Bulgarian Rose Perfume : Under $5

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The Rose Valley in central Bulgaria holds some of the largest rose plantations in the world. The essence produced in Bulgaria has a zesty accent, which contrasts with the lush honeyed sweetness typical of rose oils. It’s the rose of Jean Patou Joy, Chanel Coco, Coty Chypre, Hermès Amazone, and Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau. It’s complex, lush and sparkling.

The carved wooden vials of Bulgarian rose oil have been a familiar sight to me ever since I was a child. I found them tucked in my grandmother’s purse, and I loved how a tiny drop was enough to leave a rose-perfumed trail. When I started working in the fragrance industry, I’d occasionally receive rose oil samples in these vials, and they would invariably make me nostalgic. I promised myself that one day I’d go to Bulgaria and tour the Rose Valley.

Then moving to Brussels, I ended up in an area with several Bulgarian shops. I’d stop by them to buy thick yogurt–there is no better yogurt than Bulgarian, of that I’m convinced, sheep’s milk cheese, fiery red pepper spread and red wine. And then on one occasion, I noticed a shelf of rose creams, soaps and perfume. I saw the familiar wooden tube shaped like a minaret, and I put one in my shopping basket. I paid around $5 for it.

For the price, I didn’t expect real Bulgarian rose essence, but the charming rose perfume the bottle contained was a surprise. It was oil-based, although not heavy or sticky, and it absorbed well into the skin. The perfume was a rose accord, topped with a fruity-orange note and bracketed by musk. It smelled rich without being overly sweet and the rose part oscillated between peony and carnation, being both fruity and spicy.

Bulgarian Rose had a powerful opening and then it slowly petered out over the course of three-four hours, with a decent enough presence throughout.  I’ve tucked the vial into my purse and enjoyed feeling its lacquered sides whenever I fished for change or my keys. Then I remembered to put it on and it always made me feel happy, the way small pleasures do.

Since then I’ve been replacing Bulgarian Rose several times, and although I’ve bought perfume from different shops, the formula doesn’t much vary. A bright rose, a bit of fruit, a touch of musk. No real roses suffered for its sake, but for $5, it’s a good rose perfume. If you have a Bulgarian store next to you, it’s worth making a trip to look for the Bulgarian Rose perfume. And to pick up a jar of even more luscious kiselo mlyako, Bulgarian famed yogurt.

On star rating: if I were judging this perfume based on the price to quality, then it should be a 5, but objectively speaking, it’s a solid 3.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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43 Comments

  • Nora Szekely: When I was a child, growing up in Hungary, my grandmother also had this. If I’m correct it was cheap in th epast too. I wonder whether there was any real rose oil in it back then. Thank you for writing a review. August 27, 2018 at 8:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Back then the oil was definitely real, or else the proportion of real essence was higher. August 27, 2018 at 10:06am Reply

      • Rowanhill: How funny, as a child these very vials from Bulgaria made me and all of my friends hate rose scent. The perfume seemed to smell of roses mixed with cumin/sweat and old urine. It took me forever to try rose scents again:-D Back in the seventies and eighties all visitors to Bulgaria seemed to bring these back. September 4, 2018 at 5:45am Reply

        • Victoria: You aren’t the only one, I’ve realized once I posted it. I just remember the gorgeous scent of real roses. September 7, 2018 at 9:15am Reply

  • Severine: How do you prevent the vial from leakage? I am wary as they always do, and ruin an expensive handbag. Do you ever notice any differences in intensity or composition between vials? August 27, 2018 at 8:57am Reply

    • Victoria: It has two vials, and nothing ever leaked from either.

      While I don’t always do it, it’s a good idea to keep perfume bottles or decants in a separate pouch inside the purse. This way, if they do leak–and even sealed bottles do sometimes–your purse will be protected. August 27, 2018 at 10:06am Reply

    • Victoria: P.S. The formulas vary slightly, but not dramatically. August 27, 2018 at 10:07am Reply

  • Connie: I love rose products! Where can I purchase this lovely to sniff? August 27, 2018 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: As I mentioned in my article, any Bulgarian store, or a store selling Bulgarian products. You should search in your area. Otherwise, if you google Bulgarian perfume essence, you’ll see other options. Look for the wooden vials like the ones in my photos. August 27, 2018 at 10:04am Reply

      • Connie: thanks! I believe I have found a seller already,,will need to come from Bulgaria though, it seems but that is okay. August 27, 2018 at 10:16am Reply

