As I browse through new cookbook releases, I notice that rose is the flavor of the moment, appearing in everything from drinks to desserts. Pastries that would traditionally be perfumed with vanilla, chocolate or coffee are now presented in rose and violet incarnations. While reading a recipe for a rose scented cream puff in the delectable new book Ladurée Sucré, I realized that more so than sweets, I wanted another rose perfume. I craved something pink and unapologetically girly. My search led me to Annick Goutal Rose Absolue and Rose Splendide, two rose fragrances that do not shy away from being pretty and romantic.
As much as I love the dark and brooding rose perfumes, a perfectly blended tea rose never fails to sway me. There is something innocent and gentle about its pastel toned beauty; even if to some it may appear old-fashioned, to me it is charmingly retro. ‘Charming and lighthearted’ describes Annick Goutal’s rose collection well, with Quel Amour! and Rose Splendide striking a brighter key and Rose Absolue singing in the lower register.
Created in 1984 in collaboration between Annick Goutal and perfumer Henri Sorsana, Rose Absolue is voluptuous and velvety. It has a bright citrus top that plays up the sparkling rose notes, but as the perfume starts to dry down on skin, it grows warmer and darker. A rich note of chestnut honey foils the delicate sweetness of rose petals, and with time vanilla and musk amplify the abstract gourmand character of Rose Absolue. The rose accord is comprised of several different types of roses, and I notice a warm raspberry undertone that becomes more pronounced with time.
If Rose Absolue is a red velvet cake, Rose Splendide is a weightless meringue. Created in 2010 by perfumer Isabelle Doyen and Annick Goutal’s successor Camille Goutal, this fragrance was intended to capture the scent of a garden on a summer morning. And if so, then Rose Splendide conveys the dewy freshness perfectly. At first, it smells like rose leaves and unopened buds. A touch of raspberry that I noticed in Rose Absolue is subtle, with green apple and pear accents creating a fruity champagne-like fizz.
As Rose Splendide warms up on skin and its pink petals unfold, it feels exhilarating and dazzling. It makes me want to wear pink lipstick, throw rose petals all over the apartment and make rose flavored macarons. Just like these ideas quickly lose their appeal upon practical consideration, the tea rose effervescence quickly vanishes under a sobering layer of musk. In contrast to Rose Absolue, Rose Splendide feels simple and linear, it’s less of a bombshell. Nevertheless, for a fizzy rose petal lemonade, it’s one of the best options.
Rose Splendide Eau de Parfum includes notes of pear, magnolia, rose, and musk. Rose Absolue Eau de Parfum features bergamot, May rose, Turkish rose, Bulgarian rose, Damask rose, Egyptian rose, Moroccan rose, and vanilla. Available from Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York and other retailers.
Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Sample: my own acquisition