There is so much to say about the rose and it’s use in fragrance it could take up a whole book on it’s own. I was never really that much of a fan of rose perfumes growing up as they always had a bit of an “old lady” connotation and it wasn’t until I really started delving into the naturals when studying aromatherapy that the preciously expensive Rose Otto and Rose Absolute lured me in. Although this post is primarily about the use of rose in perfumery to gloss over its therapeutic qualities would be unjust. In aromatherapy rose is known as the “women’s oil” and used as a tonic and fortifier especially for PMT and menopausal problems. Psychologically rose is thought to have anti-depressant qualities and have a soothing action on the nerves as well as being a gentle aphrodisiac. Historically the rose has been a symbol of love, beauty and sensuality in many cultures.
There are two main types of rose natural used in perfumery Rosa Damascena and Rosa Centifolia from Bulgaria, Morocco or Turkey. The more costly Rose Otto or Essential Oil is produced by hydro distillation and can take around 4500kg of petals to produce 1kg of oil. Rose Absolute is less costly and takes 700-900kg petals to produce 1kg.
One of the main issues with using natural rose in a commercial fragrance apart from the cost is that is typically contains 1-1.5% Methyl Eugenol a naturally occurring component which is restricted in the E.U and other parts of the world. The maximum amount of rose allowed in a leave-on skincare product is around 0.025%. Low methyl eugenol rose is available but cost and minimum order quantities are extremely high meaning it is out of reach for many fragrance producers. Laboratoire Monique Remy (IFF) produce a low methyl eugenol rose as well as other molecular distillations and fractions giving the perfumer a wider scope.
The main components of rose are Citronellol, Geraniol, Nerol and PEA (Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol) and a simple rose base can be constructed using these materials alone. Of course this is not going to smell like a natural rose as there are more than 300 other components but adding traces of Damascone and Rose Oxide will help along with some natural rose absolute for depth. Both Geranium oil (rosy, floral, citrus, metallic, green) and Guaicwood (smoky, woody) have rosy undertones and there are many pre prepared rose bases such as Dorinia from Firmenich which can be used in addition to or as an alternative to the natural rose materials.
The month of May also brings the annual Rose festival in the town of Grasse in the south of France. I’ve never managed to get to see it first hand but for those of you interested, Victoria from one of my favourite blogs Boisdejasmin did in 2014 and you can see her account here: http://boisdejasmin.com/2014/05/rose-de-mai-grasse-rose-harvest.html
Rose fragrances to try:
I have a favourite type of rose fragrance that is more on the oriental side than the classic floral. My most worn are:
I also love Ombre Rose and lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle both of which are strongly linked to memories of my first venture into cosmetics. Ombre Rose from my first Saturday job at Boots and Lipstick Rose smells like my very first Chanel red lipstick I bought in 1987!
For a more classic take on rose try Guerlain Nahema and Paris by YSL