BULGARIA'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE ROSE
The Damascena Rose has a long and beautiful history. Because of its unique aromatic and oil-rich petals, the Rosa Damascena Forma Trigintipetal is a very special type of rose grown specifically to produce rose oil. Also known as the Damask Rose, its parentage has been the subject of much debate for a great many years. The origin of the cultivated rose is often considered the Gulf of Persia and its oil was originally made through a simple, single distillation process which yielded only trace amounts of rose oil... thus creating a very high price as the most desired scent in ancient times. Although it was once thought to be a horticultural hybrid of Rosa Gallica and Rosa Canina, recent advances in plant genetic identification have suggested Rosa Damascena Forma Trigintipetal is a likely hybrid of Rosa gallica and Rosa Phoenicia.
From the 10th to the 17th century the rose industry was developed and dominated by Persia, and particularly the city of Shiraz, birthplace of famous of poets and oriental culture. Avicenna, the father of modern medicine, is considered to be first to produce rose oil, thus forming the foundation of aromatherapy. From there the rose industry spread into Arabia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Asia Minor (Anatolia), Greece, India, North Africa, and due to the conquering Moors reached as far as Spain. According to legends, in the 13th century Rosa Damascena was brought from Damascus to Southern France by the returning Crusaders, although some experts believe it may have actually been Rosa Gallica instead.
Bulgaria began its love affair with the age-old tradition of cultivating the Damascena Rose for rose oil production over 400 years ago, dating back to the 16th century. It is said that Ottoman merchants and horticulturalists scoured the Balkans searching for the ideal conditions for their rose cultivation and discovered that a particular valley region in Bulgaria, surrounded by two majestic mountains, the Balkan Mountain and Sredna Gora, has the optimal conditions for rose oil cultivation. This unique valley has the best soil structure, air humidity, cloudiness and precipitation for obtaining the finest and most sought-after rose oil in the world. By locating the valley which is now known across the globe as The Valley of Roses, they brought the Rosa Damascena to the region and forever impacted the livelihood, culture, and traditions of Bulgarians living in the southern sub-mountain region of the Balkan Mountains.
Thanks to Bulgarian ingenuity and their distillers gaining experience in brandy production, Bulgarian rose-producers developed the process of rose oil production by the means of double distillation. As a result, the quantity of the extracted product was increased, yet producers were still able to maintain the fine fragrance and unique qualities of the rose oil intact. The modern production of high quality rose oil by using a double distillation method invented in the 17th century created the beginnings of a worldwide trade that would set Bulgaria apart as the world's producer of the highest quality rose oil. Today Bulgaria supplies the world's perfume industry with the result of the know-how and skilled labor of a culture determined to bring the unique perfume of the rose alive.
Bulgaria's history and strong bond with the Damascena Rose have created an industry cultivating what is considered to be the finest quality and most luxurious rose oil in the world. It is no surprise that because the Bulgarian rose oil is considered to be of the highest and finest quality it is also the most expensive. Its deep and strong aroma results in what is called "liquid gold" because of its unique properties, extremely limited annual supply and high price.