle…my mouth watered as I breathed in the floral and grassy notes of the oil…I swear I could taste it. I was lost in the moment….all I could do was breath deep.
We will go into the distillation process in more detail in another post but the bottom line is that you get very little essential oil from distillation and a whole lot of hydrosol. Hydrosol, also known as floral water, is a by-product from the distillation process. A hydrosol is like an essential oil but in far less concentration…approx. .02% of essential oil is in the hydrosol. The Kahns produce their hydrosol as a direct by-product of the essential oil…they do not continue to distill after the oil is gone….thereby creating the most floral and natural hydrosol possible. It reminds me of the first press of the olive….going for the best quality…always a good thing!
So this is the beginning of our new local journey together….I look forward to sharing more posts with you about the people I meet and the things that I learn. We have many exciting things on the horizon so keep checking back or sign up for our blog so you don’t miss out on any of our tales!