Rose is clearly one of the must-have ingredients in the perfumer’s palette! Known for over 3000 years, the rose seduces thanks to an irresistible scent and radiant colors… But what has changed since Antiquity? Used for its therapeutic virtues but also in culinary preparations for its sweetness, rose expresses its spirited and delicate character in floral fragrances. Some people love it, others label it “grandmother’s scent”, but rose leaves no one indifferent and always manages to surprise us! We reveal all the secrets of this flower, emblem of femininity, love and romanticism!
Rose has always amazed people and embodies love and passion. In Greek mythology, Chloris, the goddess of flowers, made the rose appear for the first time. While walking, she found the lifeless body of a nymph. Chloris transformed it into a majestic flower and asked the gods for help: Aphrodite, goddess of love, offered her beauty, Dionysus, god of wine, deposited nectar from which the rose would draw its perfume, the Three Graces granted her joy, radiance and charm, and finally Apollo declared her Queen of Flowers.
For the Romans, it is another version that offers its secrets to this flower. Venus, goddess of love and beauty, would have wounded herself on the thorn of a white rose, thus coloring the flower in red, symbol of desire. Mythological accounts also tell that Cupid, son of Venus, spilled his glass of wine on the flower making it blush.
Among the Egyptians, its intoxicating and sensual essence was prepared for nuptial rituals. Cleopatra used it to seduce Marc Anthony for their first night of love on a bed made of rose petals thick of 45cm…
The history of rose
For thousands of years, the rose has fascinated people and has become a true source of inspiration for many artists. From gardens to perfumes, through cooking, its virtues have been praised since the dawn of time.
Ancient Rome: the queen of flowers
In the days of Ancient Rome and the frenzy of scents, roses were already part of the favorite ingredients of gardeners, perfumers and doctors. Garlands of petals and crowns of flowers covered the ground and filled the cushions at banquets. It was also common to hang one of these flowers to pay tribute to Harpocrate, the god of silence. Guests had to keep the shared conversations “under the rose” secret. But the flower, in all its forms, was also widely appreciated for its medicinal virtues. Essence, juice or oil, was drunk and applied on the body to cure all sorts of illnesses, from fever to insomnia. Already at that time, the one that was called the queen of flowers appeared in cosmetics. Women applied rose water on the face to whiten the skin and enhance the complexion.
Middle East: between perfume and cooking
In the Middle East, the rose is once again an emblem. The Arabs and Berbers of Morocco were the first to distil the rose petals of Damask. As early as the 1st century B.C., they produced rose water but also rose attar: an essential rose oil mixed with another basic essence such as sandalwood. Beyond the perfume, this flower is also used in cooking. The petals and distilled water bring a sweet, floral touch to traditional dishes that are as sweet (in pastries) as they are salty (with certain poultry-based preparations in particular). Yum, it makes our mouth water!
One flower, several varieties
The queen of flowers reveals herself in many ways. On the one hand there are the ornamental roses grown in gardens with several hundred varieties. On the other hand, there are the very fragrant roses used in perfumery. Among this second category, only two species can be found in your perfumes: rosa centifolia (also called Rose de Mai or Provence Rose) and rosa damascena (Damask Rose).
This first variety is emblematic of Grasse in the south of France where it has been grown for decades. It is also called May Rose because it is only during this month, and for only 3 weeks, that this perfume plant is picked by hand in the early morning. Today, the rosa centifolia is mainly grown in Morocco. Only Chanel still produces it in its private fields in Grasse. Centifolia of Grasse provides a concrete and then an absolute essence with a warm, honey and wax smell. Centifolia of Morocco gives a pale-yellow essential oil. 5 tons of flowers are needed to produce 1 kilogram of essence!
Damascena rose, or Damask Rose, is the most widespread in the world and the most cultivated for perfumery. Originally from Syria, it is mainly cultivated in Bulgaria, in the Valley of the Roses, but also in Turkey and Morocco. We tell that it was imported as early as the 13th century during the Crusades. Rosa damascena provides the absolute and essential oils, whose smell is fresher and more citrusy and fruity. Its essence can be found in the eau de parfum and the pure perfume label rose, in which it reveals itself as thorny as it is elegant!
From the flower to the bottle
Refined but fragile, the queen of flowers is not as easy to tame as we might think! Its picking is an ancestral art during which men and women gather each rose one by one. Still wet with dew, it is necessary to hurry before the sun and its rays make its oil evaporate. Then comes the moment to extract all the perfume. Depending on the process, the rose will deliver a more or less intense scent. There are two different extraction processes:
- Hydrodistillation: this is a steam distillation process that produces essence with fresh and sparkling notes.
- Extraction with volatile solvents to obtain the absolute, with a more opulent scent than essence.
Our ode to the rose
Perfumers tried to reproduce its smell with synthetic raw materials, but they could not perfectly imitate it yet. Its subtlety made this flower the most popular in perfumery. At Carrement Belle, it took more than 25 years to pay tribute to this romantic and powerful flower. After a long phase of creation, a few years ago we unveiled label rose, which has since bloomed on your dressing table… In this floral composition, the Damask Rose is surrounded by jasmine and lily of the valley, with a sensual musky note and spiced up with tangy citrus fruits to give it a tenacious character!
How do you see the rose in fragrances: do you pass or do you like?