Say it with roses!
Let’s speak the language of love, the language of – roses!
I wrote a brief overview of 21 rose fragrances to fall in love with, with mini-reviews. Believe me, I really had a hard time limiting myself to compose a bouquet of 21 roses, I could go on and on – at least that’s what I thought when I started thinking about it, some six months ago. I had to draw the line somewhere because composing this list took a lot of time.
21 rose fragrance…I still haven’t found one rose to rule them all, but that’s great because it keeps me constantly trying out new and different creations. SOTD, SOTN, for all moods and occasions, and during any season in a year. La Reine is always at my side: I’ve never waited for someone to make me a bed of roses. I make it myself and choose my own roses.
There’s so much you can say without a word, only with your perfume: roses ARE intensely romantic.
I first started with a list of 5 rose fragrances for Valentine’s Day, and then I realized that I can’t possibly limit myself to five only. And I have no intention to limit the meaning of a rose to romantic love only, or to a single day in a year.
As days passed, my list grew… I kept writing, and ended up with a way longer list than this one! I’ve spent even more time (and more wearings) to reduce it to 21 rose fragrances, and the best part is that I really enjoy wearing them ALL. And some more, it seems like I’ll have to publish yet another list after this one.
This is NOT a list of my best Roses ever, and I mostly chose niche, indie, and artisan fragrances released in the past five years.
Rose in perfumery is often referred to as La Reine. The Queen of Flowers – since ever and for ever!
Perfume lovers love to talk about their favorite roses, dark or goth, jammy roses, fresh roses, pink roses, fruity roses, green roses, tea roses, rose&oud combos, amber-roses, woody roses, or withering rose compositions.
There’s more: soliflores, leading voices ranging from high-pitched sopranos to basses, back vocals, hidden gems, shy buds, choirs of roses, abstract roses, gourmand roses, spicy roses, chypre roses, and so on and on.
La Reine IS a cornerstone of perfumery, and it is said that it can be found in at least 75% of modern feminine fragrances, and at least 10% of all men’s perfumes.
And despite all the rose varieties we see today, these two are the most important ones for perfumery: Rose de Mai (Centifolia), and Damascus Rose (Damascena). But it’s not only about the raw material, be it natural or man-made: so much depends on HOW it’s done.
Please, please don’t say that you don’t like rose fragrances! With so many different interpretations of La Reine, it is more probable that you just haven’t found the One.
Maybe this list could help you find your ideal rose perfume, maybe you’ll want to try something new, and maybe – if you haven’t found yet that special one you could fall in love with, just maybe there’s one for you out there, that one rose fragrance that might change your mind and turn you into a proper rose-lover.
And if you already are a rose-person, let me know the name of your Queen!
Here is my list of fine rose fragrances any perfume-lover should try, in more or less alphabetical order:
A la Rose / Maison Francis Kurdjian/Francis Kurkdjian (2014)
I wore A la rose EdP in Spring, L’eau a la rose in Summer and L’homme a la rose this Autumn (and I like it): yes, I have a soft spot for Francis Kurkdjian and A la Rose is one of his creations I would suggest to any entry-level niche perfumista.
It’s a young, rosy-cheeked Marie Antoinette rose (before she got married), an airy, dewy, bright, pink, and slightly fruity fragrance that’s well-raised, good-mannered, youthful, and vibrant. Beautiful for Spring and Summer.
Notes: Sweet pea accord, Damascena rose oil, Violet flower accord, Centifolia rose absolute, Musks
Amorem Rose / Shalini / Maurice Roucel (2018)
This is about love, deep, and bonding. And as Shalini suggested, I spray it just above my heart: when I walk, it radiates, envelops me gently, and makes my heart sing. Master Roucel‘s creation is a sensual amber-saffron-woody rose, beautifully constructed. Grown-up, refined, and elegant. It’s a rose fragrance that makes you feel confident, assertive, loved, and appreciated.
Adult love, writing a great love story for all times, a love that goes beyond the physical world. Maitre Maurice Roucel strips imagery of true love of all unnecessary decorations, loud and obvious public display of affections or manipulations. True love is never complicated. Ever. Simple (it seems), powerful, and beautiful.
