Rose Types
 

Damask Roses 


The Damask is undoubtedly the most enchanting of the old European roses, by virtue of its distinct and unique fragrance and graceful foliage. Few of the modern roses can match up to the Damask in subtlety and complexity of fragrance. Although people have very personal views on fragrance, the unique smell of the Damask is something that people usually agree on - most people tend to identify the smell of this rose, with rose. Peter Beales describes it as "spicy, somewhat lingering, differing completely from the softer, more delicate fragrance of the Gallicas". According to David Austin Roses, Damasks are the fundament of the 'Old Rose' fragrance in the modern roses of today. One variety of Damask, the Kazanlik rose, is extensively cultivated in Bulgaria for the production of attar, the foundation of rose perfumes. Many roses, despite having wonderful fragrances, simply produce inferior quality rosewater and oil.  The Kazanlik has a superior reputation for

The history of Damask roses is not clearly known, but the Damask family dates back to the pre-Christian era. One theory regarding its history muses that it originated in Persia and was brought to Europe by the crusaders. Due to lack of evidence, however, it can never be ascertained if Damascus is actually the city of origin. One version of history mentions its presence in 12th century Jerusalem. According to this story, Sultan Saladin used 500 camel loads of Damask rosewater to purify the mosque at Omar, after the crusaders were driven away. The Damask rose appeared in France in the 14th century where it became quite popular and attracted a lot of attention. There are two versions of the story to try to explain their presence in Europe a this time. Some believe that since damask refers to Damascus in Syria, these roses were brought back to Europe by the Crusaders. The other version claims that this variety of rose was brought to England by the Romans. However, none of these can be verified since so little evidence is available on this front.  

Even today, most the rose fragrance that is used comes from R. Damascena Trigintipetala, the Kazanlik rose. This variety is extensively cultivated in Bulgaria. It is used to create the foundation of rose perfume, also known as attar. 3 tones of petals (1.2 million blooms) are required to distill 1 kg of attar. However, harvesting it is a more difficult task. It can only be harvested in the short summer flowering season, in the early hours of morning. This harvesting has to take place before sunrise, so that the heat of the sun cannot diminish the fragrance. The author, along with her family thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the summer of 1995, distilling rose water and extracting oils from different varieties of roses. We mostly experimented on the more fragrant varieties such as:

* Albertine
* Gertrude Jekyll
* Gloire de Guilan
* Kazanlik
* Mme Isaac Periere
* Paul Ricault

After performing the necessary processes, we sought the opinion of an expert perfumer who immediately detected the remarkable scent of the Kazanlik. This simple proves that despite the many varieties that are available today, the Kazanlik is still the best. Another lesson that we learnt from this exercise is the fact that despite having wonderful fragrances, some roses produce inferior quality rosewater and oil.  

Damasks usually grow in tall shrubs with remarkable foliage and hooked thorns. The beauty of Damask foliage in Spring is unmatched in subtlety by any other variety.  The Damask doesn't possess any of the glossy excesses that is characteristic of modern roses. Instead its leaves are a healthy matte, with a soft texture and a grey-green colour which marks it out from the rest.