Secrets de Rose (Rose Secrets) is the 16th rose composition by Les Parfums de Rosine which specialize in sculpturing the different facets and interpretations of the queen of flowers. It was created in 2009 based on particular qualities of natural rose and labdanum ingredients and launched this January-February 2010. This time, one is offered a dark-rose interpretation, the scent of "a rose dressed in black,' which was made to feel more shadowy thanks to notes of prune, licorice, amber resin and labdanum while being spiced up with saffron, ylang and cumin.
It is also, as it turns out, what l would like to term an affective patrimonial perfume, a composition destined to noses who can appreciate the continuities of the living history of perfume, this olfactory historiography found throughout contemporary compositions rather than in the pages of history books...
The perfume reveals itself on the open as a delightful dark, sweet, fruity-resinous and natural rose with a nod to the sweet and very characteristic powdery blackcurrant-bud note of Chamade by Guerlain resting on a harmony of hyacinth, blackcurrant bud and galbanum. It was reportedly the first fragrance to integrate this fruity-leafy ingredient and the fragrance has remained a must-study for students of perfumery, admired in particular for its seamless arc of evaporation as Michael Edwards reports in Perfume Legends.
One smells with pleasure and a sense of familiarity this homage paid to that witty rose, a snub-nosed modern beauty, bolder, more energetic and less ornamented than most of the classic Guerlains, the one most resembling a sports car for women in spite of the famous Jicky advertisement featuring a cabriolet.
According to Les Parfums de Rosine, this sweet green note is
a natural top note belonging to an unusual quality of Spanish labdanum or rockrose (Cistus
Ladaniferus) that perfumer François Robert found in the south of Spain which
they describe as a "labdanum which is animalic and leathery as expected but
with a sweet greenness in the top notes which is really unexpected." It is that perfumery ingredient in particular which was the trigger for the scent composition. It is
possible that this natural facet was pushed in a more stylistically
recognizable direction by the nose who identified its potential. Perhaps also
that this special quality of labdanum is one of the keys to the green sweetness
of Chamade. At any rate, to me the effect here is man-made, thought-out, and not accidental
as the base notes confirm later on. There, another respectful homage is perceptible
to yet another perfume with an unmistakably recognizable signature, Parfum d'Hermès which
interestingly itself is a genealogical descendant of Chamade. The homage thus endures. Parfum
d'Hermès's sweet ambery accord has been captured like a butterfly and pinned
down in the naturalist's collection box and its wings are still fresh and
lustrous. On it is built the ambery facet of Secrets de Rose, which indeed holds a few secrets of perfume history.
The insertion of these great perfumes' signatures curiously does not feel slavish although they are quite transparent. Rather than feeling copied and pasted, it rather feels that the quotes were motivated by an inner admiration, a long disciplined training that expresses itself logically. It is the active admiration felt by someone who has devoted time and efforts to understanding and deconstructing a fragrance composition. Copying is one of the basic skills through which a perfumer learns his or her craft which indicates to you how tradition-bound a nose can be in his or her psychological makeup. To kick the grand old tradition to the curb is probably a liberating gesture but cannot be done that easily and is in many cases not deemed that desirable.
Secrets de Rose is therefore in great part a patrimonial perfume, one that is not only created, composed and inspired by circumstances or the muse, but curated and influenced by history while being inspired by nature, here an odd labdanum facet. It is as if civilized canonical meaning were immediately brought to supervise an incongruity of nature. Wildness is tamed. Originality is lassoed in. In this sense, it is very French in spirit and not only in style. It is this constant reenactment of what is discerned to be interesting and worthwhile transmitting to the next generations mingled with an attention to nature and the richness of empirical sensations, an eye for design. The perfume becomes a historicized creation based on an implicit work of positive criticism while expressing love and admiration for the national patrimony and the seemingly brilliant design of nature. It is perfume as culture and collective celebration rather than perfume as individual art. It makes for a composition which is less artistic and more artisanal, but with an added layer of sophisticated aestheticism derived from the activity of intellectual contemplation and admiration of the perfumer.
The difference between
more mechanical transfer-print perfumes and patrimonial perfumes would be that the latter are
filtered by the aesthetic mind of the perfumer while the first seem reproduced in one piece from a GC analysis.
Secrets de Rose offers a powdery facet which is minimal here but present, imparting a discreet sexy-lingerie signature to the scent. It smells very French to my nose thanks in part to the Guerlain homage but also to an ensemble of intimate and familiar notes: dusting powder, sensual silk, the sophisticated convivial nuance of a chypré effect which smells as usual like a well-plied table covered by a tablecloth from Damascus and bottles of wine. The perfume is given as a floral-ambery composition but it offers the lift of a light ambery chypre as well. As the perfume evolves, the blackcurrant instead of vaporizing as a fresh, green note is prolonged and bridged further. It ripens, becomes heavier, darker and as if weighed down by a mass of dark-red, nearly black bunches of grapes.
All this time, it must be said, the rose which is showcased here is metallic, a bit raw, very Bulgarian in its platinum, cold-warm animality. It's a natural rose, freshly picked from the harvest. Room has been left for the natural material to express itself rather than it was worked in an abstract manner.
As Secrets de Rose unfolds further one gets this ongoing impression of a symbolic pairing of wine and roses, like a Bohemian-garnet-colored glass of wine encircled at its foot by a crown of dusty roses. Outside, it is twilight. Some candles glow warmly and softly (amber) in the half-lit room. The atmosphere is set for an intimate repast by candlelight.
If you like dark-scented roses, wine and French style most of all - and accessorily perfumes - you could give it a try, especially if you are looking for a new scent to wear on Valentine's Day. The rose and wine pairing is classic. For those who know Chamade, it is like a rosier, heavier and wine-y version of it, a familiar scent in a new guise endowed with a new stillness, torpor and languor but not devoid of the original vivacity.
Opening notes: prune, licorice, rose essence, bigarade orange, saffron
Sustained notes: magnolia, ylang, rose absolute, white jasmine, cumin seed
Lingering notes: sandalwood, Himalayan moss, amber resin, labdanum, musk