Bulgaria – We Bulgarians have a long history of producing Rakia, which is our national alcoholic drink. Rakia is a fruit brandy and the process of double distilling is very similar to the process of distilling roses to rose oil. Perhaps this century-old tradition is what makes Bulgarian rose oil the best in the world in terms of quality and fragrance. Another reason may be the unique geographical location – both the climate and the soil compliment the Rosa Damascena. The mild winter and humid spring, coupled with the morning dew and more abundant rains cause the rose petals to become more strongly saturated with oil.
The temperature in February is appropriate for the formation of the buds and the sandy soil helps to make the Bulgarian Rose Valley more appropriate for roses than their birthplace in Tunis.
History of Rose production
The Bulgarian rose is the successor to the Rosa Damascena, which was imported into the country centuries ago. Rose oil is often called the ‘liquid gold’ of Bulgaria because of its high price. In order to produce just a single gram of this stuff, you’d need more than a thousand petals.
Many countries have tried to develop their own production of rose oil but none have succeeded due to the specific climatic conditions Rosa Damascena demands in order to yield high quality oil. At present, Turkey is the major producer – the quantity of Turkish rose oil sold annually is larger, but its quality is poorer because of the hot climate. Therefore, it is mainly used in mass-produced perfumery.
Rose Perfume industry
The perfume industry is doomed without rose oil – the fragrance of even the finest perfume would fade in 3 hours if the oil is removed. Bulgarian rose oil is used in perfumes made by companies such as ‘Givenchy’, ‘Dior’, ‘Chanel’, ‘Bulgari’ and many other of the most famous perfume producers.
The oil is also used in the pharmaceutical industry because it dissolves stones in the kidneys and in cosmetics because it cures wrinkles, acne and serves as a moisturiser for the skin.
Rose Oil Production
Rose oil production is a huge industry in Bulgaria, yet our interest in roses is not purely economical. Roses are a big part of our culture, too. It all goes way back to Ottoman rule when rose oil trading was virtually the only way a Bulgarian could earn a name for himself in the empire. One of the most popular Bulgarian books, ‘Bai Ganio’ is about a rose oil trader. We even go as far as name our daughters after the flower.
We host an annual Rose Festival to honour the beauty of the flower. The celebrations take place during the first week of June, exactly when the rose fields blossom and the fragrance is unparalleled. We crown the most beautiful girl in town ‘Queen of Roses’ in a beauty pageant on the last day of the week. The Festival was first celebrated in 1903 and it has become a tradition ever since.
There are many people in Bulgaria who depend on roses to feed their children. Roses funded, in a way, our national independence back in the 1870s – the people who traded with roses were the very same people who bought uniforms and weapons for the Bulgarian soldiers. Because of all that and a hundred more things, we have a truly heartwarming relationship with them. The first thing that pops into a foreigner’s mind whenever I’d mention where I’m from is roses, and I think that’s deserved because we identify ourselves with them. They are a part of our national culture and thus a part of our national identity and there isn’t, there can’t be, one other nation in the world which is as passionate for roses as we are.
What do you think?