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[Mp4] Why is Bulgarian rose oil so expensive?

 

It takes up to 5,000 kilograms of these flowers to make just 1 kilo of Bulgarian rose oil. It’s worth it, because luxury brands will pay top dollar to put the oil in their perfumes. A single kilogram of oil can sell for $15,000.

 

Christophe: “It adds a little je ne sais quoi, and it’s true. It’s so complex to describe this. It is citrusy, it is fruity, it is green. It’s quite magical.”

 

And though demand is high, there’s still a problem. Harvesters have only a few weeks all year to gather about 450 tons of roses to satisfy the luxury-perfume industry’s demand. So, why do brands like Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton clamor for their share of Bulgarian rose oil? And why is it so expensive?

 

The sun rises over this farm in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley. But in this serene landscape, harvesters like Figen have been rushing since 5 a.m. to collect as many roses as they can.

 

They only have a few weeks until the roses wilt and become unusable, and a limited supply means a higher price tag. The more flowers harvested in the morning hours, the better, because that’s when the petals have the highest oil concentration. Bulgarian roses, also known as Damask roses, have a particularly low oil content compared to other rose varieties, so it’s vital to extract as much oil as possible. Once there are enough bags of roses to fill a truckload, they’re delivered to the distillery.

 

To extract the highest concentration of rose oil, the petals must be distilled immediately after harvesting. The longer producers wait, the less potent and therefore less valuable their oil becomes.

 

Agro-Product employs about 120 people during the brief harvesting season and says it spends an average of $8,000 per kilo of oil on labor. But that kilo can be sold for more than 1.5 times that amount.

 

Christophe: “See, it’s only very few here because as soon as they have a little truckload, we have the truck just behind us there, they are taken to the factory right away. So this is very important, especially in Bulgaria. They’re very good at that.”

 

That’s Christophe Laudamiel. He’s a master perfumer who’s created scents for brands like Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford. He’s at the distillery today on a consulting visit.

 

Christophe: “They take those bags, and we can see that little truck going to the factory, and they’re going to be extracted right away, because it does make a difference if you wait one or two days, et cetera.”

 

Once the roses arrive at the distillery, workers must move quickly. They weigh the petals and pour them into the distillation vat. Thousands of soft pink petals are mixed with water and boiled down to this colorless sludge. Every part of this process is controlled. The steam is exactly 105 degrees Celsius, and the pressure at 5.5 bar gauge.

 

Agro-Product says these measurements optimize the quality of its rose oil and the consistency makes its product more reliable. The mixture flows through several distillation apparatuses before the oil can finally be separated from the water. For a single kilogram of rose oil, producers need to harvest and process as much as 5,000 kilograms of Bulgarian rose petals.

 

“You see this bottle right here? This is what you get if you harvest this during a whole season from three rows. You get just this bottle. 1 kilo is this. So four of those goes in here, voilà.”

 

Bulgarian rose oil is sought after by established luxury-fragrance houses such as Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton as well as newer shops like Gloss Moderne.

 

Kuen: “A rose is a rose is a rose, unless, of course, it’s a Bulgarian rose. So, we’ve smelled a lot of different roses, and I actually wasn’t a fan of too many different rose fragrances before. I felt like they smelled like my grandmother. And so when we smelled this, it actually smelled like as if you had a bouquet of roses, and it smelled like a fresh, fresh rose. So, here we are.”

 

Christophe: “So, this is the production that just happened. It’s straight from the factory in this raw bottle. This is so potent. This is, I find, always magical when it’s really fresh. So, some of it is a bit offensive, like, stringent or almost aggressive, because it’s so fresh. And then in the older one, the aged one, it’s like a nice wine. Tremendous difference.”

 

After the oil has been aged for at least three months, it can finally be incorporated into perfumes. Kuen says the unique scent profile of Bulgarian rose oil makes it worthy of its high price point.

 

Kuen: We pay between $10,000 to $15,000 for a kilo for Bulgarian rose oil, and that’s the pure Bulgarian rose oil, undiluted. I feel it’s definitely worth the price. It’s extremely unique.

 

Studies have found more than 300 compounds in damask rose oil, making it more complex than other varieties. The damask rose, or Rosa damascena, originated in the Middle East, where its oil has been extracted since the seventh century. Around 400 years ago, the farmers began cultivating these roses in what’s now known as Bulgaria’s Rose Valley.

