Rose Alchemy Day Interview by Zoe Strantzali

A Rose Alchemy Day In Crete – Ildiko interviewed by Zoe Strantzali, IPF Chair Greece and Certified Natural Perfumer, for the monthly newsletter ‘Reconnect With Nature’ of the International Perfume Foundation.

Today, I will be your guide on a delightful journey to explore the enchanting wonders of Crete, an island renowned for its aromatic treasures. I am so excited to be here today with my esteemed Certified Natural Perfumer, Ildiko Berecz, whom I am thrilled to introduce you to.

Greetings, Ildiko! I extend my gratitude for your warm hospitality in Crete. Would you kindly introduce yourself to those who may be unfamiliar with your remarkable work?

Thank you for coming to meet me and to journey together in the welcoming nature of Crete. The land of your aromatic ancestors is where I am blessed to be naturalized now, so to speak in plant language. I am Hungarian by birth, and moved to Greece 10 years ago, irrevocably and purposefully to the island of Crete.  It was a conscious and huge life-changing event in my early forties when I called myself a creative catalyst, that later translated into the path of the Alchemist. That embraces several areas, as I am a holistic aromatherapist, artisan distiller of aromatic plants, botanical perfumer, herbalist, ethnobotanist, farmer, as well as a therapist, intuitive coach, and a transformative mentor. In the past 10 years I have also been writing transformative essays and short musings distilled from my aromatic adventures on Crete.

How did you start your aromatic journey? 

Hmmm… It depends on how far we want to go back in time, as there is always a precursor for everything, and in time things fall into perspective. Suffice it to say, there had been quite some background, and a parallel to a healing journey and a career change BC (Before Crete). I got to a point in life where I had just let a lot of (amazing) things go and was answering my true calling.

Literally, with a one-way ticket to Crete and two suitcases, I set the re-start button. In March 2013 I did my last business trip to the USA, I was mothering things in the computer animation industry, and in June allowed myself to wander from sea to mountain in the fragrant landscape of Crete. I walked in wonder watching the dance of butterflies, listening to the music of cicadas, and not missing a moment photographing the exciting abundance of my plant fairy tale.

I used to dress up without a mirror (saves a lot of time) and walked barefoot if I wanted. That is to say that my aromatic journey began by being fully engaged when working with the Plants and using all of my senses in a high-tended mode.
I walked parallel roads, did research work constantly, and followed my intuition. My reward was attracting the most amazing opportunities – people and plants – into my life. So, on this June-July 10 years ago, I found myself harvesting aromatics such as wild carrot seeds in the heat, cleaning up powerful dried thyme and oregano, processing sunshine bergamot for marmalade, assisting in natural soap-making and so on.

One cathartic moment was seeing the first essential oil drops rolling down the pipe after our harvest staying up late at night for the first real-life distillation of my life. That happened to be the magic of myrtle at the distillery of Wild Herbs of Crete. And I became a regular visitor/assistant/friend on a different kind of dreamland called The Lavender Way, a small boutique farm that very few got to know as it is a love project of special people and not open to the public. Their exquisite, limited edition essential oils – mainly Spike lavender and L. angustifolia – are otherwise available for connoisseurs. From the start of the journey I had been accompanied by many, yet I kind of walked my path on my own, and my very own way, gently seasoned by people that I felt carried the light for me so I can do the same to others.

I am here with you in Crete today in order to experience a Rose Alchemy Day and honestly, I have no words to describe the experience, the energy and the internal processes watching the distillation process of transformation- from the plant on the field to the oil in the bottle. Can you describe the process and why it is so important for all of us to experience a day like this whether we are a professional or nonprofessional?

I believe in personal alchemy as the way forward for humanity. Anybody who has a calling in this very noble tradition working with plants and their essences, in their many forms including perfumery, is inevitably part of a powerful group of people influencing the rest. How we leave our marks, how we use this influence is really a matter of consciousness. And this consciousness can be raised by direct experiences. Observing, listening, smelling, touching are all ways of involving our primary senses in sensing beyond the ordinary.

