Rose perfumes, yeah!! The gardenia perfumes were so much fun, hey, let’s do the best rose perfumes!
This should be a lot more contentious because there are a LOT more rose perfumes around with some incredibly unique styles.
Same rules as best gardenia – the must be rose-centric, not a rose blend. There are approximately 4,000 perfumes that use rose as a heart note, but I’m not considering them unless rose is the dominant note -meaning I have to get whacked in the nose by a few thorns before I am putting this in the rose perfumes pile.
If you feel strongly I totally missed the boat on a rose-centered perfume that you love, let me know. I may disagree with you, I may think it fell in some middle ground and isn’t a personal fave of mine or I may slap myself on the head and go, crap! If so, I’ll do an updated revision in a few weeks and I’ll include it if I found it rose-worthy. You may appeal my rosy decisions to the authorities at roseperfumejudgingfinalword.com.
This will be divided into a few categories – mainstream rose perfumes, realistic rose perfumes, guy rose perfumes, and reallyf*ckingexpensive rose perfumes, which will include any rare, discontinued or you can only get it in Malaysia rose perfumes, and some other categories I’ll just make up as I go along. Just go with it.
Rose Perfumes – Thorns and All
Modern classic rose perfumes –
There are two in this category that take the prize for me – Yves Saint Laurent Paris, Creed Fleur de The Bulgare and Guerlain Nahema. And they fall on different ends of the spectrum and kind of meet in the middle. Paris is all brilliance and light, there are no shadows for much of the time you wear Paris, until late in the day. Guerlain Nahema is a little dark, it has a longing with its rose, a velvety sensuousness. The best news with both of them, the reformulations haven’t destroyed them. Changed a little, yes, but current formulations are not something to get all toss-potty about. Honorable mentions: Stella, Caron Parfum Sacre, Caron Nuit de Noel, Annick Goutal Rose Absolute, Agent Provocateur, Caron Or et Noir… AND Chanel No. 5 and Patou Joy (I don’t think about these last two being primarily about rose, but just can’t take the number of comments that will point out that I didn’t include it – yeah, I caved to anticipated, imaginary peer pressure, I’m weak and ashamed!).
Smothered in oud rose perfumes –
Montale Black Oud, Czech & Speake Dark Rose. These really aren’t my thing, so I’m including them, as these are two of the ones I like about as well as anything, and there are about 3,000 of these just available from Montale, not to mention all of the oud and attar companies that combine them. My apologies to those of you that are big fans of this, but I really, really just can’t tell the difference between most of them.
But there is one …
By Kilian Rose Oud. You’d think once they did the Pure Oud, Amber Oud, Incense Oud there would just be no reason at all to do a Rose Oud. Let’s all take a moment of silence and contemplate this fragrance. I adore Pure Oud, it is my singular favorite oud go-to – well, along with Amouage Homage and Amouage Tribute and a couple of the Xerjoff Oud Stars – but it’s my favorite of my favorites, it is all comfort and depth, and it never fails to make me deeply content to the point that I arch my back and just start purring. I loved the treatment of Amber and Incense, but we aren’t talking about those. The Rose! I mean, dammit! It just wriggles up out of the oud and takes flight, leaving trails of cinnamon and cardamom in its wake. Unfortunately, this runs perilously close to the Mortgage the House to Get Them Rose Perfumes, but the 50 ml refill isn’t as bad as it could be at $185.
Rose Whores (slutty, dark rose perfumes) –
There are so many great ones in this category, you can just throw your credit card in a pile of these, and whichever one it hits, buy it, and you’ll probably be happy. But! They are all so different and smutty in different ways. Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit is probably my favorite – well, maybe not, but it’s so damn dirty and amazing and smutty, you just feel like you should go tango with some smoldering hot Spanish guy that will break your heart.
I’m going to try and not gnash my teeth and curse too much, but Gucci L’Arte di Gucci is discontinued and whyyyyy?????? Shit, Gucci, you make flankers of Envy, Guilty and that crap Flora (Oh, I don’t hate flora, I just don’t understand why they made it) and that really boring new Premiere crap and throw L’Arte di Gucci in the trashcan?!?! Did Tom Ford steal it on his way out and turn it into Noir de Noir? You so suck, Gucci, and I am not forgiving you for this. You have a perfectly great rose chypre with a soupcon of civet in it, which is pretty much perfect and then stop.making.it. Dumb.
