Top quality rose oil is produced in Bulgaria

A month before the 2012 Rose Festival in Bulgaria we decided to present to your attention an article about the famous Bulgarian rose oil which local people produce from Rosa damascena.

Rose oil (attar of roses) is an indispensable ingredient in virtually all fine perfumes made by most famous producers like Christian Dior, Givenchy, Lancôme, Bvlgari, Chanel, Nina Rici.... Modern cosmetics is unthinkable without rose oil. It is a very expensive product. Grams of rose oil are as valuable as grams of gold. Much like coffee, which is of best quality and finest aroma when grown in particular areas, it is the Bulgarian-grown rose which is the most aromatic one. Every beginner in the fragrance industry knows that the top quality rose oil is produced in Bulgaria.

Essential rose oil is mainly produced in Bulgaria and Turkey. At present, Turkey is the major producer - the quantity of Turkish rose oil sold annually is larger, but its quality is poorer because of the hot climate. Therefore, it is mainly used in mass-produced perfumery.

The Bulgarian rose oil has always been the most expensive one. (The top price so far was paid by a Japanese company in 2007, $10000.) The price depends on the yield, as well as on the quality of rose oil and the method of production. Organic rose oil is much more costly, for no artificial fertilizers, no pesticides or herbicides are applied in its production.

For centuries, the oil-bearing rose has been grown in the Bulgarian Valley of Roses as it is known today. This is an area with pretty favourable climatic conditions and fertile soil including a string of valleys situated between the Balkan range and the Sredna Gora mountains. The major rose fileds are situated in the areas around Karlovo, Kazanlak, Plovdiv, and Nova Zagora.

The rose bush lives around 30 years. It can reach a height of 2 meters. Its cultivation involves hard work and numerous agricultural activities - pruning, ploughing up, earthing up for winter, turning over the ground in spring, watering, feeding up, treating against pests, etc. (The Rose Museum in Kazanlak exhibits rose farming tools from the past, as well as ancient stills and glass containers for keeping the rose oil.)

The rose-picking season starts in the second half of May (the day varies in the different places depending on the local conditions), lasts for a couple of weeks and ends around mid-June. The harvesting goes along with the Rose Festival and a beauty contest for the Rose Queen title. Held during the festival days are demonstrations of the rose-picking technique and the rose distillation process, tasting of rose jam and rose brandy.

The rose blossoms are picked from very early in the morning (when they open) until 10-11 a.m. Later in the day the oil contained in the rose petals loses its delicate aroma. The amount of rose blossoms collected daily by one worker is about 20-25 kg, 30 kg may only be picked by a very skilled hand. The flowers are gathered by holding the petals with three fingers and gently lifting up the blossom before picking it off.

The distillation process applied is much like the one of making brandy. The double distillation technology was introduced by the Bulgarian producers. It differs from the original production method but has significantly improved the quality of rose oil. At first, the distilling pots were ceramic, later the stills were made of copper (tin-plated from the inside). The proportion used in the distillation was 15 kg rose blossoms per 60 l water. Modern installations were introduced after 1902. They are more efficient in terms of amount of flowers processed, but the ratio 1:4 has remained the same. The distilling installation consists of a still, a steam-leading pipe, a cooling container and vessels for collecting the produce - rose oil and rose water. The overall distillation process takes about two hours. On the average, 3.5 tons of rose blossoms are needed to produce 1 kg of rose oil. Depending on the quality of flowers and the method of distillation, however, yields can vary between 3.0 and 5.0 tons (which equals more than one million flowers) to produce just 1 kg of rose oil.

The rose oil is transported in special copper containers (konkums) tinned inside and in a wood cover decorated with the national flag. The capacity of these containers is exactly 1 kg of rose oil. Each container comes with a signed quality certificate and its opening is sealed with a special wax-stamp.

by www.omda.bg

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