Bois de Rose Oil: A Glimpse into the Past

As chance would have it, Dr. George Clark and I were discussing his article on linalool (pg. 49), and he mentioned that he had in his possession an heirloom from his dad, a 1942 vintage sample of Bois de Rose oil from Dodge & Olcott (ten years hefore, the name of Fritzsche became part of the moniker). It immediately occurred to my suspicious, skeptical and sleuthing nature that this was the perfect opportunity to examine the oil to see what resemblance it bore to the existing quality of Bois de Rose oil of today. As I suggested this to George he replied, “Great idea! You write the article.” So much for the history of this article. Now onto the history of Bois de Rose.

Bois de Rose oil, as it exists today, comes primarily from two sources in Brazil, Empress Industrial Ltda., and I. B. Sabba. While there is limited supply of rosewood oil, there is plenty of pure synthetic linalool (the free of dihydro linaIool variety) which can bolster the short supply. At one point, in the early 1950s, Bois de Rose oil ranked as one of the top 15 “biggest” essential oils in the world. Today, at approximately 100 tons per year, it is in peril of extinction. In a somewhat ironic fashion, Bois de Rose, due to its lower price was used as an adulterant for linaloe wood oil. As we examine the following sequence, we can view from an historical perspective the economic pressures that brought us to the point that we are at today.

At one point in time, Bois de Rose oil was used in perfumes, colognes, soaps, detergents and a wide variety of functional products. Today its use is quite limited, like the supply, to fine colognes and applications where the effects of trace ingredients play an important olfactory role.

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