L’Occitane Arlesienne : Fragrance Review


Elisa on the return of an old-school rose.

Ultra-feminine and quite literal roses were popular during my childhood, in the ‘80s. Think Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose, which is fresh, pink, and photorealistic, but – somewhat undermining the delicacy of its namesake – possessing mushroom-cloud sillage and nuclear tenacity. Or Her Majesty’s Rose, the rose soliflore available at Victoria’s Secret, back when its aesthetic was more lacy-nightgown-in-a-country-cottage and less sex-bomb-in-garters. I had a coffret of perfume minis from VS when I was about 12, and the rose one, while pretty, reminded me distinctly of potpourri in antique shops.


I apparently wasn’t the only one to make that association. Moving into the ‘90s, roses that smelled like roses were about as uncool as you could get. In junior high, my mall-going friends and I ditched Her Majesty’s Rose and the other overt florals and embraced Tranquil Breezes, an intense and distinctive cucumber-melon scent. Around that time the perfume I most wanted to smell like was Calvin Klein Escape. Over the next few years I ended up with bottles of CK One, L’Eau d’Issey, and Polo Sport – aquatic, blue-smelling calone bombs to a one!

I’m happy to see that old-school roses are making a comeback. In particular, there’s a certain style of rose fragrance that I think of as papery – they feel dry and translucent, like tissue paper. L’Occitane’s Arlésienne (released in 2014) is a papery, pink rose, not a dark, rich red one, like the oud- and patchouli-inflected roses that have been so prevalent in niche lines in the 2000s.

While the first thing you notice is that crisp, lemony rose, Arlésienne is not a soliflore; there’s also a big dose of violet. I love rose and violet together, whether the result is airy and green as in Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s watercolor interpretation of Yves Saint Laurent Paris, La Vie en Rose, or loud and extravagant as in Maurice Roucel’s Bond no 9 Broadway Nite, which feels completely filled out from edge to edge, like a baroque oil painting. Arlésienne is closer to the former – it’s powdery, but not so powdery as to scare off powder-haters. There’s a bit of the freshening lift of muguet. There’s also a distinct note of honey, which has sweetly innocent connotations but always brings along an animalic edge. The base is a simple, understated cedar.

Arlésienne doesn’t evolve much over time, but it’s satisfying and complex enough to remind me of florals from higher-end lines like Chloe and Chanel. L’Occitane gives me hope for mall-chain perfumes – while you may have to dig a little, the gems are there. I also love and own L’Occitane’s Eau de Baux, and am frequently tempted by Ambre & Santal, a genuinely smoky labdanum. It’s also worth noting that Arlésienne’s composition translates beautifully into the body products – if you like the sound of the scent but don’t need any more perfume, try the hand cream or the body milk.

Arlésienne Eau to Toilette is available from L’Occitane for $62/2.5 ounces. The notes include mandarin, saffron, rose, lily of the valley, violet, sandalwood, blonde woods, and tonka bean.

A photograph of roses by Bois de Jasmin



  • Kate: Such a wonderful review! I liked Roses 4 Reines a lot. It also reminded me of Paris. December 18, 2015 at 8:51am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Kate! This one has made me want to spend time with their other roses as well. December 18, 2015 at 9:42am Reply

  • Johanob: Cool review!I have enough perfumes-and I’ve become a sucker for anything that glitters and shimmers.Haha!So I went with the Arlėsienne body shimmer.Nicely fragrant and makes a boy sparkle.hehe. December 18, 2015 at 9:35am Reply

    • Elisa: Oh, nice! I haven’t tried that one, but it’s the right time of year for sparkling. December 18, 2015 at 9:43am Reply

    • Natalie: Oooh sparkles and rose scent? I’m going to have to look that up! December 18, 2015 at 10:39am Reply

  • Liz: Call me old school too (am over 50!) but this sounds just like my kinda rose. I have had an on-off love affair with L’Occitane but as I live in the Med, and all things southerly attract me, I tend to give them a whirl for their scents. I’ll be testing this one when in London after Xmas and may just give myself a new year boost with a purchase if it’s the rose your review suggests. December 18, 2015 at 9:42am Reply

    • Elisa: I hope it strikes your fancy! December 18, 2015 at 9:44am Reply

  • Patricia: Good idea about the body products! L’Occitane L’Arlésienne hand cream just went on my Christmas list. 🙂 December 18, 2015 at 9:46am Reply

    • Elisa: I have some on my desk right now! December 18, 2015 at 9:56am Reply

  • spe: Thank you for the review. Roses and violets together are lovely. Paris smells wonderful (on others – and it might be the edp I especially like) and lipstick rose is a fun scent to wear. Other than LR, I wear Rive Gauche and Soir de Lune and that’s about it for roses in my collection. I like smelling them on others, but rarely think about them for myself. December 18, 2015 at 9:57am Reply

    • Elisa: Paris is actually a bit much for me, but someday I’d like to try dabbing the vintage stuff. December 18, 2015 at 10:44am Reply

  • Nancysg: I found this to be a beautiful soft rose. I bought the body oil as a Christmas present for one of my daughters. I hadn’t made the “Paper” association, but I totally agree. December 18, 2015 at 10:42am Reply

