Bond No.9 Saks-en-Rose (2010): A Rose by Name, Sweet-Smelling but None (almost) of Rose: A Molecular Gourmand? {Perfume Review & Musings} + Samples Drawing


I-letter-tss-quaint-B.jpgIn 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...

bath-rose-milk.jpg Milk and rose petals bath at DVN Spa by Dennis Wong

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.

Please leave a comment and you will be entered to win a 2-ml sample. Two winners will be announced on Thursday.       

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30 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. I wouldn't have tried this, but your description has me really intrigued!

    • Chelsea:

      Me too, I didn't expect this level of quirkiness from a Saks fragrance, but at the same time, it riffs on milky and gourmand notes, so this compensates that. By the way, I can do a draw for two 2-ml samples of the perfume.

      Chant Wagner
  2. what a thorough and intriguing review. ALthough I take umbrage at statements like: 'this is not your grandma's rose' (what the hell is that supposed to mean, anyway?) this does sound like an entirely new beast in a way. Sounds cool, although I must say I'm a bit peeved at this house right now. Please enter me in the drawing!

    la bonne vivante
    • La bonne vivante:

      You're in! Yes, "not your grandma's rose" is not flattering to grandmas and us future grandmas (marketing teams, please take note!) I think what they wanted to convey via this stereotyping is something like: this is not a soliflore and does not smell like rose-water, try it and live to see! I think that many people discard rose-centered perfumes as stodgy and old-fashioned. Sometimes mentalities are really slow to evolve.

      I know, Bond No.9, like rose fragrances, tends to be polarizing. Some perfume houses are like that: Creed, Serge Lutens, Guerlain...did I forget anyone?

      Chant Wagner
  3. Milk rose petal spa bath. Yes, Please! I would like to try some of that any day. Please enter me into your drawing.

    • MKay:
      It's a simile, which made sense to me on a second try, but the first time, I was wondering what all these disconnected sensations were!

      Chant Wagner
  4. Definitely intriguing! I'm curious to find out how much this has in common with the other Bond No9 fragrances, scent-wise ... the others I've sampled seem to have a fruity-fresh accord in common.

    • Martha:

      Yes, you could find common notes, like also the long drydown smells of sun-warmed skin on the beach. And the sophisticated gourmand facets too. It's definitely not what I expected and think it's interesting Saks are being a little adventurous.

      Chant Wagner
  5. I tried this in Saks the other day and thought it was quite nice, though it was competing for attention with a couple other scents I was sampling. I'd love to be entered into the draw.

    • Elisa:

      Yes, the better method is to try at home!

      Chant Wagner
  6. A milky rose sounds absolutely delicious. Gourmands are my absolute favorite. Yeah this wasnt on the top of my try list either but after this description, it sounds like a must have for me. Thanks so much! : )

    • You're entered! Biscotti by Marc Jacobs is less quirky but it's also a sophisticated gourmand and the upcoming Womanity by Mugler is also exploring the future of gourmand notes, so I guess it's a trend! Angel Liqueur is a must-try in this category (aged like Cognac in cherry wood casks) and was a must-have for me!

      Chant Wagner
  7. I would love to try this as there is no Saks store where I live. I have tried some of the other Bond fragrances and Chinatown is my favorite. I love the smell of Gardenia and I am sure this fragrance is going to be on my to buy list.

    • Sylvie:

      My impression of the gardenia came from the wafts that escaped from the sample. In the development of the fragrance, it's not so apparent but I think is part of the tuberose note as some common materials obviously are used to create either a tuberose or a gardenia note. For a really great realistic yet none too flamboyant gardenia, I can only recommend the Kate Spade edp which has that nice lemony note.

      I think that if you like Chinatown, you might appreciate this scent but it's less exotic-smelling (spice-box) and more "future-oriented."

      Chant Wagner
  8. I do like the first Saks, it's about the only Bond I can say that about. The new one sound fascinating though. Please enter me in the draw.

    Great review!

    Janet in CA
    • Janet:

      Thanks! I also liked the first one. This one I find intriguing, to decide whether I like it or not on a subjective level, I think I would need to spend more time with it as I think one of the reasons we might like a scent immediately is when it brings up familiar associations. But there might be other reasons for liking a scent immediately: I was not on the lookout personally for a milky rose.

      Chant Wagner
  9. I think my comments got mixed up with "la bonne vivant's" comments. Just want to clarify. Please, enter me into the drawing.

    • MKay:

      I need to have set up a better thread system! Thanks for the reminder!

      Chant Wagner
  10. O yes!!! Angel Liqueur is a must try!! I prefer it 100x more than the original!! My all time favorite gourmand and fragrance in general is Flowerbomb Viktor & Rolf!!! I ADORE it!!! : )

    • Jay:

      Oh, you know what, I need to sit down with Flowerbomb. And to think they have a pastry now inspired by it!

      Chant Wagner
  11. And here I thought I wasn't interested in any of the Bonds...this sounds incredible! Please enter me in the draw.

    • Lauren:


      Added: I was wondering if you've never even wanted to try them because of their image or if you meant that you've never found a Bond No.9 you liked?

      Chant Wagner
  12. Please enter me in the drawing too ... thanks!

  13. Marie-Helene,
    I haven't been attracted enough by any of the descriptions to break down and order any samples of Bond No.9 fragrances. Okay...maybe I'd eventually have had to smell Chinatown, Little Italy, and Chelsea Flowers... But their recent harrassment of [name redacted] really put me off. I have to admit that milky, figgy, green rose sounds absolutely dreamy, though!

    • Lauren,

      Got you.

      Chant Wagner
  14. Yes!! I would LOVE to read your review of Flowerbomb!! It's truly the love of my life. I never got to try the Extreme version. : (

    • Jay,

      My pleasure. Need to round up the different versions, if I want to be systematic :)

      Chant Wagner
  15. Marie-Helene, I have recently discovered your blog and i adore it! Thank you so much for writing it, it is now one of my favorites! If I am eligible in Argentina, I would love to be entered in the draw (this perfume sounds heavenly, I love "milky"! like Shiseido Zen [white version], or perhaps the milkiness in that one is only my sensation/perception).
    p.d. I too would like to read your review of Flowerbomb :)

    • Melina,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. It's not a problem for me if you're in Argentina, but the draw was closed today! I should have written down a note about this here. There is a giveaway for 5 samples of Vetyverio though, if you want to enter. It's also milky.

      I have the Shiseido Zen you mention, but I wouldn' be able to locate it right now so will have to suspend any commenting on that.

      Review of Flowerbomb in the works!

      I'll try to do a post on milky fragrances, like a list of suggestions.

      Chant Wagner
  16. The draw for Saks-en-Rose is closed now, but another one has opened for Vétyvério. Thanks!


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