The Soliflore: Sa Majesté la Rose by Serge Lutens

I have a deep respect for the soliflore, it’s more complex than it seems.

From a constructed perspective, the soliflore requires careful and considered bolstering; a harmonious balance between simplicity and complexity. A fragrance with too many movements in its evolution loses its soliflore quality, transforming the singularly emphasised facet by giving it excessive breadth. Whereas a fragrance which lacks evolution by not having enough constituent parts is plainly dull and soporific. And so in my opinion, a soliflore must place an emphasis on the depth of its focal note, without moving too far away from the focal note itself. This moves the point of consideration into something mechanical: the main focus is of how the perfumer(s) manages to form and manipulate the structure in an effort to capture a fragrant idea of a singular flower.

Discussion in this manner reintroduces the topic of synthetics in perfumery. Natural extractions, take rose or cistus labdanum, are multi-dimensional perfumes, something more than just a simple scent, but still not quite. They still need to be worked and built upon. A synthetic, considering benzaldehyde, ISO-E, leaf alcohol, norlimbanol, and methylcyclopentenolone, to name a few, are huge static blocks of marble-like quality that require a fierce amount of work to be rendered and integrated into a perfumed work. The point of this consideration? A soliflore still needs work. It would be erroneous to believe otherwise.

SMLR © 2016 Liam Sardea

© 2016 Liam Sardea


To evoke something baroque and classical (here an ornate rose) as Sheldrake and Serge have without a doubt relies on carefully tampering with the soliflore to make it greater than the sum of its (few) parts; with an emphasis on plurality of course. For it is not a singular rose extraction alone which produces this gorgeous effect of a painted face in grand show costume, but a subtle reverberant hum of orientalism: honey, vanilla, musks, balsams, and woods amongst the shower of restrained rose petals.

Serge admits that three rose queens of all differing temperaments are used in Sa Majesté la Rose. Turkish, for a spiced green; Bulgarian, for body and brightness; and Moroccan, for a hum of oriental warmth . In this way, it is like wine. The Rhône GSM blend combines three reds (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) to, in my mind, both improve favourable features and diminish unfavourable qualities of each wine. Grenache adds fruit-forward flavour, Syrah adds spice, and Mourvèdre adds body. Like the application of roses in Sa Majesté la Rose, altogether a balanced chord which completes the rose picture, all at once able to give contradiction: cool lemony tones move amongst a honied and animalic warmth, rich and deep whilst still remaining singular.

To take this a step further, these innate nuances are enhanced with further additions. Sticky honey with an additional layer of vanilla provides a midpoint between sweet and animalic, adding a shimmery coating atop of the rose petals, acting like a highlighter emphasising the florality. Clove brings forward the crisp medicinal green of rose and geranium, whilst guaiacwood and balsams create a thin wash of blunt smoke to blanket the rose chord.

A rose is a rose is not a rose. Rose has an innately high-waisted and classical attitude, which is expressed here, but what turns this rose into not merely rose is the application of tart and sticky fruit and spice, lubricated with an oily slick (vetiver, or perhaps patchouli) moving towards a fragrant idea of bourbon rose, almost admitting to a modern attitude – surely not!

A singular melody with many facets. 

Subjective rating: 4/5

Objective rating: 4/5

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2 thoughts on “The Soliflore: Sa Majesté la Rose by Serge Lutens

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