Guerlain Rose Barbare : Perfume Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

The grand reopening of the Guerlain flagship store at 68, Champs Elysées brought a number of new perfumes, from the regal Vega to the reintroduced Attrape-Coeur, Metalys, and a few others. Rose Barbare joined the Guerlain line under the auspices of “L’Art et la Matiere,” which also includes Cuir Beluga and Angélique Noire. Created by outside perfumers, the perfumes are nevertheless like visions of Guerlain through non-Guerlain eyes. The creamy vanilla that is the characteristic note in many classical Guerlains is made richer and creamier. The powdery opulence of Guerlinade is rendered soft and luxurious.

Rose Barbare, created by the perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, is my favorite so far, even if it is the least Guerlinesque of the three. Unlike Cuir Beluga and Angélique Noire, it is not adorned by the plush sweetness or the gilded richness…

Indeed, these ornamentations would be out of place on its beautiful, yet unsmiling face. When compared with the melancholy Mitsouko or wistful Sous Le Vent, the chypre of Rose Barbare is duskier. Its lack of powdered opulence makes it modern, while clearly marked by a neoclassical orientation.

The initial illusion of a boundless sea of crimson roses highlighted by hesperidic tartness suggests silky softness, and only when one begins to wade through the heavy mass of petals does one realize what lies beneath. The deep sound of its elegant chypre accord reverberates through the rose strewn arrangement like an echo in a dark, empty room.

Little by little the rose petals begin to wither under the hot dryness of patchouli which smoothly flows into the mossy facet of chypre. Amber lends a balsamic touch, with the gentle sweetness of honey melting slowly over the warm base. The combination of rose and chypre accord is reminiscent of Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, however the similarity is fleeting, because while Rose de Nuit falls into an animalic embrace, Rose Barbare smolders in a hot patchouli flame. Yet, one fact is true—both are the perfume compositions that deprive rose of its dainty sweetness, revealing its mysterious and proud side. It is a rose about which Huna (c. 216-297 AD), the Babylonian writer, has said, “A rose, bent by the wind and pricked by thorns, yet has its heart turned upwards.”

Currently, the “L’Art et la Matiere” fragrances are exclusive to Guerlain boutiques and  New York’s Bergdorf Goodman.

Painting: Konstantin Flavitsky. Princess Tarakanova, in the Petropavlovsk Fortress at the Time of the Flood, 1864, Tretyakov Gallery. From

Please see other Guerlain reviews:
Après l’Ondée
Chant d’Arômes
Coriolan (brief description)
L’Heure Bleue
L’Instant de Guerlain (brief description)
L’Instant Eau de Noël Iris Millésime
L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme
Love is All
Plus Que Jamais
Shalimar Light
Vol de Nuit



  • marchlion: I was so bored by Angelique and Beluga that I never bothered with this one. It’s not that they were terrible — it’s that for Guerlain my expectations are very, very high. I see I’m not the only one who failed to love them. You’ve certainly made this one sound interesting, however. Maybe my first patch/rose love?! February 2, 2006 at 9:57am Reply

  • parislondres: Beautiful review dear V! I am not a patchouli fan as you know but I like this the best of the three.
    Hope you are well. February 2, 2006 at 4:57am Reply

  • linda: Beautiful review, V! I made my appointment with Jason, and I can’t wait to try all of these perfumes at the new Guerlain boutique. The last time I went they had nothing. Feb. 7th is only a few days away. February 2, 2006 at 11:27am Reply

  • Donna: I also love chypres. Too bad that very few are made these days. All the more reason to try Rose Barbare. Thanks for reviewing it. February 2, 2006 at 11:40am Reply

  • Laura: I’ll have to try this one again. I was so taken by Angelique Noire that I rushed right over this. I do remember liking it, though. Your chypre enthusiasm is so contagious! February 2, 2006 at 7:04am Reply

  • Marina: I found Rose Barbare to be the most interesting, strinking even, out of the three. Angelique Noire is extremely enjoyable, but it plays a very familiar tune (I believe it was Luca Turin who called it “a big dollop of vanilla” or something along those lines). Cuir Beluga…I have to try again, I simply did not get it. It is so soft, it’s almost scent-less on me. February 2, 2006 at 8:48am Reply

  • Tara: I like all three, but I must admit I prefer the dollop of vanilla in Angelique Noire best. 🙂 February 2, 2006 at 2:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you, dear N. It is definitely the most interesting one to me as well.

    Hope that your week is going well! February 2, 2006 at 2:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, do you remember me mentioning a couple of years ago how difficult I find chypres to be? I liked them, but could not wear them. Now, I cannot get enough of them. Nearly everything I wear on daily basis is a chypre. February 2, 2006 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Robin: Lovely review! We have quite different impressions of this one, V. I liked it but it did not smoulder on me at all…in fact, I found it fairly tame. February 2, 2006 at 4:30pm Reply

  • biagio: always special reviews about frags ,victoria you’re a genius thank you to let us know to all of us frags addicted all these interesting news ,im a chypre addicted too,im so sorry in these days so few chypres are produced but i always prefer the classics….my no.1 top is mitsouko February 2, 2006 at 4:58pm Reply

  • Fulltiltredhead: Thank you for the beautiful review. Huna, the Babylonian writer, huh? Amazing, where do you find these things! It’s a lovely quote. February 2, 2006 at 5:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I agree that Angelique Noire plays the familiar tune–creamy Guerlain vanilla. However, I do not see anything wrong with vanilla, especially in Guerlain’s hands. Cuir Beluga is rather rich on me, and perhaps a bit too much so. I can take it only in small dozes. February 2, 2006 at 7:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I think that they were less daring than what I would expect. These fragrances took Guerlain’s refinement and elegance to the extreme, becoming sort of like beautiful faces with little personality. I do enjoy them nevertheless. Rose Barbare is the one that has the most verve though, and I would recommend sampling it. February 2, 2006 at 7:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, I am unfortunately not around for the opening of the boutique, which is between 7th and 11th, if I remember correctly. Please tell me your impressions if you go! February 2, 2006 at 7:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Donna, it is a very lovely chypre. I think that it is rather well-made. February 2, 2006 at 7:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, Angelique Noire would be my second favourite. I generally avoid overly sweet fragrances, but I like that one nevertheless. February 2, 2006 at 7:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I cannot say that it is very barbaric either. Smouldering/tame, of course, is very subjective, but unlike the other two, Rose Barbare has an edge. February 2, 2006 at 7:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Biagio, thank you for your kind words. I am glad to see other chypre fans. I think that this category has some of the most unusual fragrances. Mitsouko is among my top favourites too. February 2, 2006 at 7:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Fulltilt, thank you! I saw the quote in my notes on roses, and I have no idea where I got it from in the first place. I just thought that it captured what I meant to say really well. February 2, 2006 at 7:20pm Reply

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