Narciso Rodriguez Essence : Perfume Review



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

The combination of rose and musk often results in a velvety, languorous effect, even if the rose is rendered as a sheer, crisp note. This is certainly the case with Narciso Rodriguez Essence, a fragrance that takes the classical aldehydic floral idea of Chanel No 5 and Lanvin Arpège and presents it as a streamlined rose musk composition. While Essence has a monolithic quality—the soft rose and musk impression is retained from top to bottom, it is a fragrance with a big sillage and distinctive presence. Caressing and tender, it wears like the olfactory equivalent of a soft silk slip, while possessing an alluring retro glamor.

Essence was created by perfumer Alberto Morillas for the fashion designer brand Narciso Rodriguez in 2009. Morillas is well known for creating sensual, intimate accords that feel like a second skin (Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess, Kenzo Flower, Rochas Byzance, Giorgio Armani Sensi, among others.) In Essence, his sophisticated, yet seductive touch is obvious. The initial champagne sparkle of aldehydes gives Essence an elegant quality, which is a welcome counterpoint to the bubbly rose accord that forms its core. While the floral notes have an opaque, powdery quality and the velvety musks are used lavishly, the fragrance nevertheless feels effervescent and radiant. Supported by the delicate notes of amber and vanilla, the musky roses gain a seductive warmth in the drydown.

I find Essence to be an interesting floral musk idea, even if overall it feels somewhat too tame. Compared to the original Narciso Rodriguez, its character is less distinctive and memorable. Nevertheless, I enjoy wearing it for the impression of a rose petal shower that Essence conveys to me—pretty, vivacious, with a pleasant hint of decadence. Essence has enough sophistication to function as a day-to-evening fragrance, while it is understated enough to be comforting and relaxing. Like its cousins Love, Chloé and Tom Ford Musk Pure, Essence can be both a little black dress and a sexy lingerie perfume.

Narciso Rodriguez Essence Collection

Narciso Rodriguez is a great brand, but their unimaginatively named and similarly packaged fragrances make discovering the line hard. For instance, since 2009, Narciso Rodriguez Essence has acquired three flankers. Essence EDP Intense (2010) is similar to the original Essence, with the richer rose and iris accord resting on a plush musky base. Essence Iridescent (2010) attenuates the amber and oriental balsams of the base to make the floral accord more airy and luminous. The newest addition to the collection, Essence Eau de Musc (2011) is a citrusy interpretation of the musky roses of the original Essence. The effervescent orange-tangerine accord serves as an embellishment to the creamy, soft musk. Amber and iris woven through the velvety structure of Essence Eau de Musc add a lovely counterpoint, while the rose is toned down to a mere hint of honeyed petals. As pretty as these flankers are, I still remain partial to the original for its elegant aura.

Narciso Rodriguez Essence includes notes of iris, rose, amber, musks and benzoin. It is available from Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Sephora and other department stores.

Sample: my own acquisition



  • Le critique de parfum: Nice to see Essence getting some love. I for one think it’s a very important perfume.

    To me it’s a pretty brave fragrance first (fruity-florals being the easy way) and with so much musk, Essence requires time, but mostly patience, to reveal it’s true magic. Definitely not the easy way nowadays.

    Also it’s intimate quality, it’s very subtle, pure, and calm rendition of roses is not incompatible with memorable creation and strong character. Essence is pretty unique to my little nose.

    Essence influences the industry, see Idylle by Guerlain, L’Eau Serge Lutens, Cartier de Lune etc… again very subtly, but with *amazing* dexterity. April 14, 2011 at 7:39am Reply

  • maggiecat: I also enjoy this scent and the body creme is delightful – a nice way to wear the scent at times when sillage might not be welcome. April 14, 2011 at 1:23pm Reply

  • minette: i bought this when it first came out – and found it to be a very happy scent. it is great for walking around in the country to see bluebonnets and, as you say, can move into the evening hours quite nicely. there is something sunshiny and linens-dried-on-the-line about it (and i do not like “clean” scents as a rule). i find it less serious than the musk for her edp/edt (they seem more serious about seducing). not sure i need any flankers, though… and am kinda surprise there are three! April 14, 2011 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree, it does have a wonderful intimate quality. Definitely enjoyable to wear. April 14, 2011 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: I haven't tried body cream in Essence, but I used to use the one scented with the original NR. You are right, an excellent product for days when one wants an understated sillage. April 14, 2011 at 1:42pm Reply

  • dee: How I wish I got the rose petals! I tried this the other day, and it was mild-clean-musk all the way for me–too bad, because the bottle is really great.

