Modi - making lavender oil 2007

Click here to see the Tabblo for the 2008 distillation - a record breaking session

Modi is where the final stage in the transformation takes place - where the soul of the beautiful lavender flowers is transmuted, in an almost alchemical manner, into the essential oil. A magical process that to this day brings tears to my eyes. In these opening shots you can see the twin 600 litre stills, the sacks of latifolia (the angustifolia has already been loaded into the first still and is gently cooking). This is the business end of oil production here at the lavender way. The guy in the blue overalls is Babbis - master distiller and all round good guy.

There is no such thing as a day off in this business and while the stills are cooking we all set to and began harvesting the huge rosemary bushes that line the lane that leads to the house. A busman's holiday perhaps. But a change is as good as a rest. Later 3 of us drove off to harvest more rosemary from a friend's garden down in the village - the travelling rosemary crew.

Holiday makers and visitors are unlikely to encounter a place quite like Modi. It is one of those peculiarly Cretan places where inside and outside blur. Where Life is lived outside whenever possible. A few shots here demonstrate that strange and sympathetic way that native Cretans have of living with thir world. Look around and look carefully. And don't be upset about the skulls.


During distillation the stills have to be checked regularly and so the cutting of rosemary and lazing around with coffee and cigarettes have to be interrupted. We certainly do not want any explosions or similar disasters. The master distiller is constantly vigilant.  The lovely Janina, the oil specialist, supervises discreetly.

After many hours the magic brewer has completed his transubstantiation and the essential oil begins to flow - slowly at first and then less haltingly. The distilling shed, though open to the elements on four side is saturated with the aroma of lavender. The angustifolia is first to complete and the precious fluid, light golden and looking not unlike Scotch whiskey slowly fills the vessel.


The last drops are carried in the hydrosol  - the hydrosol bubbles and sinks to the bottom to be drained off later when the oil has rested. In the coming weeks the oil will be allowed to rest and consolidate its character. A final magic that is beyond human intervention.

And now that the sweet and salving soul of the angustifolia has been  captured and while the lattifolia continues its progress it is time for the traditional after distillation party Cretan style. We sit together - we talk of the day - we speak of the quality and then we digress to life as a subject. We swiftly agree that we have a fairly wonderful way - the Lavender Way.