We explained previously how we think in terms of cultural-shopping categories when it comes to reviewing personal fragrances. We still need to explain fully why (article forthcoming), but here is a practical example, as applied to a diagonal vision of rose perfumes as they smell today in the beginning of 2012 (reformulations happen and ideally, fragrances must be re-evaluated regularly).
Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie
The natural beauty of roses blooms in this composition dedicated to showcasing high-quality materials. The house of Creed will tell you that each batch of their fragrances is a like a wine vintage, so there is not telling whether you will get exactly the one I smelled. But let's say that this rose blend can be ravishing at its peak...
Frédéric Malle Une Rose
This is a composition which thinks that more is better signed by perfumer Edouard Fléchier. It rests on an overdose of rose and it screams quality. A spectacular, lavish bigger-than-life Hollywoodian rose - save for the old-world European feel - filmed in cinemascope to suit its breathless epic style. The house is so conscious it is dangerously dosed - their fragrance with the highest concentration of oils - that they request of their customers to be careful when applying it. They could make a pure extract of it and I would still wear it.
Guerlain Rose Barbare
One of the most satisfying rose compositions to be had signed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. It is beautiful with a balanced, classical, round feel thanks to the honeyed chypre structure, without being unimaginative. A touch of Indian spice - fenugreek -, and other things, make sure there is enough hidden complexity. It mixes an old-school feel with a more light-hearted mindset and more modern style.
Niche, Authorial, Art-et-Essai Perfumes
A Lab on Fire Rose Rebelle
This composition succeeds in conveying an anticonformist streak, projecting the image of a rock'n roll rose perfume by just playing with a few fragrance notes - they only admit to rose and cocoa - and a minimalist lab bottle which won't help you read it as being counter-cultural. Yet it does smell like something akin to a short riff on an electric guitar made of roses. It's not caressing, it's a bit brusque. You do remember its swimming-upstream quality...
Lorenzo Villoresi Donna
This is an absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful rose composition. It is so touching and throbbing, so vulnerable, plaintive, melancholy, and yet winning. The perfume evokes the triste yet enchanting operatic accents of La Traviata as well as echoes of the broken and desperate voice of Celtic punk singer Shane McGowan, all at the same time. Yes, fragrance can do that for you. A must-smell.
Serge Lutens Sa Majesté La Rose
A cascade of rose petals, a no-apology, bold-type rose composition. You can read a fuller review of Sa Majesté La Rose by Serge Lutens here.
Designer, Prestige, Lifestyle
Cartier So Pretty
This is a radiant, lush and youthful rose chypre perfume (alas now discontinued as of 2015 - but keep looking for it at discounters). It carries its name very well. On top of that it smells very Parisian, tailored and elegant. You can read a fuller review of So Pretty by Cartier on the blog.
Vivienne Westwood Boudoir
A thoroughly interesting and beautiful rose perfume featuring a very original accord of red roses and cured tobacco leaves. One really wants to give a tip of one's hat to Dutch perfumer Martin Gras, not the least because he is better known within industry circles, than appear at the forefront of the public's consciousness.
Masstige and Mass-Market Fragrances
Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose
This drugstore gem instead of disappearing has become an enduring classic since its release in 1972. And rightly so. It is a lush, rich soliflore dedicated to all the petals of a tea rose seen in macro-vision. To cure anyone from an onset of snobbery - in the wrong sense as in prejudiced rather than in being selective - be it known that Frédéric Malle of Editions de Parfum, the standard-bearer of authorial perfumery, counts it as one of his favorite perfumes.
Natural, Organic, Artisanal perfumes
Auric Blends Naturals Layla
A honeyed, dark rose with a discreet suggestion of animality. The rose is sweet and mellow with fruity, prune-like nuances. If you know Rose de Nuit de Serge Lutens, it goes a bit in that direction, but with more marmeladey and more powdery accents, all at once. The composition blooms on the skin without being showy, nor shout-y. The oil used as a carrier makes it behave more like an extrait with a more intimate feel.
Peony can't be extracted so the effect here is that of a fresher, greener rose on a soft bed of cedar-y pencil shavings. It is very natural, brisk and uplifting. It feels like a a walk in the moors in the morning. Nature fiends will love it also for its green conscience. It's very office-appropriate, thanks to its subdued charm.
Fifi Chachnil edt
French lingerie brand Fifi Chachnil re-introduced the eau de toilette version of their signature perfume at Le Club des Créateurs (now defunct as of 2015). It's a rose-ambergris scent with enough plainly obvious rosiness to it to warrant it being on this list. It also offers an interesting hidden gender twist - besides the tobacco accord - turning it into a fresh feminine fougère with a lavender signature, for part of its personality.
Perfume Oils, Non-Perfumes
Full disclore: I haven't smelled those two rose perfume oils listed below, but I am mentioning them as they seem to garner very positive feedbacks and word-of-mouths. Will update when I come around to testing them.
Auric Blends Rose
Madini Rose Perfume Oil
Picture: Attar of Roses by Peter Hutchinson in the Giant Flower Series, 2004.
You can also read our Smell-the-Roses-Till-Valentine's-Day Challenge from January 2008.