Searching for Perfect Roses : Financial Times Column

I have a new article in the Financial Times Magazine’s fragrance column, The Best Rose Perfumes. It was inspired by my trip to Grasse, where I harvested rose de mai and learned how a flower ends up in a perfume bottle. One of my most vivid scent memories will always be the moment when I entered the storage facility filled with burlap sacs of rose petals. I could almost feel the texture of that shimmering, warm scent–of pink petals, sticky nectar, dusty pollen, crushed buds, mineral dust, jute ropes and sunbaked earth. I have been searching for something that comes close ever since.

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After several days of being surrounded by roses, I return home to Brussels. The city is overcast and rainy, and all I have to remind me of sunny Provence is the handful of dried roses, still richly scented, in my suitcase. I begin to experience rose-withdrawal symptoms, an affliction I need to address with perfume. My scent shelf contains plenty of beautiful roses, but my quest is for the airy, fresh and citrusy blend that smells of summer and champagne. That’s my idea of rose de mai. Please read the rest by clicking here.

Do you have favorite summery rose fragrances?

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98 Comments

  • Patricia: I just wore Paris myself over the weekend. So beautiful…and timeless! July 10, 2014 at 7:56am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t been wearing it much and then a few weeks ago, I tried it, and it was just perfect! July 10, 2014 at 3:20pm Reply

  • James1051: Laurie Erickson’s Velvet Rose is closest to ‘true,’ to my nose.

    Most rose fragrances I’ve tried miss the mark, smelling of fruit juice/syrup. July 10, 2014 at 8:10am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Laurie’s rose too. I can almost feel the texture of the petals as I wear it. July 10, 2014 at 3:21pm Reply

      • donnakitt: Velvet Rose is the rose for me this summer. Bravo Laurie Erickson! July 10, 2014 at 7:51pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: A rose for the summer? The sparkling Rose Ikebana.
    If I was a rose enthusiast, I’d also go for a bottle of DelRae Coup de Foudre (the closest to the real thing in my opinion) but as an iris lover I’m happy with a decant :)
    Another rose scent I like – not in the summer, though – is Lipstick Rose. July 10, 2014 at 8:23am Reply

    • CheninBlanc: I’m wearing Coup de Foudre today and was going to suggest that. It’s lovely. July 10, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

    • Victoria: I realized that I missed Coup de Foudre, but well, all the more reasons to write about it separately.

      Lipstick Rose is another top favorite. July 10, 2014 at 3:22pm Reply

  • george: When I smell live roses or gardenias, they always make me think that perfume is a dead thing, only alive with the ideas that went in to their creation, and people should stop trying to recreate the living- an illusion that only last a few minutes in to any perfumes use- and concentrate on making perfumes that are alive with the own spirit of their creation. I guess that’s sort of what your article says, until it gets to the point when you smell Paris. Maybe one can have both? July 10, 2014 at 8:24am Reply

    • Michaela: ‘people should stop trying to recreate the living- an illusion that only last a few minutes in to any perfumes use- and concentrate on making perfumes that are alive with the own spirit of their creation’

      How I love this… July 10, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, I definitely agree! The idea of finding an approximation of a flower in a perfume bottle is mistaken, because nothing will ever come close to the real life experience. But one can find the idea, the mood, the spirit. Even my rose adventure in Grasse was so much more than just the roses. It was also the sun, the people who made it all possible, the friends who were with me, and the languid Provencal spring. I was able to find that warmth and comfort in Paris, but maybe, for someone else it would be a different perfume altogether. July 10, 2014 at 3:25pm Reply

      • rainboweyes: I think this was my problem with rose-centered scents. I kept looking for a replica of the natural smell and only after I realised that there’s nothing like the real thing I started appreciating more abstract rose scents.
        Now I’d like to try Dom Rosa by Liquides Imaginaires – a champagne and rose combo. July 10, 2014 at 4:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: Plus, roses in nature have such a range of scents that it’s hard to find the perfume approaching one’s specific idea of roses. But it’s still fun to try different scents on and see what comes close. July 11, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

          • Kat: Thank you for pointing this out. After growing several varieties over the years, I have come to find how one rose can smell light and lemon-y and the next, classic and pepper-y, and still another sweet and anise-y! What is in a name? hehe… July 11, 2014 at 1:11pm Reply

            • Victoria: It’s really diverse, and some roses don’t even smell like typical sweet and honeyed roses at all. July 14, 2014 at 3:24pm Reply

