After oud and sandalwood, we continue our discovery of the bark that is so dear to perfumery. This time, our fragrant journey takes us to the heart of the Amazon, to discover a precious essence, that of rosewood. With its subtle and flowery fragrances, this mysterious tree reveals a perfume unlike any other. From over-exploitation to protection, discover the unexpected journey of this mysterious essential oil.
On the tracks of rosewood
Rosewood is a generic term to designate different species of wood, as much used in perfumery as in cabinet making. Rosewood is known in botany under different Latin names, depending on the region of origin. It is found on the island of Madagascar, in Burma or in eastern India. But it is from Brazil and Guyana that it originates. Indeed, this fragrant tree likes to grow in tropical forests with a hot and humid climate. From the Lauraceae family, the rosewood produces small yellowish flowers which are not really fragrant. Its colorful name comes from its bark, recognizable by its pinkish veins and the unique floral scent it gives off.
From discovery to regulation
It was in 1925 that rosewood was discovered by botanists in the region of Juriti Velho, in the heart of the Amazonian forest. Specialists focused on this particular tree with an unconventional smell, whose essence has been used since the dawn of time in the pharmacopoeia of the Indians who live nearby. By studying the essential oil extracted from the wood, the scientists realize that it contains a significant quantity of linalool, a fragrant substance close to lavender.
While in France, the democratization of modern perfume is beginning, the discovery of this essence is starting a new demand. In order to supply Grasse, the Amazon basin undertook an exponential exploitation of rosewood. During the 1960s, more than 50,000 tons of wood were cut down to produce between 300 and 400 tons of essential oil per year. Threatened with extinction, the cultivation of rosewood has been the subject of numerous scandals and Madagascar has even banned its export. For a few decades, Brazil has also been protecting this fragrant treasure, of which it has become one of the main producers.
An essence rich in virtues
Rosewood is prized as much for its delicate fragrance, as for its solid wood, but also for its therapeutic virtues. In aromatherapy, the essential oil of rosewood is a powerful ally of the skin. Softening and firming, it brings radiance to the epidermis. It is therefore an excellent natural anti-aging! Thanks to the presence of linalool in its composition, this essence also has antiviral and anti-infectious properties. Its soft and subtle fragrance is also indicated to calm stress and anxiety.
The use of rosewood in perfumery
The extraction of the essential oil
In perfumery, the essence extracted from the wood is used in the composition of fragrances. To do this, it is necessary to wait for the tree to reach a certain height in order to cut out chips. These are then immersed in hot water for some time to macerate. After this essential step, the technique of hydrostillation is used, that is to say that the pieces of wood are distilled with steam to deliver an essential oil. If this tree reproduces with difficulty in nature, its bark has a rather interesting yield because to obtain 1 kg of essence, it is necessary to use 100kg of wood.
What is the scent of rosewood?
If it is so appreciated by perfumers, it is because the essence of rosewood is distinguished by an olfactory profile of great finesse, with multiple facets. Its scent is soft with a refreshing side. Influenced by the important presence of linalool, this essence reveals citrus and aromatic tones that evoke lemon and grapefruit, but also petitgrain. This freshness is also dressed with floral nuances, which recall the delicacy of the rose with more spicy and peppery nuances. But rosewood has not yet said its last word! Indeed, its fragrance also gives off woody notes with accents of cedar. In a perfume, this raw material will evolve over time, revealing a rather wet aspect with an almost mineral side. Noses use it to bring softness but also naturalness to compositions.
When synthesis helps nose
Since the regulation of its exploitation and the protection of its species, rosewood has become very rare. Today, only a small production of natural rosewood remains in Brazil, and it must respect strict specifications and rules. Under the cover of various associations, vast replanting campaigns have been initiated in the Amazon and in Guyana. This precious essence represents a very expensive raw material, reserved almost exclusively for luxury perfumery. Nevertheless, thanks to synthetic chemistry, perfumers can also reproduce this delicate scent in the laboratory to make it known and smelled by everyone! For that, they generally use natural linalool mixed with other raw materials to recreate this soft and subtle scent.
Both floral and woody, did you know the scent of rosewood?
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