Why Is Rose Centifolia Such An Expensive Ingredient

I had a chance to harvest roses in Grasse on a couple of occasions and to observe the process of rose absolute and rose essential oil distillation. The experience of jumping into a pile of rose petals was certainly heady and memorable, but what struck me the most was the work involved to produce rose absolute. Since the famous rose of Grasse, rose centifolia, or rose de mai, contains less essence than rose damascena, it’s rarely steam-distilled. Instead, it has to be processed in a multi-step manner, which requires skill, experience and the right equipment.

My most recent video is about rose centifolia. As I explain, the processing of rose blossoms into rose absolute is a complicated and time-consuming process.  First, the flowers are treated with an organic solvent such as hexane, and the resulting extract is then vacuum distilled. The solvent is removed, and the resulting product is called concrète.

Concrète is then processed with ethanol (alcohol) to separate the liquid substances from the plant waxes. The blend is chilled, skimmed, and filtered. Finally, one more distillation step is required to remove alcohol, and only then do you have rose de mai absolute.

Rose centifolia is a versatile ingredient, and below are the fragrances that I mention in the video. I selected these examples to demonstrate how rose de mai can be used in different contexts and for different effects.

Diptyque Eau Rose
Annick Goutal Rose Splendide
Etat Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu
Guerlain Mitsouko
Houbigant Fougère Royale (2010 version)

The next video in the series will cover rose damascena, so please stay tuned!

Of course, please share your favorite rose perfumes. I always learn something new from your comments and recommendations. 

 

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20 Comments

  • Roman Watson: Thank you! Great post! My favorite rose of the moment is Radical Rose by Matiere Premiere (perfumer Aurelien Guichard), which features Grasse rose, grown on his own property! Lovely work! June 11, 2021 at 8:57am Reply

  • Eileen: Off-topic, but I have to tell you. I’ve worn Femme by Rochas since college (I’m now in my late 60s). The last two bottles I’ve bought had none of the fruity or floral top notes and went straight to chypre — smelled good but not MY scent. Thanks to you, I bought, via post as I don’t know if any place near me that sells it, a bottle of Mitsouko. One spray and I am SO in love with this scent! Thank you SO much! June 11, 2021 at 10:30am Reply

  • Martha: I love your columns and videos and enjoy so many fragrances I would never have learned about other than Bois de Jasmine.
    I’m curious about the technique as used to extract the rose essence before they started modern techniques and chemicals. Or are these old techniques? I’m particularly interested in techniques used in the early and later Renaissance periods. June 11, 2021 at 11:10am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Thank you for your informative videos!
    Rose perfumes are not my favorite, I rather love jasmine and tuberose. But I like to have a fresh rose perfume being my ”good morning perfume”. Nowadays I have a few samples of Rose Splendide, but my nose catches too much of the pear. I liked Un Zest de Rose better.
    Tomorrow I will take out my Mitsouko edt and see wether my nose will discover the rose! June 11, 2021 at 11:22am Reply

  • Muzo: You should see Isparta in May .Rose Fest.The best known city of roses .Its the first best quality rose oil producer and exporter. June 11, 2021 at 6:14pm Reply

  • Kimberly: I love roses. A few years ago I lived in a house with a very large yard and had over 200 roses. The scent of hybrid musk roses are my favorite. I had an Autumn Damask rose also and loved the fragrance. Centafolia roses are a little harder to come by in the United States. I didn’t have any in my collection. When I moved to a house with a smaller yard I brought a few roses with me. I don’t have the space for all of the Antique Roses anymore and I miss them. For a few years I wore L’Occitane Roses & Reines Eau De Toilette. These days I’m not as partial to straight up rose fragrances as I used to be. I have found so many new perfumes as a result of reading your reviews and have discovered that I like rose better as a supporting actress rather than the leading lady. Although, all this talk about roses makes me miss her beauty. I would like to smell Annick Goutal’s Rose Splendide. June 12, 2021 at 7:28am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Mitsouko edt is to my nose a mossy peach. I don’t smell a rose. Mitsouko edp is softer, rounder, maybe the influence of the rose? June 12, 2021 at 7:36am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: ….as you explained. Certainly I could not invent that myself! June 12, 2021 at 8:39am Reply

  • Hilde: Hi Victoria,

    Coincidently I was in the mood for a rose scent last days, just before I read your article.
    To wear a rose fragrance, I need to be in the mood. And it is rare that I will wear a rose fragrance in summer time, especially when it is hot. Well, the last days I am wearing a rose fragrance that gives a particularly fresh vibe: Le Couvent Aqua Paradisi. It combines essence of rose damascena with the leaves of pelargonium. I think the last are responsible for the herbal touch of this cologne (note: the concentration is more than a cologne) its freshness. I applied it this morning, and now five hours later I can still smell it.

    Another excellent rose fragrance in my opinion, is Yves Rocher Moment de Bonheur eau de parfum, which has unfortunately been discontinued. It starts with green notes and rose (Rosa Centifolia). The base notes are patchouli and cedar wood, which lends this perfume more suitable for colder days. June 15, 2021 at 6:42am Reply

    • Victoria: I forgot about Moment de Bonheur, but you’re right, it’s such a good perfume. June 16, 2021 at 4:08am Reply

  • Figuier: Thank you for the video & blurb, Victoria, all fascinating. We have ramblers flowering in our garden right now; one is rich and opulent, the other a real soapy champagne rose – smelling the latter as I do my morning garden round makes me reach for the beautiful (vintage) Paris edt – just one spray is plenty, though! June 16, 2021 at 4:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: There are many roses around my neighborhood in Brussels, and some have such a wonderful scent that I linger in front of the bushes inhaling the perfume. The variety of fragrances is amazing. June 20, 2021 at 6:45am Reply

  • Figuier: Also: there’s an equally lovely airy-yet-musky rose note in another current favourite, Chanel’s No 18 edt. June 16, 2021 at 4:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Absolutely! That should have been mentioned. June 20, 2021 at 6:45am Reply

  • Notturno7: That’s wonderful, Eileen!
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    I love (vintage) Femme and Mitsouko and have been wearing M this week a lot. Actually, I just applied it for sweet dreams before I saw this thread and your post, nice timing in itself, and I’m off to a land of dreams… zzzzz June 19, 2021 at 6:03am Reply

  • Notturno7: I had no idea that Mitsuko has a rose component! Thank you, Victoria for this lovely video. No wonder then that I love my EDP, and surprisingly, it’s a recent version, from 2019.
    I finally used the para film to seal my bottles after discovering that quite a few of the samples I had, evaporated. Mitsuko parfum is properly sealed now, so I’m using EDP.
    It took me years to do this and I put the parafilm on all the bottles after I saw how many samples i lost. I wonder how others do it. Do you keep certain bottles open and available during a particular season….?
    I wore lovely Galop during the day today. Now I wonder what rose they used!🧐
    Thanks for mentioning Paris here. I haven’t used it in a long time. June 19, 2021 at 6:20am Reply

    • Victoria: I open them whenever I want to wear them. And then I keep them open until I realize that I haven’t reached for them in a while. As long as you keep parafilm dry (not splashed with perfume), you can re-use it. June 20, 2021 at 6:52am Reply

      • Notturno7: Thank you for the advice, Victoria. I stretched the parafilm very thin to seal it well, so when I unwrap, it breaks.
        I’ll perfect this. 😁 June 20, 2021 at 4:05pm Reply

  • Pink: I am silence reader of your blog for years, whenever I go to store to purchase fragrance I read your blog , thank you for great posted. August 20, 2021 at 5:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for your nice comment! August 21, 2021 at 3:09am Reply

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