Beyond the obvious reasons of learning more about your raw material and cutting-edge added value in your life and work, there are further bonuses. When you smell an aroma from the bottle, that’s certainly an amazing opportunity to feel in. And when you complement this experience with the preceding mind-blowing stages and processes that will eventually result in something precious in your bottle – now, that is the transformation that transforms you. It’s an infinite spiral!

Olfaction is said to be one of our most important senses. Would you like to share with us one aromatic memory of your childhood?

I grew up in my grandparent’s bountiful garden, as my parents and I lived in their house until I was seven and my brother was born. Grandpa’s fairly big garden was full of vegetables and fruits of whatever one could grow in Hungary.
You know, I love the smell of cherries, apricots, peaches, strawberries and raspberries. And I remember experiencing these smells in cosmetics when I first travelled to the US in my early twenties. I was enthusiastic, but looking back, everything had a certain note, a characteristic of that brand selling them.

It was both through aromatherapy, psychology, and also my kinesiology studies, that I understood why I appreciated true naturals in their own place. It never occurred to me that I wanted to transfer scents that are not, or not easily transformable into mobile form. I would rather eat a fruit and enjoy its features when I have the opportunity, and not insist on putting it on as a perfume. When a distillate brings fruity notes, that is beautiful and makes me cheerful and content.

I know aroma chemicals play an important role in many perfumers’ life, and perhaps many would throw stones at me for saying this, but I am convinced that often artificial fragrances also create a layer of covering up something on the physical, mental and emotional level. As you know yourself through your own beautiful work Zoe, true botanical perfumes work best as soul medicine, and we often use that to heal issues from childhood…

So, except for the Alchemy Days what else do you do? I know that you recently were one of the speakers in the Aroma Summit, I know you write articles for the Aromatika magazine, – that you are an Instructor in the school of Aromatic Studies and – you are also spending a long time in the fields cultivating your own plants for your aromatic medicine.  Would you like to tell us more because I really admire all the things you do, and to me, you are like a confirmation that when you love something you always find the time and the way.

Thank you for saying that Zoe! I believe in the combination of intention followed by action. And don’t get me wrong, it does not always happen for instance. Ideas and dreams may sometimes age like wine until one day you decide it is time to uncork. The triangle of my healing/coaching/mentoring work supports people to find their purpose, teach them gently with encouragement, and my work as a teacher (I like to call it facilitator) is based on sharing the experiences from my aromatic life and work on Crete that is a sort of a demonstration walking my talk. I like to do that in the intimacy when people – can be aromatic students, colleagues or other professionals – come for a day or two, or they come for a longer retreat full of adventures. Over the years, I accepted that I could never properly introduce myself in short, and I now bother less through which door people walk into my life. A truly holistic and authentic life is hard to define. It’s like you have multiple personalities as a positively considered disorder. Each has their characteristics, traits and capabilities, rhythm and style, and blending in the flow of life pop-up style. Of course, the timeline is still a subject to handle…

Speaking about the field, would you like to tell us what is your favourite aromatic plant here in Crete, keeping in mind that Crete is a place of abundance in aromatic plants, why did you choose this one?

Since you mentioned abundance, let me trick you out when answering this impossible question! When closing the year 2020, I made a co-distillation representing the amazing abundance present in my life. It was also to celebrate my approximately 50th distillation at the time, and the alchemical journey with aromatics through distillation. One of my visionary distillations, as it turns out later in the light of upcoming events, and I felt to add some of the most precious fragrant medicinal plants. Abundance – a beautiful co-distillation of 11 plants in my traditional copper distiller – had bergamot, orange and mandarin peel, rosemary, cypress, lavender, lemon leaves, basil, as well as flowers of jasmine, roses, and blossoms from a mandarin tree. The hydrosol became exquisite and served as a truly transformative mist for a lot of clients, and a ceremonial water for me, obviously. And I still have a small bottle of essential oil that came out from this alchemical day! It’s smooth, powdery, carrying the sweet characteristics of the citrus fruits, while the herbs just sort of create a bridge between the top notes and the grounding element of cypress. When you put it on your skin, a somewhat more spicy cineolic nature shows up before it softens into becoming one with you.

