Bulgarian Rose Oil Industry

The history of rose oil production and the allied aromatic industries can be traced through four periods, starting from the mid-17th c. Different in length as they may be, each of these periods is characterized by a specific method, or technology employed, and tools of production, or equipment, used, as well as by the way the production was organized.

The First Period marks the beginning of rose production in the Rose Valley, which is accepted to have been around 1664. It ends with the introduction of the first steam still in 1902. This first period of about 240 years is characterized by adherence to the technology and equipment adopted at the beginning of the period and by application of the traditional method of rose growing. It can be called the period of the gyulpans.

The Second Period starts in 1902 with the first steam still put into operation. The still is principally different from the traditional alembic in its capacity, structure of the cooler and the use of heating steam coming from a separate source. That period saw the construction of large steam distilleries as well as a number of direct fire distilleries. A large, directly fired still was designed. Florentine flasks were introduced as receivers. The introduction of the direct fire still marked the end of the gyulpans. The more up-to-date equipment using large stills was skillfully adapted to use the technology introduced with the gyulpans. It was in this period that a small-scale production of another product derived from rose flowers began: the rose concrete. The rose concrete was extracted by petrol-ether with technology and equipment borrowed from France. This second period lasted as little as 18 years, until the end of World War I in 1918.

The Third Period lasted until the end of World War II in 1945. The beginning of the period was marked by reduction of the rose plantations in the post-war conditions. Later on they expanded again and in 1932 the areas under rose cultivation were already 6837 ha. In the following years the areas were pre- served within about 6000 ha a year and between 1941 and 1944 they shrunk dramatically to 2563 in 1944. In 1922 the Bulgarian Government for the first time entered the picture by adopting an act intended to promote the rose industry. As a result, a number of cooperative societies were founded in the villages to process rose flowers in their own stills. Many of these cooperative societies constructed rose distilleries and installed new equipment. The first steps in scientific research work in rose production were taken at 'that time. The oil purity (quality) as well as the trade in attar were placed under governmental control. The government promoted and monitored the industry through the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank. Other ess6ntial oil crops like peppermint and lavender. Also came to be cultivated during this period.

The Fourth Period started at the end of World War II. Most specific for that period was that roses and other essential oil crops were cultivated on a cooperative basis.

The rose industry was declared a monopoly of the state. The State-owned, Sofia-based Bulgarska Rosa company was established for the purpose of producing and marketing rose oil and other essential oils and by-products. Other aromatic semi-finished products like extracts, compositions and cosmetic articles were also developed, shampoos being the most important among them.

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