Trade Secrets: Original

As all Claire Burke Original lovers know, this is a very sophisticated scent. It takes more than 60 different ingredients to create this fragrance. Each ingredient has its own captivating story as to how it is transformed from its beginnings in the ground to a perfume ingredient. This is the story of one of those ingredients:


Bulgaria produces approximately half of the world’s rose oil. Much like Napa and the Loire valley have climatic conditions conducive to producing great wines, the rose valley of Bulgaria (Kazanlak Valley) has natural attributes that make it perfect for growing roses. The hills protect the rose plants year-round while the soft rains of May and June are perfect for growing the rose buds. Highly concentrated, it takes 1,000 petals to produce a mere 1 gram of rose oil. Or, in other words, it takes 1,500,000 rose blossoms to make 1 Kg. of rose oil! It is the preferred product for use by renowned cosmetics and perfumery companies which appreciate the quality of its counterparts produced in Turkey, China, India and Morocco.


Each village has their special method of maintaining, planting and processing rose petals. One tradition, which is very accurate, is the method used to determine if any, or many, of the rose plants were frostbitten. The locals pick branches off of a number of rose plants from various crop fields. They then stick them in potatoes and leave them behind their stoves for a few days. Removing them, the ratio between fresh and dry branches determines how much of the crop was frostbitten and determines whether they should hire more or fewer rose pickers that spring.

 Even picking the roses is an art form. The best period, when roses start to bloom, is about the third week in May. The duration is 3-4 weeks. The rule of thumb is to spot the first bud formed in the plot; then rose petals picking can start in about 40 days. The method of detaching the petals is crucial; it is “pinching” them right under the base, no higher.

Every day petals picking starts in the early morning at sunrise. It has to finish by 9-10am because by then the dew is still on the flowers. The petals are gathered in baskets, transferred to sacks, and then quickly transported to the distillery, as the etheric oil starts evaporating from them. The maximum period from the picking until the distillation start must be less than 15 hours. No time for flat tires!!

Distillation must occur over a light fire. In the distillation vessel, rose petals and clear water are boiled. The rose water flows out in a trickle and is collected. To obtain oil, the contents of bottles from several vessels are poured into a vessel again, and the second boiling commences. The oil, which is lighter than the water, floats on the surface and is carefully skimmed off.

Even the water used must come from biologically clean rivers, with neutral or close to neutral pH values. No commercial water supply can be used as a result. It must all be fresh. Another Bulgarian natural advantage.

Rose Oil experts determine the quality by the temperature at which it freezes:

  • Highest Quality: -20 to -21C
  • Second Quality: -18 to -19C
  • Third Quality: -16 to -17C 

With all this, Bulgaria products only 1.6 tons per year. Prices vary by year, but in general, Bulgarian Rosa Damascena Otto (oil) sells for about $6,800 per pound. This is why locals call it “liquid gold”.

And Claire Burke, through our Perfumery house, indirectly purchases a little of this each year when we make our products. Next time you buy Claire Burke Original, just think of all the time and attention and meticulous processing that went into making just one of our ingredients….and it froze at -20C. 

Next year in Kazanlak Valley!

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