Brief History of Hydrosols: When discussing hydrosols, many of my students don't realize that the distillate waters (hydrosols) predate essential oils by hundreds if not thousands of years. There is evidence of distillation as long as 5000 years ago. It is not clear whether they were distilling alcohol that early, though there is some evidence that the Chinese had spirits many, many hundreds of years ago. It is more likely these ancients were distilling for the herbal waters. One very old description is of a crude distillation that involved a pot of water filled with cedar and water with lamb's wool stretched over the top to catch the rising vapors. The wool was periodically wrung out and collected resulting in an early distillate water.