        • Victoria: Hope that you’ll like it! Please let me know how it goes. August 28, 2018 at 4:34am Reply

      • Nancy Chan: A familiar sight. I received one of these from a Bulgarian colleague once when she returned from Bulgaria. I used to think it was was just pure rose oil in these little vials. The perfume is rich and sweet. August 27, 2018 at 11:20am Reply

        • Victoria: They’re sold everywhere in Bulgaria and they make such nice gifts. I suppose, there are vials with the real rose essence, but they won’t cost $5. August 28, 2018 at 5:42am Reply

          • Nancy Chan: Back then I had no knowledge or interests in perfumes. A few years ago I was searching for a long lost perfume, namely Sun, Moon, Stars by Karl Lagerfeld and realised it was discontinued in shops. I started searching on eBay and Amazon and purchased one, only to discover the smell is a little different from what I use to remember. So my interests in perfumes took off from there, which lead to an interest in gardening. I’m also really interested in the different raw mater used in perfumery. August 29, 2018 at 6:55am Reply

          • Nancy Chan: A typing error there, I meant to say raw materials. 😯 August 29, 2018 at 6:57am Reply

  • OperaFan: It’s probably worth the $5 just for that charming, old-fashioned presentation. I love these little unexpected finds. And thank you, for the rating explanation. As I understand it – it’s complicated.
    🙂 August 27, 2018 at 11:30am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s not that complicated. I rate fragrances based on technique and originality and what they add to the existing body of perfumes, so to speak. It would be complicated, if I started to factor in the price into ratings, because price in perfumery today reflects little about the quality.

      Anyway, this perfume is fun, and I agree, the presentation is delightful. You can use the vial to carry around other samples, if you want. August 28, 2018 at 5:45am Reply

  • Anna: Victoria, what a lovely article. Many years ago I sold herbal products at a market in Vancouver, Canada. The vendors beside me were from Bulgaria and they gifted me with a small vial. I loved wearing a little drop of the oil, it was so rich and deep and lasted all days. Little pleasures like these really brighten the spirits. August 27, 2018 at 11:49am Reply

    • Victoria: They do, don’t they! Yes, you need just a drop. August 28, 2018 at 5:46am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Just watched an interesting documentary on both the Bulgarian rose as well as the rose de mai from Grasse on ARTE, the Franco-German TV programme. Very impressive rose fields in Bulgaria which seem to reach to the horizon! Thierry Wasser had a cameo appearance, and he too was pretty impressed 😀 August 27, 2018 at 2:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: They’re as big as the ones in Turkey, and while it’s the same variety of rose (planted by the Ottomans), the scent is different enough that you can tell which is which by smelling it. August 28, 2018 at 5:47am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: In that documentary, Th. Wasser mentioned a mix of Bulgarian Rose with the oil of Rosa Alba, and he referred to an old French perfume which apparently featured this mélange. This, he rapturously recounted, results in a superior Otto (?) mixing the best of the two rose characteristics! I was quite intrigued and wondered whether there there would be a modrrn day equivalent? August 28, 2018 at 8:02am Reply

        • Victoria: I know that perfumes like Caron Acaciosa and Hermes Amazone used to contain both types, but I wonder what perfume he is talking about specifically. Usually, perfumers would blend several types of rose essences and aroma-materials to create their own distinctive rose accord. August 28, 2018 at 10:16am Reply

  • Emilie: It is presented so beautifully! I love the small size, the pattern, the fact that it is made of wood and the pointed top. Very sweet!

    I’m going to make a point of looking for a Bulgarian shop in Adelaide now. We have lots and lots of amazing Asian groceries but not so many good European stores, though I frequent a tiny polish shop to stock up on twarog and powidła (plum jam) for pancakes! The selection is limited though even though there is a considerable Polish population here so I’m not sure about how my luck will fare for other nationalities. August 27, 2018 at 8:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Brussels has a big Bulgarian community, and I happen across Bulgarian groceries everywhere. So, this perfume is not hard to find.

      I tried to Google Bulgarians in Adelaide for you, and while I found no shops based on my quick search, I found that the local Bulgarian community has its own website–bulgariansinsouthaustralia.com! They have a Bulgarian themed dinner coming up on August 31st, and the menu looks delicious. August 28, 2018 at 5:51am Reply

      • Emilie: Oh thank you Victoria, that is so thoughtful of you!

