Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The grand reopening of the Guerlain flagship store at 68, Champs Elysées brought a number of new perfumes, from the regal Vega to the reintroduced Attrape-Coeur, Metalys, and a few others. Rose Barbare joined the Guerlain line under the auspices of “L’Art et la Matiere,” which also includes Cuir Beluga and Angélique Noire. Created by outside perfumers, the perfumes are nevertheless like visions of Guerlain through non-Guerlain eyes. The creamy vanilla that is the characteristic note in many classical Guerlains is made richer and creamier. The powdery opulence of Guerlinade is rendered soft and luxurious.
Rose Barbare, created by the perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, is my favorite so far, even if it is the least Guerlinesque of the three. Unlike Cuir Beluga and Angélique Noire, it is not adorned by the plush sweetness or the gilded richness…
Indeed, these ornamentations would be out of place on its beautiful, yet unsmiling face. When compared with the melancholy Mitsouko or wistful Sous Le Vent, the chypre of Rose Barbare is duskier. Its lack of powdered opulence makes it modern, while clearly marked by a neoclassical orientation.
The initial illusion of a boundless sea of crimson roses highlighted by hesperidic tartness suggests silky softness, and only when one begins to wade through the heavy mass of petals does one realize what lies beneath. The deep sound of its elegant chypre accord reverberates through the rose strewn arrangement like an echo in a dark, empty room.
Little by little the rose petals begin to wither under the hot dryness of patchouli which smoothly flows into the mossy facet of chypre. Amber lends a balsamic touch, with the gentle sweetness of honey melting slowly over the warm base. The combination of rose and chypre accord is reminiscent of Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, however the similarity is fleeting, because while Rose de Nuit falls into an animalic embrace, Rose Barbare smolders in a hot patchouli flame. Yet, one fact is true—both are the perfume compositions that deprive rose of its dainty sweetness, revealing its mysterious and proud side. It is a rose about which Huna (c. 216-297 AD), the Babylonian writer, has said, “A rose, bent by the wind and pricked by thorns, yet has its heart turned upwards.”
Currently, the “L’Art et la Matiere” fragrances are exclusive to Guerlain boutiques and New York’s Bergdorf Goodman.
Painting: Konstantin Flavitsky. Princess Tarakanova, in the Petropavlovsk Fortress at the Time of the Flood, 1864, Tretyakov Gallery. From wikipedia.org.
Please see other Guerlain reviews:
Coriolan (brief description)
L’Instant de Guerlain (brief description)
L’Instant Eau de Noël Iris Millésime
L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme
Love is All
Plus Que Jamais
Vol de Nuit