Attar of roses – a crucial ingredient in perfumery

Attar, or ittar, is an essential oil derived from plant sources and perhaps the most famous is attar of roses, said to be an ingredient in 75% of all perfume products.

Attar of roses has an ancient history, whose production method was first mentioned in the writings of Ibn al-Baitar (1188–1248), an Al-Andalusian (Muslim-controlled Spain) physician, pharmacist, and chemist.

The oil is generally distilled into a wood base such as sandalwood and then aged.

Traditionally in the eastern world, it was a custom of the nobility to offer ittar/attar in an ornate, and tiny crystal bottle, to their guests at the time of their departure, a practice that still exists in the East to this day.

Attar is also commonly used within Muslim communities and amongst natives of the Indian Subcontinent and Arabia to treat numerous health disorders, and it was widely used in Greek medicine.

70% of the rose oil in the world comes from Bulgaria, particularly the Rose Valley in Bulgaria, near the town of Kazanlak. Other significant producers are Turkey, Iran and Morocco, It is possible to produce attar of roses yourself and the website hunker.com gives a method:

It takes an enormous number of petals to make a small amount of the essence, and the petals are best picked in the evening or early morning when their perfume is strongest.

The recipe is for 1 lb of petals to 6 oz of sandalwood oil, which should be poured into a wide-mouthed jar for easy access. You should add the petals to the oil and seal the jar tightly, then leave it in a darkened, dry place for up to two weeks. After this, use a hand masher to crush the petals further to release as much fragrance as possible before sealing and leaving for another week.

Then use a pipette to extract the resulting dark red attar oil from the jar and squirt it into a glass oil vial or decorative attar bottle.

April cultural hints

The end of the bare root planting season is in sight, and the new containerised planting season will start around the middle of the month.  The original concept of containerising roses was to extend the naturally planting season. When planting make sure that the soil/compost does not come away from the roots.  If it does then just press them back into the pot and leave for a few more weeks.  You have nothing to lose as the roses will continue to get established.

Although pruning of existing roses should have been completed in March, weather conditions may have made this difficult so even if you have new growth on the plants have the courage to prune!

With all the rain we have had roses are going to be hungry.    If you have not already given them their first feed with a slow release fertilizer such as Vitax Q4, Vitax Rose Food, or Top Rose then now is the time.

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