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.


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?

Elie Roger and Estee Lauder Knowing

Who was the perfumer behind Estée Lauder’s Knowing, a chypre of roses tangled up with dark moss? For many years, Lauder, like many other companies, didn’t put the perfumers into the limelight, and this is why Elie Roger’s name is not often linked with Knowing if you search for the information online. Roger worked for the fragrance house of Firmenich, and he signed both Knowing (1988) and Clinique Wrappings (1990). While his portfolio wasn’t as extensive as that of some other perfumers, he had a distinctive style, and both Knowing and Wrappings remain beloved classics.


Roger passed away on Nov. 19, 2010, after a long career, which started in 1946 in Grasse, France, his hometown. He worked for 20 years at Firmenich, both in New York and Paris, and he received the American Society of Perfumers’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Since he crafted two American classics as well as some other interesting fragrances, it’s well-deserved recognition.

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By Kilian Liaisons Dangereuses : Fragrance Review


Elisa on a surprising marriage of rose and coconut.

By Kilian, founded in 2007 by cognac heir Kilian Hennessey, is a luxury brand whose perfumes are organized into several concept collections: L’Oeuvre Noire, or Black Masterpiece, with 11 fragrances including gorgeous florals like Beyond Love and Sweet Redemption; Arabian Nights, with five variations on oud; Asian Tales, featuring lighter, more aquatic scents; and In the Garden of Good and Evil, a more feminine collection bottled in white flacons.


Both Victoria and I have found several scents to love in these collections. But for all its attractive qualities, By Kilian could perhaps be accused of playing it safe. Without exception, the line is thoughtfully composed (by perfumer Calice Becker) of high-quality materials. What they are not, for the most part, is weird. The goal of these fragrances is to provide a very beautiful, well-made rendition of a familiar idea – the rose oud, the lavender vanilla – not to shock or surprise. (See Etat Libre d’Orange for an example of a line that sometimes favors shock value over beauty.)

But Liaisons Dangereuses  (part of the L’Oeuvre Noire collection) breaks the pattern, and “dangerous liaison,” or dangerous affair, is a useful metaphor, as it combines two notes that in theory could be disastrous: rose and coconut. It’s surprising because it’s so unexpected, and even more surprising because it works.

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Wildflower Walk on The Eve of Ivan Kupala

Bonfires are being prepared on the sandy beach lining the Vorskla, a river that cuts Poltava in half and hugs our hamlet within the city’s suburbs. One group of girls is busy weaving wreaths from wild flowers. Heaps of daisies, yarrow and cornflowers are spread out on the ground around them. Further along the bank, grills are being set up, and people are staking out spots with towels and empty crates. It is still early enough, several hours before the sun takes a dip in the river. The scent of hot sand, hay, wild thyme, cigarette smoke and water lilies hangs heavy in the still air. We are waiting for Ivan Kupala’s Eve.


Ivan Kupala is the Slavic version of the midsummer festival marking the summer solstice. According to the old style Julian calendar used by the Orthodox Church, it’s celebrated on the night of 6/7 July in Ukraine. (In neighboring Poland, Noc Kupały, just like the Swedish midsummer celebrations, takes place on 23/24 June.) Ivan means John (as in John the Baptist) and Kupala comes from the Slavic word for bathing. Although Christian traditions are woven into the festival, the roots are clearly pagan. Water and fire intertwine in various rites, and the river is worshiped as much as the saint himself. Today, the celebrations may involve more beer and barbecue than romantic rituals, but women still float wreaths in the streams to divine their future. Candles are still lit on the river bank. Couples still jump over the bonfire to test the strength of their relationship.

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Scent Diary : Cherry Harvest

This week is a holiday for my American readers as they celebrate the 4th of July, and for me, it’s a week of family activities in Ukraine with my grandmother and my mom–going for walks together, watching movies, talking, and of course, cooking. You might remember the cherry blossoms during my May visit, and now, all trees are covered with jewel-like fruit. I’ve already set my sights on a tree near the hammock for harvesting this week. There will be brioche buns with cherries, cherry strudel, cherry compote, and chicken in cherry sauce. And of course, my grandmother’s “royal cherry jam”. I will smell of cherry juice and my fingers will be permanently stained purple from pitting pounds of dark fruit.


While I’m pitting cherries and collecting scent impressions around Poltava, my grandmother’s hometown, our Scent Diary is here (Bois de Jasmin’s reviews and articles will be back on Monday.) It’s a place where we can share fragrances we encounter, good and bad, perfumes we wear and the scents around us. It’s a way to sharpen our sense of smell, but also just to enjoy the fragrance hobby in a different way.

Whether you write down 1 recollection or 10 matters less than simply reminding yourself to smell. You can add as many comments as you wish. You can comment today or over the course of the week; this thread will always be open. Of course, do share what perfume you’re wearing or what particularly good scented products you’ve discovered.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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