Lavender oil is undoubtedly the essential oil that is the most popular in aromatherapy. Highly regarded for its beautiful aroma and wide application, it is considered the must have essential oil in the home for skin care, minor burns from things like spitting fat, bites and stings, insomnia, headaches and for general relaxation.
Lavender is just as versatile within perfumery – blending with almost any other essence. Falling into the green floral category, lavender lends a fresh, herbal quality to a perfume and can act as a bridge between top citrus notes and floral hearts. Lavender is also vital to the men’s fougère fragrance group, characterised by lavender, wood, coumarin and oak moss notes.
There are many species of lavender, however, it is lavandula angustifolia that is the best choice for the perfumer. This species has the least amount of camphor resulting in a far sweeter, floral aroma than the other types. Lavender Absolute is also produced from lavandula angustifolia and has an amazing green colour. The absolute is less floral than the essential oil, offering a far more herbaceous, woody odour that closely resembles the aroma of the actual flowering lavender.
Walking through a field of lavender is just as relaxing as smelling the oil! It was a great delight when I first arrived in Tasmania to discover Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Bridestowe is only a 45 minute drive from Launceston and the Estate has around 44 hectares dedicated to the cultivation of lavandula angustifolia.
Bridestowe was founded in 1922 by London perfumer CK Denny. He came to Tasmania with the seeds of the true French perfumery lavandula angustifolia that occurs naturally at high altitudes in a small area of the southern French Alps. The location of Bridestowe was chosen due to the similarity in climate, red soil and altitude from where the lavender originated.
Planted in contours and mounds to maximise water and soil conservation and to assist with drainage, this method of growing also provides for a spectacular sight! We recently went for a visit as I was interested in how the plants would look in early spring without their flowers.
40 hectares of native and cultivated forest is retained around the farm to ensure abundant bird life and low insect pressures. The plants flower once per year in December and January with the lavender being mechanically harvested in January. The distillery operates 3 stills, with 85% of the oil being exported overseas, in particular to perfume houses. The distillery was closed, but we managed to get a few shots of some of the displays through the window.
Due to the low camphor of lavandula angustfiolia, it is the only variety suitable for culinary purposes. Bridestowe sell a wide variety of food products made from their lavender, from teas, jams, jellies, relish, and syrups as well as selling actual tins of dried lavender for cooking and the essential oil. If you cannot make it there in person you can simply shop online.
If you are lucky enough to visit, they have a wonderful cafe where everything to eat and drink is flavoured with lavender (of course!).
They also provide the recipes of all the food that they make in their cafe. I recently made their lavender scones – the recipe of which I will share in a future post.