Rose: 130 posts

In The Rose Capital of Iran

“The ancient Iranian city of Kashan is sometimes eclipsed by its more famous neighbour, Isfahan, but as I wander around Bagh-e Fin – a vast garden turned into an architectural jewel by the 16th-century Shah Abbas I – I fall under a spell that only Kashan could conjure, with its sandy beige Agha Bozorg mosque, winding streets and remarkable rose plantations. Indeed, roses are the main reason for my trip.” The rose capital of Iran, Kashan, inspired the latest article for my FT column, Radiant Rose Perfumes.

I visited Kashan during the off season for flowers, but nevertheless I had a chance to meet rose distillers and sample perfumes and fragrant waters. The aroma is sweeter, fruitier and warmer than that of Bulgarian or Turkish essences with which I usually work. I’m not the only one who found Iranian rose essence extraordinary, and I discovered that Émilie Coppermann and Francis Kurkdjian were among the perfumers who were fascinated by this material.

In my article, I describe the roses of Kashan and fragrances that remind me of my visit. To read the full piece, please click here.

If you were to do a scent trip anywhere in the world, which places would you have liked to visit? (Let’s dream and pretend that neither time, money nor visas are an issue in our trip planning.)

Photography via FT, a rose distillery in Kashan

Damask Roses and Roses of Damascus

Occasionally I come across articles mentioning “roses from Syria” as “a precious” ingredient in perfumes. One of the pieces even appeared in a newspaper that runs daily reports on the war in Syria. But real world events don’t enter into the fantasy bubble of beauty writing, with absurd and morbid results.  We’re conditioned to think of perfume as something so rarefied and intangible that for all we know angels pick the flowers and blend essences in their celestial realms. The thought that a country, which has been at war for five years, might have difficulty growing roses doesn’t cloud the writers’ imaginations.

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Until the war, which started in 2011, Syria produced 80 tonnes of roses, some of which were distilled on site and some exported to be processed in Europe. Syria wasn’t as large a producer as Turkey, Bulgaria or Morocco, but its roses had a delicious raspberry nuance. The last commercial sample I was able to get in 2011 still smells of sun warmed fruit and spicy honey. Damascus and the other rose growing provinces have suffered tremendously during the war, especially the area held by the revolutionary army and targeted in the heavy bombing campaigns by the Syrian regime.  People have fled from the fighting, leaving plantation owners with few work hands and resources. As a one-time distiller told a reporter of The Express Tribune, “Today there are barely 250 grams (half a pound) of oil available to buy in the whole market.” What are the chances that it makes its way into a perfume produced by a luxury brand?

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Hermes Galop d’Hermes : Perfume Review

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So here it is, the long awaited Galop d’Hermès. Few launches can boast of this much anticipation, save for the new big perfumes from Chanel, Dior or Louis Vuitton, but Hermès is a special house with its unique place in today’s fragrance world. First of all, it realized the idea of creating a truly artistic perfumery team, headed by Jean-Claude Ellena. In-house perfumers are nothing new, but in my view, Ellena is one of the few who actually have an opportunity to pursue his own vision. Second, Hermès is successful.

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This aspect is telling, because it proves that customers can spot quality, and Hermès’s perfumes have consistently been well-crafted and memorable. So, the efforts have been rewarded. Ellena’s work has a distinctive signature of radiance and polish, which over the years made for a coherent collection. Now, it’s time to add a twist, and the task has been given to Christine Nagel.

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Roses for Men (and not only)

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, everything is rose embellished, from florist shop windows to perfume columns. I love roses, but I don’t see any reason why they should be reserved just for women. Don’t guys deserve their own bed of roses too? Just as gendered color coding (pink for her, blue for him) is a 20th century marketing invention, the division of perfumery into “pour elle” and “pour lui” is fairly recent. One only needs to examine fragrance habits around the world to see how arbitrary it is. So in my FT column I explore some of my favorite rose perfumes that can be worn by men (and of course, women).

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Jasmine attars are shared in India, while rose is a favourite essence among men in the Gulf countries. But try to convince a chap in Europe to don some flowers and you are met with a quizzical look. Aren’t roses just for women? François Robert, the “nose” behind the niche line Les Parfums de Rosine, doesn’t think so. To continue, please click here.

Any other interesting roses to add to the list?

Charles and Georges Durand Ruel by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, via wiki-images, some rights reserved.

Givenchy Live Irresistible : Perfume Review

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Following a nefarious example set by Lancôme La Vie est Belle, perfume copywriters have assumed the role of social philosophers. “We live only once,” proclaims the press release for Givenchy’s Live Irrésistible, but I’m not sure why I’d fritter away my time on earth in the company of their fragrance.

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Like many of the recent LVMH perfumes (Givenchy is controlled by the conglomerate), Live Irrésistible seems like a focus group driven creation, where the each component is augmented to be likable. Desperate to please, Live Irrésistible heaps together everything that women are thought to like–a sweet, juicy top note, clean florals, and sweet amber drydown accented with cotton candy, all tinted pink. The result should at least be cute, but somehow it ends up as dowdy and bland.

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