Excerpts from Chuck Lyons
The H.G. Hotchkiss International
Prize Medal Essential Oil Company has been processing and bottling peppermint oil at the
same locationon the edge of the Erie Canal in Lyons, Wayne Countysince 1839.
At one time, company founder, H.G.
Hotchkiss, was called the "Peppermint King," his great-granddaughter Anne
says. The company he founded in this Upstate New York village was, at one time,
responsible for about one half of the annual production of peppermint oil in the United
States. The herb was grown extensively in fields around Lyons, and the canallers
claimed that they could tell when they were approaching the village by the smell of
peppermint in the air.
Lyons, with a population today of
about four thousand people, was then, "virtually the peppermint capital of
America," says Anne Hotchkiss.
Today, the companys essential
peppermint oil is used almost exclusively as a flavoring for candy, liqueurs,
pharmaceutical products and dental supplies. An old Hotchkiss slogan claims that, "a
single twenty-one-ounce bottle of the companys oil will flavor a ton of candy."
"But there are still a few
people," Anne Hotchkiss says, "who use peppermint oil as a home remedy....
They say they couldn't get through the winter without it."
The essential oil is distilled from
the harvested herb with the initial distillation done near the harvesting site. (The
herb must be distilled within three days of being picked.) The oil is then shipped
to Lyons, where it is further purified and bottled. As a rule of thumb, one acre of
peppermint will produce fifty pounds of oil.