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BERJÉ TRAKIA: THE HISTORY OF BULGARIAN ROSE

May 19, 2021 BeautyMatter
May 19, 2021
Nikita Tikhomirov via Unsplash

Since the early days of Ancient Greece and the Persian Empire, Rosa damascena has occupied a pivotal role in the Bulgarian region’s culture, traditions, and economy. Situated within a verdant green valley populated by some of the most delicate and fragrant flowers in the world, Bulgarian rose quickly ascended the regional flora’s hierarchy, giving the land its namesake: “The Valley of Roses.” This renown would carry Bulgarian rose throughout the centuries, allowing it to remain the territory’s most prestigious flower until the late 17th century, during which the essential oils industry eventually arrived in Bulgaria. Distillers quickly took note of the rose’s prominent odor, as well as the landscape the plant occupied—rich soil, good access to water, protection from strong winds, and pleasant weather throughout the year. It was a grower’s paradise that supported a huge variety of rare floral ingredients, with Bulgarian rose situated comfortably above the rest.

Distillation of rose oil in Bulgaria began as early as 1680, with certain operations placing their vessels directly upon the rose fields to allow for rapid extraction. The oil was referred to as the “liquid gold of Bulgaria,” and for good reason. Even by modern standards, it requires nearly 3-4 tons of rose petals to produce a single kilo of oil. Coupled with the product’s immensely rich and full-bodied aroma that made it irreplaceable among perfumery and other fine fragrance work, Bulgarian rose oil suddenly found itself as a worldwide sensation. Though the oil was especially valued for its impressive aromatic qualities, Bulgaria didn’t become the global leader of rose oil manufacturing until the late 19th century, when farmers living within the Kazanlak and Karlovo regions began switching from vegetable patches and cattle herds to various Rosa Damascena products, including soaps, wines, and flavored waters.

The value of rose oil was (and still is) immense, and by the early 20th century, it’s estimated that nearly 90% of agricultural workers in the valley had switched to producing Bulgarian rose. This triggered a boom in the oil’s popularity once again, as availability increased and additional luxury products could incorporate Bulgarian rose oil into their formulations. Over time, rose oil became synonymous with health, beauty, and a reverence for the pleasures of youth. Distillation became more efficient, leading to even greater extraction, though the oil still remained one of the rarest and most highly sought-after ingredients in the world. By the 1950s, celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, and Tom Ford all designed multiple fragrances with Bulgarian rose as the aromatic centerpiece. Many contemporary formulations continue this tradition, though the oil is sometimes modernized to enhance the rose’s watery, light, and slightly warm notes. The attraction to this ingredient appears to be both timeless and irresistible for perfumers, occupying a niche that no other essential oil has yet to supplant.

Within the modern world of flavor and fragrance, Bulgarian rose oil continues to be one of the most prominent aromatics across the entire industry. Its rigorously specific harvesting methods and distillation processes keep availability low, and Bulgaria tends to produce only a little over 1 ton of oil each year. Combined with its immensely distinctive aromatic profile that makes the oil impossible to replicate synthetically, Bulgarian rose dominates the market of fine fragrance, providing an odor that is rich in both culture and history with a tradition that dates back to some of humanity’s earliest civilizations. From premium body soaps to luxury perfumes, Bulgarian rose oil has secured its legacy and maintained its namesake as something truly special to our industry.

Located within a verdant Bulgarian valley steeped in history and tradition, Berjé Trakia represents the marriage between Old World heritage and New World technology. These flowers have been cultivated and handpicked by locals for centuries, with rose oil acting as the region’s primary export for over 400 years. Today, Berjé Trakia continues the tradition of harvesting these crops through local growers and distillers, supporting the original Bulgarian growing methods that have existed for countless generations.

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