The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!
Andy started off by asking how many people in the room had made perfume out of rose petals as children – not surprising that a lot of hands went up. This was a classic rose scent, perhaps some might think it reminiscent of what our grandmothers might have worn, yet so beautifully constructed that it’s perfectly wearable even for a man today – Andy recommended it as it's a staple in his perfume rotation.
The Historic Rose Hamman Bouquet Penhaligon’s (1872)
In Victorian times there was no taboo regarding men wearing florals, infact it was common for them to wear rather heady, pungent perfumes containing rose. Hammams or Turkish Baths were common around the area of Jermyn Street where Penhaligons first opened its shop in the 1860s, indeed there was a Hammam next door to the original shop. HB has a naughty dose of civet at the base and was described as rather too lavatorial for some people’s tastes… for others…what shall we say? It was one of the most requested samples of the evening….
We paused here to smell natural extracts of Rosa Damascena and Rosa Centifolia (Rose de Mai), to compare their odour profile. Neither would be what you call lovely – hence the perfumer has a job cut out for themselves to recreate a rose. The R. Damascena was heavier and had more vegetal aspect to it, the R. Centifolia was notably lighter and smelled more rose-like.
This is still an old favourite with some and can be bought rather economically too. We smelled it as a reference point because it does demonstrate rather well what ‘tea rose’ smells like. The tea rose smell is actually constructed from different perfume materials than that two raw materials above – the PW version was there to serve a as reference point.
If the first two perfumes were more historic in nature, this was an update on a gorgeous gentleman’s rose. A slight touch of sweetness and fruitiness to soften, but still comfortably in masculine territory, this perfume has a cult following. It was created by John Stephen. The number comes from No.88 Jermyn St. where the company is located, though all agreed that this perfume would have been more aptly named 'Dark Rose' since it does have rich, deep qualities.
The Visionary Rose: Nahema Extrait Guerlain 1979
Smelling the extrait or parfum version of a perfume is so often a revelatory experience – this is really what the perfumer was trying to say, without apology. Nahema in extrait form is surprisingly fruity (some of us ascribed this to possible use of an aroma chemical called Raspberry Ketone, though we could be wrong). Nahema was not an enormous hit for Guerlain at the time, but smelling it now you can understand one thing – it was so ahead of it’s time – a fruity floral?! There weren’t many of those around at the time. They may be ubiquitous nowadays, but it was Nahema that very much led the way.
In the tradition of fruity roses, we were able to smell the new Serge Lutens La Fille De Berlin. The perfume was inspired by Marlena Dietrich and is surprisingly rich and sweet rather than vampy, falling into the category of very well-executed fruity roses.
This is a rose that works for both men and women, spicy with pink pepper at the top, beautiful, intense but sheer at the same time, something which men and women can both easily wear. This was another of Andy’s staples, which for him showed the genius of perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour.
An excellent rose for men with patchouli at the base - another staple in Andy's rotation.
The Sexy Rose Rose 31 Le Labo
Andy said he found this perfume outright dirty… it was the sexiest rose he knew, and this he attributed in part to the cumin in the perfume. Not everyone agreed. Some found it tamer than he did, but it was universally liked and opened the floodgates for double entendres from the audience and some blushing from Andy (actually, not that much). Some people think of this as a rather masculine rose because of the wood/patchouli at the base, but many women in the audience said they would wear it too.
Talk of sex, once begun is sometimes difficult to put the lid on, and by now the audience was in a hearty mood. Obviously time to up the ante and crack open the Rose Ispahan by Christian Dior. (Part of La Collection Privée, available at Selfridges and Dior Boutiques). This rather suggestive, skanky rose seems to share lewd thoughts (or at least a lewd base) with another Dior sex god – Leather Oud. It was the kind of perfume that should probably only be worn in intimate settings since it would be apt to cause havoc at the office. It may not surprise you to learn that this was the most requested sample of the evening…
Coming full, circle Andy felt that Une Rose was the ultimate update of the classic rose scent – it was earthy, green, citrussy, and felt like sticking your nose inside the flower. No one else had a made a classic soliflor of the rose that surpassed this. It was a rose that even people who didn't like roses were drawn to and could appreciate. Just for the sake of completeness, as well as Frederic Malle's book: On Making Perfume (Amazon US, Amazon UK, we also had the two other roses in Frederic Malle's triumvirate: Portrait of A Lady and Lipstick Rose. Portrait of a Lady is a remarkable rose perfume with patchouli at the base which presents a refined, selected version of elements of these two materials and combines them perfectly to become a truly modern oriental. Lipstick Rose is a happy, girly rose reminiscent of mummy's lipstick and powder puff - a feel good perfume with uplifting violet and powdery notes.
This is an extraordinary perfume from Roja Dove - it has tobacco, it has rhubarb, which seems to make the subtle rose smell almost like a tea rose, it’s intense and intoxicating. For many people this was the first time they had smelled a Roja Dove fragrance.
The Oriental Rose Black Rose Illuminum
This was another favourite of Lila which has a gourmand, oriental quality to it. There is a heavy dose of sandalwood at the base and an ‘earthy’ quality at at the top as well as saffron and frankinsence. Very rich and deep.
After this there were other roses to smell in the collection as people wandered round the room. These included
Rose Barbare – Guerlain -much praised by Chandler Burr, this perfume will feature in the Francis Kurkdjian evening.
Sa Majesté La Rose – Serge Lutens Another classic - a very green, refreshing rose.
Ta’if - Ormonde Jayne - A spicy rose, a cousin of Pastaeum Rose
Gunpowder Rose – Union The latest release from this British brand.
White Rose – Floris A soft, delicate rose with hints of honeysuckle.
Roses Vanille - Mancera A sweet take on roses by this new company (exclusive to Selfridges).
Delire de Roses Caron Refreshing, light summer rose that contains the delicate perfume of lychees.
Rose Absolue Yves Rocher A budget rose.
L’Eau de Chloe Not a flowery rose, but still has the peppery side of rose in it. Light, with a hint of green for summer.
Chloe Intense EDP Chloe A spicy, intense version of the above with a beautiful, classic feel.
Andy finished off the night reciting some more poetry:
Time of Roses by Thomas Hood
It was not in the Winter
Our loving lot was cast;
It was the time of roses—
We pluck'd them as we pass'd!
That churlish season never frown'd
On early lovers yet:
O no—the world was newly crown'd
With flowers when first we met!
'Twas twilight, and I bade you go,
But still you held me fast;
It was the time of roses—
We pluck'd them as we pass'd!
You can see future events from Perfume Lovers London at the meetup group here