Sweet Smell of Success – Dalesman July 2013

Sweet Small of Success at Wolds Way Lavender

 

Steve Jaques claims he is the only producer of lavender oil in the country to fuel his still with wood.

 

Celebrating the tenth anniversary of his farm at Wolds

Steve Jacques with his lavender oil still

Steve Jacques with his lavender oil still

Way Lavender, Wintringham, near Malton, Steve recalls, “The first harvest was in 2003, we didn’t have the still then. I took the lavender to Norfolk to have it distilled. From the still, a golden residue of oil began to appear. It grew and grew, and it was our lavender oil. It still amazes me when we do it today. We’re not making it, we’re just relieving it from the plants. It’s a process that’s been done for hundreds of years. Most houses had a still room, and plants and herbs were extracted.”

 

Steve designed and built his own still, and planted over 7,000 trees on his farm, with the aim that they will eventually provide fuel for the distilling process.

 

Together with his wife, Anne, they also planted 135,000 lavender plants.

Steve says, “You need quite a lot of plants to distill to

French lavender in flower

French lavender in flower

the oil. If you put around 300 full plants into the still, you might get around half a pint of oil. It depends on the type of plant, and it also depends on the weather. In a good year, we get about 30 litres of oil. Last year – the wet year – we got about 4 litres of oil. Fortunately, we had reserves that we’ve built up. As long as it’s sealed and unopened, it keeps well.”

 

The Jaques use their lavender oil in a variety of products, made either by themselves or by local specialists. For instance, says Steve, “A local company does lavender polishes, to an old secret recipe. They make it with our oil, so it’s a lavender/beeswax polish. It’s one of our better sellers – a thing that people remember their granny using.”

 

“We do handcreams, soaps and so on. A local company makes the base product to our specification. It’s certified with all the risk assessments etc to make something to put on your face. Then we add our own lavender oil, then bottle and label it.

 

“We also produce culinary lavender for cooking,” says Steve. They use this in their own cafe, and provide it to others. “Possibly our most famous client is Betty’s,” comments Steve. “We could have made 18,000 scones with what we’ve supplied to Betty’s.”

 

To dry lavender, says Steve, “You need to cut it just before the florets open out – otherwise they fall out when you dry it. You need to dry it in a darkened room, as that helps to keep the colour. An airing cupboard is ideal, with an elastic band round the stems to hold them as they shrink.”

 

He adds, “We grow 120 varieties of lavender around the site. For oil, we use 2 main plants:English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, and Lavandula intermedia.”

 

“English lavender produces the oil with the most properties from an aromatherpist’s point of view. With Lavandula intermedia, we get roughly twice as much oil as from angustifolia, but it’s a bit more camphorous in its smell. It’s a subtle difference. Even the same plants grown in a different place will smell subtly different – it’s like wine grapes grown in a different place. It also depends on weather, soil type, hours of sunshine, rainfall, latitude, etc.”

 

“A man from America came over last year, he advises lavender farms in the USA. He took two of our bottles, and analysed them. He found that something like 42 components made up our oil.”

 

Anne, who is the horticultural brains of the enterprise, says, “What we have is unique, everying is natural, even down to a maze made from living willow. People come here because they like nature – and we’re really proud of what we’ve done.”

 

Visit Wolds Way Lavender at www.woldswaylavender.co.uk

 

About Helen Johnson

Freelance Journalist specialising in features with a country flavour

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