A Rose is a Rose is a Rose...

Apr 1, 04:58 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

What is the difference between rose otto and rose oil?

Many people assume rose otto and rose essential oil are two different things. They're not.

Confusion arises from the word otto, which is a bastardization of attar. Technically speaking, an attar is actually a perfumery product consisting of a substance (in this case, rose blossoms and petals), which is distilled into pure sandalwood essential oil. For hundreds of years, true rose attar was a valued perfumery ingredient, but it is seldom produced today. The few Indian facilities distilling genuine rose attar are expected to cease production of this labor-intensive precious fluid within the next 5 years. To make matters confusing, somewhere along the way, perfumers began using the term rose otto to describe rose essential oil.

Some aromatherapists claim that otto is shortened form of Ottoman, indicating a rose essential oil produced in Turkey, seat of the former Ottoman empire. However, the term otto is also used to describe oils originating in Bulgaria and Morocco, immaterial of whether these oils are distilled from Rosa damascena or Rosa centifolia species.

Today otto is used to distinguish pure rose oil from rose absolute, an aromatic product created by hydrocarbon solvent extraction. Rose absolute has a different (generally lighter and more ethereal) fragrance than rose essential oil. Unlike rose oil, absolute contains traces of solvent and alcohol, the amount of which vary according to quality of extraction. Absolutes are generally preferred for use in fine perfumery, whereas essential oils are preferred for medicinal purposes. For topical application, some aromatherapists consider rose oil and rose absolute to be interchangeable.

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