Lavender essential oils from Western Colorado had their best showing yet in international competition as they won 5 silver certificates of achievement in the 2016 New Zealand Lavender Growers Association Oil Contest. The Western Colorado oils were the only American entries to win a certificate of achievement besides one entry from Washington state.
This year’s contest drew entries from France and the United Kingdom in addition to the United States and New Zealand.
The contest’s demographist noted that “we gave out 36 awards this year which is an increase proportionately on last year and this number has been increasing every year as our growers come to an understanding of what is good.”
To earn a gold or silver certificate of achievement, an oil must earn a certain number of rating points and also achieve a certain percentile rank. Oils were judged on Aromatic notes both positive and negative, Intensity, Franchise, Balance, and Varietal Character.
Only three gold certificates of achievement were awarded overall in 2016 in the 25 categories and subcategories.
The entry of 2015 Super oil from Green Acres U-Pick (3601 G Road, Palisade) came close to the coveted gold certificate. The Green Acres U-Pick oil scored a 74.4 percentile and needed a 75 to earn gold.
The lavender cultivar Super grown in Western Colorado seems to be especially prone to producing excellent oil.
Larry and Celia Eklund from Grand Junction won a silver certificate for their 2013 Super in the 2014 contest while Green Acres U-Pick won silver certificates for their 2014 and 2015 Super oils in this year’s contest, making it three years in a row that a Super oil distilled in Western Colorado has been recognized for excellence.
This year three other types of oils from Western Colorado earned silver certificates as well. Alfreda and David Algeo of Two Bears Farm and More LLC, 3606 G 4/10 Rd., Palisade, received a silver certificate for their blended oil named, “Mountain Blend”. Mountain Blend received the highest score of all blended oil entries. The creation of Mountain Blend consisted of blending and aging a delicate ratio between Hidecote Pink and Maillette oils.
The Algeo’s have been distilling and blending oils for a number of years for their personal use and are now applying what they’ve learned to commercial production. They are currently working on other blended oils as well as the award winning Mountain Blend that will be available at their online/onsite store and gallery (970) 464-1015.
Bob and Elaine Korver of Green Acres U-Pick also won a silver certificate with their Impress Purple oil. Their oil scored the most points of any Impress Purple oil entry.
Bob Korver noted that having all three of their entries win certificates this year was particularly satisfying since they had been close the previous two years. “The challenge now is to see if we can score high consistently year after year,” he said.
Also winning a silver certificate were Dennis and Lauri Echers of Echers’ Acres from Fruita for their Maillette oil. The Echers and the Algeos were first time entrants in the contest.
“We have long believed that members of the Lavender Association of Western Colorado (LAWC) have been producing high quality essential oils and it is nice to get some validation on the international level that that is the case,” Korver added.
Essential oils are derived through the steam distillation of lavender flowers and buds.
Lavender is a relatively new industry in Colorado. “We are still learning which cultivars do well here. In some ways we are where grapes were 20 years ago. Lavender is a great crop for Western Colorado as it is a desert plant that doesn’t require nearly as much water to grow as traditional crops such as corn or hay,” Korver said.
“Newer growers such as myself have benefitted from the advice that LAWC charter members like Paola Legarre of Sage Creations Organic Farm of Palisade, Carol Schott of Lamborn Lavender in Paonia, and Ron Rish of Cloud Terrace Farm in Palisade have shared. We have also benefitted from knowledge provided by experts like Dr. Curtis Swift and Dr. Janet Scavarda as we try to develop best practices for growing lavender in Colorado,” Korver said.
“The beauty of being a member of LAWC is that our members are willing to share what they are learning and are supportive of each other as we produce quality lavender products,” noted Kristin Nielsen, LAWC president. Anyone interested in joining LAWC can get more information at its website http://www.coloradolavender.org
LAWC currently has more than 30 members who are scattered across Western Colorado along with a growing number of members on the Eastern Slope and in neighboring states.