« THE INSTALLATION OF AN ESSENTIAL OIL DISTILLERY » is a project that has consisted of the start-up of a new distillery in a municipality located in an area of extreme depopulation of Castilla-La Mancha (Spain), taking advantage of the identification of the potentialities of the cultivation of aromatics and the competitive advantages it offers in the production of goods and services in that territory. 

The lavender plantation and its impact and incidence has become a driving force for the socio-economic development of the territory and Leader has contributed decisively to mobilising the energy and resources of many people and organisations in the area to make them actors in this development by promoting projects that have been generated from the production of essential oils. Thus, important tourism and social initiatives have emerged in recent years linked to an exponential increase in visitors that have revitalized the rural area. 

It also highlights the innovation of the project for the use of a circular product based on a model that involves the reuse of lavender waste for pellet manufacturing and the sustainability of the project for its commitment to self- consumption and renewable energy with photovoltaic panels. 

Presentation of the project 

In the installation of an essential oil distillery in the municipality of Escamilla (Guadalajara), lavender oil will be produced, which is in high demand in the aromatic market thanks to its healing, antiseptic and perfumery properties. 

The main contextual element of this project is the consequences of the extreme depopulation of this area, which is causing a loss of economic dynamism. This makes it necessary to act with projects like this, which not only counteract these effects but also stop the exodus of many who leave their villages in search of better opportunities. The aim is to create a cultural identity for the territory with the potential of this crop that promotes sustainable territorial development and the fight against depopulation. 

The objectives of the project lie in obtaining essential oils through the process of distillation of lavender flowers and lavender by steam entrainment in a rustic estate with an area of almost 340 m2. It is a process of separation of substances insoluble in water, since water is added to the mixture containing the product to be separated and the whole is subjected to the distillation process. Once separated, the oil that is generated is mixed with cold water and hot water, thus producing the appearance of the essential oil. Therefore, the investment in this case has encompassed both the construction of the warehouse and the machinery and technical facilities required to carry out the activity. 

As a result of the project, it is planned, in addition to achieving a high quality of lavender essential oil production, to extend the experience to identify other potential ones that can be examples of good practices for other territories. The municipality of Escamilla, with little activity, will improve significantly since it will create jobs in the medium term, which would make it possible to create activities and new basic services that do not exist today. It is also intended to increase the cultivation of aromatic plants among farmers in the area. 

Leader’s support is essential in this project to reach the necessary investment where there was no funding. Summarizing the amounts subsidized for projects derived from the cultivation of lavender, in addition to those directly related to distillation, only in Brihuega and other affected municipalities, in this last programming period, the aid of almost € 771,000.00 stands out in a total invested of more than € 2 million of several that are directly linked to the increase in visitors and the revaluation of tourism (installation, improvement, modernization of shops, tourism and handicrafts…). Of particular relevance is the Leader aid that led to the restoration of the roof of the main building (the only circular industrial building in Europe) of the Royal Cloth Factory of the municipality, later converted into a 5-star hotel and which has involved more than € 14 million of investment, the creation of 75 direct jobs and the influx of thousands of people. 

Its innovative character lies in its circular work, generating steam with olive pits from olive trees in the area and closing that circle, making it a zero-expense facility because with the waste of the distillate lavender itself, pellets are manufactured to serve as combustion to generate steam. This is the great novelty, which completely banishes diesel as a fossil fuel and makes the distillery self-sufficient also with solar panels. 

It is a priority for Leader as the project responds to multiple needs of the territory detected in the FADETA strategy in order to act on them. The resources most valued by FADETA on which our strategy is based have to do with the problems of depopulation and demographic aging and the beginning of the economic revitalization of its municipalities. The project to install an essential oil distillery responds to the challenges faced by the region and is part of its strategy, as it promotes: 

  • The conversion of the territory into a Territorial Innovation Ecosystem that values the natural, social and economic capital of the region, as a space for new projects. 
  • The response to the challenges of the Demographic Challenge in the region. 

The dissemination effect of the results is one of the main objectives of the LEADER projects. This project has great potential for transfer to similar situations and can serve as an example to other RDGs in terms of the knowledge and practices developed. It could be transferred, for example, to the production of sumac, a plant whose traditional use is to tan hides and which is now used in medicine as an astringent and antifungal and in cooking as a superfood, and which could generate, also as a driving activity, another series of derived initiatives that generate wealth in a territory.