Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The combination of rose and musk often results in a velvety, languorous effect, even if the rose is rendered as a sheer, crisp note. This is certainly the case with Narciso Rodriguez Essence, a fragrance that takes the classical aldehydic floral idea of Chanel No 5 and Lanvin Arpège and presents it as a streamlined rose musk composition. While Essence has a monolithic quality—the soft rose and musk impression is retained from top to bottom, it is a fragrance with a big sillage and distinctive presence. Caressing and tender, it wears like the olfactory equivalent of a soft silk slip, while possessing an alluring retro glamor.
Essence was created by perfumer Alberto Morillas for the fashion designer brand Narciso Rodriguez in 2009. Morillas is well known for creating sensual, intimate accords that feel like a second skin (Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess, Kenzo Flower, Rochas Byzance, Giorgio Armani Sensi, among others.) In Essence, his sophisticated, yet seductive touch is obvious. The initial champagne sparkle of aldehydes gives Essence an elegant quality, which is a welcome counterpoint to the bubbly rose accord that forms its core. While the floral notes have an opaque, powdery quality and the velvety musks are used lavishly, the fragrance nevertheless feels effervescent and radiant. Supported by the delicate notes of amber and vanilla, the musky roses gain a seductive warmth in the drydown.
I find Essence to be an interesting floral musk idea, even if overall it feels somewhat too tame. Compared to the original Narciso Rodriguez, its character is less distinctive and memorable. Nevertheless, I enjoy wearing it for the impression of a rose petal shower that Essence conveys to me—pretty, vivacious, with a pleasant hint of decadence. Essence has enough sophistication to function as a day-to-evening fragrance, while it is understated enough to be comforting and relaxing. Like its cousins Love, Chloé and Tom Ford Musk Pure, Essence can be both a little black dress and a sexy lingerie perfume.
Narciso Rodriguez Essence Collection
Narciso Rodriguez is a great brand, but their unimaginatively named and similarly packaged fragrances make discovering the line hard. For instance, since 2009, Narciso Rodriguez Essence has acquired three flankers. Essence EDP Intense (2010) is similar to the original Essence, with the richer rose and iris accord resting on a plush musky base. Essence Iridescent (2010) attenuates the amber and oriental balsams of the base to make the floral accord more airy and luminous. The newest addition to the collection, Essence Eau de Musc (2011) is a citrusy interpretation of the musky roses of the original Essence. The effervescent orange-tangerine accord serves as an embellishment to the creamy, soft musk. Amber and iris woven through the velvety structure of Essence Eau de Musc add a lovely counterpoint, while the rose is toned down to a mere hint of honeyed petals. As pretty as these flankers are, I still remain partial to the original for its elegant aura.
Narciso Rodriguez Essence includes notes of iris, rose, amber, musks and benzoin. It is available from Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Sephora and other department stores.
Sample: my own acquisition