How Many Roses Does it Take to Make a Drop of Essence?

Here is a bit of perfume math: 4 tons of roses = 1 600 000 rose blossoms = 1 kg of rose oil. No wonder rose oil is one of the most expensive essences, and a kilo of golden liquid will fetch around $7 ooo. The cosmetics company Lush uploaded a terrific video about the rose harvest in Senir, a town in the Turkish province of Antalya, and it shows all stages of rose oil production, from handpicking the blossoms to turning them into the essence. The video also helpfully explains the difference between rose oil and rose absolute.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole clip, fast forward to 2:50 and enjoy the view of the processing facility filled with rose petals. I can almost smell the aroma of sun-warmed roses through my screen.

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63 Comments

  • Karen: Very fascinating! Isparta has been on my to-go list after reading an article on rose oil production in the magazine, “Cornucopia”. Since roses roses roses are my absolute favorite, this was a treat!

    Perfect video to watch right now with tons of snow outside! February 14, 2014 at 8:00am Reply

    • Victoria: We don’t have snow but dull, incessant rain, so the video is treat. I’m imagining the sun, rose fragrance and the silky feel of petals. February 14, 2014 at 10:45am Reply

      • Karen: Yes to imagining roses in all their glories! I grow lots of old heirloom roses, including Apothecary Rose, R. gallica officinalis, and it is a wonderful reminder of the history of roses. It is fun to compare the fragrances of the roses (or lack in some) and how that can vary even year to year. February 14, 2014 at 3:48pm Reply

        • Victoria: Old heirloom varieties have the most wonderful scents, and you’re right, it’s incredible how diverse they are. Some smell lemony, others remind me of violets. February 15, 2014 at 9:01am Reply

        • solanace: Your garden must be awesome! February 16, 2014 at 8:52am Reply

          • Karen: It is really a treat but can devolve into a bit of chaos! Some of the roses have quite evocative names – Belle of Baltimore, a huge rambler with sprays of pink tinged buds, and some make you wonder about the person they were named after. February 16, 2014 at 2:11pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Gosh, rose is my favourite floral and I could really smell it through the screen. I want to roll myself in that pile of rose petals!!! Thank you for sharing the video, Victoria, and special thanks to Lush for making the video. It was informative and it was wonderful to see where the ingredients come from and the people who produce them, giving more personal touch to the products they make.

    Whenever you post videos like this, I dream of going on a journey visiting different parts of the world where the perfume ingredients are produced and processed. There is a Korean blogger who runs a company selling essential oils, floral water etc. and her blog is filled with pictures of all the places she visited. February 14, 2014 at 8:03am Reply

  • Martha: Thank you! It is good to quantify the raw materials, and demonstrate the labor intensive process so that we can appreciate the actual costs of our treasured perfumes. As I understand it, roses are a valuable cash crop in Turkey. Where I live, corn and soybeans are widely cultivated. I’d rather see fields of roses! I have a journal called HerbalGram, and issue 96 of Nov. 2012 – Jan. 2013 features a lengthy article about Turkish rose production. It is well researched and presented. I recommend it. February 14, 2014 at 8:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Martha! I’m definitely going to take a look at the article, if I can find it. The rose production is a major cash crop in Turkey and Bulgaria, and many companies form partnerships with local producers. That region is uniquely positioned for growing roses. February 14, 2014 at 10:50am Reply

  • Elizabeth: This is amazing to watch! I am wearing Goutal’s Rose Absolue for Valentine’s Day – which my fiance loves, by the way 🙂 – and wondering just how many rose petals are in it. Happy Valentine’s Day to you! February 14, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

    • Jillie: I love the Absolue too! It always smells just like real rose essential oil to me. February 14, 2014 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m drenched in so many things right now that my rose time will come after the shower. I might wear the rose attar I bought in India. Rose Absolue, on the other hand, is one of the best true roses, and I also love it.

      Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! February 14, 2014 at 10:51am Reply

  • Heather H: Thank you for posting this Victoria. I am enjoying my rose perfume today.

