The classic – some would say cliché – gift to a woman on Valentine’s Day is, of course, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a dozen red roses, and jewelry. (My teenage daughter’s boyfriend brought her a card and six red roses yesterday; she gave him a handmade card and some candy. All together now: awwww, how sweet!) I don’t like chocolate in perfume, and the idea of jeweled perfumes will have to wait for another day, so here’s a look at some rose perfumes that I love. (Also, it’s an excuse to post beautiful pictures of roses.)
I do indeed love, love fragrances in which rose plays a major part, from light and girlish ones all the way through to dark Gothic ones. So many fragrances contain at least a little bit of rose – even if you can’t smell it on its own, it’s there, making everything smell round and full. I’ll admit up front that it is very, very difficult to find a rose fragrance that smells just like a freshly-cut dewy rose, because in order to obtain rose essence, the rose petals have to be treated in some way – from steam distillation to enfleurage (which involves pressing fresh petals in fat), to the modern scientific method called distillation moléculaire – and you always get “cooked” rose, not fresh. I figure if I want fresh roses, I’ll go to the florist.
For rose perfumes, I have a stash! Some of my favorites, starting from the light and girlish end:
Parfums de Rosine Rose d’Ete – a summery yellow rose, with light fruity notes of apple and honeydew melon. The fruit isn’t too literal, and the effect is not like shampoo – rather, it’s a little powdery from the mimosa. I love this one. It was my first niche purchase, and I still wear it with happiness.
Teo Cabanel Early Roses – another light and summery pastel rose, with a few citrus notes, and a lacy, airy feeling. Pretty, uncomplicated, and delightful. A bit old-fashioned, perhaps, but if you like reading Jane Austen you may feel perfectly at home in it.
DSH Perfumes Rose Vert – this is one of the rare all-natural fragrances that I love, because it is so fresh and beautiful, and does not suffer from a standpoint of longevity. It starts out with aromatic lemon and bergamot, and then there is a lovely mixture of rose and treemoss, with a few woody notes. Dawn’s website calls it a dream of red and green, but this one I “see” as being pink and green and “feel” as being raw silk. Gorgeous. I’ve gone through four samples of this thing; maybe it’s time to actually buy some.
YSL Paris, or any of the Paris flankers – oddly, I didn’t run across Paris when it was new and assaulting nostrils with its 1980’s, big-smell, shoulder-padded femininity. I first bought Paris Pont des Amours, one of the Printemps limited-edition flankers, off ebay, and wore it a great deal before deciding that I could probably handle Paris proper. So I bought a miniature of Paris, which is very similar to Pont des Amours, but brighter, less pastel. This is ROSE-VIOLET, quite sweet and overtly girly, petaled and beribboned and Dresden-shepherdess-y. I quite like that sort of thing, and I refuse to apologize for it.
Sonoma Scent Studio Velvet Rose – THE absolute closest to an enormous armful of fresh-cut, dewy, crimson roses I’ve ever smelled coming out of a bottle. It’s mostly blended high-quality rose essences with a bit of green patchouli to highlight those ruby-red roses. Simple, you say, but I’m positive that it took a lot of work to make those rose oils come alive. It’s parfum strength, so don’t overdo the spray.
L’Arte di Gucci – (You knew this one would show up, right?) I am a huge fan of this larger-than-life, dressed-to-the-nines, Kathleen-Battle-opera-diva of a fragrance, a six-dozen bouquet of hot pink roses surrounded by a jungle of greenery. There may be a cat in that jungle, too. It’s a rose chypre which is uncompromising, fierce, and beautiful. Sadly, it’s discontinued. If you can’t find it, tryUngaro Diva, which is a bit more leathery, and has more of a floral mix rather than being so rose-focused, but which is really lovely as well.
Caron Parfum Sacre – this floriental isn’t All About the Rose, and you may be surprised by the lemon-pepper opening. That subsides to a silky, wine-like rose bolstered by sandalwood, vanilla, and incense. It’s gorgeous, both luxurious and comforting.
Amouage Lyric Woman – a smoky, dry, woody incense-rose that is elegant yet easy to wear, very meditative. It may be the suggestion of its name, but I find it wonderful for wearing to classical music concerts. I am one of those weirdos who don’t feel strange wearing Amouage with jeans, but Lyric does at least deserve a cashmere sweater as accompaniment.
Rochas Tocade – a sweet/smoky rose-vanilla fragrance that flirts without saying a word. Warning: it’s loud. I put the bottle in my closet for about two weeks once, and could smell it for months. Turns out the cap had come loose, but still. That Slut Tocade slurred an over-friendly, drunken hello every time I opened the closet door.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour femme – in fact, about the only way I can handle patchouli is when rose is involved. There’s a big slug of greeny, herbal patchouli (the “green”-smelling stuff is, apparently, the expensive aged kind) in LN, as well as some spice and dark red rose petals. This scent is formal and pretty sexy, if you ask me. I thought this thing was dark until I wore it next to Malle’s Portrait of a Lady. I was wrong: Lumiere Noire is full of candlelight, while PoaL is the darkness of a winter afternoon.
Tauer Perfumes Une Rose Vermeille – a big Hawai’ian sunset of an orange-pink-red rose, with vanilla meringue and plenty of raspberry and orange peel. Totally unserious (this is not the thing to wear to your performance review or to apply for a loan, if you ask me) but such a joy.
Other rose-focused scents to add to the bouquet:
Annick Goutal Rose Splendide – much like Early Roses, but with a bit more citrus and less powder.
DSH Perfumes Beach Roses – gentle roses with a salty air.
Coty La Rose Jacqueminot – if you can find any version of this at all, it’s worth smelling. It’s a lovely red rose set on a ton of mossy and woody notes, and probably had aldehydes and citrus up top (my small bottle has a nail-polish-remover quality, which is what you get when aldehydes+citrus decay), and basically smells like vintage Miss Dior + roses. This is reportedly the fragrance that kick-started Francois Coty’s modest apothecary-style fragrance business into high gear; the 1980s rerelease may not be exactly the scent that started it all, but it’s darn good.
Frederic Malle Une Rose – this is a stunningly lovely rose for about twenty minutes, and then the woody-amber in the base makes me feel positively hunted. My shoulders draw up toward my ears every time I even think about Une Rose, but you may not have the same reaction.
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady – a rose chypre with oriental notes in the base. Projects large distances, lasts for three weeks on a wool coat sleeve, and has huge WOW factor. Nabs compliments right and left. It goes Youth-Dew in the drydown, which just ruins things for me, but the ride getting to there is very beautiful.
Montale Aoud Roses Petals – nice bandaidy-medicinal oud up top, bright pink roses thereafter. Very pretty and my favorite of the Montale oud-rose combos.
Tauer Une Rose Chypree – orange-spice notes topping a beautiful, labdanum-heavy rose chypre. Amazing work.
All photos from Flickr.