"That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet."
If you spend any time at all on this website then you will probably realize that I consider fragrance an important part of a good rose. For me, everything else pales into insignificance. A beautiful bloom that has no scent is simply a disapointment.
But scent is a very subjective thing... what smells wonderful to me might be almost undetectable to you, or vise versa. So let's look at how the scent is created, and the different descriptions used to describe the types of fragrances.
First, the basics. Scent is produced by tiny glands on the underside of the petals. That should give you a hint that the more petals a flower has, the more scent it is capable of producing (that doesn't mean it will have a lot of scent, just that it has the petals to do so).
Have you ever noticed that roses produce more scent on warm sunny days? There are a number of factors that infuence how much scent a particular bloom will produce. If you want to experience optimum scent, then early in the day, warm sunny weather, and a younger bloom will be your best bet.
Sometimes I read the descriptions given in rose catalogs and wonder what I'm missing. Maybe it's just my nose, but I find it hard to detect a bloom with "a hint of citrus" or "spicey undertones". My nose, so it seems, is tuned into the old world traditional scents.
Rhodinol: This is the traditional scent associated with old world roses, and often found in the deep red varieties. Pluge you nose into an old Gallica rose, and this is what you will smell.
Geraniol: The name gives it away, the scent of geraniums.
Nerol: This is the fruity to anise scent often found in the lighter varieties (white yellow and orange).
Eugenol: A spicy, strongly scented oil that is often described as "oil of cloves".
A well scented rose will contain some or all of these, in varying quantities. There are other minor compounds that will be in the mix, and the way they react with each other can change the scent. Even on the same flower... smell a bloom early in the day and it will be different than later in the day, and different again if picked and brought inside. It all makes for a perfectly unpredictable bouquet!
Browse our potpourri and rose scent related pages. From potpourii recipes to information on rose water.