Une Tonne de Roses (A Ton of Roses) is one of the eight perfumes launched late last year under the new label Parle Moi de Parfum (Tell Me About Perfume), founded by the two sons of industry stalwart, perfumer Michel Almairac of Robertet. It is an attempt, on the face of it, at reclaiming more independence after decades of services to big brands and sprawling companies. For the scions of the family, Benjamin and Romain Almairac, rather than becoming next-generation noses like it is traditional to do so in the very familial culture of French perfumery, it is a project in self-reliance - and perhaps, later, handing-over of a niche brand to a group after it would have been properly incubated for several years. Niche has become a product and a branding effort with its own codes, while the culture of the start-up is bleeding into it...
At this early stage, we are invited to discover the work of Michel Almairac under a new angle, that of a family-business experiment brought from Grasse to Paris, where the label opened a boutique made to look like a clean, aseptized perfumer laboratory. No attempt at mystery is made. Fragrance story-telling looks like a tale of transparency only tempered by the brown glass of the bottles meant to shield perfumery materials from light. Not much information is given about "fragrance notes". But the brand recognizes the importance of story-telling for perfumes. If you're like this reviewer, you are never content just with notes and facts. You always ask, yes, but what's the story of the fragrance, its meaning and purpose in life?
You could expect Almairac to recycle his formulae, the ones he gave to the big labels. Or you could hope that he would feel freer to experiment.
For our debut review of the house, we picked Une Tonne de Roses because a rose fragrance being über classical and almost canvas-like, you can see more clearly where the paradigm gets renewed, if at all; but also because since it is said to rest on a main accord of rose and patchouli; it rings familiar as Almairac has worked several times on the idea in the course of his career. The name finally lets you dream of a riot of rose essence preciously sourced from the city of Grasse whence the family hails.
Une Tonne de Roses is not so much a lush rose perfume intent of smothering you with an excess of nature as a composition with an idea. The rose-patchouli accord has been creatively upset. This is why after the initial impression of a rose chypre as well as just of rose, the ambience changes with the introduction of a marked banana-leaf note, green, fruity and minimally sweet. It becomes creamy making you think of some crème de banana, while the verdancy remains throughout as a guarantee of freshness and exoticism. It is as if smelling a field of roses growing in a jungle and a banana plantation, all at once. It is reminiscent of Almairac's work on a very banana-like gardenia with Saks Fifth Avenue by Bond No.9.
The patchouli can be smelled in the background but it is not strong. Rather, it smells diffusive and precious carrying the elegant signature of a light chypre. That impression deepens overtime. The patchouli gradually and slowly becomes more and more present. The perfume has hints of mint and ambergris. This is a rose composition made more arresting thanks to unusual green accents borrowed from the tropical spectrum of gardenia. What you smell in the end is less surprising. The resolution is fairly classical. The fragrance is qualitative. It does fulfill the aim of smelling interesting. As to smelling unforgettable, or moving, that is another matter.
Un Tonne de Roses does not break free from the confines of the niche universe, which is the dedicated cultural space for teasing and upsetting traditional accords. It occupies you intellectually for a time. You are charmed to a degree. You do appreciate the study. But it does not haunt you nor rip your soul nor inexplicably become necessary to you. In other words, it lacks that most indispensable ingredient of a deep perfume, a je ne sais quoi, a magical element, which is almost impossible to put into words, but which has the force of a moral imperative.