The authors report on a robust method for the synthesis of gold nanorods (AuNRs) with tunable dimensions and longitudinal surface plasmon resonance. The method relies on seed-mediated particle growth in the presence of benzalkonium chloride (BAC) in place of the widely used surfactant cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB). Uniform AuNRs were obtained by particle growth in solution, and BAC is found to stabilize the AuNRs for > 1 year. The SERS activity of the resulting AuNRs is essentially identical to that of CTAB-protected nanorods. The SERS activity of the BAC protected nanorods was applied to the quantitative analysis of potato virus X (PVX). The calibration plot for PVX is linear in the 10 to 750 ngai...mL(-1) concentration range, and the detection limit is 2.2 ngai...mL(-1).