I have a friend who will not wear rose fragrances. They remind her of her grandmother, and this opinion is one often echoed through perfume discussions. But ask a rose lover for his or her favorite rose fragrances and the discussion opens up to a world scented by roses—reds, pinks, yellows, and whites; Rosa damascena (damask) and Rosa centafolia (cabbage); Bulgarian, Moroccan, Iranian, Turkish; soliflores or blends; attar of roses or rose absolute; the most realistic, the ultimate rose…
Most rose lovers agree that there is no such thing as the ultimate rose; as is true with the flower itself there are simply too many perfume variations to ever settle upon just one. From creamy to clear, from spicy to green, rose fragrances are as simple or as complex as can be imagined. Some settle on the skin as if one is wearing a bouquet, while others announce their presences in operatic registers. Still more are dark and earthy and others smell rained upon.
While for me nothing approaches the experience of the scent of the bloom on its thorny stem, I wear rose fragrances more than any other. Here are some of my favorites:
A Rose is A Rose
For its realistic interpretation of fresh roses, Creed’s Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare has little competition. After a somewhat perfume-y and oddly “green” start, this one is unmatched rose verisimilitude with green tea over a gently salty ambergris and musk base. Now discontinued, or pulled from production, perhaps to return from the Creed vault at a later date.
Far less expensive– and even more streamlined– is the drugstore icon Tea Rose from The Perfumer’s Workshop. I’ve had a bottle in my wardrobe forever. Tea Rose smells of rose oil and little else. I often just smell it, rather than wear it. At its low price, I can use it to scent linens and potpourri and I do.
DSH Perfumes American Beauty (Rose No. 1) is jam-packed with heady red roses and a hint of tart bergamot in the headnotes. Proof that a smaller perfumer can hold her own with the big houses, American Beauty is a statement perfume of extraordinary lushness.
Frédéric Malle’s earthy Une Rose is a work of art—I say this from experience, having had artists at an art show, one after another, ask what I was wearing. Une Rose is a still life painted in wine and truffles, elegant and baroque but at the same time ultra-modern. If there is a deep purple rose, this is it.
Serge Lutens’s Sa Majeste la Rose (Her Majesty the Rose) is a diva rose wearing a headdress of green, unopened buds. Sa Majeste is high-toned and perhaps a bit tempermental—it often won’t settle on my skin—but for a green rose it is unparalleled.
Annick Goutal Rose Absolue is a creamy rose so thick with the note that it becomes almost pudding-like in texture, acquiring a milky aspect. It smells almost completely of rose oil and it contains six roses: May, Turkish, Bulgarian, Damascus, Egyptian, and Moroccan.
My first boutique rose fragrance was Annick Goutal’s effervescent Ce Soir ou Jamais (I wear EdT only). Ce Soir ou Jamais features rose fizzed with champagne, or so it seems.
Jean Patou’s Joy was once said to be the costliest perfume in the world and if you get a bit of the vintage parfum you can see why. Even though weighted with animalic base, Joy’s rose lifts into the stratosphere. A textbook example of the art of classic French perfumery, Joy never loses it rose while at the same time combining and recombining it with other elements.
Roses and Fruit
Nahéma by Guerlain is a fruity, sweet and green rose tempered with peach and passion fruit. Make no mistake, this is no “fruity floral” fragrance. It is a red-rope, opening night rose, as clear-cut as a couture ballgown.
Parfums de Rosine Rose D’Été is a yellow-rose fragrance with a delicate apple note that is a summer staple of mine. It’s just fruity enough, as if rose and apple were grown side by side.
Voleur de Roses is one of L’Artisan’s iconic fragrances and a deceptively simple one. Combining rose with plum and patchouli, Voleur smells of rain-soaked earth around a rose bush. Don’t fear the patchouli here; it’s subtle and it gives Voleur its grounding.
Ormonde Jayne Ta’if features an unusual date note along with the rose and saffron, giving the fragrance a clever gourmand-but-not-quite quality. Ta’if is sweet and clear—it’s a sweep across a desert at night with a million stars in the sky.
Dark and Mysterious
Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit is a classic rose chypre, that is, a rose perfume built around a mossy base. It’s bewitching and dramatic, a Gothic fairytale of a rose. Although classic in composition, Rose de Nuit isn’t fusty. It’s a modern take on the chypre that allows rose and moss equal billing.
Caron Parfum Sacré gilds its rose in incense and burnishes it with myrrh and powder. So well blended is it that the rose isn’t immediately apparent and when it is, it is rose that has become wood-like in tone.
For more dark and mysterious roses, please take a look at Victoria’s article My Sultry Valentine : Dark Rose Perfumes.
Stella by Stella McCartney is an early-21st-century minimalist blockbuster immediately adopted by the young urban sophisticate. Its dry amber and rose combination was everywhere for a while, the epitome of what a modern rose fragrance could be, deceptive in that it is more complex than it smells (look for hints of herbs and balsams among the roses).
In 1999, Lancôme issued a limited release rose fragrance in a deep blue, teardrop-shaped bottle. This was 2000 et Une Rose, a fragrance that sold out and immediately became a collector’s item. Re-released (in different bottle) as Mille et Une Rose, the fragrance is a puffy cloud of delicate rose accented by creamy, almost vanillic-tinged amber and sandalwood.
Rose Pour Homme
Men need not fear rose. The note works beautifully with spice and moss, or with salt and shrub. Le Labo Rose 31, Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose, The Different Company Rose Poivrée, Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose, Rose d’Homme, and L’Artisan Voleur de Roses are just a few suggestions. And of course there is Chanel Égoïste, probably the elegant scent for men accented with roses.
What are your favorite rose fragrances? Did you find your ultimate rose perfume?
Photography by Candie_N (Welcome Fall) via Flickr, some rights reserved.