Following the distillery changing hands twice since 2005, in 2008 TFS paid $28.6 million for Mount Romance. By buying
the Albany oil distillery, TFS had an operating distillery to process the wood from its Kimberley Indian Sandalwood (santalum album)
plantations, first planted in 1999 with 5,000 hectares now under cultivation. See Indian Sandalwood plantations in the Ord River
TFS owns 30% of the plantations while the rest belongs to a mixutre of major institutional investors and small scale growers who agree to share part of their harvest with the company. See more at Whiff of Success
With the purchase
of the Mount Romance distillery in 2008, TFS is truly producing from soil to oil.
Mount Romance beauty products are retailed through retails outlets in Albany, Kununurra and Broome as well as through their online shop from which they freight orders all over the world.
Background: Mount Romance founders Steve and Karen Birkbeck pioneered the world's first emu farm near Wiluna, Western Australia in 1983, working with Aboriginal people.
They then developed the Mount Romance brand and an environmentally friendly oil factory near Albany, which included working together with Aboriginal communities commencing with emu oil and moving into Sandalwood oil as well.
Visitors are welcome at the Mount Romance Sandalwood Factory, 2 Down Road Albany and just off the Albany Highway twelve kilometres north of Albany. There is adequate parking for caravans and coaches. Open seven days per week between 9 am and 5 pm (WST) but closed Christmas Day.
A knowledgeable Mount Romance receptionist explains the rings on the Sandalwood. These rings in the sandalwood specimen are not annual rings as we are familiar with in our local trees, but wet season and dry sunny season rings, of which there may be one or several each year. Hence, the rings do not clearly indicate the age of the tree.
Australian Sandalwood (santalum spicum) is a native semi-parasitic tree that grows in arid areas on Western Australia. The oil is ideal for health and cosmetic purposes. Oils are purchased by major European cosmetic companies.
Sandalwood was one of the earliest exports from the Western Australian colony, with the first consignments to Asia leaving in 1845. In the 1920s more than 14,000 tonne of Sandalwood was harvested in a single year. Due to over exploitations, harvesting quotas were implemented.
Under the present ownership by TFS Corporation, partnerships with Aboriginal communities for the management and collection of native sandalwood have been developed.
Power is produced on site utilising waste from the Blue Gum industry. This is computer controlled to achieve a clean burn, minimising smoke.
The oil distillation uses thousands of litres of water. Much of the water is collected from rainfall, and water is recycled, with these initiatives resulting in a saving of 75% on previous water usage.
Many products can be made from Sandalwood. A handcrafted pen is on display.
Chipped Sandalwood awaits processing in the distillery.
Mount Romance is the world's largest single supplier of natural Sandalwood oil. All Mount Romance Sandalwood beauty and lifestyle products feature pure Indigenous Certified Australian Sandalwood oil, with no chemical additives or artificial colouring.
Every part of the wood gathered is utilised. Sandalwood oil is used for; perfumery, therapeutics, mouth fresheners and cosmetics. Sandalwood wood is used for; funeral pyres, wood carvings, religious rituals and incense.
The distillery in operation at right, with flow chart above explaining the process above.
Mount Romance uses a process known as steam distillation to extract oil from Sandalwood. Steam distillation involves the following steps as represented in the flow chart hereunder:
Diffusion: The presence of water sets up an osmotic pressure across the cell wall which enables the oil to diffuse across the cell wall and sit on the outside of the cell.
Volatisation: Oil sitting on the outside of the cell wall volatises when steam passes, causing it to become part of the steam vapour. The vapour pressure of the sandalwood oil is very low compared to steam, so it takes a lot of steam to distil not a lot of oil. It takes about fourteen hours to distil just a few millilitres in the hydro distillations example here. At our factory it takes eight days to complete a distillation.
Condense: The steam and oil vapour travel through a series of coils, using water to cool the steam and oil condense into a liquid. The oil separates from the water.
Trap: Sandalwood oil and water are collected in the separator where the oil floats to the top.
The result: One of the world's most luxurious essential oils, 100% organic certified Sandalwood oil.