              • Kat: Too right! So many grown for commercial features have no scent at all. That’s why it’s nice if one can grow their own or visit a friend’s garden. Even a community park might contain roses which the public can enjoy–so many varieties to explore! :D July 17, 2014 at 12:55pm Reply

                • Victoria: Most florists’ roses are pretty but scentless. And the way they are grown is anything but sustainable. All the more reasons to avoid them. July 17, 2014 at 2:41pm Reply

  • Michaela: You were so lucky to meet Sophia Grojsman, and see rose harvesting in Grasse. Beautiful article!
    I think I like Stella McCartney Stella most in the summer. But it’s hard for me to decide, I love roses in many perfumes and in the few attars I happen to know. July 10, 2014 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: I do consider myself fortunate to meet and to learn from Sophia Grojsman. She’s such an inspiration and a wonderful person all around.

      Stella is gorgeous too, and it’s my little black dress of a perfume. July 10, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

  • Lynley: A few months ago I bought a box of vintage perfumes at a garage sale, and included was a set of 5 Fragonard bottles in a blue and white box. They are the gold metal bottles, 30ml parfum, and from what I can find date from about 1980? 2 of them (the 2 almost emoty ones) are just called ROSE (not Rose de Mai like Fragonard now has), and are the most divine smelling rose perfume I’ve ever smelled! I believe Fragonard still do all their perfume making in Grasse? How I’d love a full bottle of this- it’s no wonder their previous owner favoured them! July 10, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t know how good Fragonard perfumes are these days, but at one point, some of them used to be good. I haven’t been inspired by anything from them lately, though. Rose sounds wonderful. July 10, 2014 at 3:29pm Reply

      • Lynley: I have to admit that I haven’t even been tempted to try their modern offerings, and I had little interest in the coffret too- it took months to check out. But it does seem they used to be rather good, mores the pity. July 10, 2014 at 9:35pm Reply

        • Victoria: In Grasse, I remember seeing lots of Fragonard products, but I didn’t feel like testing perfume that day. Kind of wishing I did, just to know what I have (or have not) been missing. July 11, 2014 at 11:27am Reply

  • Austenfan: It’s such a lovely article and I can so sympathise with Provence withdrawal symptoms. I especially love the ending as it mentions my all time favourite fragrance Paris. Even though I now know that it isn’t technically a rose, to me it is the ultimate rose perfume. It must be wonderful to have met with it’s creator.

    My favourite summer roses are Ecume de Rose and Un Zest de Rose. I haven’t got any Rose Splendide, but I can see why it works so well in summer. July 10, 2014 at 10:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I miss Ecume de Rose more than any other discontinued Rosine, and I wish they would have removed something else from the collection but left this beauty in. Un Zest de Rose is also good, but it’s very citrusy, while Ecume really smelled like sunwarmed petals to me. July 10, 2014 at 3:31pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Yes they shouldn’t have, it is so wonderful. Mine lives in the fridge as I’m afraid it might turn. July 10, 2014 at 4:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: Mine is too. I wear it whenever nothing but lilacs will please. July 11, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: My favourite rose is eau de rose by dyptique. Xxxxx July 10, 2014 at 10:49am Reply

  • Paola: I love Rose Absolue by Yves Rocher, but it’s discontinued. July 10, 2014 at 10:51am Reply

    • AnnieA: I like it too. Haven’t like the newer YR fragrances as much, although still a big fan of their bath products. July 10, 2014 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, that one was terrific and made many other much more expensive roses smell cheap and artificial. July 10, 2014 at 3:31pm Reply

  • lnhb: Serge Lutens : La Fille de Berlin
    Comme des Garçons : Red Rose
    Two beautiful realistic and modern fragrances which are for me better than the lovely but quite boring YSL Paris and Annick Goutal Rose Splendide which is very nice but a little too green.
    My favorite rose perfume is Patchouli Rose by Mad&Len … the darkest, sexiest, androgynous and smoky rose I’ve ever smelled (even better than Rose Noir – Byredo or Rose de Nuit – Serge Lutens). July 10, 2014 at 11:08am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried Patchouli Rose, but you make it sounds very interesting! July 10, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: Loved the article (congratulations!). I’m never sure I actually like rose perfumes, even though I love roses. Plunging my nose into an open rose on a sunny day and breathing deeply never fails to put a smile on my face. And with all the different roses varieties, I can never decide which one is my favorite.
    The only purely “rose” perfume I’ve tried lately is Profumum Roma’s “Rosae Mundi.” I quite like it. Have you tried it, Victoria? July 10, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t, Annette, but I will make a note to look for it. I think that if you have real roses around, nothing in a perfume bottles will come close. I’ve given up on realism… Same goes for gardenia perfumes. If you really want something that actually smells of real gardenias. finding the exact replica is almost impossible. July 10, 2014 at 3:42pm Reply

