Georges Lincelé patiently put together the collection of stills over a period of 20 years. His search for old stills focused primarily on the region renowned for the production of true lavender – Vaucluse, the Alpes de Haute-Provence, the Hautes-Alpes, Drôme. Come discover the biggest collection of lavender-distilling stills made of copper, from the 16th century to the present time, and learn about the 3 different distilling techniques.
See ingenious and unusual objects lavender growers devised as part of their daily work.
Pot stills were the oldest type of distillation. The oldest stills on display at the Museum date from between 1626 and 1670. They come from the area around Lambruisse (04). We also have tilting pot stills, like the one from the village of Allons (04) which was used by the whole village. All these stills are made of copper. They were made by hand and are unique, one-of-a-kind objects. At the time, women and children went into the hills and cut the lavender by hand using a scythe. Men were in charge of distilling the cut lavender. There were no lavender crops – cultivated lavender only appeared in the early 1900’s.
This was a significant development which occurred in the 1920’s. Thanks to the use of a pressure gauge, distillation took place with constant pressure and temperature. The quality of the essential oil was improved, and distillation time was faster – less than one hour as opposed to two hours. These stills were made industrially by two manufacturers: Prince from Marseille and Eysseric from Nyons. The small still here at the Museum dates from 1941 and has a capacity of 80 kilograms of flowers. The larger still dates from 1944 and has a capacity of 250 kg of flowers. Some of these stills continue to operate today, however their capacity remains low.
These stills also have a pressure gauge, and they also have a boiler which uses lavender straw (this recycles the distilled lavender), wood or coal.This boiler distills several vessels of flowers one after the other. The oldest we have dates from the early 1900’s, and comes from St André les Alpes (04). It was designed by man from the mountains who had ordered a special boiler from the Chappée au Mans factory (72). The second one was a travelling still, and dates from 1925. It was made by Girod-Cellier in Aix-les-Bains.
This collection of perfume bottles, some of which go back to the 16th century, shows us that coloured glass was used very early on to protect essential oils from light. Light oxidises essential oils. Like any good-quality product, authentic essential oil is costly. If you find inexpensive essential oil be on your guard --- it could well be not the real thing.
Period labels Perfume bottles
As you look at this collection of labels, you will notice that most of the addresses are located in the city of Grasse, in the Alpes-Maritimes. Grasse was famous for its perfume industry, which arose due to the abundance of local resources such as jasmine, roses, tuberose and lavender, and related expertise with flowers. The city of Grasse became the perfume capital of the world. These labels also mention “lavande des Alpes” – lavender from the Alps, and the names of towns known for their lavender. The origin of the lavender is indeed very important – for the olfactive quality of the lavender depends on its origin. In the past, the top priority was quality, and not money. Fortunately today, the concern for quality is once again proving its importance.
Come discover these ingenious, unusual objects, fashioned by the lavender growers for use in their daily work.