The Different Company Rose Poivree : Perfume Review

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Rosepiovree

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

What would one expect a fragrance named Rose Poivrée, peppered rose, to smell like? One is about to wax poetic about dewy crimson roses and warmth of crushed spices. Unwashed body parts probably do not figure in that image, however remarkably this is exactly where The Different Company Rose Poivrée ends up. Animalic and vegetal, the composition belies its floral promise, and yet it captures a facet of rose that is not often associated with it—the waxy and pungent quality.

I have once been told a story by a young perfumer about composing a rose soliflore using very expensive rose absolute during his perfumery training in Grasse. His teacher, Jean-Claude Ellena, looked at the formula and asked him about the purpose of the ingredients. …

“Take a strip dipped in phenylethyl alcohol [rose synthetic] and another one dipped in rose absolute and ask a non-perfumer which one smells of rose. They will invariably point to the one smelling of phenylethyl alcohol.” If the purpose is to create something smelling of roses, rose synthetics, especially when combined with natural essences, would be able to approximate the fragrance of the flower better than merely relying on a large quantity of rose absolute.

In most compositions, the warm, vegetal and rich quality of rose absolute is usually polished and sweetened, the waxy components made to recede into the softness of its body. Thus, it endows the composition with luxurious richness and complexity. In Rose Poivrée, it seems as if Ellena wanted anything but to make a rose redolent fragrance, because none of the expected polishing and concealing takes place. The cold waxiness of rose absolute remains unadorned, the vegetal pungency is accented further, and animalic breath is heightened with civet. The finished result is between the roses past their prime and dirty laundry. That description would probably strike most as repulsive, and yet Rose Poivrée manages to make me pause and reflect on its unconventional rose rendition. It is fascinating. I just do not want to wear it.

The Different Company Rose Poivrée includes notes of Damascus rose, rose bay, pepper, coriander, vetiver, civet.It is available from Available at Aedes, B-glowing, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, and Takashimaya. European online shoppers can discover the fragrances from Browns and First-in-Fragrance. Rose Poivrée is available as a part of 48h refill set, which also includes 10ml of Bois d’Iris and Osmanthus.

For other reviews of The Different Company fragrances, please see:
Bois d’Iris
Divine Bergamote
Jasmin de Nuit

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46 Comments

  • Robin: Ditto all of that. Great scent, can’t wear it. March 17, 2006 at 12:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Neither can I. It is reminiscent of something unsavory a bit too much. March 17, 2006 at 12:37pm Reply

  • Tania: “One is about to wax poetic about dewy crimson roses and warmth of crushed spices.” You crack me up!

    Yes, it smells like dirty laundry, as you put it. Or, as I put it, less delicately, unwashed man parts. Really fascinating work, J-C E. Totally pervy. March 17, 2006 at 12:52pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ha, ha! Either way, it is shocking. There are some fragrances that do not smell good in a conventional manner, but they are very interesting. Rose Poivree is definitely among them. The turn it took was just completely unexpected. I was used to JCE’s light and transparent take, but the animalic is definitely not what I anticipate. An ability to throw one for a loop is something to be admired. March 17, 2006 at 1:03pm Reply

  • marchlion: V, I have tried Iris and Bergamote and they both smelled very …. dirty to me, like unwashed feet. I assumed it was just some aspect of TDC that wasn’t going to be pleasing to me (I’m not fond of the Caron base, either). So I don’t know about this one, but you certainly have me tempted to run out and sniff it, believe it or not, after I shocked myself with my passion for Rose de Nuit, which is animalic. But this sounds much more so. Thanks for the review. BTW I finally have a decant of Creed The Rose Bulgare on the way, so many people have said it is a true rose and a must-try. March 17, 2006 at 1:51pm Reply

  • MarkDavid: hmm, I love it. haha. I don’t get anything unclean when I wear it. I’m still waiting for a decent priced bottle on eBay. March 17, 2006 at 1:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I do not notice dirty aspects in Bergamote and Bois d’Iris, but all of it is in full glory in Rose Poivree. Perhaps, you do not like civet. It is also in many Carons. Rose de Nuit is animalic, but in a completely different manner than Rose Poivree. I do recommend trying it, of course. Very interesting composition.

    Creed The Rose Bulgare is an example of rose that I dislike–harsh and thin. Everyone keeps saying that it smells like real roses, but it does not have the velvety softness that roses have. March 17, 2006 at 1:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mark, I am glad to see someone who can appreciate and wear it! It is a very interesting fragrance, and for that reason alone, I shall not part with my 10ml bottle. March 17, 2006 at 2:02pm Reply

  • Patty: I remember the first time I opened my little Rose Poivree bottle and spritzed some of this one. I was thinking a peppery little rose, but nope, that wasn’t it. I thought it would calm down. Nope, just stunk up my arm.