      • Patricia: I have found the same to be true of lilacs…after an exhaustive search! July 10, 2014 at 3:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: Makes me so disappointed that Yves Rocher discontinued its terrific lilac. It was definitely one of the best. July 10, 2014 at 4:02pm Reply

  • iodine: I wore Paris when I was finishing high school- sooo long ago! If I concentrate I can recall its scent and connect it with that particular summer…
    No rose perfumes for me, at the moment. I just content myself with real ones when I- rarely- happen to meet them… July 10, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

    • Victoria: The real ones are the best thing if you want a hit of roses. My grandmother’s fragrant roses are done blooming, but the decorative ones are in full swing. Their scent is light, though. July 10, 2014 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Aisha: I love YSL’s Paris. Even with all my new perfume discoveries/obsessions (i.e. L’eau de Chloe, Lolita Lempikca, Vanille Tonka, Cuir de Russie, to name a few), I think Paris will remain my all-time favorite. But that’s probably because my hubby bought my first bottle. ;-) July 10, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Can there be a better and more delightful association? :) July 10, 2014 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Lovely article, compliments!
    I was surprised to see 1000; never saw it as a rose perfume. I have too much perfumes to have a ”signature scent”, but 1000 comes near. It ‘s an alltime favourite.
    More summery and rosy to my nose is Joy, another loved one.
    I love tuberose and jasmine more than rose in a perfume, but certainly crave a bottle of Une Rose and/or Lipstick Rose.

    By the way, George has a good point (as always). It’s never like the real flower. Only one perfume struck me by the ressemblance with real jasmine (with the big flowers): A la Nuit. July 10, 2014 at 1:14pm Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: How could I forget Trésor! Yes, that’s a favourite. Paris was one, but carries unhappy memories. July 10, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

      • Victoria: Tresor is another happy perfume for me. It’s like a big, warm hug. July 10, 2014 at 3:47pm Reply

        • Michaela: I’m very fond of Tresor. I’ve been wearing it exclusively for several years. But these days… it’s not what it used to be. July 11, 2014 at 3:51am Reply

          • Victoria: I bet Sophia herself would agree with that, but I still like it. And yet, I don’t wear it that much these days, I have to admit. July 11, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

    • Victoria: 1000 is not a rose perfume, but as I explain, through my search, I started to pay attention not just to rose when it was dominant, but also when it was used creatively in a perfume blend. Joy smells heavier on roses to me, especially the Eau de Parfum. July 10, 2014 at 3:47pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Yes, i understood, but still I was surprised: Even in the blend i cannot smell roses…have to try again! July 10, 2014 at 3:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: Everyone is sensitive to different things, but it’s ok. The rose in 1000 is more obvious about 30 minutes after you first apply the perfume. July 10, 2014 at 4:03pm Reply

        • solanace: Hi Cornelia,
          Not long ago, Robin mentioned the rose in vintage Armani. I thought she was talking of a different perfume, but nope, it was the one from the late eighties. Of course, I wore it the next day, very incredulous as to finding any rose in my beloved moss-labdanum feast. But there it was, that huge crimsom rose right in the middle of everything.

          I couldn´t even be schocked for not having noticed it before, because it was too beautiful to experience the change in my mental image of the perfume. Being a long time favorite, it already had a very definite feel, an image of sorts, really, and a `color´ to me, but now it´s a completely different perfume altogether, another color, another texture. I love it much more now, and it´s fun to do the gestalt shift and see the old image.
          Let me know if you found the rose in 1000! July 11, 2014 at 5:45am Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: Hi Solanace! Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t doubt about Victoria’s nose of course, but about mine!
            I think I had the same experience with 1000 as you with Armani. Since I am a chypre lover, I focused on the mossy side of 1000. The flowery part was iris to my nose.
            1000 is a complex, layered perfume, you can always find new aspects. I am curious of the rose, but nowadays I am completely under the spell of (new bought) Iris Silver Mist! Nothing else will do, not even 1000…but I will let you know, thank you for asking! July 11, 2014 at 6:30am Reply

