Canadian Essential Oil Distiller

by Andrea on July 23, 2009

Visiting Aliksir Distillery was the highlight of our recent trip to Canada!

The farm is located in Grondines, a small rural municipality of the Comté de Portneuf bordering the St-Lawrence River in Quebec. Aliksir has been producing essential oils since 1988. It has always been a family business focused on medicinal plants and healing with essential oils.

Canadian essential oil distiller

I love visiting essential oil distillers. All the distillers I have met over the years are farmers dedicated to the earth and plants, and all have a deep love of nature.

Meeting Lucy, the owner of Aliksir, and her daughter Estelle, was no exception, and proved to be a deeply inspiring experience. Lucy has dedicated her life to creating an organic farm that distills the most beautiful essential oils with the utmost care. Her son built two of the four stills, and they take good care of their equipment.

Estelle took us on a muddy and fun tour of the fields of Melissa, Yarrow, Peppermint, and Sweet Gale. We saw their stills, the lab, the teaching space for their local classes, the storage facilities and their incredibly beautiful boutique. We also had the chance to play with their new kitten–I fell in love! We almost took him home…but there was the issue of border control.

Forget smuggling oils, I wanted the kitten!

Canadian essential oil distiller Canadian essential oil distiller Lucy

One of my favorite oils from Aliksir is Balsam Poplar. (Populus balsamifera) It has an incredible balsamic, sweet, exotic, resinous, woody, aroma. Lucy had explained to me a few years ago that the oil was expensive because they distill it from the twigs and buds at spring. The yield is rather small–not to mention it is cut by hand and then chopped in this wild looking chopper (check it out below), and then distilled for many hours.

The oil has about 23% a-bisabolol, a component proven to have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. It is an excellent addition to German Chamomile and Helichrysum in any injury blend and for rheumatism and arthritis. It also has the unique aspect of being antispasmodic, and offers an analgesic effect. Balsam Poplar is an amazing oil for scars and wound healing. The oil has deeply nourishing effects.

Canadian essential oil distiller

Lucy explained that after the Balsam Poplar is distilled, they can do a second extraction to produce an oleoresin from the buds. She had some samples of this oleoresin, and I loved the aroma! She offered to produce some for us next spring when the Balsam Poplar is being distilled. They only make a tiny amount of this oleoresin, so I feel very fortunate! She gave me a tiny sample of the oleoresin mixed with the essential oil–what a treasure!

The Balsam Poplar trees are actually 10 hours from their farm! They have farmers who cut the branches for them in the spring and truck them down to the distillery. Most of the conifer trees are not on their land–they have to go to great efforts to acquire the needles for distillation. This has motivated them to start a project for the Balsam Poplar. They have hundreds of baby Poplar trees started in their greenhouse. The plan is to dig lakes and build filtrating floating islands, and to solidify the chore with Sweet Gale and Balsam Poplar trees. 

essential oil distillers

Lucy’s Sweet Gale cuttings.

Another exciting aspect to our visit was our discussion about hydrosols. Lucy explained that as long as the bottles are sterilized before pouring the hydrosol into them, the hydrosols can last for several years. She drinks them, cooks with them and integrates them into her life on a daily basis.

Estelle and Lucy took us to a sweet little cafe for lunch where the owners use their oils and hydrosols in the food! We had a home made pizza with local cheeses–and their essential oils in the topping! In typical French fashion, we ate delicious food, drank too much coffee, and–of course–had a rich and wonderful dessert of chocolate cake and blueberry cheesecake.

What moved me the most in our seven hours at the distillery (and at lunch!) was the feeling of the place. All the people working at Aliksir are like family. I knew I had come across a very special place with extraordinary people and exceptional essential oils.

To visit the Aliksir website:

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Owner/Instructor at Aromahead Institute
Aromahead Institute, owned by Andrea Butje, is a premier resource for online aromatherapy classes. Andrea offers her inspired approach to online aromatherapy certification through essential oil videos and original education materials. Check out her book, Essential Living: Aromatherapy Recipes for Health and Home, on Amazon!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Nie Ann Allard April 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Thanks a lot for the info Andrea, I hope we meet somehow when I go there in Canada. I have been using essential oils for aromatheraphy massage which I have learned basically in Macau, been practicing massage since 1998 . I wanted to know more about essential oils which are safe to use on the face as I am into facial massages too.

Thank you & looking forward to seeing you in the future ….

Nie Ann (Philippines)


Plastic Bottles August 15, 2009 at 1:42 am

Sounds like a exciting and educational trip. Is the Balsam Poplar oil something that they specialize in or will I be able to find that at most essential oils retailers? Seems like it has some great benefits.


