Aroma Science

Rose Oil

Rose essential oil is prized around the world for its sweet, floral fragrance and beneficial properties, including its use as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for such maladies as stress and insomnia. Rose oil is an expensive, labor-intensive product that is produced by many countries and requires a delicate distillation process. Each kind of rose oil possesses its own fragrance, consistency, and color, and these characteristics vary depending on the species of rose from which the oil is extracted, its country of growth, and the distillation methods employed by its producers.

There are two major and significantly distinct kinds of rose oil: rose absolute and rose essential oil (known as rose otto). Most rose oil is produced in Bulgaria’s Valley of the Roses and in Turkey, while most rose absolute is produced in Morocco, in the valleys between the High Atlas and Jbel Sarhro mountains east of Marrakech. Although both rose absolute and rose otto are often times used for similar purposes, the production methods for these two types of oil are very different.

Rose absolute is produced by solvent extraction.  This method typically yields a reddish orange or oil with a deep floral scent that has an aroma more similar to fresh rose flowers than rose otto. It is much more viscous than rose otto and will thicken at cooler temperatures. Rose otto is sometimes also called the attar of roses, especially in the Middle East, and is a true distilled essential oil that has been produced and used ever since the distillation technique for capturing the “essence” of plants was discovered.  The word attar goes back to the Farsi atar [عطر], which means “perfume” (Gernot Katzers, source, 2003). Rose otto is much more expensive than rose absolute, because it requires a gentle and complex steam or hydro distillation process and its yield is far less than for rose absolute. Producers require significantly more rose petals for rose otto than for rose absolute. Rose otto yields a transparent, pale yellow or rose colored oil with a rich, spicy, floral scent that is less heavy than the fragrance of the rose absolute (NYR Natural News, source, 2012).