On Rose: Six Roses to Know

Taste is not static! Would you believe that I once found rose fragrances unappealing? I can’t either. Rose is now one of my most highly worn notes, and I am captured by its ability of metamorphosis between compositions.

Here are six rose fragrances (of the many other roses) that I frequent often.


© 2015 Liam Sardea

La Fille de Berlin (Serge Lutens): As a picture of a rose, La Fille de Berlin begins as a shy yet extravagant artwork of classically drawn roses and violets, lifted with the clean spacious highlight of lemony geranium. Look closer and uncover its tragedy, severity, and braveness, making for something sophisticated: tones of black pepper are revealed, tilted with the off-sweetness of pink pepper and stirred with a musk refined with honey. Restrained yet luscious, darker than what she really is, and an unfurling swirl. La Fille de Berlin is a must, and most certainly personified as a femme fatale.

Incense Rose (Andy Tauer): When luminism and a generosity of fragrant materials combine, Incense Rose is produced. Incense Rose is Tauer’s true masterpiece, developed as a clever olfactory shape without legible edges. It’s expansive without appearing to ever expand further, in a way that it bursts from the get go like blinding, albeit inviting, white light. Clementine and cardamom bring optimism, while the sweet rose is smoked with thin yet potent incense, pulling it back down to its earthly origins alongside scratchy sexy cedar wood. Dig into the core and find a chiaroscuro heart: a deep oriental base of castoreum, patchouli, myrrh, spices, and oakmoss. There is an electric fizz which surrounds Incense Rose – it is the indefatigable presence of the Tauerade: an addictive fragrant carbonation. It is not wholly graceful, but it is not brash. It is present and powerful; loud but polite, and not at all forceful about itself. Stupefying stuff. Tauer’s greatest work.


© 2017 Liam Sardea

No. 18 (Chanel): As a Chanel work, No. 18 can be confusing as it isn’t immediately perceivable as something categorically Chanel. Perhaps, but look closer. I smell No. 18 and find a reserved grace akin to stoic No. 19, and a floral harmony done in a Chanel manner. No. 18 is chiefly comprised of ambrette seed: an animalistic tone that is a melange of impressions – orris, musk, fruit, tobacco, and a metallic tint. This invites a measured dosage of high-waisted rose: a sheer yet present note with elegant touches of lemon and powder; iris: the graceful queen with its powdery, vegetal earthiness, contradictory with its freshness; and a strange yet appreciable overripe fruit accord akin to the impressions of tropical fruit in a snifter of fine Cognac. Furthermore, find pear and soft fruit drying on a straw mat. The magic of No. 18 is had when viewed as a whole – it is of strange abstract elegance: pencil shavings, a hint of ozone, near-rotting fruit, and the deep spicy fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil. My favourite Chanel work. An elegant grey.

Eau de Protection (Etat Libre d’Orange): Symphony through multiplicity. It’s not just rose. It’s every rose. It’s not one big rose, it’s a bunch of them. Eau de Protection is La Fille de Berlin without the grace of movement or composition, and its rose feature is moved into halfway transparency. The rose symphony is marked decidedly with something bloody and oxidised, sizzled with the bodily hum of cumin and black pepper, the fresh evasive bite of ginger, and quietly glazed with deep, dark cocoa. Move back a bit, and find that Eau de Protection is a highly decorated and strategically done rose-patchouli with an upwards freshness achieved through a torrent of spices. A filthy sort of yum!


© 2017 Liam Sardea

Rose de Nuit (Serge Lutens): I have a somewhat spiritual connection with Rose de Nuit, which is something totally beyond my character to say. I smell Rose de Nuit and find a haunting nostalgia; a classically bent melancholia stylistically near Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue. Rose de Nuit is a surreal meditation on a foreign and enigmatic subject, and it is aching; tragically beautiful. Rose de Nuit is dusky and almost nocturnal, only because it is uneasy and restless, and that is how it ties back to L’Heure Bleue, for just like L’Heure Bleue which dresses blue tones, iris, and orange blossom in a massive and chewy impressionistic medley of spicy clove, vanilla, violet, aniseed, and carnation, resulting in something softly jilted and asymmetrically unbalanced, Rose de Nuit is equally uneasy as it takes the bountiful and amiable aura of rose and suppresses it. The bigness of beeswax, jasmine, leather, patchouli, a mossy chypre tone, greenery, and a cushion of apricot surround and overwhelm the rose without stifling it. For all of Rose de Nuit’s lushness and grandness, it still retreats back into itself with a poignancy, whilst this tense internal struggle can be detected. It has a disposition for fragility in that it never totally reveals its vulnerability or its softness, but a harsh and hard style of plushness. This is real perfumery, and this is how one imagines a perfume to smell. Inspect Rose de Nuit while listening to the haunting Mer Girl.

Une Rose (Frederic Malle): “Of course!”, I hear you proclaim. A Frederic Malle rose is a must, and while Portrait of a Lady may seem to be the obvious choice (especially if you’ve followed my trajectory), Une Rose takes the fragrant idea of a rose and moves it into controlled maximalism. It is unexpected in its precision and contained (albeit bursting) composition, and I like that, and that is why I am showcasing this fragrance. Une Rose is the soliflore fragrance done on a grand scale, where the entire snapshot is captured (from stem to petal) and each aspect is heightened to a rich degree, developing great olfactory portraiture. It is painted to demonstrate the dark, dramatic intensity of a rose and its connection to the earth, by first lifting rose with a hint of green and citrus, then bringing it back to the heart. Pungent black truffle is found at the heart of this fragrance, moved with the sensual hum of castoreum, vetiver, and red wine dregs. It is thick and balsamic, and the most luscious soliflore I have encountered, for no individual note within Une Rose goes beyond the rose fantasy, and instead it builds up without going beyond the rose framework it establishes. It teeters on the limit between soliflore and something more, and it is a testament to the perfumer’s skill to grapple such big notes in perfumery and to contain them under the rose banner. A hedonistic rose.


Further Reading:
A Comparison – Habit Rouge by Guerlain: Eau de Toilette, Eau de Parfum, Parfum, and Dress Code
On Rose: The Soliflore – Sa Majesté la Rose by Serge Lutens
Le Mat by Meditorossa 

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2 thoughts on “On Rose: Six Roses to Know

  1. My hands-down favorite is Rose de Nuit. I worship it. I have been wanting to replace my Fille de Berlin. I gave my bottle away because compared to Rose de Nuit I did not love it. I need to get to know it better. Wonderful post, as always.

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