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RKL Distillery in Bulgaria

by Andrea Butje on September 01, 2011

On my recent trip to Bulgaria, I visited the wonderful RKL Distillery, located in the village of Bial Briag.

RKL Distillery is small, but has extensive, beautiful organic fields of herbs such as Lavender, Melissa, Yarrow and St John’s Wort.

One of the three owners of RKL, Alex, graciously met us at the airport in Varna, Bulgaria, and spent the next three days with us. Alex took us to his distillery in Bial Briag and another distillery he supports called Little Arcadia, owned by his friends Antonina and Ivan, in Kipilovo village. Both distilleries are located in extraordinary old villages full of history and character.

We spent the first day in Varna, a coastal town along the Black Sea that reminded me of all the wonderful villages I love so much in France--outdoor cafes serving incredible food, people out on the cobblestone streets late into the night, and street performers playing music! What could be better?

The next day we drove for a few hours through huge fields of sunflowers in full bloom to Alex's distillery. RKL Distillery is located in an old stone building in a very charming, ancient village. We met Georgi, his distillery manager, who lives in the village with his wife Milka. Georgi owns 30 horses--one (Mladenka) who was kind enough to pull us in a cart through the village to their Melissa fields! We were told that Mladenka, the horse, was so smart that he could be a president!

I have pictures of the distillery, the people and the herb fields on my Flickr account (along with the rest of the Bulgaria trip).

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Ecomaat Distillery in Bulgaria

by Andrea Butje on August 26, 2011

Last week I flew to Bulgaria and met up with my friend Christina, owner of Essential Education International. We visited several distilleries. The first was Ecomaat Distillery.

The morning after we arrived in Bulgaria, we drove into the Balkan mountains to a small, beautiful village called Mirkovo. Fortunately, we had a navigation system (with--specifically--a chip for Bulgaria!), because trying to read street signs with names like "площад „Батенберг" made us laugh!

Ecomaat Distillery is located in a beautiful, ecologically pure region in the very heart of the Balkan Mountains.

They distill wild herbs and plants. Ecomaat is certified for organic production of essential oils. The company's main activity is the cultivation of essential oil crops and herbs, and processing these crops for essential oils and CO2 extracts. Their essential oil production is based on a traditional Bulgarian approach combined with cutting-edge distillation equipment and methodology.

Ecomaat’s basic principles of organic agriculture preserve the fertility of the Earth. They refrain from polluting activities to preserve the environment. They don't use synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Ecomaat's principles are established in order to respect their consumers, the planet, and future generations.

Upon arriving at Ecomaat (no small miracle!) we were transported into a world of vibrant CO2 extracts, extraordinary essential oils and a beautiful distillery! Atanas, the distiller at Ecomaat, gave us a wonderful tour of the distillery and CO2 extraction equipment.

The CO2 process is really interesting. It consists of pumping pressurized carbon dioxide into a chamber filled with plant matter (roses, chamomile, lilacs and so on). When carbon dioxide is subjected to pressure it becomes "supercritical" (meaning that it has liquid properties while remaining in a gaseous state). Because of the liquid properties of the gas, the CO2 functions as a solvent, pulling the oils, pigment and resin from the plant material. The temperature involved in the supercritical extraction process is low, around 95 to 100 degrees F, as opposed to 140 to 212 degrees F in steam distillation.

In some instances, a CO2 supercritical extract can retain the more genuine aroma of the plant. For example, I felt the aroma of the CO2 extracts of Lavender and Cardamom were more vibrant than the essential oil.

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