Modern Roses and Fragrance: All In the Nose of the Beholder

Part one (a little bit of history and science).

By Jacques Ferare

Modern roses are often characterized by their abundance of colors, flower shapes and plant habits.

The Traviatta rose has a fragrance similar to cut grass.

This diversity is easy to observe. However, most people probably do not realize that this diversity also applies to their fragrance, which arguably may be their most important attribute. Not only are most modern roses fragrant, contrary perhaps to conventional wisdom, but generation after generation of controlled crossing and hybridization have brought about scents that existed infrequently, if any at all, in previous garden roses. In fact, we should not talk about the rose fragrance, but about the fragrances of roses, as they are as diverse as the colors can be.

The rose fragrance used in the perfume industry is well defined. Two types of roses produce what is known as the Essence of Rose: Rosa Gallica Centifolia and Rosa Damascea  (the Damask Rose). The production of these two roses is centered around the Mediterranean basin, mostly in Bulgaria and Turkey. This industry is still strong and provides most of the essences used in the creation of perfumes and cosmetics. That wonderful smell is what is commonly referred to as “Classic Rose” fragrance and has been known for centuries.

The Yves Piaget rose has that “classic rose” scent.

However, nobody really looked seriously at the fragrance of modern roses until the early 1980s, when our partner of more than 75 years, Meilland International, began working with Maison Robertet of Grasse, France. Maison Robertet is one of the leading manufacturers of essences for the perfume industry worldwide.

The goal of their research was to identify precisely the fragrances of all new roses created by Meilland, and, in the process, discover new compounds that could be used in the creation of new essences. Over the years this work has enabled the breeder to track the how fragrance is inherited from one generation of new seedlings to the next, and the fragrance companies to come up with new compounds and combinations they can use to create new perfumes.

Check back next week to read part 2 of this series, and find out how this collaboration led to the identification of more than 50 types of rose scents.

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Is This Rose Fragrant? Depends on the Nose of the Beholder! |

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