So you think you hate… rose?

There will be those of you will be clutching your pearls at the mere mention that others entertain the notion of hating rose, I know. While ‘the Queen of flowers’ reigns supreme for some, other people refuse to even sniff a scent that’s proferred before them if they know it has rose in it…

Of course it’s completely okay to dislike something on your skin – and if your friend loves wearing rose but you would rather snuggle a skunk than wear it yourself; well we all have our own olfactory forms of Kryptonite, so don’t yuck their yum. But I bet you’re thinking of old fashioned roses (again, beloved by some) of the dusty, slightly musty kind, most often found in drawer-liners and grandma’s dressing table.

The fact is, roses are said to feature in at least 75% of modern feminine fragrances, and at least 10% of all men’s perfumes – and they might not even be listed in the notes described. Chances are, even if you think you hate rose, many of your favourite fragrances could have it tucked away inside.

For perfumers, they’re an absolute cornerstone of perfumery – sometimes powdery, yes, but also fresh, raspberry-like, woody, musky, myrrh-y, almost glassily modern or just blowsily feminine.  In classical myths, the rose was linked both with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and her Roman counterpart, Venus.  When Cleopatra welcomed Mark Antony to her boudoir, her bed was said to be strewn with these aphrodisiac blooms and the floor hidden under a foot and a half of fresh-picked petals. Who could resist rolling around in that?

The roses most commonly used in perfumery are the Turkish rose, the Damask (or Damascene rose) and Rosa Centifolia (the ‘hundred-leafed rose’), which is grown around Grasse in the south of France, and generally considered to produce the highest quality rose absolute. This rose is also known as Rose de Mai, because it generally blooms in the month of May, and  – romantically – ‘the painter’s rose’, because it features in many works of the old masters.

Around 70% of the rose oil in the world comes from Bulgaria;  other significant producers are Turkey, Iran and Morocco, and precious, limited quantities from Grasse. The task of the rose-picker is to pick the dew-drenched blooms before 10 a.m. at the latest, when the sun evaporates their exquisite magic. So fast does the rose fade, in fact, that some farmers in Turkey and Bulgaria transport their own copper stills to the fields, heating them on the spot over wood fires to distill the precious Damask Rose oil, which separates from the water when heated in only the tiniest of quantities: 170 rose flowers are said to relinquish a single drop of absolute.

Given that rose is very likely already found in some of your favourite scents, and with modern noses and advanced techniques meaning rose can smell incredibly unique – completely unrecognisable in some respects – depending on the quality, provenence, how much and where it’s used within the perfumer’s formula… Don’t you think it’s time you revisted the rose?

Molton Brown Rosa Absoluta
Sultry red rose gets up close and personal with warmly spiced patchouli and ripe fruits. Wrapped in violet leaf, the seductiveness is barely tamed, but the overlasting impression is an overtly modern attitude with a nod to vintage va-va-voom. Think vintage velvet smoking jacket worn with jeans, or couture gown with biker boots and a devil-may-care attitude.
£45 for 50ml eau de toilette
moltonbrown.co.uk

Ella K Mémoire de Daisen In
Oh this is a veritable cocktail of fabulousness – a fizz of zesty citrus freshness shot through with the tartness of kumquat. Then velvety soft rose, powdery peony, and hypnotic hedione shimmering through nutmeg-spiced black tea. Plum’s succulent fleshiness becomes suffused in a lullaby of comfort: a whisper of white musk, Iso E Super, and delicate violet cradling a deliciously warm woodiness.

Try an 8ml mini (along with nine other fragrances!) in our Harvey Nichols & The Perfume Society Discovery Box for only £45

The Modernist Nihilism
A rabble-rouser by name, it’s actually icily sophisticated – like Tilda Swinton in scented form. Citrus-infused aldehydes feel like a Champagne bottle smashed against a wall, then soothed by the cashmere soft benzoin caress of the base. A contemporary and surprising take on rose that may end up seducing you, too…
£150 for 50ml eau de parfum
modernistfragrance.com

Prosody Rose Rondeaux
Delightfully decadent, seductively fruity and woody, the top notes of luxurious iris, bergamot and raspberry gradually reveal a delicate rosy heart ruffled with patchouli warmth, and a shapely base of blackcurrant and musky sandalwood. Romantic and radiant, it’s incredible to discover how sophisticated this all-natural and organic fragrance really is on the skin.