    On the other hand, I also (finally) tried Love, Chloé, and that one is truly fabulous, and worth owning. I fully concur with your assessment of it being “a perfect silk slip” of a fragrance. I see a mini in my future 🙂 April 14, 2011 at 1:43pm Reply

  • Victoria: Did you try Essence or Essence Eau de Musc? I keep confusing the bottles, which look identical. Eau de Musc was not rosey on me either.
    At any rate, the musk is not at all understated here! I can totally see that.

    I am so glad that you liked Love, Chloe! I've been enjoying it very much lately. April 14, 2011 at 1:46pm Reply

  • vanessa: Afraid I get insane levels of soap with this – it is a total no-no for me – haven’t even got beyond the impregnated ribbon… : – ) April 14, 2011 at 9:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: Musks do give a soapy impression, you are right. I have been searching for a specific soap scent recently, and I finally figured out that it was a combination of different musks and floral notes! April 14, 2011 at 9:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: I was surprised too. At first, I mixed Eau de Musc with the original. Then I confused another flanker with Eau de Musc. I finally had to compare bottles side by side. April 14, 2011 at 9:16pm Reply

  • Dee: Aha! Good question V, now that you mention it, I’m not sure: I saw the bottle and thought I knew what it was, so I didn’t check. It probably wasn’t what I thought it was!

    And now I’m trying to decide between Love, Chloe and Egoiste at the top of my wishlist… April 15, 2011 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: Well, Egoiste is the one you can share with your husband! Yet, Love, Chloe is like a piece of sexy silk camisole, definitely an elegant, but not overly demanding scent. April 15, 2011 at 12:24pm Reply

  • [email protected]: Why did Narciso Rodriguez discontinue the original Musc Oil for Her? I get compliments EVERY time I wear it. Is there anything even close to it by another designer? November 28, 2011 at 5:31pm Reply

  • Tina: I, too, am sorely disappointed the oil has been discontinued. I have one bottle left. Always gets me compliments. It’s very sad indeed. February 15, 2012 at 11:37pm Reply

  • bluegardenia: i just tried this at the store and was really pleasantly surprised. it’s extremely fresh but still interesting. cold smelling. it’s also really pretty but not in an expected, flowery way. the bottle really does fit the juice.
    i find sensi to be too ‘johnsons baby oil’ and kenzo flower annoyingly powdery, though both are clearly well-composed and blended beautifully. i’m not sure i want to smell like narciso essence, but i do like it. it reminds me of crisp, refreshing coca cola. (i’m gonna use my standard line now: i would buy it as a bath gel in a heartbeat!) July 8, 2012 at 11:30pm Reply

  • marios: Can this be used by man as well? it is absolutely feminine or unisex? i wear powdery soapy perfumes like mouchoir de monsieur or habit rouge or dior homme intense, or colonia by acqua di parma. Can i try this as well or not? because i haven’t tried it yet and i want to know if a man can use it without being feminine March 24, 2013 at 1:49am Reply

  • melissa: I wear this and also Peau de Peche most often. Just bought IF, as well. I have tried numerous fragrances in a failed attempt to find a signature scent. Do u have one absolute favorite fragrance, Victoria? Thx and Happy New Year!! January 2, 2015 at 3:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy New Year, Melissa! I don’t think I have one absolute favorite. It really changes all the time. Currently, I’m craving Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle, so I’ve been wearing it for several days in a row, but next week it might be something else. January 4, 2015 at 12:48pm Reply

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