The Olfactory Delights of Bulgaria’s Rose Valley

Located in the southern part of the Balkan mountain range, Rose Valley stretches across central Bulgaria and produces almost 50 per cent of the world’s rose essence. The mild climate and unique soil composition create a flower with a sumptuous and intense aroma of honey, lemon peel, gingerbread and raspberries. The most popular variety is rose damascena, and when the fields burst into bloom in May, the air becomes sweet and fragrant, as I witnessed when I was there earlier this year. I would pick a few flowers and bring them to my hotel in the evening, and the following day I would wake to a suave scent wafting through the room.

In my recent FT magazine article, The Olfactory Delights of Bulgaria’s Rose Valley, I describe five fragrances based around Bulgarian rose essence. I explain what makes this essence interesting and how perfumers use it as part of rose accords.

To read the full article, please click here.

And of course, please share your favorite rose perfumes. I know that we have quite a rose loving contingent here, and rediscovering old favorites is always a pleasure.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, Bulgaria, Kazanlyk.

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20 Comments

  • Deborah W.: I love rose perfumes. I recently tried Penhaligon’s Elisabethan Rose. It’s a lovely scent and not too overpowering.

    Bulgaria’s rose valley is now on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing your experience there. September 16, 2019 at 7:43am Reply

  • lina: Which hotel did you stay in Victoria? As going there for roses fields view is on my list too:) September 16, 2019 at 9:19am Reply

  • Gențiana Crăciun: I had, for many years, an adversity for the rose perfumes, even for the scent of roses, as in my childhood (in a former communist country neighbor to Bulgaria) the rose oil (in the small glass vials in wooden capsule) was ubiquitous. My most annoying aunts and neighbor women wore it. In the crowded buses it was mixed with the most various and unpleasant odors. So, it triggered the worst memories. I hated even the colour of pink.The first rose based perfume I liked was Tresor, about 17 years ago on one of my lady friends, she smelled absolutely gorgeous. Only later I found out it is rose-based Surprise ! The same happened with Tocade, Amor Amor, and so on. My real rose-epiphany was S.M.L.R. Since that magical moment, 7 y.a., when I feeled like flying in Budapest on the Danube bank in a cloud of sun-kissed roses, I became a fan of the ROSE. I have/had, wear and love lots of perfumes where rose dominates in various renditions: 1)SMLR, 2) Nuit de Noel, 3)Lipstick Rose, 4)Liaisons Dangereuses, 5)Une Rose (or Afaaf), Portrait of a Lady, Joy, Gold, Lyric, Rouge de Hermes, Drolle de Rose, Cabaret, Ce soir Ou Jamais, Nahema, Afaaf (Al Haramain), Attar al Quassoor, Nima. And use, on daily basis rosewater for face moisturising, cleaning, refreshing. Scented candles. I surrendered to the roses” charm. September 16, 2019 at 10:02am Reply

  • Dorothy Van Daele: I recently sampled Mohur by Neela Vermeire and loved the soft and gentle rose component. It’s very lovely but fleeting. It’s also very costly, so buying samples will be how I experience it! September 16, 2019 at 11:05am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: I haven’t started counting but I guess that rose centred perfumes are the ones I have most: I really do love roses! Sophia Grojsman, you say, maintains that roses smell both luxurious and familiar at once. Yes to both! And in addition I find roses smell—and look—”generous” in the sense that they give more than is ever expected. They bloom abundantly and inexhaustibly, appear lavish and beautiful, and their scent: well quite beyond this world! September 16, 2019 at 2:37pm Reply

    • Silvermoon: So perfectly said, OnWingsofSaffron! Can I just write “ditto”? September 16, 2019 at 5:06pm Reply

  • Karen A: Roses, roses, roses! Although I have not been on a rose wearing kick lately, I did reach for La Fille de Berlin the other day and was reminded once again of why I love it so much! And treasure my Nahema extrait, but not so much that it doesn’t get worn.

    Narciso Rodriguez’s Fleur Musc is a lovely lovely “easy” rose that is transparent enough for office wear.

    And just today I bought 1000 Roses body butter by Andalou Naturals – wow! Gorgeous and very reasonably priced. Must have known you were going to do a post on roses! September 16, 2019 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Tami: I love all the rose perfumes you mentioned in the article!

    My very first perfume was Tea Rose by Perfumers Workshop. It’s the perfect scent for a daydreamy young teenager who wants to grow up to be a poet. 😉 I loved the honeyed and ever-so-slightly lime-y scent that it developed on me.

    I’m still sucked in by Rose scents. I own Jo Malone’s Red Roses—I got a special-edition kit that also had three little exclusive bottles with added “notes” that you can layer (a deeper Rose, a lemon, and honeysuckle, if I remember correctly). I like the Diptyque Eau Rose but it’s not really a favorite—I don’t get the wonderful “ahh, Rose” feeling I do with other Rose perfumes. I do, however, love Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s À la rose Eau de Parfum… it’s a Grace Kelly Valentino gown of a rose to me. The various Aerin rose scents are very nice too… September 16, 2019 at 3:05pm Reply

  • AnnieA: Every morning I’ve been applying the Jo Malone Velvet Rose and Oud dry oil after my shower and it’s a pretty nice way to start the day. September 16, 2019 at 4:57pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: So perfectly said, OnWingsofSaffron! Can I just write “ditto”?

