This installment covers a jammy rose, an attar of roses, a cologne-style rose-oud, and a dusky oriental rose.
Rose Flash by Andy Tauer Tauerville
The Tauerville project is very interesting because it’s an acknowledgment by a perfumer that sometimes we are just looking for a rough and dirty fix on an ingredient – a whistled tune rather than a full scale opera. Rose Flash is a forceful exposition of an idea of rose as an edible, attar-like confection, made to satisfy a base hunger that more delicate or more complex rose creations cannot.
And actually, Rose Flash scratches a very specific itch for me. I have long been looking for a perfume that matches the jammy rosiness of Rose Jam shower gel from Lush, a limited edition shower gel that I eke out drop by drop until Lush takes pity on me and puts it back in the shops again before Christmas. This it it. Pure and simple.
Comparing a perfume to a shower gel doesn’t sound like I’m paying Andy Tauer much of a compliment, but I can’t tell you how difficult it is to find a perfume that gets that candied rose jam note just right. It has to be like how I like my men – thick, loud, and rich.
What I’m looking for is velvety rose petals cooked down into a syrupy rose confection that might tempt you into drizzling it over a bowl of ice-cream, but still retaining a bit of an edge, that rose sharpened by tangy berries and lemon. I want a slight creaminess too, to sand down any glimpses of metal or citric acid, but not vanilla, because I don’t want the intensity of the jamminess to be diluted or made milky. Amber resins will do – I imagine a red rose glowing hotly through a clear lump of clear yellow amber, complete with trapped flies.
Jo Malone’s Velvet Rose & Oud comes close, but the oud intrudes. Tauer’s own Une Rose Vermeille gets the fruity jam note right but winds up as sweet soap flakes on my skin. By Kilian Rose Oud is a Kulfi-like confection but does not hit my jam sweet spot (it hits all my other spots, though). Oud Satin Mood has a very jammy rose, but although I love it, even I have to admit that it is altogether too sweet in the dry down.
No, for me, Rose Flash is the baby bear of rose jam perfumes. Its beauty comes from its forceful simplicity and directness – a luscious rose jam, sharp with red berries, glowing like neon-lit jewels against a woody, resinous backdrop. It goes on thick and oily, gleaming on the skin like an attar. At first, there is a rather intense green, citron peel edge to it, which I attribute to the citronal aspects of rosa damascena (Turkish rose), but this is soon soothed by the creamy, candy-like qualities of the rose oil. Rose Flash is utterly satisfying in that physical way that makes my mouth water. There is something about it that makes me want to bite into it.
Simple and direct it might be, but for my money, Rose Flash is a lot more satisfying than many high-priced rose-centric perfumes floating around the niche-o-sphere right now. I see a full bottle in my future. Between this and the Rose Jam shower gel, how anyone will not want to eat me is beyond me.
Attar de Roses by Keiko Mecheri
Attar de Roses flies out of the bottle as a fresh, pretty blend of three different rose oils, from the Taif, Shiraz and Anciennes varietals. It fleshes out over time to become a full, velvety rose with fruity and creamy facets, but never loses its essential bright pink character.
Sometimes rose – for all that I love the note – seems to come with a huge set of problems that a perfumer has to “resolve” in the fragrance for me to truly enjoy it. For example, some rose oils really accentuate the sharp, leafy geranium-like properties of the rose and some the acid-yellow tang of citronella. Some roses turn sour. Some turn to talcum powder and remind me of Grandma.
You see? Problems, problems everywhere! I mostly enjoy rose chypres, rose-ouds, and rose-patchouli blends because I prefer my roses to be “managed” against a backdrop of darker notes rather than shining on their own out there, with all their faults exposed. But lately, I’ve been on a pure rose kick, or at least a half-assed attempt to find a pure rose fragrance (more or less pure, anyway) that resolves all the problems with rose in one fell swoop.
