Parfum d’Empire Eau Suave : Perfume Review

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My first impression of Parfum d’Empire Eau Suave was that it was a rose fit for a king.  I was therefore surprised to find out that I was utterly mistaken and that Eau Suave was inspired by Josephine, love of Napoleon, and was meant for empresses and other women.  I had it backwards. This is the kind of trouble that you get into when you don’t bother to read anything about a perfume but simply smell it from a vial, taking a cue only from the name and more importantly from the vial’s contents.

In this case, “Eau Suave” seemed like the name of a cologne for a dandy or for a dandy’s modern equivalent.  I opened the vial and out rushed a red, red rose that had a pitch characteristic to me of male fragrances.  Shows what I know.  But it did make me think about how we perceive fragrances as masculine or feminine and what signals or clues we use to arrive at that decision.

The notes of Eau Suave are pepper, coriander, saffron, Rose de Malmaison, apricot, raspberry, peach, vanilla, and musk.  While the latter notes evoke to me a dessert to be ladled over ice cream, they are pushed aside by the pepper and coriander that at first said to me male and that later said chypre (mossy woody type of perfume). Even if the notes say otherwise, Eau Suave smells like a chypre to me.  It excitingly straddles the gender line, with one half of it thorny and herbal and the second half soft and fruity.  It is a red and slightly dirty  rose with strong aromatic/spice accents and, surely, some moss.  It is in the same family as the somewhat sharper Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, which is a chypre, but has a fruitier and softer tone overall once it settles.

Rose chypre is my least favorite fragrance category, or was until I started investigating ouds and leathers, but my tendency has been to avoid them altogether while appreciating them from a distance. They tend to smell somewhat menacing on me and I cannot live up to them, at least not in a pair of flip-flops.  Still, in the interest of giving an unbiased review I will say that the longer I wore Eau Suave, the more I liked it, specifically because the opening is so bracing and the fruits when they do appear are so round.

Eau Suave features one of the better combinations of rose and fruit that I have smelled.  In the middle of the fragrance the fruits appear and sweeten up what to me has seemed a bitter opening such that I can almost taste it.  If you’ve ever been put off by sickly sweet rose and fruit concoctions, give this one a try.  The sweet fruity accents round out and warm up Eau Suave without making it any less suitable for men.  There are legions of female fragrances built around this same type of composition (Agent Provocateur, Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, Ungaro Diva, L’Arte di Gucci, Sisley Soir de Lune, Estée Lauder Knowing) that are marketed as all-woman and that are mostly worn by women, but remove the marketing and find some of them eminently suitable for men, too.

Once Eau Suave dried down, it picked up an interesting bitter nuttiness and additional fruitiness that lent an aspect I hadn’t found in the other rose chypres mentioned above.  Vanilla further served to soften the presentation; it’s quite a large dollop they’ve scooped onto the bottom of Eau Suave and it is this creamy phase that hooked me.  What a great fragrance, and one you likely will not smell on anyone else.  The lasting power was phenomenal even by dabbing from sample vial.  I was delighted to like it as well as I did and equally delighted to (finally) review and like something that has what to me is a reasonable price point:  At $75 for 50 ml, this is a veritable bargain for a niche perfume.  Top quality scent at what amounts to a mall price.

Available at BeautyhabitLuckyscent and First in Fragrance. $75, 50ml, Top of FormBottom of Form $110, 100ml

Image: Armful of Roses, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1918, via wikipaintings, some rights reserved.

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42 Comments

  • Jack Sullivan: I took a day off yesterday to spend some quality time with my son and we went to my favorite perfume shop in town. My secret goal was to try some Parfums d’Empire, especially the citrusy ones: Azemour, Iskander, Yuzu Fou. Finally ended out buying the latter (this one would tolerate me wearing flip-flops, at least because mine have a japanese pattern) but all three of them unfolded their layers wonderfully on skin and stood more than well the comparison with citrus scents from other brands. And as you say, Victoria, it’s a pleasure to see such high-quality perfumes sold at a more than reasonnable price, and I’ll make sure to explore more of this line soon. October 25, 2012 at 7:35am Reply

    • Suzanna: Jack Sullivan, I’m glad you are able to access these scents so easily, and that you found something in the line to love

      Agree about scents that can tolerate the wearing of flip-flops; I do the same, all the time. October 25, 2012 at 9:19am Reply

      • Jack Sullivan: Ooops sorry! I rushed to read the post and comment but didn’t see it was you Suzanna writing this time! Clumsy me.
        I am lucky to have a very nice perfume shop specialized in niche close by, owned by a highly competent lady who enjoys talking at length about perfumes (and lets me try and try). To be honest I was not even supposed to buy anything yesterday (in Fall, it’s raining bills out here) but well, I’m weak that way… October 25, 2012 at 10:23am Reply