    I am keeping my little 10 ml bottle too just to torture people with from time to time. 🙂 March 17, 2006 at 2:47pm Reply

  • Mikhail: Interestingly, I had a similar thought about Lutens’ Sa Majeste: that this is a rose past its prime. Haven’t tried Rose Poivree yet, sounds like it’s even more past its prime.

    I remember a lecture on roses by a famous expert. She said that the difference in smell between (the absolutes of) red and white roses (first of all, there is a marked difference) is in peppery/spicy notes that are more pronounced in red roses. So the idea of Rose Poivree is not a perversion but “an extension of a natural tendency”. March 17, 2006 at 2:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patty, I expected a more peppery version of Rose Ikebana, but how wrong I was! Well, that is actually what draws me to Rose Poivree. Pretty and delicate does get tiresome at times. March 17, 2006 at 3:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mikhail, I find that many of Serge Lutens fragrances are marked by this “extension of a natural tendency,” with the aspects of raw materials overemphasize, thus creating a rather unusual effect. Sa Majeste de la Rose, I have to admit, was never a favourite, mostly because it was eclipsed by Rose de Nuit.

    I agree that rose absolutes differ dramatically in terms of their olfactory profiles (not only in terms of rosa damascena vs rosa centifolia, but also in terms of provenance.) That is a whole new topic for another article, but what is quite interesting in Rose Poivree is that it is indeed an example of the qualities of rose absolute presented unconcealed. The result is quite unexpected. March 17, 2006 at 3:15pm Reply

  • Laura: This sounds as though I’d think it was perfectly horrible. I don’t like any of TDC perfumes—there is something in each of them that I find repellent. JCE is a fascinating creator—much of his work I really admire. He’s never boring, though, is he ;D ? March 17, 2006 at 4:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, my favourite fragrance from The Differen Company is Divine Bergamote, with Bois d’Iris in the second place. Rose Poivree is animalic, which is something that I should like. Instead, here the result is not wearable for me. March 17, 2006 at 4:28pm Reply

  • Linda: I didn’t like this one at all. My husband told me to wash it off because it made him sneeze. I still enjoyed reading this review, especially the anecdote about JCE! 🙂 The man is a genius.

    Have a great weekend, V! March 17, 2006 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Donna: I don’t know Rose Poivree, but Lutens’s rose seems to me as past its prime.

    Interesting story about Jean Claude Ellena! May I ask who was the perfumer in question? March 17, 2006 at 5:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, I thought that you are going to say that he told you to wash it off, because he did not like it. 🙂 Allergies is a good reason not to wear a fragrance. Have a great weekend! March 17, 2006 at 6:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, which Lutens, Sa Majeste de la Rose or Rose de Nuit? As for the perfumer, it was Loc Dong, the creator of Marc Jacobs Perfume (with Steve Demercado), among others. March 17, 2006 at 6:59pm Reply

  • mireille: fascinating review … it demonstrates rose — stereotypically the fragile femme of fragrance — to be the visceral tart she really is. And, no, I can’t wear this scent either. xoxo March 17, 2006 at 7:39pm Reply

  • marchlion: I re-read all of the comments; fascinating. I’d assumed the civet is what I enjoy so much in the more animalic Guerlains (Jicky, Mitsouko) — is it something else? Actually I like what I think of as “dirty” notes, from Bal a Versailles and Rose de Nuit to Musc Ravageur, but perhaps I don’t have the civet to thank for that.

    The Carons … the Carons share an odd note that I find sweet and musty, like corked wine, the same note that other people complain about in Etro’s Messe de Minuit (although I like it a lot, it smells spicy to me). It’s not offensive, it’s just mildly unpleasant to me, as if something had spoiled. I know, a ridiculous thing to say about a great perfume house! March 17, 2006 at 7:46pm Reply

  • Karin: I have a hard enough time wearing rose fragrances anyway.

    I’d still like to smell it. March 17, 2006 at 11:31pm Reply

  • charles: It is unfortunate that most of you dislike or can not wear this fine fragrance… I guess again it all depends on your chemistry because it works just fine for me without the dirty feet, the unwashed male unmentionables and was it dirty laundry too? I like all of JCE’s work and this is no exception. I supposed when you get older your tastes change… I guess that explains why I like Acqua di Cuba and Virginia, which I am sure everyone here would find – not to their liking too.
    …Grand writing style as always.

