“Each rose that comes brings me greetings
from the Rose of an eternal spring,”
Rabindranth Tagore, Bengali poet
If jasmine is the King of flowers, rose is most certainly the Queen. Whether one prefers the smiling and effervescent roses, like Hermèssence Rose Ikebana, Les Parfums de Rosine Un Zest de Rose and Parfums 06130 Yuzu Rouge or the somber oriental and chypre like Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, Montale Aoud Queen Roses and Frédéric Malle Une Rose, the diversity in the world of roses is both fascinating and astounding. Just as aromas of fresh roses can range from apricots to violet jam, the fragrances exploring roses can offer a great variety. Attempting to provide a full overview of roses in the modern perfumery is an impossible task, therefore I shall limit myself to offering a few favorite examples of the rose focused fragrances that demonstrate a particular character and style.
The classical aldehydic florals cannot be envisioned with a rose, glowing in their hearts like a precious jewel, its honeyed sweetness and vegetal richness supporting an opalescent veil of aldehydes. Chanel No.5 is the archetypal aldehydic floral, while Guerlain Liu is Jacques Guerlain’s answer to Ernest Beaux, whose other creation Chanel No.22 gathers a bouquet of white flowers, rose caught among lilacs, orange blossom and jasmine and anointed with myrrh. …
Jean Patou Joy makes rose and jasmine float above an animalic base, a classical bouquet that does not take long to seduce. Guerlain Ode (soon to be re-released by the house) is not unlike Joy, a graceful rose and jasmine pas de deux against the luxurious warm backdrop of musks and woods. It is so beautiful that I wonder why it was discontinued in the first place.
Rose is usually associated with the femininity, beauty and love, and the fragrances by Sophia Grojsman showcase rose in its full lush glory. From Yves Saint Laurent Paris and Lancôme Trésor to S-Perfume 100% Love, her roses scintillate and cling to the wearer in a warm, soft embrace. Other quintessentially feminine rose interpretations include Frédéric Malle Lipstick Rose, that from the green violet top to the luxurious powdery base saturated with vetiver and raspberry artfully conjures a scent of vintage lipstick. Guerlain Nahéma, inspired by gorgeous Catherine Deneuve, is a composition, in which a refrain of rose accented with the fruity damascones and peach is repeated over the course of its development, deepening as the fragrance dries down. Annick Goutal Quel Amour! is a sip of pink champagne, its peony and rose brightness retaining a fizzy sensation even well into the drydown. Les Parfums de Rosine Rosa Flamenca foils rose and orange blossom in sandalwood, its sweetness ranging from powder to the scent of warm skin. Lancôme 2000 et Une Rôse is simply a cascade of silky rose petals, a rose tour de force.
Gourmand rose themes are not new, with the vanilla and rose having an affinity that has been explored extensively. Jean-Charles Brosseau Ombre Rose sets rose in a heart of iris and lily of the valley, its honeyed warmth spilling into the base of vanilla and sandalwood. Rochas Tocade is a melodious rose, amber and vanilla arrangement. Keiko Mecheri Gourmandises offers a taste of Turkish rahat lokum, a sweet made with rose water and sugar. Ormonde Jayne Ta’if is a Middle Eastern still life of roses, dates and sweetmeats. While not conventionally gourmand, Comme des Garçons Rose (Red Series) offers a taste of raspberry as it oozes its juices onto the rose petals.
Since antiquity, rose was considered to be a flower of Aphrodite, born from her beautiful thigh. Cleopatra covered the floors of her palace in rose petals when receiving Mark Anthony. Romans would fill fountains with rose water during their lavish entertainment events. In order to neutralize the pagan associations of this beloved flower, the Catholic Church attached its significance to the figure of Virgin Mary. “…Soon the mysterious rose, sacred to Venus in earlier times, became the flower of the Virgin Mary, who herself became the Rosa mystica. The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus became St. Peter’s, the temple of Juno Lucina the church of S. Maria Maggiore, and the processions honoring the Mother of God walked on rose petals, just as the processions carrying the images of the pagan gods had done” (Tergit, Flowers through the Ages, 43).
“The rose, wherein the world divine makes itself flesh,” said Dante (1265-1321). Whether seductive or chaste, earthly or divine, rose has a mysterious aura, its thorny strength contrasted with the opulent blossom. Nowhere is the mystery and elegance of rose more clear than in the chypre and oriental compositions. The chypre fragrances rely on rose in the hearts of their compositions, in order to harmonize the hesperidic top with the mossy base. Guerlain Rose Barbare, Les Parfums de Rosine Une Folie de Rose, Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit and Agent Provocateur Eau de Parfum are some of the rose chypre examples, where rose presence is intensified beyond a mere supporting role.
Thorny beauty of roses is revealed in Frédéric Malle Une Rose. As its rich crimson sweetness vanishes into the darkness of the woody ambery base, the composition accents a sinister and cruel facet of roses, its earthiness dispelling the initial suggestion of delicacy. Caron Or et Noir explores the melancholy side of rose, its dark marble coldness conjuring church crypts and brocaded silk of altars. On the other hand, Caron Parfum Sacré, inspired by the chilly Or et Noir, ornaments the rose in the peppery warmth, an opulent vision of a Mogul palace. Montale Aoud Queen Roses leads one closer to that palace, allowing a glimpse through its marble screens into a room full of dancing girls, sweet smoke and rose petals. Caron French Cancan loses roses in the pale incense smoke and rich dark Caron undercurrent, a provocative, yet subtle at once. Caron Nuit de Noël wraps them in the fur coat of mousse de saxe, resulting in a fragrance that perfectly captures the serenity of a quiet winter evening.
Below are some of the fragrances exploring rose as a dominant theme. Please feel free to add your favorites to this list (I shall edit it in order to incorporate them).
Annick Goutal Ce Soir ou Jamais
Annick Goutal Rose Absolu
Bond No.9 Broadway Nite
Czech & Speake Dark Rose
Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’eau
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica
Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pivoine Magnifica
I Profumi di Firenze Florentia 16
Jo Malone Red Roses
Le Jardin Retrouvé called Thé Rose
Les Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose
Les Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Été
L’Artisan Parfumeur Drôle de Rose
L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses
Lorenzo Villoresi Donna
Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Rose Muskissimme
Montale Black Aoud
Montale Aoud Roses Petale
Parfums de Nicolaï Rose Pivoine
Paula Dorf Zita
Parfums Gres Cabaret
Penhaligon Elisabethan Rose
Santa Maria Novella Rosa
Stella McCartney Stella
Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose
The Different Company Rose Poivrée