In 2007, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bond No.9 collaborated for the first time to produce a duo of fragrances for her and him. While the men's version was business-like, classic and clubby, the women's version dared to be more eccentric, luscious and intense taking the gardenia flower as its emblem; I am more and more convinced that there exists a long love story between fine perfumery and gardenia and conceptions of femininity in American culture. It seems that when in doubt, you cannot go wrong with a dose of archetypal sultriness from the south.
This spring, the collaboration was renewed to launch a second feminine fragrance called Saks-en-Rose billed as "a departure from your grandmother's rose." They were not kidding. Initially when I started smelling the new perfume I had to wonder if this was not simply a closeted flanker as it seemed that the gardenia note of the debut fragrance was quite present. Was the idea here to create a rose twist on the original gardenia scent? It proved out to be rather a scent signaling the presence of the lactonic tuberose note in the heart of the fragrance...
Notes: dry dates, Lantana leaves, mace/pink roses, orris, tuberose/musk, sandalwood, amber
The composition turns out to be much more disorienting and original in its accords than I anticipated at first, almost in a molecular-cuisine sense. Saks uses the rather non-revealing term of "modern" to describe the new scent. Once you start discovering the composition, you have to go back to this word and see it as an understatement. Then you find the expression "future-oriented," and this is where Saks-en-Rose does not just talk but walks the walk. Without appearing futuristic in a space-age or sci-fi way, the composition feels as if it wanted to guess how the next decades might remember the history of fragrance. To me, it falls to some extent under the umbrella of a large group of milky perfumes that I have used the term "Milka" to regroup, but it's not a mainstream Milka, it's a disorienting Milka and it's also in parallel to that, an unusual rose fragrance. You could see it ultimately as a peach-Melba rose perfume with green aromatic accents, but it's more than that. You could think of it as a rose-y Mitsouko with a milky, white porcelain cast. This rose here is a new shade of rose scent in perfumery, just like there are signature colors by designers. A glorious precedent in this respect is Shocking by Schiaparelli, which is both the name of a perfume classic and color.
The fragrance is signed by perfumer Laurent Le Guernec of IFF, a French perfumer based in New York City who has already collaborated several times with Bond No. 9. Perfumers are hardly divas, so their creations are usually better known than their public personas. His works include Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, Michael Kors, Avon Rouge, High Line, Coney Island, Chelsea Flowers, New York Fling, amongst others. Bond No9, the niche perfume house made in NYC with a French flair, may not have an in-house perfumer, but Le Guernec is pretty close to being one and is a long-time interpreter of the New York high, middle and low notes.
Saks en Rose opens on an interesting and complex sensation which is less-than-easy to describe but let's say that it resembles a milk bath containing creamy rose petals and crushed green stems. The scent feels very agreeable, green, fig-y (dried dates actually), milky and fresh.The juxtaposition of blush pink and pale green as well as white milk and green sap is unexpected and makes up for an unusual rose scent evoking a glass of updated grenadine where rose syrup would be scenting whole milk. The green tonalities of the rose seem to have been played up rather than down. The rose-y notes do not escape the gourmand reference, making you think of fruity caramel chews with a tart, zingy citrus-y nuance to them.
Saks-en-Rose does not really smell of roses, at least the kind that are to be found in a flower bed in a garden, but rather more of puzzle pieces of them, leaving you feeling slightly quizzical and intrigued while bathing in novel sensations. If this rose really existed in nature you would have to say this is a rose which smells of milk, lemon, caramel, ambergris, orange, tuberose and fruity chews. Add spice and musk. It's completely abstract and shows how a perfumer's mind may come up with unusual pairings brought about by their synaesthetic imaginations.
Bond No. 9 had promised that the top notes were unusual and they are. It's a new green sensation situated somewhere between the scent of banana leaves and perhaps very fresh coconut toddy but at the same time more metallic and evocative of a high-altitude highly oxygenated mountainous Alpine brook. The recherché note here is Lantana leaves, a cousin of verbena. I would say also that the sensation of freshness is renewed in this fragrance.
The perfume becomes more aquatic-milky overtime. Now the textural contrast is more between milk and lemonade. It feels at the same time, very oxgenated but with a noticeable measure of thick apricot cream; t makes me think of Turkish dried apricots filled with thick buffalo cream. Again, the accord is disorienting and not what you would anticipate to smell in a rose fragrance following classic parameters. The gourmand facet is very present with a marked fruity chewy note. I now catch a nuance of dried fig jam and green anise, a Lebanese treat, and an aroma I had thought of when smelling Natori by Josie Natori.
After these evolutions, the perfume remains linear in the drying-down phase. The perfume reenacts to some extent the spicy milky peach accord found in Chinatown by Bond No. 9 but through completely different reconfigurations. I reviewed West Side and Bryant Park in the past, two other rose fragrances by the same house; Saks-en-Rose is much more new-frontier-in-perfumery. It's like being a child again and having no barriers and inhibitions about what a rose scent or flower might smell like. It could smell of anything that you can imagine it to be, and it would make sense, in your head. I wouldn't be surprised if the aesthetics of this scent had been influenced by the love of disorientation of the senses that molecular cuisine cultivates. It would make sense if gourmand fragrances were impacted by this experimental approach and drew inspiration from the edge of flavors and textures.
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