My ideal rose

In Celia Lyttleton’s book The Scent Trail, which is about her travels in search of inspiration for a bespoke perfume, there is one sentence I love. I happened upon it again last night while I was idly flipping through the book.

In the introduction Lyttleton mentions her earliest scent memories being that of her grandparents’ house. She remembers not just the smell of woodsmoke, cigars, leather, and dark chocolate but also:

my grandmother’s rich peppery rose scent (which she had made in Cairo during the war and the formula of which she kept so that she could have it copied in Paris).’

All of that sounds delightful, but oh! How enchanting to have a scent made in Cairo, and loving it so much as to keep the formula and ‘have it copied’ in Paris. She had a bespoke perfume made for her twice over, in Cairo – and Paris! How much more romantic can you get? (Well, not the war bit.)

How I would love to be there, to smell the perfume, to follow the grandmother through some lovely little street in Paris with her last bottle, to have the perfume recreated. How precious it must have been to her.

So I have been dreaming of finding my own ‘rich, peppery rose scent’. Trouble is, I have never liked rose soliflores much. I don’t like dark angry roses, I don’t wear rose-violet blends (though I appreciate their beauty), I don’t like tea-rose, and wine-like rose might remind me of vinegar. I can’t usually afford high-end niche fragrances, which is where a lot of the adventurous roses tend to be. That does not leave me much room to move does it?

Well, I do have some spicy roses: samples of Tauer’s Insense Rosé and Une Rose Chyprée. Both are lovely but rather intense. My ideal peppery rose would be a bit easier to wear. No powder though; this is not a salon fragrance. It would be a bit rough and unrefined, as befits a perfume perhaps blended firstly on the streets. It would have an earthy or mossy base, I think, but there would be something a little sweet and airy in the blend as well, to suggest the City of Light. Citrus, and maybe lily-of-the-valley? Magnolia? Hyacinth?

Any suggestions? Natalie’s recent review on anotherperfumeblog Caron’s Parfum Sacre makes me think that that one could be a good start.

Or is this dream best left as just that – a dream?

33 thoughts on “My ideal rose

  1. Ooh, ooh! How about Le Labo Rose 31??? It’s a gorgeous, easy to wear spicy rose; it’s on the pricey side, but at least it’s the sort of thing that you only need one spritz for a full-days wear…

    Montale’s Oud Queen Roses is another gorgeous spicy rose, if you like the oud note (it’s subtle, for a Montale).

    I hope you find the perfect rose!!! 🙂

    1. Having seen and tried one or two Le Labos in Melbourne, I have at least got my head around the brand a bit, and it doesn’t seem so intimidating, so thanks! And on the Montale, I’m not sure I have tried any oud fragrances. Why not? Not sure. Anyway, now could be the time …

    1. Well, I’ve been avoiding the Ormonde Jayne rabbit hole until now, but have noticed the love for Ta’if. I’ve just realised that Luca Turin’s turns over half his review to a long quote from Raymond Chandler. So now I definitely am interested! (Love Chandler) This is a perfume with something to say.

  2. I have a rose chypre fragrance, Ballets Rouges, set to be released in April, but I think it’s a little heavier, greener, and muskier than what you describe. Posts like this inspire me – maybe I’ll work on a Cairo Rose project after I finish the DevilScent project!

    I haven’t read “The Scent Trail”, but will definitely have to do so now.

    1. Ballets Rouges conjures up all sorts of lovely images – can’t wait!

      Green would be fine – I never say no to green in a fragrance – but musk I’m never sure about. I do realise how widely used it is in perfumery though. Working without it must be like what it would be for a painter to work without the colour blue, or something.

      I wonder if you will like The Scent Trail? A lot of perfume enthusiasts do, but the author does get her facts a bit wonky. She’s a journalist, so she writes well, and bits that describe her journey are great. The more technical stuff about perfume feel as if they have been ‘researched’ rather than really lived.

  3. “Peppery rose” definitely sounds like Parfum Sacre, though the pepper in PS is much too much for me, personally.

    Have you tried Ungaro Diva? or Agent Provocateur? (Neither is peppery per se, but they are both a little spicy with a mossy/earthy base, and not too expensive.)

    1. I’m going to try PS, although it may not have the shafts of light that I am imagining.

      Funny, I do have a mini of Diva, now you mention it. I’ll dig it out. And give AP a try too. Thanks!