            • solanace: Of course I understood you! I didn´t doubt Robin´s nose either, but in my case I thought she was talking about something else, since Armani is a bit confusing with his perfume naming.
              Iris Silver Mist must be great. I´ve been curious to try it because I know Victoria´s mom likes it, and I figure she must have good taste. :) I´ve been on an iris binge myself, seriously coveting a Dior Homme bottle! July 11, 2014 at 7:10am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: I have Dior Homme Intense: very pleasant, comfortable, it’s like wearing old, familiar clothes. I wear it a lot.
                Do you know it already? July 11, 2014 at 7:28am Reply

                • solanace: Nope, but now I will! July 11, 2014 at 2:43pm Reply

            • george: Under the spell of Iris Silver mist seems such the right expression; I can imagine some fairy tale ice queen pulling out the vaporisateur and turning her court to ice with it. July 11, 2014 at 7:27am Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Uh?! July 11, 2014 at 7:29am Reply

                • george: Yes I know there is a lot of warmth in there with the spice and lovely amber heart, but there is a lot of chill too: I can imagine a much misunderstood disney character using it to to cast a spell: our interpretations might differ, but I AM most definitely greeing with you in saying it is Magical. :-) July 11, 2014 at 9:23am Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: I wish that fairy ice queen to turn up and bring some ice to Amsterdam. It is broiling hot here. Maybe when I spray more Iris Silver Mist..

                    I see what you mean. It has a chilly side too, but to my nose the earthy carrot is dominant. On the other hand, that earthy smell gives me sometimes associations with the damp, cool earth of the grave. And with the airy note that follows, the spirit can fly to the stars.

                    And yes, it is MAGICAL! July 11, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

  • angelina: I love Delicate rose by Trussardi. It’s fresh, not too sweet, very soft. And of course Tresor and Chanel 5. July 10, 2014 at 2:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t tried Delicate Rose, but of course, I want to. Thank you for mentioning it, Angelina. July 10, 2014 at 3:48pm Reply

  • spe: Rive Gauche for me! I prefer my roses to soar! Lipstick Rose is a close second. Other than that, I like roses to be buried in a chypre or woodsy accord. July 10, 2014 at 2:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: Rive Gauche is like a sip of rose champagne, and I love all of its layers, from the sparkling top to the elegant mellow drydown.

      Do you like Voleur de Roses by L’Artisan? I was thinking of it when I read your comment about roses paired with chypre or woods. July 10, 2014 at 3:49pm Reply

      • spe: Thank you for mentioning VdR. I’ll give it a try! July 10, 2014 at 6:31pm Reply

      • Mel: Not much experience w/ rose perfumes but a few years ago a woman walked past my table in a restaurant trailing the most gorgeous scent, I had to interrupt her meal later to find out what she was wearing – it was Voleur de Roses. I found it indescribably gorgeous. July 11, 2014 at 12:57am Reply

        • Victoria: I can imagine why, because VdR has a great sillage. In fact, I prefer it on others so that I can smell it at distance. July 11, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

  • Malmaison: ELDO’s Rossy de Palma/Eau de Protection is a beautiful dark gothic rose that is perfect for the days I need to wear my burgundy leather Doc Martens and Lorde-colored lipstick! I’ve been a huge rose lover since a very early scent memory of my mother’s big beds of old-fashioned roses … Mme Alfred Carriere and Souvenir de la Malmaison, to name just a couple, releasing the most heavenly scent into warm spring air. When I first went to France, of course I had to go to Malmaison – hence my nom de parfum. It’s so true that you can never capture the actual flower, but I love wearing the idea. Great article! July 10, 2014 at 4:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, you’ve made me curious. What is Malmaison like? I’ve been wanting to go.

      Rossy de Palma is one of my favorite dark roses too. I especially love the earthy note that comes through in the drydown. Such an excellent perfume. July 11, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

  • Nancy A.: My recent introduction to Le Labo’s Rose scent was very interesting and mixed with their Ambrette even more intoxicating. July 10, 2014 at 5:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: This combination sounds so intriguing, Nancy. I’ll have to try it. July 11, 2014 at 11:22am Reply

  • Nataliya: Rose Splendide and Eau De Rose are my favorite too. I also love Marni Rose, so fresh and elegant. July 10, 2014 at 5:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: I clearly need to make another rose list, because Marni is a must have rose for me. :) July 11, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

      • rainboweyes: Marni always reminds me of Safran Troublant, probably because of the spices. My favourite dark version of rose is Paestum Rose. July 11, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

        • Victoria: I never caught that similarity, but now I’m inspired to try them side by side. July 11, 2014 at 11:52am Reply

