15 Fascinating Facts About Rose Fragrance

This flower's powerful fragrance is one of the most costly scents in the world.
David Austin light pink rose 'Queen of Sweden' (Austiger)

David Austin light pink rose 'Queen of Sweden' (Austiger)

Rose fragrance is a complex, and costly, commodity.

Rose fragrance is a complex, and costly, commodity.

For all their eye-catching beauty, roses hide a few secrets in their lush blooms. Their fragrance can be mysterious, evocative, romantic and even surprising. No two rose-lovers experience their scent in quite the same way, a difference that’s due not only to our individual noses, but also to the genetic make-up and growing conditions of the roses themselves. Luckily, learning their secrets doesn’t detract from their allure in any way; it only makes them even more special.

Learn more about the secrets contained in a rose's scent:

  • Once a rose is fully open, the fragrance is different from the rose in bud. The chemicals that create the scent change as the buds unfold.
  • Warm, humid weather intensifies fragrance.
  • Rose perfume is at its most intense early in the morning. It’s thought that the scent dissipates as the blooms age.
  • Even roses of the same variety don’t smell exactly alike; scent isn’t always predictable. Rose breeder David Austin says, “We never quite know what we are going to get,” even though his company has been working with roses for 50 years.
  • Perfumer Robert Calkin, who retired from Yardley after a distinguished 40-year career in the industry, has worked with David Austin Roses for a long time, helping describe and evaluate the scents in new varieties. Calkin visits the rose trial fields to analyze plants that may one day be released for sale.
  • Everyone’s nose is different—or rather, everyone’s perception of scent is different. Some people have very little sense of smell—so it’s fine if you simply enjoy roses for their color and form.
  • Roses are traditional symbols of love and romance. Rose essential oil, also known as attar, is made from the Damask Rose (Rosa damascene) or the Cabbage Rose (Rosa centifolia).  Because the oil is so concentrated, it’s diluted before it’s used commercially.
  • A rose’s petals contain its perfume, although some stamens smell of musk or cloves.
  • The smell of roses is thought to be relaxing and restorative because it encourages us to breath deeply and slowly.
  • It takes at least 8 years for each David Austin English Rose seedling to win approval for its scent, so it can be offered for sale as a new variety.
  • Rose oil is among the most expensive of all oils. It’s made up of 300 active ingredients. Not all of them have been identified yet.
  • Rose oil, like fine wines, can be affected by many factors such as the soil the plants are grown in, the amount of rainfall they receive, and the altitude where they are raised.
  • It takes from 50 to 60,000 rose blooms—all of which are picked by hand—to make one ounce of the finest rose attar.
  • A rose’s perfume becomes stronger before a storm moves in.
  • You can learn about the scent of roses by comparing them to each other. Sniff one blossom and describe the fragrance; is it fruity, sweet, spicy or musky? Don’t experiment too long, or your nose will get fatigued. Try again later, or do as perfumers do, and take deep breaths through a piece of wool, or eat some dry bread, to refresh your olfactory sense.