How to smell a rose the right way

Smelling a rose is not easy, you have to do it the right way. Your nose is capable of being extremely sensitive when you smell, but it will need some training first. Once trained it will be able to analyse a wide diversity of olfactory notes, note them and distinguish them in their order of arrival.
However, you should be careful with your nose as it is fragile, and if you leave it for more than two or three seconds over one flower, your cells will fast become saturated to the point that you’ll no longer be able to smell anything.

Dr Raoul Blondel - how to smell a rose

Rose smell was studied for centuries but no one went as far as the French rosarian Dr Raoul Blondel, in their studies on how to smell a rose. In his thesis on the 'odiferous products of roses' published in 1880's, he described the optimal process in all details. According to his studies, roses should be smelled in the following stages.

Firstly, you need to take a rose and smell it slowly, taking care not to crush any of scent glands in its stalk.

Then gently draw the roses fragrance into your nostrils in short sniffs, mixing with pure air so not to overwhelm smell receptors that receive and interpret the particles released by the flower. This will give you the absolute and irreducible odour of rose.

However, experience does not stop here. Continue smelling the rose and you will receive a second note of odour, which is less easy to define. This can be a hint of clover or some fruity smell depending on the breed.

After this point, your nostrils will detect only a vague sensation of freshness as you have exhausted smell receptors.

The loss of smell is very similar to the experience one can have in a fragrance shop. Once you smell a couple of fragrances the next one will have a less pungent smell. In good fragrance shops, you will find coffee bins that will help you restore your smelling sense, but you won't find coffee bins in gardens. So you will have to wait until your sense of smell is back.

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Pink roses in the garden - Smelling a rose is not easy, you have to do it the right way!

The chemical composition of the rose fragrance is immensely complicated.

Calkin has demonstrated that Damask rose 'Kazanlik' smell consists of 400 separate constituents. The total number of ingredients found across all rose varieties is likely to be higher. Encountered separately, most of the components would not smell like rose at all, and some can be regarded as unpleasant, but when experienced together they produce a perfect rose smell.

Rose fragrance is a lucid thing!

Any true rose-lover will tell you, each rose has its own very particular scent that varies according to the caprices of weather, climate, soil, age and time of day; even on the same bush, perfectionist growers make sure that different blooms have subtly different scents. In the case of some roses, leaves have a smell as well. The sweet Briar, Rose rubiginosa, spontaneously releases a fruity smell on a warm day, and by gentle wind after light rain. If you want an intense smell crush the countless oil glands in the lower parts of the leaves and it smell will spread.


This explains why some roses may smell of nothing at all certain times or stages. If you smell rose incorrectly you’ll join the masses of other people who say that roses don’t smell of anything. You have to be patient and wait and in some cases come back on another day. You’ll then observe not only the presence of a scent but a full bouquet of subtle notes, which will encourage you to spend more time with roses.