Lavender essential oils from Western Colorado successfully debuted in international competition in the 2014 New Zealand Lavender Growers Association Oil Contest.

Larry and Celia Eklund’s oil distilled from the lavender cultivar “Super” won a silver award in the Lavandula X Intermedia category. The Eklunds are from Grand Junction and their entry was the only one from the United States to earn a silver or gold award. Only one gold was awarded in the entire competition. Lavender Creek Farm in New Zealand won the gold for its oils from the “Violet Intrigue” cultivar.

Essential oils are derived through the steam distillation of lavender flowers and buds. Last year Western Colorado lavender essential oils were shown to have merit when they were tested with a gas chromatograph under a special grant from the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The gas chromatograph results showed that Colorado lavender oils were very similar chemically to the best oils from around the world.

The contest in New Zealand allowed Colorado oils to go through a “sniff” test much like wines and beers are evaluated on sensory characteristics. Oils were judged on aromatic notes both positive and negative, intensity, franchise, balance and varietal character. Points were awarded in each category and the total  points for an oil had to reach a certain level in order to be awarded a gold or silver rating.

Oils were judged in one of several categories: Lavandula Angustifolia, Lavandula X Intermedia, Gross, blend and Augustifolia Other. “Folgate” oil from Green Acres U-Pick in Palisade placed third highest score in the Angustifolia Other category.

Tin Can Distilling

Growers in the Lavender Association of Western Colorado (LAWC) became aware of the contest in 2012 but only entered the contest this year through the persistent efforts of Joseph Browne of Tin Can Distilling. Browne became the contact point with the contest director in New Zealand and arranged for oil pickup and combined shipping. Four growers from Western Colorado submitted six different oil samples for judging.

According to Bob Korver, LAWC board member, the results of the contest were very encouraging and gave further evidence that lavender grown in Western Colorado is a quality product. If you are interested in smelling samples of the lavender entered in the contest, the Palisade Chamber of Commerce has a box of vials to “Sniff”. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.

Based on the enthusiasm that 2014 results generated, Korver anticipated that more Colorado growers will enter in 2015. Growers interested in entering can contact Browne at for more information.

Information about LAWC can be found at LAWC currently has approximately 50 members across Western Colorado along with a few members on the Front Range.