        • Suzanna: I would be, too, if I had such a shop nearby. October 25, 2012 at 10:31am Reply

  • rosarita: Ok, Suzanna, since we might be scent twins I’ll get out my sample of Eau Suave and try it again. I remember it as being kind of astringent smelling, but it’s been a long time and Pd’E is such a good perfume house that it definitely deserves another sniff. Thanks as always for the review. October 25, 2012 at 8:19am Reply

    • Suzanna: I didn’t like it at all when I first tried it, because I’d been trying the vanilla scents I recently reviewed. When I went back to try it again, it caught me by surprise since it isn’t something that I normally would enjoy. October 25, 2012 at 9:20am Reply

  • Patt: Thank you, Suzanna, for your lovely review of my favorite rose. I have a large decant of Eau Suave and am enjoying it immensely. Agree about the misleading name, though.
    I bought a discovery kit from Parfums d’Empire and look forward to trying some of the other scents in the line. October 25, 2012 at 8:22am Reply

    • Suzanna: Patt, thanks for sharing your thoughts about Eau Suave. It’s always nice to hear from someone who wears and enjoys the scent that’s being discussed. October 25, 2012 at 9:21am Reply

  • Steve: I’m a huge fan of PdE perfumes and this is one of my favorites. Eau Suave is my favorite bedtime perfume and it’s lovely floral notes sing me to sleep on most nights. Really lovely. October 25, 2012 at 9:22am Reply

    • Suzanna: Nice to hear from another ES wearer, Steve! And what a great unisex rose this is. The drydown sneaks up on you and that was the stage that first captivated me. October 25, 2012 at 10:32am Reply

  • RVB: Great review Suzanna!I will definitely have to try this.Rose notes and rose perfumes are one of my great loves.And being a man I usually have to venture to the feminine side of the aisle to get my fix.Some of my favorites are Tauer’s Incense Rose and Rose Chypree,Amouage’s Lyric Man,Le Labo Rose 31,and Frederic Malle’s Une Rose and Portrait of a Lady the last of which I think is mistakenly advertised as a feminine.I recently purchased a full bottle and love the dark Rose and patchouli combo with the raspberry and black currant giving it a delicious fruity undertone but not so sickly sweet as most rose/fruit perfumes October 25, 2012 at 10:00am Reply

    • Suzanna: RVB, what great choices for rose frags for a man. Tauer does lovely rose frags that as you see work so well for men. October 25, 2012 at 10:33am Reply

    • mals86: I agree about PoaL being a terrific masculine. October 25, 2012 at 11:23am Reply

  • Kristina: I’m not crazy about roses but this is a scent I return to again and again. Just a matter of time before I give in and get a bottle. The opening and middle phase is very nice but then comes the dry-down which must be among the most beautiful I have ever smelled. And it lasts and lasts and lasts! October 25, 2012 at 10:41am Reply

    • Suzanna: I am glad to review this one, especially because some of you know and love it! It went completely unnoticed by me until I got the sample. October 25, 2012 at 11:06am Reply

  • Dionne: Unfortunately, the first half hour of so of this goes really sour on me, but that’s pretty common for lighter rose scents, and definitely not Marc-Antoine Corticchiato’s fault. After that, though, it really is lovely. I’m a big fan of the PdE line, with Wazamba, Cuir Ottoman and Equistrius all in my collection, and I’d love to get a decant of Azemour. October 25, 2012 at 11:35am Reply

    • Suzanna: Wonder what causes that rose sourness. So many of us complain of it! October 25, 2012 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Lucas: I enjoy the entire Parfum d’Empire line, Eau Suave is one of those that I like a lot, I would rank it on 5th place from Parfum d’Empire for me. October 25, 2012 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I need to try the rest of the line. I had the amber when it was released, grew tired of it and swapped it, and now wish I had it again (figures!). October 25, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

      • Lucas: I’ve got a sample of Ambre Russe, but for me it’s too much vodka.

