What distinguishes Rose Absolute from Rose (Otto) is that Rose Absolute is not considered to be a “true” essential oil as it has undergone a chemical extraction process and therefore is an “absolute”; Rose (Otto) is an essential oil as it has been extracted through steam distillation. It is a highly debated topic in the aromatherapy world whether or not Rose essential oil and Rose Absolute can be used interchangeably. Some people say that the trace amounts of chemical residue that may be found in Rose Absolute are so insignificant you will receive more toxic risk from drinking a cup of decaffeinated coffee; others feel that the trace chemicals can lead to increased chance of skin irritation and do not want to expose themselves or their clients to any potential toxic substance; many people choose by aroma as they will like one scent and not the other. As with everything it is a personal choice which Rose to use, choose the one you like the best as Rose has so many wonderful uses and properties.
Rose, Bulgaria (Otto) Rosa damascena There are only a handful of places in the world that have the environmental conditions to grow the Rosa damascena flower in enough quantity to produce essential oil; the two largest producing countries are Turkey and Bulgaria.
During the 16th century, Ottoman (Turkish) merchants imported Rosa damascena for cultivation throughout the Balkan countries, including a newly founded town in Bulgaria, this is where the term “Otto” is believed to have originated from; in current times, the word “Otto” is being used to differentiate the steam distilled variety from the ‘Absolute’.
Rose Otto distillation – Rose petals cannot be distilled in the usual way by directly injecting steam into the plant material as this will cause the petals to compact into a large mass which the steam is then unable to penetrate; therefore distillers have refined their distilling techniques to resolve this issue. Also during the distillation process a large amount of oil is absorbed into the distillation water; in order to achieve sufficient yield of essential oil the “First Water” is redistilled in a process known as cohobation. The “Second Water” is then taken for use as a hydrosol or recycled in the still to begin distilling the next batch of rose petals.
Yield: As with all essential oils the yield of rose essential oil is dependent on factors such as climate, harvest time, condition of the plant material and distillation method. Specifically for Rose Otto, there will be a greater yield if the weather is warm and humid vs. dry and hot. On average Rosa damascena will yield 2.2 pounds of oil per 8,818 pounds of flowers. On a year with ideal conditions up to 5,732 pounds of rose petals can produce 2.2 pounds of essential oil or in the opposite end where conditions have been less than favorable up to 17,637 pounds of flowers may be needed to produce the 2.2 pounds of essential oil.
Color and Aroma: Rose Bulgaria essential oil is lighter in color and has a softer more refined aroma.
Tid Bit – In cool temperatures Rose Bulgaria (Otto) will solidify. The natural waxes in the oil begin to set and become semi solid. This is a good sign as it shows that your essential oil has not been stretched or adulterated with chemical fillers. The essential oil will quickly return to liquid state if you hold the bottle between your hands to warm the essential oil.
Rose Absolute Rosa centifolia
Rose Absolute extraction process – Absolutes are produced by a multi-step process. First, a non-polar solvent such as hexane is used to “wash” the aromatic oils out of the flowers. After the hexane is evaporated a waxy, semisolid substance known as a “concrete” is left. The concrete then undergoes a series of “washings” with a polar solvent such as ethanol. The polarity of the ethanol will allow extraction of the volatile aromatics from the concrete while leaving behind the non-polar plant waxes which do not dissolved in the ethanol. Finally, the ethanol is evaporated to leave behind the ABSOLUTE which will typically have 1-5% ethanol remaining in it and sometimes a trace of hexane.
(Another reason why testing is important: E3 essential oils and absolutes are tested to make sure that all chemical components are in the range necessary to be considered therapeutic-quality, free of pesticides, with no synthetics added or other adulterations. E3 testing ensures that our Jasmine Absolute and all E3 Absolutes have undergone an extraction process in which ample time is given during the evaporation phase to ensure there is zero to minimal chemical residue remaining in the absolute. )
Yield: A rose blossom contains only about 0.02% essential oil. Solvent extraction gives a greater yield than distillation which is why Rose Absolute is less expensive than Rose essential oil. About 10 pounds of the concrete can be extracted from 10,000 pounds of rose petals. The concrete is further refined to produce rose absolute, the yield of which is about 67% from the concrete.
Color and Aroma: Rose Absolute is a thick, reddish colored highly aromatic liquid. Rose Absolute has a stronger, richer aroma. Absolutes often smell more like the original plant than an essential oil because the plant material has not been exposed to heat as well as solvent extraction process removes a wider range of aromatic molecules than does the distillation process.
Tid Bit: Perfumers often prefer to use Rose Absolute over Rose essential oil as it has a stronger, lasting aroma.