Notes: Rose, Saffron, Palissander, Amber
Dangerous Rose / Olibere Parfums / Luca Maffei (2018)
Just close your eyes and feel the atmosphere in the movie Interview With A Vampire: a rose-patchouli-cinnamon, dark beauty – not necessarily revolutionary, but beautifully composed. A reflection of vampire-red lips with a drop of blood on them, thorns, velvety rose petals, and dark, shadowy corners of a soul. A chypre-rose, whispering about addiction, separation, fading of feelings, and promises of immortality.
A Goth rose that’s so easy to surrender to – velvety, mysterious, seductive, fatal, and opulent. I love it, own it, and can’t get enough of it. A Coup de foudre. Check out my full review here.
Notes: Rose, Patchouli, Passionfruit, Musk, Cinnamon, Labdanum, Oakmoss, Styrax, Agarwood (Oud) Pink Pepper, Bergamot, Civet, and Cardamom.
Douceur de Siam / Dusita Parfums / Pissara Umavijani (2017)
Oh, what a joy this rose is! Smiling, understanding, uplifting and accepting love – and it takes me to a beautiful, yellow floral paradise with a sublime twist of Rose de Mai. The rose feels a bit powdery to me, and it is surrounded by lush greenness. It’s also strong, but never loud: true love never is. Playful, and at the same time effortlessly elegant and classy.
It seems like it’s saying: relax. All is well, and our love is a source of joy. A fruity-floral, finely blended composition with a character. It wasn’t my love at first sniff, but with time it crept slowly under my skin and won my heart – maybe because it is undoubtedly beautiful. Who says I don’t like lush florals?
Notes: Rose, Frangipani, Champaca, Cloves, Ylang-Ylang, Violet Leaf, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Amber.
Harem Rose / Fort&Manle / Rasei Fort (2017)
Exotic, spicy, and warm, this rose is perfect for evening wear. Roses, amber, and spice flow abundantly, and I always feel a string of sadness attached to it. Radiating, voluptuous like hot skin after you walk out of a hammam, and I find this seductive – with just a fine touch of intrigue. It’s a goth-leaning rose again, musky and a bit dusty-dry.
Give me a hot hammam, Turkish delights, and a freshly brewed coffee afterward, and I will relax on big, embroider pillows like there’s no tomorrow. Hedonistic. I have also published a snap-shot review of Charlatan, you can find it here – and yes, it’s also about a rose, kind of like a big brother to the Harem Rose.
Notes (as listed by the brand): Amber, Benzoin, Vanilla, Damascene Rose, Cashmere, Woods, Vetiver.
Juriah / Sultan Pasha Attars / Sultan Pasha (2019)
And we were saying something about making a bed of roses? Here it is, enter Juriah! The first time I smelled it, it made me stop right in my tracks. It made me vulnerable, emotional, and it touched very remote places and corners of my mind. Thoughts and feelings that I thought I’d overcome resurfaced immediately, making me drunk with love. Sultan Pasha blends well to avoid overt harmonic complexities, and the rhythm of the fragrance – seemingly straightforward and simple, is in fact deep and primal.
A magnum opus cantata dedicated to iconic Ta’if rose and oud, using 2 different distillations of the famous 30 petals rose, Cambodian and Hindi oud, Siamese benzoin, amber and musks, and white ambergris. If there ever was a bed of roses I’d love to lose myself in, it is most certainly drenched with Juriah. And yes, Taifi rose is my Kryptonite. A rose-oud fragrance that’ll change your mind about oud and rose fragrances.
Notes: Taifi rose (2 different distillations), rosa alba otto, Turkish rose otto, Osmanthus, chrysanthemum absolute, centifolia rose absolute, Damascena rose absolute, Cambodian oud. Aged Hindi oud, chrysanthemum absolute, mimosa, leather, Siamese benzoin, amber, musk, white ambergris.