    Another great rose perfume fan here. I have and love all those Victoria mentions and so many more. My special favourites are Paestum Rose, Nahema, Portrait of a Lady, Une Rose, and La Fille de Berlin. I am sure I have missed some favourites, and certainly I have more rose perfumes than any other category. September 16, 2019 at 5:00pm Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: How wonderful that you too love roses as well, Silvermoon! September 17, 2019 at 1:12am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: Une Rose from Frédéric Malle! I only had testers, and I was really intrigued and delighted. A pity it‘s so very expensive though. September 17, 2019 at 1:16am Reply

  • Nancy Chan: Perfect timing. I am currently looking for my ideal rose soliflore perfume. No, Frédéric Malle’s Une Rose doesn’t work for me, as I find the Rose too sharp and a bit flat. I was thinking of looking into Annick Goutal’s Rose Absolue.

    For now I satisfy my rose craving with Jurlique’s rose body oil. Today I’m wearing Caron’s Farnesiana (current version), a free sample I obtained at the Les Scenteurs boutique in Belgravia.

    As always this is a lovely post, I enjoy reading very much. September 17, 2019 at 3:47am Reply

  • Jodee: What a beautiful photograph! The light in Rose Valley seems unhindered and clear– there must not be much pollution or development in the area? It reminds me of the light in Marfa, Texas.
    I love gardening roses and have never found any perfume that captures the beauty and depth of the fragrances that reside in my rose garden. But the idea of the rose, the concept of a luscious, full-bodied flower that represents the feminine, that idea, I have found in By Kllian’s Rose Oud. In Ormond Jayne’s refined Ta’if the rose is positioned as irresistibly elegant and almost noble. And in Juliette Has A Gun’s Miss Charming the rose scent is presented as young and happy, ready for a fun, sunny day! These would be my top rose perfumes. Do you care for any of these 3 Victoria? September 17, 2019 at 1:40pm Reply

  • Robert: Ta’if Rose Attar by Rising Phoenix Perfume and David Yurman Fragrance by David Yurman for Women (no jam!). Dark Rose by Czech & Speake. Magnificent photo, thanks. September 18, 2019 at 4:23am Reply

  • Deanna: Does anyone know La dame en rose by Pierre Bourdon?
    I got an eBay sample, it does smell strange, can’t smell any rose so wondering if it is off!
    I’ve loved Une Rose and Lipstick Rose, as suggested by Bois de Jasmin members on last Rose discussion. Also Nicolai liquid Rose soap.
    Bit disappointed with sample of A ton of roses, by Parle moi de Parfum. Nice rose spoilt by patchouli. September 19, 2019 at 2:34am Reply

  • OperaFan: After 25 years since I first made its acquaintance, Rose Absolue remains my favorite rose perfume. For me it is the perfect pure rose scent, with nothing added or taken away. It is a Rose, nothing more, nothing less.
    I purchased a set of Rosine samples many years ago. They have sat unloved in my closet for years. I’m going back to play with them and perhaps will pick out one to buy. Haven’t tried Ecume de Rose in a long time. I just received a new sample to see if it’s similar to the older version that I used to love.
    I Did recently purchase a small bottle of PdN’s Rose Royale. I like the greenness that runs through its development. It actually reminds me of AG’s Rose Splendide, but richer and better balanced. September 19, 2019 at 11:37pm Reply

  • Lydia: My favorite Rosine scent was Poussiere de Rose and I really need to see if it’s still as lovely as I remember. I’d like to try Penhaligon’s Elizabethan Rose and some of the other interesting suggestions in the article and the comments above.

    My current favorites are actually Rose Oud scents – Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose and Clinique’s Beyond Rose. Calligraphy smells to me a bit like Tocade dosed with oud. Beyond Rose is much drier but the rose still shines through. Sometimes I even combine them (Calligraphy softens Beyond Rose’s dryness and Beyond Rose tempers Calligraphy’s syrupiness). I’ve tried many of the Montale rose oud scents but none appeal to me as much as those two (at least so far).

    My dream is to find a lush, fruity rose perfume that smells exactly like a full-bloom heritage rose in a botanic garden. A whole series of perfumes closely based on, and named after, different specific varieties would be ideal. September 21, 2019 at 1:35am Reply

    • Lydia: I should have mentioned that neither Beyond Rose nor Calligraphy Rose list oud in the notes I’ve seen, but the powdery, sharp, spiciness smells that way to me and I think of them as rose ouds. September 21, 2019 at 1:47am Reply

  • Aurora: You do look happy in the Rose Valley.
    Rose Absolue is a favorite, I wore Rose Praline from my Rosine sample set two days ago but my favorite Rosine is Majalis.
    Lyn Harris did a striking mossy rose for Marks & Spencer some years back and I’m fond of the poor man’s POAL, Rosa Absolute.
    Also, I enjoy very much a Jurlique product, rose essence: it smells really good. September 22, 2019 at 3:23pm Reply

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