        By the way, I’m buying Eau de Gloire next week, my bottle is already waiting for me. October 25, 2012 at 4:00pm Reply

        • Jack Sullivan: Lucky you! This is one I’d like to try next time, it’s supposed to capture the smell of the “maquis” in Corsica (if it lives up to this claim, it should be scrumptious). October 26, 2012 at 7:05am Reply

          • Suzanna: I would be interested in hearing about this one, Lucas. Isn’t the “l’odeur de maquis” based on immortelle and other aromatic plants and flowers? October 26, 2012 at 7:09am Reply

          • Lucas: You definitely need to try it, very unique and special smell it is. October 26, 2012 at 7:45am Reply

    • jirish: What would you say the others in your top 5 are? I have bottles of Cuir Ottoman and Ambre Russe, and a decant of Osmanthus Interdite, but I need to try more in this line. October 25, 2012 at 1:10pm Reply

      • Lucas: Hi jirish. I would rank my favourite Parfum d’Empire like this:

        1. Iskander
        2. Azemour Les Orangers
        3. Eau de Gloire
        4. Equistrius and Osmanthus Intedite
        5. Eau Suave and Cuir Ottoman October 25, 2012 at 3:59pm Reply

  • solanace: Very interesting remark on the fuzzy line between male and female fragrances, S. Although we have been borrowing from the guys for a while, I have an impression they have just started indulging in our side of the cabinet. This trend makes subversive me very happy indeed!

    About flip flops… I live by the tropic and can’t dress up properly for more than a couple months every year. So I just pair my flip flops with Fracas (my new love), l’Heure Bleue or Amouage Gold, without giving it a second thought! For me, perfume is more about évasion. Otherwise I’d be stuck with light (very light, if I were to be rational) citruses! October 25, 2012 at 3:04pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I live in the steamy swamp and I never dress up. My comments about sandals are a joke to myself–my excuse for not trotting out stilettos and black suits of days of yore. I wear whatever perfumes I feel like, including today, Fille en Aiguilles, in the mugginess. October 25, 2012 at 4:25pm Reply

      • solanace: Lol! So we both live in the swamp! I lived in Paris for a while (another swamp, but a cooler one, at that) and sometimes I miss how my makeup and hair would stay put all day. (I’ll never miss the literally freezing winter rain, though.) October 25, 2012 at 6:01pm Reply

  • maggiecat: I’m normally not interested in rose scents, not because I dislike them but because I already have more than a few. But now I want to try this one! October 25, 2012 at 3:07pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Give it a try and let us know what you think! October 25, 2012 at 4:24pm Reply

  • Austenfan: When I got my sample pack of Parfums d’Empire a couple of years back, I wasn’t smitten by this one. Loved Equistrius, Ambre Russe, and a couple of others. Your lovely review has made me want to try this one again. October 25, 2012 at 4:28pm Reply

    • Suzanna: I wasn’t smitten either, until I wore it multiple times for testing. It happens sometimes that it catches you by surprise? October 25, 2012 at 9:30pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I actually should put some on my dog, as her name is Joséphine. I don’t approve of perfumed pets though. I will try it again on myself, I’ve got plenty left of my sample. October 26, 2012 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Mj: Hi Suzanna,
    Lovely review. I haven’t smelled this one, but spent my teenage years reading everything I could find about the Empress Josephine and Napoleon. Can you tell more about this perfume’s history?
    MJ October 25, 2012 at 7:26pm Reply

  • Mj: Oops. Didn’t pay attention to the dates. Wonder what perfume Josephine preferred in her day. October 25, 2012 at 11:55pm Reply

  • annemariec: A lovely, lovely review of one of my favourite summer perfumes, and one of the few rose perfumes I wear. I have almost fallen for a FB of Eau Suave a number of times, but have stopped at a large decant because I don’t wear it quite often enough to justify a FB. I wear it only on warm, sunny days, and sometimes the raspberry note strikes me as a little too strident. Mostly though, the green herbal aspect balances the sweeter facets nicely. There is a quality to ES that I find both bracing and relaxing.

    I’m glad you reviewed it Suzanna because ES seems to get overlooked a bit. Some people seem to regard it as the token bland, pretty scent in the Pd’E lineup, and that is not true, in my opinion. October 26, 2012 at 3:09am Reply

    • Suzanna: I have a number of rose perfumes and this one has a different character because of the duality of its nature. Certainly not bland! Relative to the other scents, have not tried most and will have to correct that. October 26, 2012 at 6:17am Reply

  • Ariadne: Thanks for this review Suzanna!
    I am a fellow rose lover and promptly ordered a sample vial of this which I have been enjoying immensely. I keep sniffing my wrists and am struck by how this perfume evolves. It definitely has staying power! I am going to order a FB to add to my rose perfume collection. This just smells very sophisticated and WAY more expensive than it is. November 11, 2012 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Suzanna: Oh, wonderful! I am so happy that it worked out for you, Ariadne. Thank you for letting me know. November 11, 2012 at 7:43pm Reply

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