    Cg March 18, 2006 at 5:43am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, you are right! Here, rose is anything but fragile and delicate. March 18, 2006 at 9:42am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, the older Guerlains use a lot of castoreum, the glandular secretion of the beaver, as well as ambergris. There is certainly some civet, of course. Do you like Muscs Koublai Khan? If so, then you definitely like civet.

    Many classical Carons, particularly Nuit de Noel, have the signature accord of geranium, licorice, leather, iodine, and vanillin, called Mousse de Saxe. I can understand what you are trying to say, although I am not sure what ingredient is responsible for it. All I know is that in the vintage Carons I get none of it, even if I notice this mustiness in the current versions of the same fragrances. March 18, 2006 at 9:50am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I say that you definitely should smell it. It is an interesting fragrance, and perhaps it might be the rose you would like! March 18, 2006 at 9:53am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Charles, I admit that I am a bit envious of those who are able to wear Rose Poivree, because I love the idea of a rose that does not hide all of the facets of the natural material. It is, of course, an exaggeration, an extension as Mikhail puts it above in his comment, but it is fascinating and unusual. It is definitely much more interesting than pretty and dainty roses one encounters much more commonly. For this reason, I hope that there are enough people to buy it and to keep TDC from discontinuing the fragrance. March 18, 2006 at 10:00am Reply

  • risa: i don’t like any of the TDCs, for the same “they smell dirty” reason, but i don’t find that unwashed smell to be isolated to the rose poivree. i get it most intensely in bois d’iris, much to my chagrin :/ i do think that waxy, cold smell in RP is oddly compelling, and when i discover it in other fragrances i tend to hang on to them despite not enjoying them for actual wear.

    regardless, i find this whole review and comment series utterly fascinating, particularly due to my own ‘favorite true rose.’ if i want a rose soliflore i’ll invariably turn back to my rose otto absolute, straight up at 15% in jojoba oil! ;> March 18, 2006 at 8:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Risa, let’s just say that I notice it more so in Rose Poivree. In other TDC fragrances, even if I notice the animalic quality, it is fairly subdued.

    I think that rose otto absolute smells fantastic. In fact, I love any rose absolutes and have a few. They are very multifaceted. No wonder rose is the queen in the perfumery. March 18, 2006 at 9:46pm Reply

  • Catherine: Well, as an eavesdropper on BdJ for the last couple of months, I’m finally compelled to comment. I actually adore this fragrance and it smells like pure roses with a dash of poivre on me. It is absolutely different from other perfume treatments of rose, and it is refreshing and energizing – it makes me smile when I wear it. I wonder why this works, when I have had much more trouble wearing edgier perfumes, like Serge? His start out nice on me, then just get too, too…well, something – maybe persistent and rude? (But that is a topic for another post.)

    Anyway with RP, several compliments and no one edging away when I’ve worn it, so hopefully I haven’t been too offensive. My husband likes it on me as well, so maybe we’re both weird (or desensitized to civet?) Send all your rejected rose poivree fragrance my way – no need to suffer through a fragrance 🙂 March 18, 2006 at 10:35pm Reply

  • Tania: Hmm. Comments like Catherine’s make me wonder sometimes if a batch of a certain fragrance just went completely off, leaving us with the one that smells like B.O. and her with the one that actually smells like peppered roses. March 19, 2006 at 8:13am Reply

  • Catherine: Tania, I’ve wondered the same thing – but there seems to be a lot of consistency about the offensiveness of this fragrance! Conversely, maybe my small bottle is aged, and thus, mellowed a little (like wine?). Either way, I’m having second thoughts about purchasing a bigger bottle…or, maybe I should try it direct from TDC to see what kind of batch I get from there…any other expert thoughts on why this would happen? March 19, 2006 at 8:58am Reply

