I’ve just returned from Istanbul. I went to collect 6 tiny bottles of crystalised greenish gel - Persian Rose oil. Contained in these two short sentences is a world of negotiation, politics, travel, friends and their generous relatives.
I love Roses, the scent, the plant, the history, the sublime effects on skin and spirit, the aromatic water and most of all the essential oil. It has a quality that at once arrests the mind and caresses the senses. It is warm, spicy, earthy, heady and powerfully rosy – the scent goes on and on, rich and full, developing, growing, changing and beguiling.
The best rose oil in the world comes from Iran. Persian rose oil is more valuable than gold at £30 per 1ml. It takes 4 tons of roses - approximately 1,600,000 rose heads to produce 1kg of rose oil. At the workshop in Sussex, we produce a few precious drops.
There is something in the terroir of Kashan; the land and climate that produces an oil of breathtaking complexity. Kashan is a semi-arid area with low rainfall and high evaporation, the roses survive and prosper because of the qanat – an ancient method of underground irrigation which allows a constant source of fresh water to feed the plants. I suspect it is these tough conditions that produce such an intensity of scent.
These 6 little bottles found their way to my appreciative hands via a friend, Moslem. Moslem’s cousin is married to Elham and Elham’s brother is involved in the production of rose oil. Via Moslem’s family the rose oil was collected in Kashan, taken to Tehran, flown from Iran to Cyprus, given to my husband who brought it to Istanbul, finally giving it to me to bring home. These 6 little bottles carried from hand to hand across thousands of miles contain a meaning far beyond their perfect contents. They represent love, trust, pride and friendship.
Provenance and friendship are not at the heart of factory-sized cosmetic production, they can’t be. Working on industrial proportions it would be almost impossible to foster these kinds of personal relationships. They exist for AS.AP because our small-scale production allows for human-scale relationships.
Searching for the very best ingredients draws upon a lifetime of conversations, plants, landscapes and enduring friendships. It is an unfolding privilege – a gift passed from hand to hand to us and we treasure it.
Every sweet-scented rose tells from its heart
the secrets of heaven and earth.