Love Kills / Masque Milano / Caroline Dumur (2019)
A Shakesperean poem hand-written with a plume, and in cursive to love found – and lost. This rose starts to blossom innocently, unstoppable in its pinkish-green freshness. Its thorns are young, still green, and soft. Once the crimson curtains of fully blossomed love pull away, it draws you in with a flow of fruits and berries – in a dramatic way.
As you surrender to love, the fragrance becomes softer and dustier. It fades away, and you can almost see this rose crumbling into dust.
Some loves are just not meant to be… A rose-patchouli fragrance, with a vibrant personality, and a lovely drydown made of deep amber, tender musks, and very fine patchouli all the way. Attractive, impressive, and dramatic. A love to remember.
Notes: Rose oil, Geranium, Rose, Ambrette, Patchouli, Cedar Essence, Ambergris, Musk.
Miracle of Roses / Miguel Matos Perfumes / Miguel Matos (2019)
Love is tender, love is sweet, love is generous: this is a story about compassionate love. The Miracle of Roses is definitely different, mixing rose, bread, and spices and at the same time managing to stay out the openly foody notes specter. I guess one might call it a melancholic rose.
This vulnerable rose is layered with milk and nutmeg notes, it manages to get touched by some warmer tones that just suggest incense, and it doesn’t smell like any rose I’ve tried before. I guess it might be polarizing to some.
The story that inspired its creation is beautiful, tied to Saint Elizabeth of Portugal that fed the hungry, got caught (because that was prohibited), and when she was caught, the bread hidden in folds of her dress turned miraculously into roses.
A finely executed gourmand-cinnamon-rose fragrance (generally speaking), for a change. It just makes me feel so tender and mellow. Together with Fado Jasmim, this fragrance is a part of my private collection representing the Portuguese heritage of the perfumer, Miguel Matos.
Notes: Cinnamon, Milk and Bread, Rose, Immortelle, Heliotrope, Iris, Honey, Incense, Sandalwood, and Woody Notes.
Nanshe / Nishane / Cecile Zarokian (2020)
If I were to make a list of best perfumes released in 2020, Nanshe would most certainly be a part of it. I am a Cecile fan, I admit, and I even thought that after her creation of Rubikona for Puredistance some time would pass before she shines so brightly again.
That blending! That smoothness of the composition, structure of layers, and well-paced development! I stand in awe. It just had to be a part of this list.
I won’t elaborate here, because my review of Nanshe is almost finished, and I intend to publish it very soon, so let’s just focus on the rose here. Nanshe is the Summerian goddess of fertility (and some more things), and the rose is her symbol.
This is a powdery rose in the best possible way if you tend to stay away from overly powdery fragrances. Its existence is connected with the heavens through the use of tart citruses, and tied to the ground with carrot seeds.
And again, that a way to use shiny and radiant muuuusks! Although Nanshe rules with a very gentle hand, its sillage is strong, and longevity feels eternal. She’s a smart and foxy lady that takes you places where you feel positive and optimistic.
Beautiful, congratulations to Mert and Murat! Nishane has a new web site and a webshop!
Notes: Watery fruits, Aquatic flowers, Rose absolute, Jasmine sambac absolute, Ylang-ylang, Iris, Powdery notes, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood.
Portrait of a Lady / Frederic Malle / Dominique Ropion (2010)
For a long time Portrait of a Lady was for me a benchmark amber-rose fragrance, an unmatched expression of the haunting beauty of a rose (Turkish rose, to be exact). It has always been a part of my private collection, in different sizes, and it still is. Years have passed until I found another fragrance that’s now placed in front of it- and yes, it’s also listed here.
Named after the novel by Henry James from 1881, this dramatic interpretation of a dark rose is simply a masterpiece. Luxurious, well-blended, expressive, and contemplative. Reviewing a classic like this always felt intimidating, so I actually never wrote a review.
The rose in Portrait of a Lady is a noble Middle-Eastern beauty oozing opulence out every pore of its body, with a refined suggestion of decadence through the touch of juicy raspberry. She is drop-dead gorgeous, controlled, refined, madly attractive, and yet there’s an air of distance about her.
