Like many essential oils, there are different types of rose and if you are considering investing in such a beautiful oil you want to be sure you have the right one. Rose essential oils vary in consistency, scent, therapeutic value and of course price.
So, where to start? Well, a good place to begin would be to look at the different production methods used to obtain the scented components from rose petals. Rose oil can be produced by one of two methods; distillation or extraction. The distilled oil (rose otto, often just known as rose essential oil) requires 3kg of rose petals to create just 1ml (20 drops), while the extracted oil (rose absolute) gives a much higher yield. Pure rose essential oil costs around three times more to produce than the extracted rose absolute.
In terms of scent, there is a clear difference between the absolute and the distilled essential oil. Rose absolute is extracted using a solvent (alcohol, in many cases) which is used to ‘wash’ the aromatic oils out of the plant material. The solvent is removed at the end of the process to leave a thick, highly aromatic liquid with a deep rich scent. In contrast, the steam-distilled essential oil is a thin, clear liquid with a delicate scent that represents a much smaller proportion of the aromatic compounds contained within the plant material. In general extraction produces an oil that has a much fuller, more rounded scent that often smells much more like the original plant.
Here are some details on the individual types of rose oil (roughly in order of price, from lower to higher):
Rose absolute (Rosa damascena): This has a deep, rich colour and a scent to match. Not especially sweet, nor indeed anything like the rose aroma that is associated with many rose-scented toiletry products. Rounded and persistent, a little goes a long way. The lowest price of all the rose oils due to the higher production yield. Great if you need a strong rose aroma for a blend however the use of a solvent to extract the oil brings its own dilemmas when it comes to using on the skin (but that’s a topic for another article!).
Persian Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena): Solid at room temperature this oil has a high level of plant waxes which slow its movement down a little in comparison to the other distilled rose oils.The Persian Rose has a slightly drier scent than the classic Bulgarian Rose, if anything more like the Rosa Alba (White Rose). At just over half the price of the Bulgarian Rose this oil makes a good introduction to the distilled rose oils. If you struggle to persuade it out of the bottle just pop it in a warm place for a little while.
Turkish Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena): Very similar to the Bulgarian Rose in terms of scent but costs a little less. It isn’t Bulgarian but it is still very beautiful!
White Rose essential oil (Rosa alba): Not a Rosa damascena but a Rosa alba. A dusky and mysterious fragrance. A favourite with men and an especially spiritual and beautiful oil.
Bulgarian Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena): The classic rose, deep, rich and inviting. There are two varieties, the organic oil and the traditionally farmed oil. They share the same base scent however the organic version is a little deeper and more complex (and also costs more due to the increased costs associated with organic farming).