    Happy Valentine’s Day! February 14, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy Valentine’s Day! What are you wearing, Heather? February 14, 2014 at 10:52am Reply

  • Ariadne: I love this!! Oh my… that room covered in rose blossoms! I am a rose devotee too. I have seen a marked improvement in the skin on my face since I started swabbing it after make up removal with rose water. How can a bottle of that be so inexpensive after so much care and labor to make it!!!??? February 14, 2014 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Rose water is just a by-product of rose oil production, and lots of it is available after the precious oil is collected. So, it’s generally not that expensive. Thank heavens, I should add, because I go through a bottle every couple of months. 🙂 February 14, 2014 at 10:53am Reply

  • Amer: Synchronicity can be so amazing sometimes! We have been experiencing some glorious sunny weather here and today I caught myself reminiscing over a climbing rose bush we had at our summer house. It produced the most luscious red roses I have ever seen, saturated both with fragrance and colour. In the hot weather they would release the most enveloping, almost musky perfume and all too often I would burry my nose in them. To satisfy my nostalgia I am wearing Rose de Nuit by uncle Serge today and enjoying it immensely and now a post about roses??? Ain’t life great?

    I am going through a rose phase at the moment. Anything extravagant and decadent I should try that might satisfy my cravings for rose heat? The queen of flowers is making a comeback with a vengeance! February 14, 2014 at 10:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Have you tried Frederic Malle’s Une Rose? Etat Libre d’Orange Rossy de Palma is another dramatic rose (with a big dose of natural rose to boot). I’m also enjoying Lutens’s other rose, La Fille de Berlin.

      Your story of the lush red roses is so beautiful. It reminded me of a rose bush near my old apartment that smelled of hot raspberries. Even my husband commented on it. The flowers themselves weren’t that big or interesting, but the aroma was divine. February 14, 2014 at 10:56am Reply

      • Amer: Thanks Victoria. It actually inspired me to steal sometime from work today and write a review on Rose de Nuit in fragrantica. Haven’t tried the Malle yet, the rose phase came all of the sudden, I wasn’t prepared for it. Rosy de Palma was on my to try list though (but I seriously thought it was about palmarosa… can you blame me?)

        I just realised that synchronicity wasn’t so much a random thing. It is probably the Valentine’s day effect. And here I thought I was being so original… 🙂

        PS: isn’t it strange that von Eusersdorff haven’t released a rose yet? February 14, 2014 at 11:07am Reply

        • Victoria: The funny thing is that I’ve scheduled this post a while ago and didn’t realize that it coincided with the Valentine’s Day until my husband pointed it out. And this morning I completely forget what day it was until I saw a bouquet of roses on the dinner table. And I call myself a romantic! Anyway, made it up by baking a chocolate chocolate cake and wearing my rose attar. 🙂

          What do you think of von Eusersdorff overall? February 14, 2014 at 12:59pm Reply

          • Amer: I found it a pretty decent collection of quite straightforward fragrances which are easy to wear and enjoy. Combining them can be good fun and perhaps produce something unexpected. Myrrh and Vetiver are my favourites (was yours the Mimosa by any chance?) Both are nicely done and equally enjoyable, but I think I prefer the Myrrh because this note is more uncommon and the Vetiver was a bit similar to Terre d’Hermes. Of course there always has to be a “bad” one, in this case the Orange which I think was meant to be the carefree and “easy” one but to me registers as “fanta-material”. February 15, 2014 at 6:15pm Reply

            • Victoria: Sounds like we agree. I liked Mimosa ok, but Myrrh really caught my attention. As you say, it’s a rare note to find explored to such an extent, so it was a treat. February 17, 2014 at 5:49am Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: Hi Amer, have you tried Neela Vermeire Creations Mohur or By Kilian Rose Oud? I also love Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose. February 14, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

      • Amer: Thanks for the link to the blog and the tips Anne! Yes, Mohur is also lovely but not the super-saturated rose I am after at the moment. Paestum Rose, in the list it goes (is it going to be another Duchaufour list???) Rose Oud I have tried so long ago -before the rose craze hit me- I don’t remember it all that well. I will surely revisit but I have a bad habit of not keeping samples. I hate clutter and I usually give them to non perfumista friends as small gifts. I am pretty sure my sample of this found a new home too. My obsessions are a bit erratic. A few weeks ago I didn’t care for rose (or oud) at all. I also recall trying a very heavy rose from the Armani Prive line… don’t remember the name. February 14, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: Armani Prive Rose d’Arabie, perhaps?