          • Kat: I finally got the opportunity to try Marni and Marni Rose side by side…I prefer Marni, but enjoy both. Marni Rose smells too much like something my mother-in-law already wears, so I will just keep the sample to remind myself of her, a wonderful woman! July 12, 2014 at 3:23pm Reply

      • Nataliya: I have both Marni (30ml) and no regrets :) July 13, 2014 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Caroline: Your article/post prompted me to unearth my vintage Joy edt. I do enjoy a dab periodically, and it’s adding further enjoyment to this bright & sunny afternoon. The opening is about as true to real rose I’ve experienced in perfumery. That said, it’s one of the few in my collection I can’t ever image transferring to an atomizer.
    Now I’m curious about that Courreges. July 10, 2014 at 6:19pm Reply

    • Caroline: *imagine* transferring to an atomizer July 10, 2014 at 6:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: The idea of dabbing certain perfumes is so elegant. For instance, Nahema parfum definitely must be dabbed. It’s its whole ritual. So, I completely understand your reluctance to transfer Joy into an atomizer.

      Courreges is soft, musky, enveloping. It’s a pretty blend. July 11, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

  • Mary Beth: I adore so many of the scents you mention here. Paris has been a favorite of mine since the 80s. I wore Joy on my wedding day. I also love Jo Malone Red Roses. Lovely! July 10, 2014 at 6:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Joy sounds so perfect for a wedding. :) July 11, 2014 at 11:25am Reply

  • Kandice: Thank you for reminding me how much I use to love Paris. I must find a new bottle to try again. July 10, 2014 at 9:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a classic, and I’m glad I revisited it. July 11, 2014 at 11:25am Reply

  • Danaki: I think 70% of my perfumes are roses really. My favourite ‘rose’ perfume is SL Sa majaste la rose, hands down. It is a sweet, vivacious rose. It sings ‘happy, happy, happy!’ July 11, 2014 at 4:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Can’t agree more! It’s uplifting and cheery, which is a rare quality in dark and cerebral Lutens’s perfumes. July 11, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

  • solanace: I´m partial to Rose Splendide, the perfect ´fresh´perfume for me, and am always amazed at how long lasting it is.

    But right now I am hopelessly in love with Mohur Extrait. The simple thought of it makes my heart beat faster! July 11, 2014 at 7:03am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you prefer the extrait to the EDP? Mohur is gorgeous. July 11, 2014 at 11:35am Reply

      • solanace: Haven’t tried the EDP, but I hope it is a bit similar to the extrait. I’ll need a FB of Mohur, in some form. :) It makes me feel like a queen, even when I’m wearing old sweat pants! July 11, 2014 at 2:47pm Reply

        • Victoria: I love any perfume that makes me feel this way. :) July 14, 2014 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Kat: Well thanks to this blog I recently opened the suitcase where I had stored my perfumes a couple of years ago. Lo and behold there was half a bottle of (original) Paris. The silage may not be as strong anymore but it’s still a heavenly scent. Thanks for making me rediscover its beauty. July 11, 2014 at 2:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Very happy to hear this, Kat! And well, there is nothing like the original Paris, although the current version is good too. July 14, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: I tried to catch the rose note in Iris Nazarena. It was a bit challenging but I got it!
    I also love the rose accord in Perles de Lalique. It always makes me think of frosted rose petals. July 12, 2014 at 4:50am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a lovely image, and I can definitely see this too! July 14, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

  • lillian’smuskrose: After years (yes, years!) of searching for the right pure rose scent to blend perfectly with my mother’s signature Kiehl’s Musk, I think I’ve got it — Creed’s The Rose Bulgare. The musk reminds me of my mother’s scent and the rose reminds me of her beauty. So I call my creation Lillian’s Musk Rose. July 13, 2014 at 8:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds beautiful, and I love the idea of combining a rich musk like Kiehl’s with a crisp, dewy rose. July 14, 2014 at 3:29pm Reply

  • Eva S.: Roses…there is nothing like like PHI Une Rose de Kandahar for me.
    A true love. July 14, 2014 at 4:53pm Reply

  • Eva S.: oops, sorry for the “like like” above! Pressed send a litle too fast…
    Une rose de Kandahar is a true beauty, it almost moves me to tears sometimes.
    So much loved, and one of my most complimented fragances by far. July 14, 2014 at 4:57pm Reply

  • Noemi: Agua Fresca de Rosas, by Adolfo Dominguez. It’s rosy and fresh, made thinking in the Spanish public and the Spanish South Summer, so hot! September 11, 2014 at 8:09am Reply

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