        I’m heading off to look at their website now. I very unusually have three days off work in a row and that sounds like a fun night out 🙂 August 28, 2018 at 7:40pm Reply

  • Nikolina: Greetings from Bulgaria. Lovely review for the scent of my mother, my grandmother, my grand-grandmother. The smell that remind me of fresh mornings and nostalgic memories. Would love to help if anyone can’t find the vial and send some. August 28, 2018 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Yuni: Hi Nikolina! I’d like to get 2 bottles or 3 of it. I’ve already looked up online, but can’t seem to fine the shop that didn’t offer crazy shipping cost or price. If you don’t mind, can you help me send some of this for me? Thank you! September 16, 2018 at 12:35pm Reply

      • Nikolina: Dear, It will be pleasure for me to send some. If our lovely host – Victoria allows, you can write your e-mail here, so I can contact you for some shipping detais. September 17, 2018 at 2:18am Reply

        • Yuni: Hello Nikolina. Thanks for replying. You can email me . Dear Victoria, if Nikolina has replied this comment, could you please delete this comment? Thank you. September 17, 2018 at 2:35am Reply

          • Nikolina: It OK. September 17, 2018 at 2:44am Reply

  • Marge Clark: Nothing,nothing NOTHING supports a woman’s spirit like true Rose. Thank you for this, Victoria. I have a collection of the wee minaret cases, from various producers.. some with true Rose Otto, some with .. other things. August 28, 2018 at 3:43pm Reply

  • Bettina: Victoria (and Nikolina) I am curious about Bulgarian yoghurt. What makes it distinctive? I know there is an acidophilus culture named for Bulgaria – it is the flavour or particular texture that makes it special? Thank you. August 28, 2018 at 4:30pm Reply

    • Nikolina: Dear Betina, how to describe our yoghurt? It is very difficult if you have not tried it or something like that. It is made from warm milk and added special lactobacillus bulgaricus which changes the texture and the taste. Unlike greek yoghurt our is a firmer – if you insert a spoon it will stay upright. The taste is unique – mild and a bit sour and sweet at the same time. The real bulgarian yoghurt is good to eat no more than 3 to 4 days. After that it became too sour and we use it only for cooking. Nowadays there are a lot of yoghurts that can be stored in the fridge for a longer period – because of the preservatives the companies put in the milk. August 28, 2018 at 11:29pm Reply

      • Bettina: Thank you for the explanation Nikolina. It sounds like something I would enjoy so I will look out for it. August 29, 2018 at 1:21am Reply

  • maja: Aaah, I have two of these in my kitchen as they are cute and decorative as well. And yes, I think nobody in the Balkans grew up without seeing or having one of these vials around the house. They used to contain a high percentage of oil in the past though.
    Thank you for reviewing our memories! 🙂 August 28, 2018 at 5:18pm Reply

  • Mazlifa: Love the wooden packaging, wish they sell it online. Will bear this is mind if I know of anyone going to Bulgaria and wouldn’t mind buying a bottle for me. Thanks, xx, Maz August 29, 2018 at 8:34am Reply

  • Aurora: It’s wonderful to know these bulgarian rose vials smell so good. Over the last few years Bulgarians have started to come to the UK and I know a neighborhood with several grocery stores, so I will look there and what a good idea to get some yogurt too! Also I really like the rose products by Jurlique. I have a 10ml rollerball called Essence of rose (rose oils and extracts in a base of shea butter) and it smells divine. I find Jurlique products worth the price in general. September 1, 2018 at 9:40am Reply

  • Sandra: Hmm.. I wonder if there is a place in NYC?

    Thank you for the review September 1, 2018 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Mileta: Oh my gosh! I’m from Bulgaria and I’m loving your description of the whole experience. I was there this past summer and going again in a week, and am very excited to get some more rose oil. There are actually different grades of the “oil” – if you ask the shopkeeper, they may bring out the pure oils and absolutes for you. Not all shops have them. September 6, 2018 at 7:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I will have to ask. September 7, 2018 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Clare Obscure: Thanks, Victoria, for an enticing description of these exotic Bulgarian vials of rose based perfume. The comments have all been very good & I feel inspired to find out where the Bulgarian shops are in Manchester, UK. There are many Polish shops in my area… Maybe some of them are actually Bulgarian.
    This post has inspired those reminiscent memories that fragrances can spark for all of us; influencing our current preferences for certain scents. September 6, 2018 at 11:26am Reply

    • Victoria: Polish shops also have lots of interesting and delicious things! September 7, 2018 at 5:15pm Reply

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