After reading an extract from Edmond Roudnitska’s Le Parfum - in which the great nose discusses the importance of cultural conditioning in perfume appreciation - Tauer tickled the guests’ olfactory bulbs with two rose absolutes: Bulgarian rosa damascena followed by rosa centifolia. As is often the way in such gatherings, the substances provoked differing reactions. Although everyone agreed that both were recognisably roses, some found the centifolia smoother, richer and more honeyed than the damascena. Others considered the centifolia much sharper and ‘greener’.
This diversity of views continued when Tauer presented some of the molecules which are frequently used to create ‘synthetic’ rose perfumes. These included citronellol and eugenol. The former is instantly identifiable as rose-like, although it lacks the depth and darkness of a natural rose extract. The latter smells of cloves and occurs naturally in patchouli, ylang-ylang and bay leaf oils, as well as rose otto and jasmine absolute. The usage of both is currently restricted by IFRA, which makes the perfumer’s task of formulating a believable rose scent increasingly difficult. As an aside, Tauer pointed out that the restrictions on eugenol are also responsible, at least in part, for the demise of convincing carnation perfumes.
The most fascinating observations were to be drawn from the ‘finished’ perfumes which were sprayed during the course of the evening: Yann Vasnier and Francoise Caron’s Rose from Comme Des Garcons’ Red Series, Edouard Flechier’s Une Rose for Frederic Malle, Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Nahema for his family line, and Tauer’s own Miriam, released under the new Tableau De Parfums label.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Comme De Garcons was deemed the least interesting, with many calling it the thinnest, most synthetic-smelling of the foursome. The response to Une Rose was only marginally warmer, although, as fans of the scent pointed out, this may have been due to the fact that it was being smelt on paper. Flechier’s composition uses a great deal of Karanal, a woody amber ingredient which tends not to reveal its claws until it is applied onto skin.
The Guerlain, considered by many to be one of the greatest rose perfumes of all time, generated a discussion about fashions in smells. Several guests found its peach note quite dated; others were shocked to learn it was created as far back as the 70s. The question of trends tied in with the analysis of Miriam, which uses sandalwood, rose, violets and a hefty dose of aldehydes to produce a decidedly retro feel.
“The fascinating thing,” said Tauer, as the evening drew to a close, “is that we’ve just picked out one ingredient, which is rose. But we could have done the same thing with other ingredients. Orange blossom or jasmine or lavender. This tells you that the world of perfume and perfumery is almost endless.”
He concluded with a plea. “When you are visiting a perfumery, be it Les Senteurs or Harrods, I kindly ask you: don’t trust what they tell you. We perfumers, we are always forced to tell you something. Top notes, heart notes, base notes. But it’s completely irrelevant. The fragrance will always be different from one person to the next. It will be your nose that decides whether there’s rose in it or not. I would really like to invite you to trust your nose. Your nose will tell you whether you smell something interesting, whether you smell something that’s worth investing money in. And whether it’s something that you’re going to wear two years from now.”
The new branch of Les Senteurs is at 2 Seymour Place, London, W1H 7NA.
About the author
Persolaise is a Jasmine Award winning writer and amateur perfumer who has had a strong interest in the world of fine fragrance for over 25 years. You can find out more about his work at www.persolaise.com or by emailing him at persolaise at gmail dot com.