What gives you inspiration and motivation to co-create with nature?

Inspiration is Nature itself. For me it’s like a perpetuum mobile, a continuous stream of visions, ideas, associations through its sensations, visuals, aromas and processes. I use these metaphors to catalyze processes of personal development that is one major motivation. And it takes place on several levels, some of them are more physical. As in distillations, you work with matter, with elements, with energies, and each carries their subtle messages. Sometimes they come in order, other times they turn up randomly and at individually perceived times. It is always a magical co-creation, yet the co-creators change dynamically.

I would like to thank you so much for this beautiful conversation and the amazing day I had with you today. Can you tell us where we can find you?

It is my pleasure, Zoe! Thank you so much for turning your intention into action, taking the time and whatever it takes to spend this day with me. I am more than grateful for dedicating this Alchemy Day to you, harvesting and distilling Damask Roses, Cistus roses and Rose geraniums, revealing practices and explaining theories in our sharing conversations. And as a by-product (such as hydrosols are along with our essential oils), we have something hopefully inspiring for the wider community of aromatics, special thanks to the International Perfume Foundation for inviting us into this fragrant conversation. You are welcome to get in touch with me by email, connect through my website or follow me on Instagram and Facebook.


Summarizing our talk today, what would be  that one thing that  you would like people to remember from our conversation (it can be something that we already mentioned or  a small quote, or a motto you are reminding yourself too, in order  to inspire)?

When I am working on our aromatic fields that you walked with me today, I am co-creating something beautiful with my loving partner Yiannis Psillos – who is also a therapist, homeopath, herbalist, distiller and farmer – and originally started to transform this monoculture olive grove into a field of roses. His dream field and his dream life is being matched and complemented by my visions and energies.

We are surrounded by thousands of Damask roses and… perhaps currently over 50 unique aromatic plants and other trees, shrubs and their respective insects… When I am here out in Nature, I am disconnected from everything else. I feel free, I feel joy, and I feel more connected to the Source.

I feel blessed for this and that is the blessing we want to share with others. With those people who may have all of these plants in liquid forms in their perfume organs or in their aromatherapy dispensary, yet never or rarely had the opportunity to meet with them as Plants and establish a closer relationship as such beings.

I leave you with a simple reminder today: Nature connects us. With ourselves and with each other.


The interview by Zoe Strantzali, IPF Chair Greece and Certified Natural Perfumer appeared in July 2023 issue of the International Perfume Foundation’s monthly newsletter. Explore the original interview with a bountiful of other articles on natural perfumery and the art and tradition of fragrance creation on the website of the International Perfume Foundation.


Picture of ildiko


About the Author

Ildiko Berecz is an intuitive mentor, coach and holistic therapist who is passionate about sharing her inspiring personal stories from behind the mountains of Crete island, while being on the road, searching and experiencing, capturing, collecting, distilling, making herbal preparations, blending botanical perfume and more. She offers her insights of authentic approach and humble practices for better understanding and appreciation of nature, herbal remedies and awareness of trustworthy natural applications in our self-development and everyday life practices. 

Support My Work

I hope you enjoy Essential Reflections taking you on amazing Aromatic Journeys. I am passionate about offering them to the world, so please do spread the love by sharing my journal with friends, colleagues or family, whoever might need some inspiration. And if you want to support my dedicated work, you can join me for an imaginary cup of tea! ‘Buy Me a Coffee’ will process your donation that is kindly appreciated. Thank you! 

Study with Ildiko

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Essential Reflections

Enter your email address here to subscribe to Essential Reflections and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Find your Interest


Social Media

Scroll to Top