  • Ayala: I haven’t tried Rose Poivre, so I can’t comment on the perfume. But I am yet to smell a rose absolute that is “waxy and cold”. The closest thing to wax that you will find in rose absolute is it’s honeyed warmth, a quality that can be found in miel/honey(beeswax) absolute as well. And of course the aromoatic appearance of rose geranium. March 19, 2006 at 11:03am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Catherine, I am glad to see that there are many people who like it. Of course, this is exactly what I notice with Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan. Some people think that it is the worst thing they have smelled and others think that it is a soft, sensual fragrance. Civet is a very tricky note, and it is just incredibly how perceptions can differ. March 19, 2006 at 11:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, sometimes I think so too! Although the example of MKK I brought up earlier makes me think that perhaps some of us are just more sensitive to civet and it can unfold very differently on other people’s skin. March 19, 2006 at 11:28am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Catherine, I really do not think that it is the batch per se. For instance, others notice the dirty smell in Bois d’Iris, which is not what I detect at all. It all depends on how it wears on you. Of course, if you are at the store, you might want to ask about it, just in case. I do know that TDC fragrances use a lot of natural ingredients (and depending on provenance, etc., the smell can differ), but I doubt that the inconsistency of the batches is this dramatic. March 19, 2006 at 11:32am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ayala, I definitely notice waxiness in rose absolute, although in some types it is more pronounced than in others. Of course, the olfactory profile of rose absolutes can differ dramatically, from vegetal and slighly animalic rosa centifolia from Grasse to honeyed rosa centifolia from Morocco (which smells of ripe peaches). All in all, experiencing rose absolute one realizes why it became such an important ingredient in perfumery. March 19, 2006 at 11:39am Reply

  • risa: Ayala, so far my experience with rose absolutes is that the further away from the equator a rose absolute comes from, the more “waxy” smell it gets. there’s a woman in Massachussetts who makes her own absolutes and the wax smell in that is quite pronounced. she doesn’t use it in perfumes but in her own body products, so the scent doesn’t matter as much to her.

    given that, i do always try to get Turkish absolutes, and will one day see the rose fields there. 😉 March 19, 2006 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Ayala: They must have been using inferior quality absolute than. I now recall one rose absolute that I have (unfortunately a huge quantity of) – a Rose Edward from South Africa, and maybe you would describe it as waxy… I don’t find it particularly rosy at all. I don’t think it’s that far from the equator though, but I sure will not get this rose ever again as I found it rather useless for my purposes. March 19, 2006 at 10:35pm Reply

  • Catherine: Thank you Victoria, I think you’re right – it’s civet and skin chemistry (regardless of whatever the latest perfume theory is) and this particular one works for me – hope TDC doesn’t want to discontinue because of its unpopularity! Unfortunately I won’t be anywhere near their Paris boutique, but they do have online ordering now, so maybe I’ll shoot them a question. Thanks again for letting me “drop in” and comment! March 19, 2006 at 11:07pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Perhaps, we mean different things when we say waxy, because I noticed waxiness in rose de mai from Grasse I smelled at the perfume house a few months ago. It was the top quality. The waxiness is definitely not overwhelming. March 20, 2006 at 1:55am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Catherine, you can also email any of the places where you can buy TDC and ask for a sample, just to be on a safe side. Thank you for stopping by. It is always a pleasure to exchange thoughts on perfume. March 20, 2006 at 2:04am Reply

  • Campaspe: HA! I love the reviews where your sense of humor gets to have full rein. Here’s an example where I read and think merci, non, pas pour moi, Jean-Claude. This description reminds me of a Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy sprays himself liberally with a come-hither dog cologne called “Wet Beagle” … March 20, 2006 at 7:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: F, I am laughing at your description of the cartoon! Just too funny. Yes, in this case, I am admiring JCE’s artistry from a distance, however as you can see, there are plenty of people who wear it beautifully. As a rose lover, you should definitely give it a try. March 20, 2006 at 10:54am Reply

  • lucy: This scent completely changed the way I look at perfume.
    Previously I had assumed I just simply did not like perfume. It always seemed so overpowering and sickly sweet. But when I read the Chandler Burr article about civet, I knew I had to smell this.
    From the moment I opened the sample I had ordered, it was clear that this was the perfume for me. I am crazy about Damascus rose and occasionally would wear a rose-water made with it. But this was something much more complex. Much darker and sexier.
    I am certain that the reason many people find they are unable to wear Rose Poivree is due to the unusual amount of natural ingredients; this perfume reacts to the wearer’s body chemistry much more than a perfume made with more stable artificial scents would.
    When I wear this scent the rose is the strongest note, the rest act as a backdrop. Especially after the dry down. As to the longevity of the perfume, I can still detect lingering rose a day later.
    While clearly this is not for everyone, I recommend everyone try a sample. Because if it is for you, it is divine. November 25, 2007 at 12:05pm Reply

  • Ferris: I really have to try this one. All this talk about how filthy it is, makes me very curious. Im don’t have a problem with dark, dirty notes, ie. civet, musk, cumin. I like Rose 31 and Muscs Koublai Khan so I think I may like this one as well. June 6, 2013 at 5:01pm Reply

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