Nature has a way of creating its own art. Is it possible that delicate leaves of the myrtle tree can create even more beauty when distilled into essential oils & waters? We found the answer to be an overwhelming yes after visiting the workshop of artisan herbalist Juan Cànaves of Aigua de Terra in Caimari.
Juan is one of only four herbalists throughout the Balearic islands, and his passion for native plants was borne from his love of the countryside. Many days of the week Juan spends his days in the forestal & torrential regions of the Serra de Tramuntana foraging for flowers, seeds, leaves & herbs. He collects these raw materials, dries them in his rustic stone workshop and then starts the process of transforming them into tinctures, tonics & essential oils.
As with any artisanal process, this transformation takes time, patience & preciseness. Juan uses an antique alambique (still) made of copper which runs from for 12+ hours to distill flowers, fruits & leaves by way of fire. The vapors are cooled in the still & then put in an antique Florentine glass vessel for the separation of essential oil. 30 kg of plant material in the still yields roughly 10 mil of essential oil and 10 liters of floral water. The preparation of tinctures is also a long process; the plant materials are submerged in alcohol & left to macerate in the Mallorcan sun for 2+ weeks.
It's difficult to capture through words & photos the uniqueness of Juan's work. The beauty of what he makes, what he creates, can best be appreciated by smell. The essence of Mallorca's natural environment is perfectly captured in the sweet smell of his mandarin floral water or rosemary essential oil. And with this trip out to Caimari to meet this talented maker, we're yet again reminded how special this island really is.