I have this strange dream of having an apothecary's shop in my kitchen, or so it would appear. I want to find the best way of distilling food down to its essence, then having it ready at a moment's notice to enhance a bit of food or drink.
It's odd, really, because I don't use that many spices while I'm cooking right now, as I tend to try to focus on the base nature of the food rather than trying to gussy it up. Still, the dream persists, and I'll play with it as time goes on, and perhaps adjust my cooking style to the number of extracts, essences, oils, and powders that I can accumulate.
In any case, Sean Michael Ragan has written a handy piece about using a standard bit of cooking equipment, the pot with integrated steam basket, plus a "schoolhouse" style lamp, to make your own simple steam distillation system. It really is an Alton Brown style conglomeration of simple parts for a very good purpose.
[2008-05-05] Improvised radial alembic for DIY steam distillation: "I would add that this is not my idea, originally, although I may have been the first to recognize the unique shape of the so-called 'schoolhouse' lamp globe as highly amenable for impromptu condenser service, since it comes with a readymade 'drip tip' where condensate can accumulate. My version […] requires a stainless steel pot with an integral strainer (constructed such that there is some distance between the pot bottom and the strainer bottom when the strainer is in place), a 'schoolhouse' style glass lamp globe which is of greater diameter than the pot, and a stainless steel or glass receiving vessel."