Try a sample, along with ALL their fragrances, in the Prosody Discovery Set for £28

Parfums de Marly Delina
Despite being in one of the most swoon-worthy bottles we’ve seen, we know it’s all about the scent inside, and luckily this one more than lives up. Quentin Bisch uses armfulls of Turkish roses, peonies and lily of the valley, but it’s the heart of succulently fruity lychee, rhubarb and bergamot that sets this apart (and juices flowing). Offset with nutmeg and vanilla, swathed in white musk and cashmeran, it has converted many a naysayer to the ways of the rose.
£190 for 75ml eau de parfum
selfridges.com


Fragrance du Bois Oud Rose Intense
A heady scent capturing the excitement and intrigue of a romantic rendezvous – from chaste kisses to rumpled sheets. Fresh bergamot forms a complex, aromatic and suitably fruity beginning, succumbing to essence of rose and woody geranium, sighing into smooth sandalwood and amber, with the all the purring nuances of 100% organic and sustainable oudh (aka ‘liquid gold’) in the gasp-worthy base.

Try a sample (with four other stunning fragrances) in the Fragrance du Bois Discovery Set for £20

Angela Flanders Taffeta
Capturing that time when dusk falls, Taffeta embodies mysterious light, chilled air – one’s senses alive with possibility. Dewy hyacinth is speckled with the hushed rasp of peppery lavender, adding a dry rustle to the beautifully powdered iris and lipstick rose in the heart. Smoky tendrils of vetiver flicker between the shadows and surprising freshness of the base.
£69 for 30ml eau de parfum
angelaflanders-perfumer.com

By Suzy Nightingale

Stopping to Smell the Roses

You can actually smell the Anima Vinci roses in Grasse before you see them. I had been driven from Nice airport to the fields by renowned (and now independent) perfumer, Thomas Fontaine, and have to admit that, as we cruised along the motorway with the steeply exotic looking hills of Grasse surrounding us, I felt like I was (as the young people say these days) living my best life. As I opened the car door a wall of fragrance greeted me, an all-pervading scent that at times was tantalisingly sheer, carried away by a sudden breeze; but mostly hovered like an olfactory canopy, a ceiling of scent.

How to describe the fragrance? Centifolia roses are the epitome of dewy freshness, gathered in the early morning before the sun can evaporate the precious oils, and with a delicate ripe raspberry note flickering through a green, graceful core. Probably the best way I can make it manifest is to say they smell like their colour, but nothing can quite do justice to the experience of closing your eyes and breathing in that smell for yourself.

Left-right: perfumer Thomas Fontaine, Nathalie Vinciguerra, Mr. Joubert

We were visiting the rose fields owned by a farmer called Mr Joubert, who looks exactly as you hope a French rose-field farmer would – frayed flannel shirt and skin long-tanned by his lifetime of hard work in those fields. In fact, I later learned that his family had owned them for centuries, his strong, careful hands expertly cupping the pale pink petals and quickly, so-gently, twisting them to come away as a full bloom. The buds are left on the bush and tomorrow, the process repeated until every petal has been safely gathered and taken in hessian sacks to what basically amounts to Mr Joubert’s garage. Piled en-masse, they’re weighed and transported within two hours to the place that processes them in to ‘concrete’, a solid (or sometimes semi-solid) product resulting from solvent extraction. When the concrete is washed with alcohol, it finally becomes what we know as an ‘absolute’.

Incredibly, it takes around 12 tonnes of fresh flowers to produce just one kilogram of rose absolute, the harvest season for Centifolia roses is only a few days – and what has been gathered represents that entire year’s crop. The back-breaking highly skilled work, the sheer amount of petals it takes to produce the final product and the risk of bad weather or disease affecting the quality explains why Centifolia rose absolute is one of the most expensive materials known in perfumery – currently, the price is between 15 000 / 20 000 euros per kilo.

