Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ask the Perfumer - Sunday, April 29,2012

Last week James posted a question that stumped me.  I attempted a weak answer about "why isn't there any rosa centifolia essential oil?"
Rosa centifolia photo from Aromatics International - where they sell the hydrosol of this rose

I asked three experts to help me, and they quickly came to the rescue:

Andrea Butje of Aromahead is one of those experts who is humble enough to say when something is outside of her area of knowledge:

Hi Anya,

Nice to hear from you! I *imagine* that it is because the flower petals are too delicate to withstand the heat of a distillation. That may be why it is produced only as an absolute. Must be the damascena flowers are stronger. But not being a distiller or expert on distilling roses, I can not be totally sue. Maybe ask a rose distiller? How about Alain at Florihana. He is amazing.

So I asked Alain of Florihana and he offered this expert information:
Bonjour Anya,

There is no essential oil available  because the petals do not contain any or only a very very small quantity of molecules which is not really economical to produce. The Rose centifolia is mainly used to produce concrete and absolute.

In addition rose otto is only for the rosa damascena origin and not the centifolia.



The third expert I asked was Robert Seidel of Essential Oil Company, another distillation guru.

 Hi Anya,

There is indeed Oil of Rose de Mai around.  Mostly distilled in North Africa, with some distilled in Southern Europe.  Much of the centifolia is extracted with solvents.

I believe the issue is that of volume grown and yield of oil.  Centifolia yields a smaller percentage of essential oil upon distillation (than damascena), that is why it's mostly solvent extracted.  

Best regards,
Robert Seidel

Andrea and Robert are both members of the Natural Perfumers Guild, and I am lucky to have them as expert sources!

So there you have it.  Hope this helps, James.  Now we're all a little smarter about rosa centifolia - EO and absolute.

Any other questions out there?  I'll be here until 10 PM tonight, EST USA.


  1. I've never heard of SFE extractions from rose de May, so since usually its absolute is extracted with solvents, are there any estractions with supercritical fruids around?

  2. Thanks, that was a fascinating post, now this mystery has been solved!Thanks a million times over! Do you know where I can find rosa bourbonia? Preferably in absolute or concrete form? Oh and is white rosa alba also a damascensa? Thanks

  3. Hi Magnifiscent:

    There are a number of companies using CO2 for rosa damascena, like Guild member Ecomaat in Bulgaria. I was just speaking about this with someone last week, and he mentioned the use of methanol to enhance the end product.

    As far as centifolia, the only SFE of centifolia I'm aware of is Eden Botanical's supply They do not ID the solvent.


  4. Hi James:

    The last Bourbonia I had came from India and it mildewed! (concrete) I never kept up on sources for it, but I may look around for you.

    Yes, rosa alba oil is a damascena, and it is only produced in Bulgaria in very limited amounts. I have some of the gorgeous rosa alba organic hydrosol for sale, and it is potent, with a lovely, strong, spicy rosa alba scent. You can use it in tiny amounts in a rosy perfume to provide a bit of the alba scent.


  5. Rose de Mai, aka Centifolia is grown all around Grasse for oil and abs. Stock photos of plant, flower and harvest available.

  6. Dear Parfumeur.1

    I have a great source for the absolute Rose de Mai, and I include a diluted bottle of it in my student's kits. I never pressed forward to find a source for the EO. Do you have one?


  7. hiya, here's a nice link to the Rose de mai produced as an absolute in Grasse.

    echoing Roberts comments the Moroccan producers, the last centre for the large scale centifolia production, went over to the damascena more than a decade ago because of superior yield but also damascena's resistence.

    The centifolia used to periodically get wiped out by the moroccan weather whereas the damascena has proved more resiliant.

    There is also the issue of perfume trends. In the high days of the belle epoque a century ago perfume was very floral and the centifolia held centre stage. This is just not the case now.

    It is confusing that sometimes you will see rose oil marketed as centifolia and even described in books as the predominent rose oil which it is not. That is the damascena with a small amount of centifolia absolute available.

    kind regards


  8. Thanks Amya! I have been eyeing you white rose hydrosol for awhile!!!


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