History of rose oil and rose water production
Rose otto is the beautifully fragrant essential oil extracted from the species Rosa damascena, and it holds a special place in the hearts of all who love aromatherapy and natural perfumery. Rose otto (rose attar) or rose absolute, is the essential oil extracted from the petals of various types of rose. Rose ottos are extracted through steam distillation, while rose absolutes are obtained through solvent extraction or supercritical carbon dioxide extraction (not natural process, please see our previous article about rose oil : " Pure bulgarian rose oil, rose otto, rose attar ".
The origin of the cultivated rose is often quoted as the Gulf of Persia, which is now known as Iran. From the 10th to the 17th century the rose industry was developed and dominated by Persia.
During the 16th century, Ottoman (Turkish) merchants imported R. damascena p. Miller for cultivation throughout the Balkan countries, including a newly founded town in Bulgaria that would eventually become known as Kazanlik. It is probably that the first otto was distilled in Bulgaria, then part of the Turkish Empire, about 1690, and its sale in Europe, at a high cost, is first alluded to in 1694.
Throughout the 19th century, the Bulgarian rose oil industry reigned supreme, almost monopolizing the entire world supply of rose oil. This monopoly would not be broken until the industry was nationalized due to dramatic changes in the political and economical climate after World War 2, when production fell into a steady decline. Today, Turkey holds the record as the largest producer of rose otto, and only the oil from this country matches the quality and fine fragrance to that of Bulgaria.
It takes many pounds of rose petals to distill one ounce of essential oil, the delicate rose harvest is transported to the distillery as quickly as possible, as picked flowers will begin to deteriorate immediately as precious volatile oil begins to evaporate due to the heat of the sun. Depending on extraction method and plant species, the average yield can range from 1:1500 to 1:10000. This means that Rosa damascena on average will yield 1 kilo of oil per 4,000 kilos of flowers using modern distillation processes. Under very favorable conditions only 2,600 kilos of roses may be produce 1 kilo of oil, under less favorable conditions up to 8,000 kilos of flowers may be required to produce the same amount of oil.
See our diaporama of old postcard in rose bulgarian valley