Visiting Aliksir Distillery was the highlight of our recent trip to Canada!
The farm is located in Grondines, a small rural municipality of the Comté de Portneuf bordering the St-Lawrence River in Quebec. Aliksir has been producing essential oils since 1988. It has always been a family business focused on medicinal plants and healing with essential oils.
I love visiting essential oil distillers. All the distillers I have met over the years are farmers dedicated to the earth and plants, and all have a deep love of nature.
Meeting Lucy, the owner of Aliksir, and her daughter Estelle, was no exception, and proved to be a deeply inspiring experience. Lucy has dedicated her life to creating an organic farm that distills the most beautiful essential oils with the utmost care. Her son built two of the four stills, and they take good care of their equipment.
Estelle took us on a muddy and fun tour of the fields of Melissa, Yarrow, Peppermint, and Sweet Gale. We saw their stills, the lab, the teaching space for their local classes, the storage facilities and their incredibly beautiful boutique. We also had the chance to play with their new kitten--I fell in love! We almost took him home...but there was the issue of border control.
Forget smuggling oils, I wanted the kitten!
One of my favorite oils from Aliksir is Balsam Poplar. (Populus balsamifera) It has an incredible balsamic, sweet, exotic, resinous, woody, aroma. Lucy had explained to me a few years ago that the oil was expensive because they distill it from the twigs and buds at spring. The yield is rather small--not to mention it is cut by hand and then chopped in this wild looking chopper (check it out below), and then distilled for many hours.
The oil has about 23% a-bisabolol, a component proven to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. It is an excellent addition to German Chamomile and Helichrysum in any injury blend and for rheumatism and arthritis. It also has the unique aspect of being antispasmodic, and offers an analgesic effect. Balsam Poplar is an amazing oil for scars and wound healing. The oil has deeply nourishing effects.
Lucy explained that after the Balsam Poplar is distilled, they can do a second extraction to produce an oleoresin from the buds. She had some samples of this oleoresin, and I loved the aroma! She offered to produce some for us next spring when the Balsam Poplar is being distilled. They only make a tiny amount of this oleoresin, so I feel very fortunate! She gave me a tiny sample of the oleoresin mixed with the essential oil--what a treasure!
The Balsam Poplar trees are actually 10 hours from their farm! They have farmers who cut the branches for them in the spring and truck them down to the distillery. Most of the conifer trees are not on their land--they have to go to great efforts to acquire the needles for distillation. This has motivated them to start a project for the Balsam Poplar. They have hundreds of baby Poplar trees started in their greenhouse. The plan is to dig lakes and build filtrating floating islands, and to solidify the chore with Sweet Gale and Balsam Poplar trees.
Lucy's Sweet Gale cuttings.
Another exciting aspect to our visit was our discussion about hydrosols. Lucy explained that as long as the bottles are sterilized before pouring the hydrosol into them, the hydrosols can last for several years. She drinks them, cooks with them and integrates them into her life on a daily basis.
Estelle and Lucy took us to a sweet little cafe for lunch where the owners use their oils and hydrosols in the food! We had a home made pizza with local cheeses--and their essential oils in the topping! In typical French fashion, we ate delicious food, drank too much coffee, and--of course--had a rich and wonderful dessert of chocolate cake and blueberry cheesecake.
What moved me the most in our seven hours at the distillery (and at lunch!) was the feeling of the place. All the people working at Aliksir are like family. I knew I had come across a very special place with extraordinary people and exceptional essential oils.
To visit the Aliksir website: www.aliksir.com