'Look to the Rose that blows about us - ' Lo,
Laughing ', she says 'into the World I blow:
At once the silken Tassel of my Purse Tear, and its
Treasure on the Garden throw.'
- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam-
A true rose odour is unique and incomparable, undefinable and best represented by the Rosa Damascena, cultivated in Bulgaria. One of the principal varieties grown in this area is Rosa damascena 'Miller' . The perfume is most powerful when the flowers open. Both single and double varieties are grown. The Damascena Roses with the Gallica roses are some of the oldest varieties known today.
There are ten districts in Bulgaria of which the most important are Kazanlik, Karlova, Brezova, Tchirpan, Nova Zagora and Stara Zagora. The flowers are cultivated in this famous Valley of the Roses, 200 kilometres east of Sofia accessible by road over the Klissoura Pass. The harvest takes place during May and the early part of June, but this depends on atmospheric conditions. Ideal conditions are gentle rain occasionally with a little sun. The roses are collected before they begin to open and while they are covered in dew. Roses gathered later in the day although emitting a more powerful perfume in distilling does not creat such a sweetness in the essence.
Kazanlik another Damascena Rose, originating in the middle east, is a vigorous rose and also grown in the rose fields of Bulgaria as another variety used in the manufacture of 'attar of roses.' The soft pink petals are very fragrant with a colour of warm pink. A dark green foliage and shaggy, double blooms. Height reaches 5' x 4' .
Other varieties of Damascena include...'Belle Amour' , 'Blush Damask' 'Botzaris''Celsiana'. 'Coralie', 'Gloire de Guilan,' 'Ispahan', 'La Ville de Bruxelles,' 'Leda,' 'Marie Louise', ' Mme Hardy', 'Mme Zoetmans', 'Omar khayyam' another rose of antiquity with seeds propogated on plants gathered from Omar Khayyam's tomb. 'Quatre Saisons both the 'Autumn Damask and Blanc Mousseux, 'Rose d' Hivers, 'St Nicholas... Triginpetala also called Kazanlik and described above and picture here and 'York and Lancaster.
Portland Roses including varieties such as 'Jacques Cartier'. 'Rose du Roi' and 'Rose de Rescht among others are included under the heading of Damasks although they have a shorter growing habit.
Different varieties of Rose and different cultivars of the same species can produce quite diverse characteristics and compositions. Below is a table comparing the main components of Bulgarian Rose (R damascena) or 'attar' to the French rose absolute (R centifolia ) from Julia Lawless Rose oil book. The Rose/Rosa Centifolia I shall write about in another post.
citronellol R. damascena 34-55% R.centifolia 18-22%
phenylethanol R. damascena 1.5 - 3% R.centifolia c.63%
geraniol and nerol R. damascena3--40% R. centifolia 10-15%
farnesol R. damascena 0.2 -2% R. centifolia 0.2-2%
stearopten R. damascena 16-22% R. centifolia c.8%
plus traces of: nonanon, linalool, nonanal, phehylacetaldehyde, citral, carvone, citronellyl acetat, 2-phenylmethyl acetate, eugenol, rose oxide.2.
In Persia and Damascus people used to bury jars of unopened rosebuds in the garden and dig them up on special occasions, when exposed to warmth their delicious perfume would suffuse the air.
Today, the perfume of the Bulgarian rose 'attar' is still considered to be the highest quality available.
In future posts I will look at the various methods of extracting the rose perfume , taking a look at Rosa centifolia, its uses in the various categories of perfume, Mythology and its benefits in healing.
Classic Roses by Peter Beales
Perfumes Cosmetics and Soaps Vol 2 by Poucher 8th edition
Rose oil by Julia Lawless
some good places to visit about Rosa damascena miller