Admin August 15, 2009 at 7:18 am

I believe you would be able to find this oil at some other places, but yes they also do specialize in it. We sell it at Aromatics International.


Genevieve August 10, 2009 at 11:28 pm

I would like to buy Poplar essential oil, I’m not finding a lot of companies selling it.

Could you direct me to someone that might sell it in Canada may be in BC. I found it the most useful oil for muscular problems.

From Genevieve


Admin August 11, 2009 at 7:19 am

Aliksir is the only distiller I know producing it, you might ask them…


Patti Gelini July 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Welcome back! It is clear you had a terrific experience on your Canada/Aliksir trip. As usual, we are all enriched through your trip. Thank you for sharing it in such details. Balsam Poplar is fairly new to me and I become more interested and excited about it with each new bit of information I learn. Like the others have commented, I love that such a human and personal connection is made for us through you, Cindy, Lucy and Estelle. I love that Lucy and her family not only have the plans for the island of Poplars, but the seeds have already been planted. Very cool. Thanks also for the info on Sweet Gale. Sounds like one more amazing oil. The only way to improve on this trip might be to actually smuggle the kitten next time.


Admin July 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I would love to live with that kitten!!!


Pam July 27, 2009 at 9:24 am


When you share this information about your visits to distillers, it inspires me to do more research on my own in regards to distilling oils. I would like to grow essential oils and learn how to distill the essential oils.

You have given everyone who reads your blogs a gift of being able to experience through your words and pictures the visit with the distiller.

You pass on a wealth of information to others which causes a domino effect of sharing this information with others. I love that the distillation proces is not done in a factory with concrete walls, but is created in a wonderful energy of love and joy on a farm with equipment that is not necessarily “state of the art”.

I would like to know how to go about visiting some of the distillers you have gone to, if it is at all possible. This is something I would like to do in the future.

I am truly blessed to have met both you and Cindy and appreciate all of the valuable research and information you continually pass on to me and others.


Christina July 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Thank you for posting this visit to Canada. Every time I am able to read about a distillery it deepens my appreciation for the labor involved in every precious bottle of E.O. From the farmers collecting the branches to the family building the still, quite an amazing process. I look forward to trying the oleresin someday. I feel inspired to share this story about balsam poplar with clients and students. It can only deepen one’s appreciation for each drop of Balsam poplar.


Rhonda July 26, 2009 at 1:50 pm

What am amazing trip this must have been! I love the conifers, and Balsam Poplar is one of my faves. Your descriptions are so vivid I feel as if I’m walking through the place with you. I can see myself spending hours in the greenhouse and the distillery itself.

Makes me want to do new blends this week, using Balsam Poplar!


Lisa July 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I really enjoyed this account of your trip to Aliksir Distillery, and I always learn several new things from you!! Would love to get a recipe for a blend using Balsam Poplar for a friend with arthritis…


Admin July 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Hi Lisa, I have been using a great arthritis blend recently:
10 drop Balsam Poplar
10 drops White Spruce
5 drops Linaloe berry
1 oz Trauma oil for the carrier


Kim July 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

What a wonderful account of your visit to the Aliksir Distillery. Your description and photos made the place come alive for me. I especially appreciate this because I am a Canadian living in Florida and very homesick! I almost felt like I was with you as you walked through the muddy fields! How great that they grow and distill so many wonderful medicinal plants. I hope to get a chance to visit them one day when I’m back home. Thanks for letting us know about this beautiful place!


Margaret July 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Andrea, thank you for this fascinating account of your visit to the Aliksir Distillery! I’ve never heard of Sweet Gale-can you tell us something about it?



Admin July 24, 2009 at 7:05 am

Sweet Gale is distlled from the twigs and leaves of the plant. I have not seen the GC/MS but here is wat Lucy says: It contains Myrcene, limonene, α-phellandrene, β-caryophyllene, germacrone, β-selinene, germacrene-B, para-cymene, α-pinene, and 1-8 cineole

The aroma is deep and soft. Sweet gale is anti-tumoral and mucolytic. Great for lung issues. Also used for inflammation and pain.


Valerie July 23, 2009 at 11:07 am

What a lovely little story about what sounds like a very sweet time. I especially liked the thought of eating pizza made with essential oils; talk about immersing yourself!!! Sounds like a great trip and I am excited to experience these particular oils. Hearing about your visits to the different distilleries really animates each producer, gives them the life and “human-ness” that is usually missing when considering buying products of any kind. Thanks for sharing this


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