Ingredient Focus: Rose

  • Posted on 27th March 2014 by Nick
  • Roses are one of the most versatile ingredients in perfumery due to their complexity - containing around 300 separate compounds.

    Where does it come from?

    Roses are handpicked at dawn, when the levels of fragrance in the flower are at their highest. Traditionally, two different rose varieties are used in perfumery: Rosa damascena (Damask Rose) and Rosa centifolia (May Rose) - although the oil will vary by the place that it is grown, which ranges from Grasse, to Bulgaria, Morocco, Iran and Turkey.
    Rose Absolute is created through low temperature CO2 extraction - this means that more of the component molecules are still present in the resulting oil, which smells much more like a real rose but still doesn't give the whole picture.
    Rose oil is a result of steam distillation of the flowers - the flowers are placed in water and brought to a boil, the steam evaporates and the oil that condenses is what is known as the essential oil. This effectively cooks the flowers and loses much of the naturally present components.
    Rose water is the water that remains in the still from steam distillation, and has its use in several recipes, especially for desserts, but has started to work its way into perfumes in recent years. This tends to be much lighter than the rose oil or absolute.

    How does it smell?

    Roses all smell markedly different, depending on their variety. They can smell very lemon or citrus-like, plummy, jammy, honeyed, dusty and even velvety. Rose oil and rose water smell somewhat metallic (perhaps a result of the 'still' that they are heated in!), than like a rose, whereas rose absolute has a much fuller aroma profile.
    Headspace technology allows perfumers to fully recreate the scent of a flower or place in the lab, as the oil itself needs to be fine tuned in order to smell more like a rose in bloom.

    Why is it used in a perfume?

    Roses have are so multifaceted that perfumers are always intrigued by them and exploring the possibilities - they can blend almost seemlessly with other floral notes, citrus and woods. Ever since steam distillation was refined in the Middle East, rose oil has been an important ingredient for perfuming people. A perfumer will often blend rose with geranium oil and other ingredients to create a more realistic rose-like aroma.
    Rose runs through many of the scents in our collection, but most notable are Elisabethan Rose, with its holographic pink flower at the centre following a champagne like topnote, Peoneve, our fuchsia a huge, fuchsia rose at its heart, with greenness and peony surrounding it the thorny beauty, and Vaara takes different roses, matching them with honey, saffron and other spices to bring out the rich warmth of the rose.

    Let us know in the comments below which your favourite Rose perfume is!

    • Comments
    • Elizabethan Rose!
    • by Eric
    • It was one of the best rose soliflore ever made. You really should reintroduce it, as it was.
    • Hi Eric, we too were quite fond of the airy rose fragrance. If you're drawn to softer rose scents, Duchess Rose or The Duke would also pair well. Keep your eyes peeled next year, you're in for a treat...
      by Penhaligon's customer services
    • Why I Love Elizabethan Rose
    • by Alicia Baker
    • I tried a series of different perfumes but decided that this perfume is the most memorable. Friends have commented that it smells very beautiful and it lasts on the skin. Why do I love it? Perhaps it is because my honeymoon was spent in a hotel which had a magnificent rose garden or perhaps it is because roses seem to be so English!
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