North East Victoria has many wonderful hidden treasures, but visiting the ambrosial damask rose gardens of Samaria Farm just out of Benalla for a Rosewater Distillation Workshop, would have to be the most special of treasures and a sensational day out.
Rosewater is one of those fragrant ingredients that has always had a place in my pantry… or on my cocktail trolley. I often use it in my cooking and cocktails and would say it is one of my favourite ingredients, so I was thrilled to discover Samaria Farm Rosewater, which is actually made here in Australia.
Samaria Farm was one of those ‘down the rabbit hole’ discoveries. I was trying to find a grower of the glorious damask roses so I could purchase some for my garden (not as easy as it sounds) and then came across the farm, their premium rosewater and then the rosewater distilling workshops that take place during their months of harvest, and without a second I thought I was hooked and booked.
It has been a while since I had been on an adventure, and an even longer while since I had been to North East Victoria. Having spent many childhood years there, I hardly needed an excuse, but this was it. It is a beautiful region renowned for its wines and a popular foodie destination.
Enraptured by the prospect of having a hand in making my own pure rosewater, I made the pilgrimage to North East Victoria, to Samaria Farm, about a 20 minute drive out of Benalla.
The farm is owned by Vicki and Allan Wight, who through a stroke of good fortune (I think) purchased the rose farm some years ago. The farm came with over 3000 damask rose bushes, and numerous more heirloom rose varieties that are dotted throughout the property. Red, white, pink, yellow, orange; masses of roses flower spectacularly. Varieties long forgotten bloom in their various guises in secrets gardens that reveal themselves at every turn.
Vicki and Allan wanted to put the farm to good use. Initially it was recommend that the roses be bulldozed (my heart skipped a beat at hearing this), but fortunately Vicki and Allan saw an opportunity, and I am sure, also the beauty, and made the decision to maintain the roses and see what they could produce.
The farm also has an olive grove, lemon myrtle trees, lemon, lime and bergamot orange trees, all of which are used for the extraction of their precious fragrant oils.
The property is just STUNNING. I became the annoying perpetual ‘oooh-er’ and ahhh-er’ as I meandered through the gardens camera in hand, lens deep within the roses – as well as my nose. Heirloom roses, and especially damask roses, have a fragrance like no other and the whole farm is shrouded in this incredible scented halo.