I don’t know why but it reminds me of a saying: Touch my heart, and you can have my body. Touch my soul, and you can have me all. Well, her soul is well hidden beneath all these layers of fragrance that take your breath away.
Perfectly unisex, and there are days when I seriously think that it smells much better on my husband than on me. If you want to get noticed, wear Portrait of a Lady. If you want to feel powerful, wear Portrait of a Lady. Ah, just wear it.
Notes: Turkish rose, raspberry, black currant, cinnamon, clove, patchouli, sandalwood, incense, ambroxan, benzoin, and white musk.
Red Queen / 4160 Tuesdays / Sarah McCartney (2019)
Named after Iracebeth of Crims, also known as the Red Queen, the primary antagonist of Alice in Wonderland – the tyrannical queen of Underworld. In this case, no one is chopping off roses’ heads: this Red Queen lives in a castle hidden far away in woods, with inner decorations made of (abundantly used) Turkish rose absolute.
Red Queen was created for Calfeurebon’s 9th anniversary. What I like about it is that it seems to have a split personality: there’s a shiny, bright, and sparkly side to it, but there’s also incense, pepper, and patchouli darkness and depth added to those lush red petals, with a core of jammy-tarty fruitiness.
What I also like about it is that it does have that depth and femme fatale vibe like POAL, but the relationship with patchouli is less dramatic.
If you like chocolate with your roses, check out my review of Over the Chocolate Shop.
Notes: Rose, incense, carrot seed, geranium, woods, pepper, blackcurrant, labdanum, raspberry, patchouli, musk.
Rose de Mai / Perris Monte Carlo / JC Ellena (2019)
It was released in 2019, but I got to smell and wear it only in 2020. I couldn’t get hold of samples, so it took some time before I got them. Ok, now we’re talking roses: the nose behind Rose de Mai is Jean-Claude Ellena, and honestly – who you’re gonna call if you want to have a perfume named Rose de Mai? JCE, of course.
And he did it: Rose de Mai is a beautiful rose-centered fragrance, made in Jean-Claude Ellena style. Its beauty lies in the knowledge and skills of « écrivain des odeurs », as well as his personal roots dug deep into fields of roses in Grasse. If anyone KNOWS how a Centifolia really smells at harvest-time, he does.
This is a bright and cheerful rose, very soft and playful, and with prominent Geranium notes – adding the rose just enough greenness and lightness. For me, the secret of its beauty lies in Immortelle that’s making it feel voluptuous, sprinkling some sensuality over its fragile, cabbage-like pink bloom. Lovely and refreshing.
If you like Ta’if roses more, check out their Rose de Ta’if.
Notes: Rose de May absolute, Geranium Rose, Immortelle, Musk
Rosenlust / April Aromatics / Tanja Bochnig (2012)
I know that most of the fragrances I mentioned in this list date four years back at most, but I just had to include Roselust, because it’s a must smell rose fragrance on so many levels.
First of all, because it’s an all-natural. I’m not saying this because that’s an element of crucial importance – I love all kinds of perfumes, of all possible backgrounds.
I’m saying this because I think it’s very difficult to make a fine, complex soliflore rose fragrance, based on natural materials only. Tbh, most I’ve come upon are very linear, flach, and boring.
Rosenlust isn’t. It’s got that geranium freshness – bright, citrusy, and vibrant, but it is also quite multifaceted.
At some points, it feels bright, and at some dewy and deep: like all naturals it requires to develop on your skin, so please give it your love and patience. It’s a lovely One Rose In Time fragrance (although Tanja used different rose natural extracts).
Notes: 100% natural extracts of Rose Otto/Turkey, Rose/Bulgaria, Rosewater, Rosewood/Brasilien, Pink Grapefruit/USA, Ambrette Seed, Tonka bean, Orris Root, organic alcohol
Rose Trocadero / Le Jardin Retrouve / Yuri Gutzatz / 2016
It used to be called Rose Thé (1976), so yes, it’s a Tea Rose – and a very beautiful, classic, so French, and green Tea Rose it is!
