Blood & Roses

April 4th 2016 - 8:00pm

We spent all evening picking petals off roses, and carefully cutting them to tiny pieces, using ceramic knifes. We were lucky, because the blossoms seemed to carry much essential oil. An intense scent already filled the air and and the petals left wet spots all over the cutting boards as we processed them.

After we prepared the material, we put our it into a large Erlenmeyer flask and mixed them with pure spring water (most people prefer distilled water, to prevent limescale. I made the best experiences with fresh water out of a spring on the nearby hillside)

We connected our flask to another one, using a curved glass tube (also called bridge), and after we let the mix steep for a while, we started the Bunsen burner below.

Soon the water took on a reddish brown color and a very strong rose fragrance filled the whole room. At first, only a few bubbles timidly clinged to the wall of the flask, slowly bubbling their way to the top. But as time went on, the water started to gently circulate and the bridge steamed up like a bathroom mirror.

Hannah really had a lot of fun doing this. Of course, she had distilled before, but when your doing university-level chemistry, you only get to work with stuff like "sodium peroxide" or "hexanatrium monosulfate" (I have no clue if those two ingredients do really exist, but you get the point of what I'm sayin'). Here, we're distilling just plain old roses - way more fun.

Distilling has this incredibly calming effect on one's mind... I just love it, to watch the first droplet of condensed fluid to build up, slowly making it's way to the second flask. The alchemists say, that this does not only refine the material you are working with, but the very soul of the alchemist. By the way, that's where the misinformation comes from, that the alchemists were looking for a way to turn lead into gold - this was purely symbolic and it always meant "to make the lead of our souls golden". How to make real gold wasn't a secret to them at all, but that's a story for another time.

Sadly, this time I couldn't watch the whole process, because I was chained to a chair, although unfortunately not literally... Hannah had set up a improvised blood drawing station yesterday, which we both used daily to donate little amounts of our blood, to get the required seven liters as soon as possible. To get the philosopher's stone, we had to give up more then only a couple of roses, after all.

Then, after more than 24 hours of distillation on a small flame, it was finally finished: Our essential oil was ready.

Hannah and I looked proudly at the result in the collecting flask as well as the shriveled and essenceless rose petals left in the other. With a separating funnel, we divided the thin layer of oil from the hydrolate, and filled it into a tiny, empty vial. It's scent was breathtakingly magnificient.

I gave the vial to Hannah as a present - I felt like I owed her one, for all her help with the experiment and moreover, she ought to keep a little souvenir to remember her of her first alchemical steps.

PS: At this point, taking a look into our fridge is something I'd only recommend to those, who are good at keeping their food in their bellies, 'cause that's where we're keeping all our collected blood. It's stored in those typical bags, like the ones they have in hospitals.

PPS: I can't believe I never mentioned this until now, but for god's sake, do not try this at home yourself. Hannah learned how to properly draw blood during her voluntary social year, and what we're doing here is still highly irresponsible.

Philosopher's stone, here we come!

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Meg Out

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