The distillation technique is based on the ability of steam to capture essential oils. This technique was first used in Antiquity but was perfected by the Arabic civilisation in the 8th century AD and is still used today in traditional perfume making.
The flowers or plants are placed on perforated trays in the upper part of the still; the lower part is filled with water that is brought to the boil. As the steam rises through the flowers or plants, it captures the scent-bearing components and carries them into a glass cooling worm where this mixture is condensed by refrigeration. This mixture of water and essential oils is then collected in essence bottles, called Florentine flasks, in which the two liquids naturally separate because of their different densities. The essential oils rise to the surface and are skimmed off to be used in perfume creation while the scented waters left from certain distillations (rose water, orange blossom water) are used for other purposes.