SCENTED TERRACES OF THE TAIF ROSE

The taif rose has a scent like no other and creates a complex rose oil or otto ideal for perfume.

BEHIND THE SCENTS #2

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The intoxicating aroma of this fragrant bloom is a scent that is like no other. A scent that was sacred to Venus the Roman goddess of love. The rose is revered throughout history, sacred to Venus the goddess of love, beloved by Cleopatra and cultures worldwide. The Damask rose is highly prized in perfumery, typically grown in Bulgaria and Turkey, but its cousin steals the show. 

Where does it grow?

Taif, a mountainous region in Mecca in Saudia Arabia is a landscape rich with pomegranate, figs, honey – and the Rosa Damascena Trigintipetala – better known as the Taif Rose. It’s thought that the high altitude (2000m above sea level) and the cooler temperatures are responsible for how richly the rose flourishes.

It remains a mystery how the Wardh Taifi arrived in in Saudi Arabia. With similarities to the Bulgarian Kazanlik and Damasc roses, some say it was brought to Saudi Arabia by the Ottoman Turks, who once ruled a vast empire over much of the Arabian peninsula. Others claim that it came from the Persian rose plantations around Shiraz and Kashan, or even India. Regardless of how it arrived in the highlands of Saudi Arabia, there are few aromas as highly revered.

Scented terraces

Each roseTaif Rose has 30 petals and every April, the terraced fields of Taif transform with pink, fragrant flowers. The season is fleeting, lasting just a month but during harvest, open any window and savour the fragrance that permeates the still mountain air at daybreak. From any vantage point, vistas of pink unfold as the rising sun spills over the ridges. With only five families growing the flowers, the roses are hand-picked in the early morning before the heat of the day destroys the precious essential oils. They are gathered in baskets and sorted, weighed and taken to the local distilleries.

The petals are steam distilled releasing the rose oil into vapour. Once the vapour condenses and cools, the rose otto essential oil separates from the rose water, the drops of oil rise to the surface, where they are carefully extracted. This highly prized oil is then collected and sold – usually in the form of a “tolah” – a small glass vial of 11.7 grams.

Rose oil is also known as attar of rose, rose essence or rose otto. Rose ottos are extracted through steam distillation whilst rose absolutes are based on using a chemical process to extract the rose oil.

Precious petals

The price of a tolah will vary according to season and quality, and later according to age, but it is common to see tolahs of Taif oil sold for upwards of $800. The finest oil – usually a handful of vials collected from the latest harvest is the most rare and precious. 

How does it smell?

It is an immensely rich and deeply rosy floral with notes of honey, light spices, hints of tea and a soft powderiness. It is warm and powerful.

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