          Oh, and don’t forget Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady, another great dark rose. February 14, 2014 at 1:14pm Reply

        • Anne of Green Gables: Well, if you thought that Mohur wasn’t saturated enough then I think you’ll be disappointed with Paestum Rose. But I think it might be still worth sampling if you haven’t tried it already. I love smelling it on me but I keep thinking how amazing it must smell on a guy! 🙂 February 14, 2014 at 3:43pm Reply

          • Amer: noted… 😉 February 15, 2014 at 6:17pm Reply

          • Poodle: I think Paestum Rose is rosier than Mohur. I like both of them though. February 16, 2014 at 10:58am Reply

  • maja: Thanks for the wonderful link!
    I will wear Une Rose this evening, it is the most perfect rose I’ve tried so far. 🙂 How does it compare to Rose Absolue by Goutal? Are they similar? And another rose question, Victoria, would be – how much rose absolute is there in rose perfumes? I mean the real thing… And can it be replaced by chemicals? I apologize, I must be going through the same question phase my son is in right now. 😀 February 14, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Une Rose has about 1% of rose essence in its formula, but I don’t know about the others off the top of my head. In general, even half a percent would create a rich effect, although most brands can’t afford to use this much. Rosy de Palma and Sa Majeste de la Rose contain more natural rose oil than most, but they are exceptions. On the other hand, there is natural rose in Britney Spears Curious, which only proves to me that I should judge based on the smell, rather than price. Oh, Yves Rocher Rose Absolue also contained a significant dose of natural rose.

      And yes, rose effect can be created by synthetic materials, and even if a fragrance contains natural rose, rose synthetics will also be used to weave a more nature-like effect or simply to give a different nuance. February 14, 2014 at 1:10pm Reply

      • maja: Thank you. It is sort of sad that certain famous rose perfumes may not contain natural rose essence. Or contain so little of it. I know it’s expensive but still… February 15, 2014 at 8:48am Reply

        • Victoria: Well, it’s sort of like saffron in risotto Milanase. It may comprise a tiny percentage of the finished dish, but its flavor is unmistakable. Too much, and the dish would be inedible. Same with natural rose in perfumes; you don’t need a lot of rose absolute to create a rose effect.

          The saddest thing is when the companies are using a mere drop of natural essence that doesn’t even make any different for a finished fragrance and advertise their products as containing “the most luxurious ingredients.” Then they use this claim to charge exorbitant prices for products that are mediocre, at best. February 15, 2014 at 9:12am Reply

          • maja: Thank you so much for the explanation. I understand rose absolute is a very potent liquid 🙂 And yes, it is very sad that the average consumer will fall into this trap very often. More transparency about what is actually inside one’s perfume would probably take that needed romantic mystery out of perfume making but would also help the customers so much. February 18, 2014 at 5:25am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, it all goes back to that. Enough with the same dull stories about the “luxurious ingredients” and “solar musks”, right? February 18, 2014 at 11:40am Reply

    • george: In a recent interview with personalise, Malle said that Portrait of a lady started off with 10 percent, which is HUGE. I’m not sure how much it ended up with. http://persolaise.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/you-have-to-be-modest-sometimes.html
      Also, his recent interview with thierry Wasser contained the revelation that Nahema has enough natural rose products to make it the most expensive Guerlain concentrate. With reference back to that oft quoted Guide review about the general consensus among perfumers being that Nahema doesn’t contain any natural rose product, it just goes to show…….
      http://persolaise.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/nahema-is-weapon-of-mass-destruction.html February 14, 2014 at 6:51pm Reply

      • Victoria: I’ve never heard any perfumer say that there was no rose in Nahema. Anyone I’ve asked always said that it must be the most expensive in Guerlain’s range. Another pricey formula is Jardins de Bagatelle, which contains not only natural rose but also a big dose of tuberose absolute. And considering everything, it’s still a very reasonably priced perfume. February 15, 2014 at 9:05am Reply

        • Little Red: Two of my three favorite Guerlains. February 15, 2014 at 11:45pm Reply

          • Victoria: 🙂 When Guerlain does opulence, it’s both elegant and spellbinding. February 17, 2014 at 5:49am Reply

