Records suggest rosewater has been around since at least 900 BC, when it was made by steeping rose petals in water. The 10th century invention of an intricate steam distillation method, attributed to the Persian physician Avicenna, enabled its mass production and is still used to this day. The process is no mean feat. The flowers must be picked on the day the bud bursts before being steamed in copper distilleries to release their goodness. The essential oil is siphoned off, and the remaining rosewater – enriched by molecules of oil – is captured drop by drop. Four tonnes of roses are needed to produce just a single litre.
The popularity of rosewater was due to its fragrance. It was the perfect counterbalance to the barrage of bad smells found in the ancient world. Rosewater was used for hygiene, bathing and skincare. Upper class Romans filled their public baths with rosewater to wash in, and noted its wound-healing properties, ability to reduce visible redness, and soothe and condition skin. For the Egyptians the scent was sacred, with the petals scattered in tombs to honour the dead. Cleopatra is said to have soaked the sails of her royal barge in rosewater so that the scent was carried on the wind wherever she went. While the artist Michelangelo was said tomix it into his daily cup of tea as a reviver.
As the use of rosewater spread across the Middle East and Europe, it became synonymous with luxury and good health, being rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants known to fight visible signs of premature ageing and replenish skin tissue.
The rose fields of Grasse have been producing Europe’s finest rosewater since the 17th century, its peerless rosa centifolia specimens invigorating iconic fragrances such as Chanel No. 5 as well as our own, Rosewater & Pink Peppercorn range.
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