A very delicate composition, but not without character: a lush May rose reflected by the use of Bulgarian Rose absolute, blackcurrant, and luminous musks. I love when musks are used like this, they elevate it and provide lightness and joy.
There’s nothing redundant to it, it might seem simple and linear at first but this is exactly where its beauty lies: it is as simple as a field of pink and dewy May roses that just started to bloom on a wonderful sunny day with bees and butterflies flying and buzzing softly around you – you are young, joyful, life looks promising, and the living is easy.
A Tea Rose soliflore for whenever you want to feel you are actually living la vie en rose. And, darn, I miss just walking aimlessly around Trocadero so much.
Notes: Absolute Bulgarian Rose, French Blackcurrant, Clove, Musk
Rosenthal / Hans Hendley Perfumes / Hans Hendley (2015)
They called me a wild rose…but my name is Rosenthal. This is a big, dark, divine, and opulent rose that’s so gracefully blended that it feels perfectly natural. If there ever was a Goth rose, this is it.
Now, I guess you have smelled quite a few fragrances described as a patch-rose, but this categorizing does it no justice. You might also call it a woody rose, floral-oriental, or by any other name but that won’t capture its essence.
Rosenthal has that warm and attractive inner glow in spite of the overall dark attitude. The plentitude of roses slowly unfolds as the fragrance develops, and each layer draws you in deeper and deeper, It is dry&smoky, bitter&milky, intoxicating like a glass of finest Burgundy wine sipped slowly while you are looking deep into your lover’s eyes.
I’ve seen some compare it to POAL: generally speaking, they could be placed in the same family but their character, vibe, and style are very different, and you can easily smell the difference once you dive into both of them.
I could write poetry and love letters to it, but what I did write is a story instead of a review, and you can find it here.
Rosenthal is simply beautiful. I love it, and I love Hans for creating it.
Notes: Incense, rose, iris, juniper, sandalwood, patchouli, angelica root
Ruby Wood / Exaltatum Perfume / Eglija Vaitkevice (2018)
If you are looking for a stellar jammy-woody-rose, look no further. It smells like no other rose, starting off with a boasting statement made of thick rose petals dipped into red fruits, sprinkled with pepper, and coated with resins. All its juiciness is later melting in labdanum, while sensually kissing patchouli.
Ruby Wood is a rose-themed fragrance that treats a fully bloomed red rose like a queen, putting it on a throne built upon woody, earthy, and smoky elements. Bulgarian rose is crowned with myrrh, given an offering of ripe red berries covered with caramelized resins, and a hundred-years old barrel of wine was slashed open to fill her glass. It is royally opulent, but it is also irresistibly joyous.
Don’t be afraid of the oud used here because it serves its purpose by adding depth and sparkle where necessary.
Notes: Rose Petals, Red Berries, Pink Pepper, Tangerine, Coriander, Cardamom, Cassis; Bulgarian Rose, Raspberry, Geranium, Indian Jasmine, Coffee, Patchouli, Olibanum, Violet; Agarwood (Oud), Sandalwood, Musk, Myrrh, Olibanum, Labdanum.
Ruh / Pekji Perfume / Ömer Ipekçi (2015)
A cardamom-coffee infused rose. Ruh (meaning Soul in Arabic) is a sweet, rich, and warm Turkish rose with an exquisite touch of saffron, and green cardamom. What I find fascinating is the mixture of headiness in the opening, velvety smoothness of the rose in the background, and leathery steam-hot warmth in the dry down.
Since I like my Turkish coffee strong, perfumes thought-provoking, and friends that spark conversations without cliches, Ruh soothes my soul just like Cardamom takes the bitterness out of my coffee. And life.
Notes: Amber, Cardamom, Coffee, Jasmine, Musk, Oud, Patchouli, Rose, Saffron, Sandalwood.
Ta’if EdP / Ormonde Jayne / Geza Schoen (2004)
Now, this is a Rose that’s living fully, just joining a late dinner behind closed doors in a room lit by candle-lit lamps hanging over plush, huge and embroidered pillows – with tables laden with a heavy burden of fruits, oriental pastries, and ice-cold sherbet served in silver cups.