 

Christophe: “And this is one particular thing about this valley, is that it’s cold and wet. If you look at other rose regions in the world, some are cold but dry, some are not as high as here. So this is very particular of this terroir here in Bulgaria and gives this richness of the oil.”

 

The cooler spring temperatures prevent the rose petals from forming a protective wax, and the humidity allows higher oil saturation in the rose. This year, the season was delayed a couple of weeks because of unexpected rainfall and colder-than-usual temperatures. Ironically, humidity and cool temperatures are two of the factors that make Bulgarian roses stand out from others.

 

Kuen: “Then there’s the soil. Plus, the damascena rose has all these spicy and fruity notes, so they are very well preserved around here, and this is one reason why we like this Bulgarian rose.”

 

There is no sign of Bulgarian rose oil’s global demand slowing down. The rose-oil market is estimated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 6.8% between 2019 and 2025. Organic rose oil, like that produced by Agro-Product, is the fastest-growing segment.

 

But the scent is what will keep perfumers like Christophe coming back for more.

 

Christophe: “I don’t know. I said already, it’s one of those notes you put in almost anything, it makes it nicer. We had a joke with some of the perfumers. We know we have one or two rose qualities. We know, oh, just put that. Just put a little bit. Just a little bit, eh? And, plack, it gives a little sparkle or body to a fragrance. So it’s, mm, it’s really nice.”

 

WORD BANK:

citrusy /ˈsɪtrəsi/ (n):  hương cam

fruity /ˈfruː.t̬i/  (adj): hương trái cây

satisfy /ˈsæt̬.ɪs.faɪ/ [B2] (v): thỏa mãn

demand /dɪˈmænd/ [B1] (n): nhu cầu

serene /səˈriːn/ [C2] (n): thanh bình

rushing /ˈrʌʃ.ɪŋ/ (adj): hối hả

wilt /ˈwɪlt/ (v): héo úa

supply /səˈplaɪ/ [B2] (n): nguồn cung

harvest /ˈhɑːr.vəst/ (v): thu hoạch

concentration /kɑːn.sənˈtreɪ.ʃən/ [B2] (n): nồng độ

content [C2] (n): nồng độ

compared to /kəmˈper/ [B1] (v): so với

extract /ɪkˈstrækt/ [B2] (v):  chiết xuất

deliver to /dɪˈlɪv.ɚ/ [B1] (v): giao đến

distillery /dɪˈstɪl.ɚ.i/ (n): nhà máy chưng cất

petal /ˈpet̬.əl/ (n): cánh hoa

potent /ˈpoʊ.t̬ənt/  (adj): mất mùi thơm

perfumer (n): chuyên gia nước hoa

scent /’sent/ [B2] (n): mùi hương

consult /kənˈsʌl.t̬/ (v): tư vấn

pour /ˈpɔːr/ [B1] (v):  đổ

vat /ˈvæt/ (n):  thùng

sludge  /slʌdʒ/ (n): bùn

optimize /ˈɑːp.tə.maɪz/ (v) tối ưu hóa

consistency /kənˈsɪs.tən.si/ (n): sự nhất quán

reliable /rɪˈlaɪ.ə.bəl/ [B1] (adj): đáng tin cậy

apparatus /ˌæp.əˈræt̬.əs/ (n): thiết bị

separate from /ˈsep.ɚ.ət/ / [B1] (adj): tách ra khỏi

sought after (v): săn đón

fragrance  /ˈfreɪ.ɡrəns/ [C2] (v): mùi hương

offensive /əˈfen.sɪv/ [B2] (adj): phản cảm

stringent /ˈstrɪn.dʒənt/ (adj): rất mạnh

aggressive /əˈɡres.ɪv/ (adj): hung dữ, hung hăng

tremendous /trɪˈmen.dəs/ [B2] (adj): rất lớn

pure /pjʊr/ [B1] (adj): nguyên chất

undiluted /ʌn.daɪˈluː.t̬ɪd/ (adj): không pha loãng

compound /ˈkɑːm.paʊnd/ (n): hợp chất

wax /wæks/ (n): sáp

stand out from: nổi bật

organic /ɔːrˈɡæn.ɪk/ [B2] (n):  hữu cơ

sparkle /ˈspɑːr.kəl/ (n): lấp lánh


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