Attar de Roses is almost that platonic ideal….but not quite. To its credit, it manages to present only the most attractive, less searing aspects of the rose – there are no sharp edges, no citronella candles burning, and no metallic or burned berry notes. The perfumer has managed all of those potential problems away, but paradoxically, what I’m left with is a smooth, pink rose scent that has been neutered of all its interesting bits. I am such a contrary person. Can you put back all the faults now, please? I take it all back.
Supposedly, this fragrance has an animalic amber and leather dry down, but if it’s there, it’s subtle. Something like, let’s say, Jicky, would eat Attar de Roses for breakfast. Rather, I would characterize the dry down as being very like powdered Turkish Delight (lokhoum) in the style of Keiko Mecheri’s famous lokhoum perfumes, with a slightly jammy, sweet fruit center. It also reminds me a little of lipstick scents such as Drole de Rose and Lipstick Rose, with its waxy, pink prettiness.
Would I wear Attar de Roses? Most certainly – it is one of the most straight-forwardly gorgeous rose scents I have ever smelled, and if a bottle of it dropped in my lap, I would use it most happily. Purely from a sampling perspective, I find its pale beauty a bit boring after a while – but it rates higher for me than a lot of the other “pure” rose fragrances I’ve been trying lately.
Rose Anonyme by Atelier Cologne
I like the idea behind this one – make a rose-oud that has a cologne-like transparency and fly it by people as an option for summer. But something about this does not sit right with me. The heavy dose of patchouli in the opening turns into powdered, stale chocolate dust as soon it hits the sour green rose, and together they remind me of a neglected square of chocolate abandoned at the bottom of a handbag, gone white around the edges and covered with lint.
The high-pitched fervor of the rose is underlined in the most unpleasant way by a tinny, chemical oud, and the ginger adds a vague cleaning liquid feel to the stew. It’s at least distinctive, this first half, but the fragrance quickly dwindles down into a screechy white musk, which when combined with the green papyrus and metallic ginger comes off smelling like a generic men’s cologne. The whole thing comes off as unbalanced, too – weirdly strong at the start, and whispering towards the end. Not a fan.
Rose de Petra by Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777
Dammit. Why do I have to love the ones that cost so much? My family always laughs at me because I will go into shops and unerringly laying my hand on the most expensive item in stock, despite not having any money to pay for it. Rose de Petra is no exception then. It is both exquisite and far beyond my wallet. Rose de Petra, I would have preferred not to have known you!
Rose de Petra is a nutty, spicy oriental rose that manages to be simultaneously rich and light. The opening reveals a dry, ancient wood note, like a carved box one might find at the back of a bric-a-brac store, slightly musty now with years of neglect but still releasing a warm, woody scent when rubbed. I am astounded to learn that there is no oud note in this blend, because to my nose, this aged, cracked wood scent reminds me of certain aged oud oils I have smelled – both expensive ones and the rather cheap Mukhallat Malaki attar by Swiss Arabian.
Inside the box, a pile of green cardamom pods, freshly cracked open with their hot-green peppery aroma bouncing up to sear the nostrils. The rose comes on shyly, smelling at first of a rose candy wrapped in plastic, but then opens up into a warm roseate mist, filling the air with the sweet, creamy odor of freshly cut roses, fruit, and spices. This rose is not bright, but dusky, and shaded in interesting places.
In texture and weight, it reminds me slightly of Betrand Duchaufour’s work for The Different Company on Oud Shamash – it has that same sheer, diffuse feel to it, as if all the heaviest scent particles are suspended in a fine mist that hovers around your skin. It is a pleasure to put on a fragrance that you fear is going to be just another heavy, oriental rose jacked up with spices and then find it wearing like a fine silk shawl.
In summary, Rose de Petra is a mysterious, dusty rose with a backdrop of ancient woods, subtle fruit, and green spices that feels far more nuanced than the rather mundane notes list might suggest. I would put it on a par with Mohur for the effortless ease with which it rises above the tired oriental rose category in which it is placed and for its ability to surprise you with its subtlety and beauty.