Nathalie’s fingerprints are all over the perfume world – previously Head of Fragrance Development for Penhaligon’s and L’Artisan Parfumeur – but she’d always wanted to start her own business, where she could ensure the quality, authenticity and sustainability through every single stage of a perfume’s production. Every year she makes sure to personally visit the rose fields to assess the quality, to make sure the farmer is happy and to continue to build these vital relationships that, ultimately, shape the way we smell when we purchase that final bottle of perfume.

Wearing it now, I can be transported back to those sun-baked fields in a flash, and really that’s the power of perfume, isn’t it? To capture a moment for eternity, to gift us the experience of travelling back there with every eager spritz, to allow us to dream. But what does the future hold for precious, labour-intensive fragrant crops such as these?

Some farming families in Grasse used to own jasmine fields, too, Nathalie tells me, but the majority were forced to abandon them when companies found they could buy (lesser quality) jasmine far more cheaply, elsewhere. ‘Their children didn’t want to take on such work with such risk – they could make far more money through selling the land for property or even for “glamping”, or you know, they go and work in IT…’ Nathalie tells me.

Visiting these fields – meeting the producers first-hand – cannot help but drum home to anyone with even a fleeting interest in fragrance how vital it is to support these companies who genuinely care about that future. And so, the next time you reach for a bottle of what purports to be a ‘rose perfume’, do you know exactly where those petals grew? I guarantee that if you do, your pleasure at wearing it can only increase…

Anima Vinci Rose Prana £150 for 100ml eau de parfum

Buy it at animavinci.com or Les Senteurs

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Which are the most fragrant roses on earth? Read our guide to a heavenly scented garden…

Is anything more disappointing than spotting a voluptuously gorgeous rose, cupping it gently in your hands and going in for the sniff… only to discover it’s completely without scent? Obviously we adore fragrance here at The Perfume Society, and roses just have to be in our Top Three Flowers Ever – so as part of our on-going celebrations we’d love to share with you a particularly fragrant feature on the very best scented roses you can grow, to make your garden smell like heaven on earth…
Written for us by Country Living Gardens editor, Stephanie Donaldson, The Most Fragrant Roses on Earth was previously an exclusive feature in our award-winning magazine, The Scented Letter… From interviews with the world’s top perfumers, a round-up of the latest launches you absolutely must sniff right now and a plethora of perfumed features – we have our finger firmly on the pulse to bring you all the news your nose should know.
Available in flickable-format online to subscribers, so many of you told us you were laboriously printing it out at home, page by page, that we listened and also made it available in a gorgeously glossy print version to satiate your scent-reading lusts (and save your printer cartridges!) In fact, we’re honoured to have readers worldwide, with the launch of our International Subscription, and now you can join the ever-growing throng to see the sort of thing you’ve been missing out on so far.
So, settle back with a cuppa and breathe in the heady scent of possibility for the rose garden of your dreams…




 
Written by Suzy Nightingale

400 roses in a bottle? That’ll be Francis Kurkdjian’s new A la rose

The lusciousness of this visual for Francis Kurkdjian‘s newest (just-in-time-for-Valentine’s) launch. It’s roses, roses all the way – ‘the Queen of flowers’, as Francis puts it – and every bottle contains 250 Centifolia (May) roses from Grasse, together with 160 Damascena roses from Bulgaria.

It’s airily beautiful – Francis, as his fans know, has a wonderfully light touch, and this floral-woody creation is a gauzy, ‘see-through’ rose with a soft sensuality. Opening with bright Calabrian bergamot and Californian orange, pear and lychee add playful touches. In the heart, the rose garlands violet and magnolia blossoms, drizzled with honeyed sweetness, radiating absolute femininity.

Of course it doesn’t end there: musk and cedarwood blend with the Centifolia roses. It’s sexy, yes – but not overpowering (and airy enough to wear to the office, we’d say.

It may be winter outside, but it has us dreaming of summer, rose gardens and warm (but hot water bottle-free) nights.

Francis Kurkdjian From £145 for 70ml eau de parfum

Launching imminently at Liberty and Les Senteurs and available online now at franciskurkdjian.com

Written by Jo Fairley
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