    • Elisa: Glad you agree because it was a bit hard to explain that association! Now I’m wishing I’d picked up the body oil too. December 18, 2015 at 10:45am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Victoria, what a lovely review. I love rose/violet based scents and need to try this one. December 18, 2015 at 11:09am Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Oops, sorry Elisa, I automatically seem to address Victoria whenever I comment on Bois de Jasmin. You write beautifully! December 18, 2015 at 11:10am Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Phyllis! December 18, 2015 at 11:13am Reply

  • Claire: Thank you for this review! As a Calone-a-phobe I barely survived the ’90’s when that cucumber melon accord seemed to be everywhere, and felt like a physical assault. Mention of aquatic and “fresh air” notes still send me running. Only now can I laugh about it. I bought a tiny bottle of L’Occitane L’Arlesienne on a whim and while I rarely wear it I was taken with it’s delicacy. I think it would be especially nice in lotion or hand cream. It reminds me a bit of the fragrances I liked as a young girl, more in the Eau de cologne style, before block-busters became the norm. The rose potpourri scent (as opposed to fresh) you mention is what kept me away from rose centered perfumes, but not because I didn’t adore the scent of luscious fresh roses. Now there are many I love. My latest discovery is Frau Tonis Rose de France (notes are rose, eucalyptus, neroli) and it is the most piquant smelling rose fragrances I have come across. December 18, 2015 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Elisa: I totally fell for calone when it was popular! I think it smells disgusting for the most part now…though I occasionally like to take a nostalgic whiff of Acqua di Gio (the one for women). L’Eau d’Issey smells just awful though.

      I like your eau de cologne comment because Arlesienne has such a nice light lemony feel. December 18, 2015 at 2:07pm Reply

    • Robert: Thanks for the Frau Tonis recommendation. The note of eucalyptus sounds interesting and perhaps makes puts it in the guy’s too camp. Reasonable price to boot. February 23, 2020 at 4:33am Reply

  • Claire: Oops. I meant: Is the most piquant smelling rose fragrance …. December 18, 2015 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Domestic Goblin: I wore Arlesienne all through this summer and loved the trio of rose, violet and saffron. December 18, 2015 at 1:46pm Reply

    • Elisa: It’s a great summer rose. I’m glad you can smell the saffron — I don’t notice it very much on me. December 18, 2015 at 2:08pm Reply

  • Bettina: I do like L’Arlesienne. Rose is my favourite flower, but the addition of violet and saffron give this fragrance much more interest than plain roses.
    It is one of L’Occitane’s best recent fragrances in my book – I am not a fan of the fruit (blackcurrant, peach) in some of their other offerings. December 19, 2015 at 5:58am Reply

    • Elisa: I agree about it being one of their best! I got a sample about a year ago and put it on not expecting much, and it really surprised me (pleasantly). December 19, 2015 at 11:36pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Elisa,

    Everything seems to be coming up roses these days! I didn’t take to Arlesienne at first until I tested the body lotion where the scent of violet lingered on me. And a little warmth of Ambre and Santal can’t hurt either. December 19, 2015 at 11:48am Reply

    • Elisa: I had a large sample of the body milk and thought the fragrance lingered beautifully! December 19, 2015 at 11:37pm Reply

  • yellowlantern: I enjoy this one. I have the hand cream and it’s quite potent just in that form! On me it smells more like violets and rice candy than rose, though I can detect that rose is there. It reminds me quite a bit of Love, Chloe. December 19, 2015 at 8:31pm Reply

    • Elisa: Yes, I also see the resemblance to Love, Chloe, though I find it less strong (I actually thought Love, Chloe was too strong). It also reminds me a little of Chanel Beige. December 19, 2015 at 11:38pm Reply

  • Aurora: I had taken note of your previous recommendation for L’Arlesienne (I think it was versus a Chanel that didn’t last) and after testing it in town I won a big bottle on ebay and wore it with increasing delight last summer. It’s a cheerful rose, acidulated but not sour (on my skin anyway) so all my thanks for this excellent discovery, Elisa. December 20, 2015 at 2:31pm Reply

    • Elisa: That’s great! I just love hearing that a recommendation works out. December 21, 2015 at 5:22pm Reply

  • Michaela: Beautiful review, Elisa! Thank you for the recommendation. Sounds like a rose I’d appreciate.
    I also tested Eau des Baux following your recommendation, and I found it addictive and very, very long lasting. December 21, 2015 at 6:53am Reply

    • Elisa: Wonderful! I agree that Eau des Baux lasts all day. It’s such a steal. December 21, 2015 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Monica: I was actually looking for a review of L’Occitane Arlesienne and stumbled upon this one. The reason for that is because I am very interested in perfumes, but had not heard about this one – until I unwrapped it on christmas eve.

    I love all your references in the review (deeply impressed), but me personally would not give this perfume more than 2,5 out of 5 stars. 😛

    Btw looks like you have a great website here. Keep up the good work! December 29, 2015 at 6:22pm Reply

    • Elisa: Thank you Monica! Though I’m sorry you don’t rate your gift as more than 2.5 stars 🙂 December 30, 2015 at 10:31am Reply

  • Chun: I loved your review! I am a big fan of L’Occitane Arlesienne and finally decided to make the purchase last August only to find that it has been discontinued sometime during the peak of the pandemic. Thankfully, I got my hand on a bottle of it secondhand. Thank you for your wonderful review of the perfume – it allows me to appreciate my bottle of perfume even better now! Cheers! March 18, 2021 at 12:18pm Reply

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