Rose Absolute

The new rose scent is almost ready for testing. One ingredient is Bulgarian rose absolute from the variety of Rosa damascena called Kazanlak; the city of Kazanlak is located in the famous Rose Valley of Bulgaria where these fragrant deep pink roses are grown and harvested. A nursery near us, Russian River Roses, grows a big field of special perfume roses, including rows of Kazanlak. In spring it’s fun to walk through the field at the height of bloom. You don’t even have to bend over to sniff individual blossoms, though you can’t resist, because the whole field smells so good. The nursery makes a very limited amount of perfume each year from these roses and you can see the small distillation process there. Be forewarned that you’ll come home with a trunk full of rose bushes. 🙂 Kazanlak smells wonderful but only blooms once per year, so unless you’re making perfume you may prefer repeat blooming roses instead.

Rose absolutes have many places of origin including Bulgaria, Morocco, India, France, Turkey, Egypt, and Russia. I like both the Bulgarian and Moroccan Rosa damascena absolutes, but I find the Bulgarian to be deeper with a hint of spiciness and the Moroccan to be sweeter.  The Centifolia rose,  sometimes called Rose de Mai, is also used in perfume; it’s not as deep as the Damask, but some people prefer the slightly lighter, higher note it has.  I’ve smelled some Centifolia absolute that was nice and some that was oddly smoky, so you have to be  sure to get a good source for any of these and sniff samples first.  The deep, rich, slightly spicy Kazanlak is one of my favorites.

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  1. Hi Paula! You probably know that specialty nurseries have lots of varieties of the old Damask and Centifolia roses. We grew the Centifolia called Fantin Latour for a while. Wonderfully fragrant blush pink roses in one huge spring bloom; it grew into a massive bush that covered one whole side of the house (gets bigger here in CA). Last year some of my favorite roses for fragrance were Abraham Darby, William Shakespear improved, and a red climber we just planted. Forgot to mention that perfumers use rose otto, which is steam distilled, and rose absolute, which is solvent extracted. Both can be lovely, but not the same scent as the living flower.

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