How to distill RoseWater

This is an experiment in creating floral waters, or sweet waters. These are waters that are distilled from flowers, but do not use alcohol as a distillation base. Two different waters were made Borage and Rose. Rose water is the base for many confection recipes including the Manus Christi. Borage water is needed for a syrup recipe I will be making later this month from Mrs Corlyon receipt book.

The basic principle of distillation is creating vapor, that is cooled and condenses into a containment vessel. I have a glass still and an improvised “basic still”. This weekend since I was traveling and didn’t want to risk the science kit, I used the improvised still.

Equipment needed:
1 large pot
1 large steel bowl that will act as a pot lid
1 brick1 smaller steel bowl
4 gallon zip top bags filled with ice

Still set up:

  1. In the center of the pot, place your brick.
  2. Add 1-2 cups of flower petals (fresh or dried)
  3. Add enough distilled water to cover the flowers, but not completely cover the brick (it should not be submerged).
  4. Bring this mixture to a boil.
  5. Place the smaller bowl on top of the bricks and turn the heat down to low.
  6. Place the larger bowl over the mouth of the pot. It should form a lid. The bowl gives the water a low point to drip into the smaller bowl.
  7. Add one bag of ice to the bowl (keep it in the baggie, makes clean up easier).
  8. Set timer for 15 minutes and walk away.
  9. Repeat the ice, timer, walk away 3x more.Do not be tempted to lift the lid. You will let out steam that way.
  10. At the end of an hour, rescue your flower water and clean up.

As you can see the water ends up water colored. I can tell the difference between the two jars, by scent only. Many distillation recipes call for the use of a lead still. Given that the end product will be used in food, I have opted to use a safer still option for food production.

“Stampe the leaves, and first distill the juice being expressed and after distil the leaves, and so you shall dispatch more with one Still than others doe with three or foure stils.  And this water is every way as medicinable as the other, serving in all sirups, decoctions, &c. sufficiently, but not altogether so pleasing in smell.”[1]

[1] Plat, Hugh “Diuers Chimicall Conclusions Concerning the Art of Distillation: With Many Rare Practices and Uses Thereof, According to the Authors Own Experience” 1594


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