Not just any rose, this fragrance features one of the most authentic Ta’if roses used (if you have a chance to smell raw materials to compare, and I did – without having to sell my kidney).
It sparkles in the opening, with an airy smile and some dry dates added, and the rose is seemingly innocent, so fresh and dewy. Enter Saffron, and the rose is suddenly a grown-up, fully blossomed flower that starts dating Orange Blossom, bathing sensually in Jasmine and moving like a flow of deep amber.
There’s a nice and elegant touch of smoke as if our Rose’s mood has changed, turning sultry – but always sophisticated and elegant. It always makes me dress up.
While I enjoy Ta’if as it is, Linda Pilkington released Ta’if Elixir in 2019. This is a completely different take, and no – it’s not like there was just some Oud added to the original Ta’if EdP – this takes our Rose on an entirely different journey, no less intriguing.
Notes: Pink Pepper, Dates, Saffron, Taif Rose, Freesia, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Amber, and Broom.
Talento / Mendittorosa / Amelie Bourgeois and Camille Chemardin (2019)
A delicate and fragile rose, interpreted in the opening by geranium. This is not a sweet rose, and it seems so frail and melancholic. Mint is just one of the layers it slowly reveals while it breathes on your skin, its breath touched by a refreshing watery-sea breeze.
I actually love the way Aldehydes are used here, giving it transparency and airiness. Later in its development, Talento warms up nicely while still remaining ever so gentle and hugging.
I felt touched by it in such a way that I wrote a fable about Mint and Rose instead of a regular review. And I must admit that although what’s inside the bottle is always most important, Talento is poured in flacons that are simply magnificent, with a raku ceramic cap in the form of an abstract rose.
Notes: Mint, Aldéhyde C12 MNA, Rose Oxide, Infusion of Rose, Geranium, Indonesian Patchouli, Oakmoss, and Cedar.
(A) Trembling Rose / Linda Landenberg (2017)
Roses, roses, and more roses: A Trembling Rose is what you might call a soliflore rose perfume, but it is much more than that. This is a bouquet of all roses, a lovely and refreshing blend of different roses with different textures, and it feels like a chorus of roses is humming a beautiful song.
A cloud of rose petals as Linda says, with just a pinch of carnation and a thin layer of blackcurrant adding some spiciness and sweetness to it.
What I like about it is that is really a basketful of rose petals, a huge bouquet of different roses, and yet it feels so light, transparent, and clean. It’s simply lovely.
Notes (as listed by the brand): black currant, rose Centifolia absolute, rose Damascena absolute/ Bulgaria, rose Damascena absolute / Turkey, carnation, and sandal base.
Une Rose / Frederic Malle / Edouard Flechier (2003.)
Last but not the least, never! THE Rose, Une Rose, the one you will remember, and could be remembered by.
A masterpiece: alive, breathing, blooming, heart-wrenchingly beautiful – just-a-rose.
Une Rose is a story about one single rose and its private universe that you are allowed to discover as it develops. It’s all a rose is supposed to be: red, spicy, green, soft & tender, and unforgettable.
More like an idea of a rose, than a hyperrealistic rose but it feels so natural, so uncomplicated, and so romantic that it simply takes your breath away.
I guess that’s the hardest task, to make something as multifaceted and complicated as an impression of a fully bloomed rose flower, and turn it into a fragrance that feels simple and impressive at the same time, smooth, and oozing effortless beauty.
Not Une Rose, I would call it THE Rose. And it is simply beautiful.
Notes: rose, truffle, vetiver, patchouli and castoreum.
Thank you for taking your time to read this list. I hope you enjoyed it! With love,
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl archives, brands included, Pexels
All 21 samples/bottles included were either kindly provided by brands mentioned to The Plum Girl, or a part of my private collection. 2 were sent for my consideration via Cafleurebon: Amorem Rose and Love Kills. Opinions – as always – are of my own.
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