Amouage Lyric Woman probably should have gone in the heartbreakingly beautiful category, but it’s smutty enough to keep these other rose whores company. Lyric is impossibly big, she is one big old rose diva, and it’s probably one of the most addictive fragrances I have. I don’t wear it very often because I get distracted It’s spicy and sensual and has some skin kind of smell to it that blends in with the incense, and it’s incredibly swoony for me. This is one of those perfumes that I just give myself over to once I put them on. I tried to save it for the end of some of my days of testing for this post because I just go with it and quit trying to figure it out because, well, I just don’t care, and then nothing else gets written until I detox with a long shower.
I’m going to toss some more Rose Whore favorites out there because if I keep saying why I love each one, this post will be about 7,000 words long. Miller Harris Rose en Noir, Tom Ford Noir de Noir, Tauer Une Rose Chypree and Incense Rose and the Vermeille, pretty much all of Andy’s roses and probably a dozen more.
Perfume shops that have made rose perfumes their obsession –
Les Parfums de Rosine, A Dozen Roses, Juliette has a Gun. I love a bunch of these in every line. They plump up every perfume with roses, dip them in fruit, in mint, in saffron, in sugar, dip them in sauce and serve them on crackers. If you seriously just want a perfume company dedicated to roses, these three will overdeliver.
Realistic rose perfumes –
I expect some argument here, but these are my picks because how we perceive a real rose depends on lots of things, like, well, individual taste, perception, biases. I’m not even going to explain it, just saying it. CB I hate Perfume Tea Rose, Creed Fleur de The Bulgare, Comme des Garcons Red Rose.
Heartbreakingly beautiful rose perfumes –
These are the ones that make you close your eyes and sigh because they’ve taken rose and made it better somehow. I’m tossing in By Kilian Rose Oud here again just because I think it should be on a few lists. I know MDCI Rose di Siwa is billed as for a young woman, and I really just don’t care, this is fresh and dewy and so freaking pretty it takes my breath away. I had this to say about it when I reviewed it back in 2007 – when we were still calling the MDCIs Mad Dogs and they didn’t have real names and I believed Claude Marchal when he told me he was 83 (until I met him for hot chocolate in Paris), so we nicknamed this “Pretty Princess” – and nothing since then has changed my mind –
“This is the softest of pink linens and velvet and satin with a blond-haired cherub sitting in the middle of it. If you say a bad word about this, you’ll make the Baby Jesus cry. It’s like soft, pink babies, you can’t stop sniffing it. At first, I didn’t think this would be for me, no matter how pretty it was, but I’ve changed my mind… this is the one I have to have. The sillage on it is just stunning. I waft through the world in the Ferrari Daddy bought me, trailing pink furs, pink pearls, and tinkly silvery-pink giggles.”
Hey, even March-the-rose-hater didn’t hate it, just thought she’d been kidnapped by aliens or pods.
Guerlain Rose Nacree du Desert is all swirling musk and leather with that elegant Guerlain swishy elegance. Now that they’ve freed it and it’s in the Guerlain boutiques in the United States, we can think about it in “gettable” terms. Ormonde Jayne Ta’if has that gorgeous Ormonde Jayne juice and infuses the rose with pepper, saffron and dates. Ta’if honestly makes my heart ache. So yeah, all of the rose perfumes in this category were made to
CRUSH other rose perfumes dreams
Mortgage the house to get them rose perfumes –
Shiseido White Rose (apparently only sold in Japan and not inexpensively either), MDCI Rose di Siwa (yeah, it gets on two lists too!), discontinued Shiseido Nombre Noir, and Amouage Homage and Amouage Tribute.
Rose Freak (rose perfumes that bend reality and probably taste) –
Strange Invisible Perfumes has an absolute lock on this category with Black Rosette. Mint, tea, leather rose – what’s not to love? Freaks me out every time I put it on, until it dries down just a little, and then I fall back in love with this little Goth British rose. Here’s what I said about it back in 2008 (I swear, routinely digging crap I’ve written out the archives is at turns embarrassing and mirthful).
“This is like Annick Goutal Eau du Fier/CdG Tea with some Wrigley’s Spearmint gum wrapped around it on the open — weird and sharp and pretty wonderful. The rose peeps out… of the mouth of a dragon, all fire and smoky blackness, with that same stick of Wrigley’s tucked behind its green scaly ear. Strangely perfect.”