  4. Two wonderful non niche roses are Sisley Soir de Lune (a glorious chypre) and Perles de Lalique (drier, easier to wear).
    As for rose+citrus, we like Rose Ikebana and Un Zest de Rose.
    Good luck with your search!

  5. Thanks for your suggestions. I did wonder if Rose Ikebana could be the one. Sisley is sold in a department store near me, hooray! But I have feeling I spritzed Soir de Lune and did not like it. I’ll give it another go.

    1. Oh that is so helpful. Many thanks! My goodness, Dirty Rose sounds like it could be the one, especially for the rough aspects – they connect back to the early part of Celia Lyttleton’s quote (leather, smoke) that she remembers from her grandparent’s house. Many, many times I have nearly ordered samples from DSH, but hesitated because there is so much choice. I do feel now like I have a path in.

  6. I love perfume books but always passed over this one for some reason but if you like it I’ll re-investigate.

    Oh I do love a peppery rose! I think OJ Ta’if and Parfum Sacre are your best bets. I think The Different Company also do a perfume called Rose Poivre.

    I know it’s not what you’re looking for but I am nuts about Parfumerie Generale’s Brulure de Rose at the moment. A pretty rose dusted in carmel. Yum! Also love By Kilian’s Rose Oud but that’s silly money. For a citrusy rose with a lot of light I’d recommend Guerlain’s Nahema, though I don’t remember it being peppery.

    Good luck with your search.It’s definitely not just a dream, annemarie!

    1. Thanks. It’s a long time since I tried Nahema and I don’t remember it being peppery either but I’ll give it another go next time I see it, even if it is just for my perfume education. Caramel is not my sort of thing, and yet I can see why a rose-caramel combo would be yummy.

      I think an Ormonde Jayne discovery set might not be out of the question soon. The Australian dollar seems quite against the pound at the moment … Off topic, but their frangipani sounds lovely.

  7. Second OJ Ta’if, it’s a lovely peppery rose and easy to wear. TDC Rose Poivre is a lot more intense, masculine and peppery and quite difficult to wear at least for me! Francis K. (can’t remember how to spell his last name!) Lumiere Noire pour femme is also a spicy rose, very ladylike.

    1. Hmmm … I wonder if my rose is ladylike? I’m not sure. Stylish, confident, she knows what she wants and she loves her small luxuries. But she is practical. She will do whatever it takes to keep things running smoothly: change a tyre (not something I can do), scrub a floor, dig up the potatoes she has planted …

      TDC is probably out of my reach financially, as is Francis K. now that he has his own house. I do love the fragrance he did for Kenzo, Eau de Fleurs de Magnolia.

  8. Ta’if! Ta’if!

    I like many other suggestions as well, so I won’t repeat them. May I suggest Les Parfums de Rosine? They know a thing or two about rose perfumes 🙂 There is a nice offer – samples set of their complete range of perfumes for EUR25 including delivery.

  9. I still consider myself quite the newbie, perfume-wise, so I’m not totally sure about the difference between a wine-like rose, or a dark angry rose, or a tea-rose….. you get my meaning. So take anything I say with a massive grain of salt.

    I love Parfum Sacre, but I would’ve considered this a “dirty rose” because of the incense and spices. It’s wonderful though. I get a very similar vibe from Sonoma Scent Studio’s Vintage Rose, but I think cedar needs to work with your chemistry for this one.

    Two other possibilities, both of which are reasonably priced. Smell Bent’s Bollywood or Bust is a lot of fun, and the rose is “higher-pitched” than in Parfum Sacre. Yves Rocher’s Absolue Rose is a lovely little thing, but it’s possible this might be a wine rose. A lot of lighter rose scents go sour on my skin, but this one works on me. (And the Secrets d’Essences lines has these great little minis that make me smile.)

    1. I know what you mean about the sourness – I’m troubled by that too. But it sounds like I have plenty of choices – thanks for your suggestions. I do have SSS Velvet Rose but I remember not liking it much. It has something in common wiht the bases of some other SSS’s that I don’t like. But I will try it again!

      1. One thing to keep in mind is that Laurie has a Velvet Rose as well as a Vintage Rose. Velvet Rose is her soliflore, and smells lovely on my local Evil Scent Twin and sour on me, while Vintage Rose works great on my skin and goes hamster-cage on EST. (Also, Rose Musc is similar to Velvet Rose,with a musky base added, so still no go for me.) If the bases of Laurie’s spicier, woodsy frags don’t work for you, Vintage Rose probably won’t either.

