Attar of roses.

Botanical name: 

Date: Thu, 20 Jan 1994 13:44:48 PST
Sender: "Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list" <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
From: "Jon Singer (Implications & Consequences)" <jon.GUEST.APPLE.COM>
Subject: Re: rose attar

> Does anyone have any suggestions on "making" attar of rose? Thanks in advance.

Attar of roses is made by a distillation process in Bulgaria, and by enfleurage in France as far as I know. (Enfleurage is a pain; distillation is annoying but slightly easier.)

If you have access to a good library, find the reference by Tucker & Masciarello -- they looked at various roses that can be grown in the US, as far as possible production of attar. The only rose they failed to deal with that looks like a good possibility is 'Belle de Crecy', which they had trouble growing for some reason. I think it was published in the proceedings of some conference or other, around 1986 or 1989. (Sorry - my memory is hazy - it's at least a year since I've read this paper.)

Dr. Tucker (Dr. Arthur O. Tucker) is at the University of Delaware; you could always call him & ask for a reprint of the paper. It's a _very_ good paper. He also wrote a very fine article on Oregano for one of the herb magazines, which they published some time during 1993, so you could track him down that way. (It's not the Herb Quarterly, but rather the other common one.)

There was also an article on making your own attars in one of the herb magazines within the last year or two, if I recall correctly. (It could be in one of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Journal issues, however. I'm a bit hazy on this.) I suspect that the article is by Dr. Tucker, but don't bet any money on it.

Remember: It takes about 6000 lbs of rose petals to make only 2 lbs of attar...


From: David VanDyne <DA.ACUVAX.BITNET>

I don't remember where I read this but the writer recomended putting the rose petals in a sealed glass jar and setting it in the sun. This will cause the rose oil to condense (all one or two drops of it:-).

I'm not sure how you are suppose to gather the oil once you remove the leaves though.

Good luck!

From: Eileen Berman <berman.FNDAUT.FNAL.GOV>

>I don't remember where I read this but the writer recomended putting the

you need to be careful when doing this. i tried this with lavendar and all i got was moldy lavendar. any ideas as to what i did wrong?

From: "Jon Singer (Implications & Consequences)" <jon.GUEST.APPLE.COM>
Subject: Re: rose attar / otto: 'Kazanlik' warning:

There seems to be some question as to which (if any) of the roses in commerce in this country under the name "Kazanlik" or "R. damascena trigintipetala" is "the real thing". I think that all of them are pink & at least fairly strongly fragrant.

I also think that there's an error in the first section quoted in JoAnne Hildebrand's recent send. (The piece from Grace Firth) --

"Old time otto, or attar, of roses produced in the Balkan states was distilled from the fragrant 'Rosa damascena,' a pink-to-red double rose that grew in florets of 20 blooms."

As we see in the _second_ quoted piece, it's more usually the specific variety "trigintipetala". (In Bulgarian, I believe, this comes out as "trendafil" because they get it from the Greek, "triantaphyllos".)
All of these words mean NOT "20 blooms", but rather "30 petals". The rose still grows in the Kazanlu:k Valley, it is still made into otto or attar of roses, and the real Bulgarian stuff is kinda hard to get. It's apparently very, very good.

True otto or attar is almost unavailable. Even if you buy so-called "Rose Absolute" oil, it has probably been diluted 10:1 with unscented oil. True rose absolute is yellowish- to grayish- green, and has a melting point around 23 or 25 degrees Celsius. That is, if you take it into a rather cold room, it will solidify. It is, believe me, INTENSELY fragrant. A friend sent me a small sample, and when I unpacked it, you could smell it 20 feet away even though it was still sealed shut. That wasn't even Bulgarian stuff, merely random attar from someplace.

Possible roses for attar production in the US & maybe Canada include:

'Belle de Crecy' if it grows for you

(Tucker & Masciarello mentioned several others, but I've forgotten which ones. Probably the Alba rose 'Semi-Plena' was one of them; apparently that's used in Bulgaria for lesser-grade attar. There are other damask roses that would probably work as well; 'Kazanlik' is not the only one you can make attar from.)

If you tolerate slightly peculiar flavors, you might also try

'Ferdinand Pichard'
'Mme Isaac Pereire'

(Both intense, both rather different from the damask-type fragrance)

'Mister Lincoln'
climbing 'Crimson Glory'
climbing 'Etoile de Hollande', particularly the fall flush

(All modern, all richly scented, all lovely, but again rather different from the old-style damask) ...and if you want Persian style attar, try

'Patsy Cline'

(That's a modern Hybrid Tea Rose of a rather ordinary sort, except that it has killer fragrance, and every time I hand one to a person who comes from Persia, they jump up & down and tell me that it smells just like the roses in Mom-&-Dad's garden back home in Teheran, they haven't smelled ANYTHING like that since they left, etc., etc., and where did I get it, because they want a bush of it.)

Hope this helps.
jon singer

From: Chris Carlisle <CC.WUVMD.BITNET>
Subject: plus you gotta check the roses!

Most rose petals you can get here (especially if you want 6000 pounds) will be sprayed. Better to start simply with rose water and get them from someone who grows without poisonous sprays. Remember, the poisons would accumulate along with the rose oil.

From: "Jon Singer (Implications & Consequences)" <jon.GUEST.APPLE.COM>

A cogent point! I sorta vaguely assumed that anyone who was going to make otto would be growing their own roses, and would do so in a sane & responsible fashion. (I use baking soda against black spot, and hot water against aphids & downy mildew. I ignore the more common powdery mildew most of the time, because downy is such a scourge I don't have time to sweat the small stuff. Hot water may also help against rust; I'm not entirely certain yet.)

(Powdery mildew is that grayish cottony stuff that occasionally forms on the leaves. Downy mildew looks like black spot, only the spots are irregular in shape, they occur on new foliage as well as old, and the leaves rapidly turn yellow & fall off. If it gets into the canes, the plant typically dies within 2 weeks. No fun.)