Rose perfumes for boys –
I think there are a shittonne of great rose fragrances that trend unisex or masculine, but the two that I think no guy would ever even raise an eyebrow about once they put it on are Le Labo Rose 31 and Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady. Le Labo Rose 31 has become the definitive rose fragrance for men, and about 40,000 Basenotes splits of the 500 ml bottle are more than enough proof. With good reason, but I can’t tell you what it is. I get it when I use it in The Laundress detergent, but some ingredient they use for that fragrance goes all anosmic-whack for me, and I get nothing but alcohol. I’ve read enough reviews and smell how amazing it is in my sheets and pillowcases, but that’s as close as I’ll get.
That Frederic Malle, making a guy rose perfume and slapping Portrait of a Lady on it. It’s not all guy either, but Portrait of a lady does not screw around, it goes right into rose, mainlining it like you needed it to start your heart. It is not sweetness and Pink Ferraris, it’s rose and ashes lit from within, glowing darkly with spiced warmth. Of Malle’s roses, this is my unabashed favorite.
Ropion Rulz All.
Oh, for those that aren’t deeply into the arcana of perfumeville and have no idea who Ropion is, Dominque Ropion is the perfumer that did Portrait of a Lady.
Rose perfumes from indies and natural perfumers –
There are a LOT I’d love to include here because rose gets done so brilliantly in this area, and I could have included all of these in other categories, but I wanted to single them out so they didn’t get lost. Kerosene Whips and Roses is smart and leathery, at times chafing and at times soothing. Masochist much? It’s brilliant and could have easily gone up there in the Rose Whores category. Liz Zorn has done some great roses for Soivohle, Annabelle’s Rose, Cordovan Rose, but I’m giving it to Soivohle Rosa Sur Reuse. Warm, rich, blackberry, thorns and dirt. Liz does great rose. Neela Vermeire Mohur is spiced rose, India-style, which means it’s unlike everything else. There was a moment in India, when we were sitting and leaning up against the Taj Mahal, watching India fashion walk by – swirls of vivid color, children peeking out between trouser legs to look at us, there is a vivid rawness to India that is so otherwordly that it is opaque and soft as your eyes grow accustomed to it. That’s Mohur, and it could have easily gone in two or three other categories, but it is a rose you don’t want to miss.
Then I went around and asked for other Posse writers recommendations because I know I’ve missed some, there are so many I should shove in somewhere, but you just have to stop at some point. I needed Annick Goutal Ce Soir and a Jo Malone and and and…. At some point you have to stop, these are my favorites.
March’s picks for best rose perfumes (yes, she hates rose, but if you ask her about it, she can’t help but tell you that she hates rose, then offers the only roses she does like – Rosine Ecume d’Rose? The salty sea one. I don’t want to WEAR it, but I like it. I’d wear the Rosine Rose d’Homme or whatever it’s called because to me it actually smells like Guerlain. A classic Guerlain, not one of those crap LEs they keep throwing up now, e.g., La Petite Beluga Noir Carapace Napoleon or whatevs. Oddly, the one flat-out rose I love and wear regularly (wore it yesterday in the cool fall weather) is YSL Paris (I have a couple vintage bottles, they smell better to me than the current iteration.) It’s weird, I know it’s a rose-centered frag, but it doesn’t smell like roses to me. It smells like champagne in Paris, while wearing a couture silk ballgown in pale-petal pink. I’ll send you the link, YSL Paris smells like this painting (on the right) Although for all I know Lady Agnew never got to Paris in her life. But I bet she wanted to go.
Anita’s picks for best rose perfume – Rosine Secrets du Rose. Leathery rose. All rose, though. But not that cloying rose. Rosine’s Rose d’Ete – a nice, slicey, sunshiney feel to it that tamps down the weird thing that happens to so many straight up roses – that sense that you are smelling a Baroque facsimile of a rose. Best leather/rose EVAH? Liz Zorn Cordovan Rose, which I’m going to wear tonight, as it just turned blustery and downright cold. Imagine Ricardo Montalban, in his Cordoba, presenting you with 3 dozen blood red, full-blown roses.
Tom’s Picks for best rose perfume – Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose. A perfect, lovely wine-dark rose perfuming the evening after absorbing the summer sun.
Portia’s picks for best rose perfumes – Soivohle Rosa Sur Reuse, Tallulah Jane Gothan, Tauer Une Rose Vermeille, Creed Fantasia de Fleurs , Annick Goutal Ce Soir Ou Jamais, Kerosene Whips & Roses by Kerosene, Neela Vermeire Mohur, By Kilian Rose Oud, Lush Imogen Rose, Olympic Orchids Ballets Rouges.
Rose perfume sample sets and big, mostly complete lists of other rose-centric perfumes are at Surrender to Chance, also donors of some of the samples, some are from my personal collection..