        1. Thanks, yes, I have a feeling I have tried Vintage Rose too, with no success, but I will haul out my samples to check. I have a sample of Nostalgie on the way and I hope it will avoid the problem of the spicy, woodsy base. I do try everything Laurie does because her stuff is awesome.

  10. This is a great question, Anne Marie! I second Undina’s suggestion of trying from the Parfums de Rosine line. And I believe they are available at Space NK in Australia, right? Also, what about Comme des Garcons Series 2 Rose or the Body Shop Moroccan Rose (more transparent than spicy, but some spice in the opening, if I recall)? And it’s not a true rose, but what about Dior Dolce Vita? I would suggest Tauer Une Rose Vermeille, but I’m guessing maybe the Tauer’s will all be too strong … Hmmm.

    I hope you report back, and thank you for the mention!

  11. Hi Natalie, many thanks. As far as I can see there is no Space NK in Australia, and they do not deliver here. My local Mecca Cosmetica carries a few Rosines, tho’ not many. (I have the grumps with my MC because it has stopped carrying Diptyque’s L’Ombre dans l’Eau. I mean, I ask you … ).

    CdG is pretty expensive? I remember not liking Moroccan Rose much, but I’ll try it again. URV was too sweet for me. But Dolce Vita … now there’s a thought. Haven’t tried that one for ages. Thanks.

  12. I’m sampling PdE’s line right now (really impressed thus far, too) and today Eau Suave got skin – I immediately thought of your post when I smelled it. It’s a lot lighter than Parfum Sacre, and at first I thought “naw, nothing special.” Except here I am an hour in and I can’t stop huffing myself. The first ten minutes were a bit sour, but once it changed….. wow.

    And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the PdE line is surprisingly reasonable: $75 for 50ml. Lovely perfumes at a great price? Ladies and gentleman, this is how you do niche.

    1. Oh many thanks, that sounds wonderful. While I say I’m not a fan of tea rose, it may be that the tea rose in Eau Suave gives the sort of lightness I am after in my idea rose, as well as the pepper and earth. Angela on NST loves this one.

      The only Parfum d’Empire stockist I know of in Australia stopped carrying the line last year. Damn. But I am seriously thinking of getting one of PdE’s sample sets. I know Fougere Bengale quite well because a friend wears it. Which fragrances have you been sampling? I’ll have a look at Birgit’s blog too, as I think she has reviewed some.

      1. PdE’s sample line is one of the best deals I’ve ever come across, 16 Euros for 13 2ml spray samples, with free worldwide shipping. (Honestly, I’m not affiliated, just impressed with a great deal.) Plus I freely admit it’s just so fun getting mail from France! Canada’s got the wonkiest postal system around, so take this with a grain of salt, but they arrived in less than a week.

        Thus far I’ve only sampled Eau Gloire, Cuir Ottoman – the first leather I’ve been able to wear, mmmm-mmmm-mm – and Wazamba, but that’s because I’ve been putting Wazamba through its paces for more than a week. Wazamba vs. Avignon, Wazamba vs. Zagorsk, Wazamba vs. Incense Pure, Wazamba vs. Bois d’Encens…… I’m an incense girl. 😉

        1. Not just an incense girl, but a girl who loves typing the word Wazamba a lot! It’s such a great word! Pd’E have the most wonderful names for their fragrances. They just roll deliciously off the tongue.

          I was terribly good and resisted the full sample set in favour of just the threesome. There are a few Pd’Es that I have tried and I know are probably not for me, so a little niggardly voice in my head told me that it would be pointless paying for something I don’t need. So I went for Eau Suave, Equistrius, and Azemour les Oranges. I love the sound of those words: Azemour les Oranges. Can’t wait for my package! Such fun.

  13. Ta’if here, also Rose Kashmirie in particular from the Rosine line. Second the suggestion of Safrant Troublant and like Tara I love Brulure de Rose and Rose Oud. Is Portrait of a Lady a contender too, maybe?

    A final suggestion would be Kenzo Flower Oriental – yes it has violet, but is more about the pepper! Even Indian Holi come to think of it, though that might be a bit too sweet.

    (Notice the Eastern theme emerging…)

    1. Thanks for your suggestions. Safran Troublant sounds a definite possibility. And I will def. try the Kenzo. Violet is okay, it’s just that the rose-violet blend often comes out as cosmetic powder or lipstick, which I’m not so keen on. It sounds as if the wood and incense notes prevent this happening in KFO. We’ll see!


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