        • meganinstmaxime: I was interested to read this Persolaise article as well, to find out that there is an abundance of rose in Nahema as I’ve read on many blogging sites and reviews that Nahema contains no rose but is a chemical interpretation. Luca Turin’s guide says “The consensus among experts is that this fragrance, Guerlain’s greatest rose, is in fact done without using any rose at all.” February 16, 2014 at 7:11am Reply

          • Victoria: Yes, me too, it proves how hard it is to pull apart perfumes note by note. February 17, 2014 at 5:50am Reply

  • Aisha: I WANT TO PLAY IN THE ROSE PETALS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    🙂 February 14, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Me too, Aisha! I just want to jump into that pile of rose petals. 🙂 February 14, 2014 at 1:12pm Reply

  • george: I love this video- not just for showing the amount of roses but also the human effort involved (and pride) in producing just one ingredient. The roses on the floor were great, but I’m afraid that for me they were upstaged later in the video by that huge kebab. Imagine the smokey meaty smell of that! I’m suddenly so hungry. February 14, 2014 at 11:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, when I got to that part of the video, I was salivating. Roses and kebabs is my idea of heaven. 🙂 February 14, 2014 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Sandra: Happy Valentines Day, hope you are sharing it with someone you love! May this day be a heart opening day for everyone <3
    I love Rose, today on this sloppy puddle filled day in the big apple , I am wearing la fille de Berlin. Going to tamarind for some lunch and then to the MOMA. February 14, 2014 at 1:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Happy Valentine’s Day to you too, Sandra!
      It sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day, and your description is making me homesick. Please say hello to Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at the MOMA for me. How much do I love that museum! February 14, 2014 at 1:16pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: When I did a stint as an horticultural intern, I pruned roses and learned how exceedingly finicky they are and I fell even more in love with them. So many varieties — one of which I became acquainted with was bridal veil as it draped down with its small buds. With another dismal forecast on the horizon, traveling to Turkey and rose picking was a respite if only for awhile. That and thoughts of grape picking and lavender harvest in France! February 14, 2014 at 4:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: I pruned my great grandmother’s roses too (both the shrubs and the flowering branches), and I still remember the scent of green rose buds lingering on my fingers. Like you, I’m imagining the fields of roses to counteract the gloom of our winter. February 15, 2014 at 9:02am Reply

    • Little Red: While I still lived at home, I was responsible for pruning the two rose bushes and they lived for many years. Then within a year after moving away, the two bushes died since my mother never got the hang of pruning them. February 15, 2014 at 11:50pm Reply

  • Charlotte: This is such a nice post for today! Really enjoyed watching the video. I can’t even imagine what it smells like in there. It was perfect because I’m wearing Perfumista Avenue by Bond No 9, which has rose oil and rose water notes in it. So it was as if I could smell the roses through my computer screen! Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope you all have a chance to smell a rose today, one way or another! February 14, 2014 at 5:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Happy Valentine’s Day, Charlotte! I haven’t tried that Bond no 9 perfume yet, but I’m wearing Une Rose right now, and it’s helping me escape into the rose tinted fantasy. 🙂 February 15, 2014 at 9:03am Reply

  • Alessandra: This is SOOO interesting! Thank you!!! February 15, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you liked it, Alessandra! 🙂 February 17, 2014 at 5:46am Reply

  • Austenfan: I commented on this lovely video last Friday but that got somehow lost.
    I’ve actually got a technical question, creating absolute they use Hexane. I’m assuming all of that is removed at the end of the process?

    On a personal note: I went off roses for a while, even though in a way I started my career as a perfume lover with rose fragrances as my top favourites. They have wormed their way back into my affections though, with a few new favourites like Rossy and (more expensively) La Rose Nacrée du Désert.
    And summer and roses would be very welcome right now. Today was sunny though! February 16, 2014 at 1:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s removed in the end. Of course, good-grade materials are subject to even more rigorous processing methods, but the purity of the finished product, whatever its intended use, is an essential part.

      Sounds like wonderful roses to ignite the old flame! 🙂 I also had a period when I craved no roses at all, and it took Lutens’s La Fille de Berlin to give my wardrobe a rose twist. Rossy and La Rose Nacrée du Désert can also sway me anytime. February 17, 2014 at 5:54am Reply

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