A bunch of perfume blogs are listing their top 12 rose-scented perfumes and products (rose jam, tea, etc.) in honor of Valentine's Day. I wasn't officially invited or anything but roses are a favorite of mine and I'm crashing the party. Off the top of my head, here are the dozen rose perfumes I'm feeling especially right now and/or always:
1. Rossy de Palma Eau de Protection (Etat Libre d'Orange) – I haven't actually worn this one in a while, but it's still pretty much my pick for best rose perfume EVAH. I get such a high from a whiff of this stuff. It just smells so clear and true and red; I always picture the curvature of a perfectly buffed vintage sports car, like one of those Ferraris from the '60s with the disproportionately long hoods. You can almost hear it, like a high C on flute. And if you're putting out perfume that doesn't trigger synaesthetic delusions, you're doing it wrong.
2. Pretty & Pink (DSH) – I bought a purse spray of this last spring and drained it in near-record time. Or almost drained it, that is – I don't let myself finish things I love until I've secured backup. This weekend I stopped by Dawn's shop in Boulder and got a full-size bottle at 15% off for Valentine's Day (running online until 2/18 with code sweetheart13), so I'm in the clear to "cash" that purse spray. This is a delightfully frivolous fruity-floral along the lines of Rose Praline, like Hello Kitty with 10 times the budget and brainpower. There's a clarity here, a simplicity of purpose and effect, that reminds me of a pink version of Rossy de Palma's red. Everything's in perfect balance and nothing sticks out. But it smells like candy. And I'm OK with that.
3. Une Rose Chypree (Tauer Perfumes) – If anyone has the chutzpah and generosity of spirit to put some real oakmoss into a contemporary perfume, it's Andy Tauer, but to tell you the truth, this has never smelled like a chypre to me. As far as I'm concerned, it's an amber rose. As in most Tauers, the pyramid structure is on a slow time release, so you get to enjoy the top notes (mandarin, cinnamon, and bay leaf) for a long time before you get to the base of the base, a creamy patchouli-amber that reminds me of my beloved DK Gold. A chewy beauty that lasts all day, at least, and high on my list of things I need to suck it up and buy already. (I've been living off samples for years.)
4. Vintage Rose/Rose Volupté (Sonoma Scent Studio) – Laurie Erickson recently reformulated and rechristened Vintage Rose (not-so-humble brag alert: I named the new version, I win the universe) when the type of labdanum she had previously used became unavailable. Vintage Rose was the deepest, richest, plummiest, most honeyed rose imaginable, among the strongest perfumes in my collection and one of the most all-out gorgeous. The new version is very close, but the addition of some new floral materials and a dose of aldehydes make it brighter and more Joy-like initially, like someone threw some streaky yellow-and-pink roses in with the burgundy blooms. I treasure what I have left of the old stock, but this is still, simply, one of the most beautiful and complex rose perfumes in production.
5. L'Arte di Gucci (Gucci, duh) – Just when you make your peace with doing without some discontinued masterpiece forever, a bit of it finds its way into your life. So it was with l'Arte di Gucci, one of the classic rose chypres. It has a reputation for unholy potency and a barnyard streak but I don't get that at all, maybe because whatever animalia is in here pales in comparison to that of my vintage Joy. To my nose it's a textbook rose-patchouli: a good round fruity rose with just enough aldehydes to make it sing, and a vetiver-patch base just earthy enough to make it dark and nighttime-sexy without going all funkatronic on you. (I'm very sensitive to sweaty-sourness in patchouli, and none of that is happening here.) It shouldn't be that hard to do something like this now, because it isn't an oakmoss bomb – and guess what, somebody is. Lumiere Noire pour Femme by Maison Francis Kurkdjian feels directly inspired by it. (Note that I'm deliberately not including scents on this list that I consider close relatives of each other, hence the absence of Lumiere Noire and Rose Praline.)
6. Broadway Nite (Bond No. 9) – There are a lot of perfumes out there based on the rose-violet accord (Paris, Lipstick Rose, etc.). In my book, Broadway Nite reigns supreme in this category. It's incredibly vibrant and hot pink and loud, with a pillowy plushness from aldehydes and heliotrope, while some well-judged vanilla and tonka in the base give it a cool, almost cola-like character. It's too much for most if not all occasions but so joy-inducing I wear it anyway.
7. Egoiste (Chanel) – Egoiste is one of the first perfumes I owned. Like much of my music collection, I bought it after reading about it in Sassy. Then realized I didn't understand it. Not to worry, I get it now. Egoiste is alllllll about the sandalwood, the kind you can't find anymore because it's been overfished. So to speak. But the stuff in the old "Cologne Concentree" editions is real and it's fantastic. It's boozy and creamy and spiced to the nines and dressed up with more rose (sandalwood smells naturally rosy) and some fruity/vanilla/tobacco facets as well. Very rich and all growed up.
8. White Linen (Estee Lauder) – I've written about White Linen before, but it took me years to smell the rose in it, after comparing it side by side with Van Cleef & Arpels First, a dry aldehydic floral of similar vintage with more of a jasmine focus. But of course the rose is there: this is by Sophia Grojsman! I still think this is the most magical use of aldehydes in all of perfumery, like being inside a snowglobe on an 80-degree day. It's about the least appropriate scent for Valentine's Day I can think of, though, unless your significant other lost his/her virginity on starched sheets.
10. David Yurman – I recently watched that documentary on Netflix Instant about Woody Allen, who was a writer and comedian long before he got involved with movies. What's New Pussycat was his first script, and he hated what the director/producers did with it so much he swore he'd never make a movie again unless he had complete control. There's a clip where some British TV personality is interviewing him, and Woody Allen remarks that it was an awful movie. The guy says, "I rather enjoyed it," and Woody retorts, "Yes, but you were mistaken." It seems that nobody else liked this perfume (it even came up on NST's recent poll about "awful perfumes you love"), the first put out by that expenso jewelry store with the B&W ads starring Kate Moss and Gisele, but I think they were mistaken. It's actually a great tart, green, citrusy rose for summer, if you happen to like tart roses, which I do. Given its vintage (2008) and the unknown quantity of the source, you'd expect it to smell like everything else, but it doesn't – I love that it's not overly sweet. It reminds of me your first sip of Campari, which looks like cherry syrup but is shockingly bitter. As they say, more (of both) for me. By the way, the last time I wore this, someone told me I smelled "amazing."
11. Eau Suave (Parfum d'Empire) – Hey, whaddaya know, a sour rose! And everyone likes it because it's from an established niche brand and not a mall store! Seriously though, Eau Suave is a nice rendition of the So Pretty idea: a fruity chypre with red berry/cassis notes, though the actual chypre-ness is more subtle, doubtless due to current restrictions on oakmoss. Since So Pretty is discontinued and impossible to find, this will have to do. See also Ruth Mastenbroek. Now, will someone tell me why "saffron" top notes always have to be so damn sour? The only perfume I can think of that really gets the saffron balance right is Cuir de Lancome.
12. Dita von Teese – DvT is a pretty-pretty floral bouquet, heavy on the white flowers, that I file in the same mental category as the original Juicy Couture and Mary Greenwell Plum. The sheer synth tuberose-jasmine stuff is paired with enough rose to make it pink and girly, and while there are no fruit notes listed aside from bog-standard bergamot, it feels fruity – this isn't a dark, vampy, heady tuberose a la Amarige, but a coquettish flirty one. It smells a little sharp and cheap, but in a throwback way, like the kind of perfume you used to be able to get at Victoria's Secret before they went full-on ho-juice body-spray. Aside from being fun and well-done, DvT is all the more appealing if you like the celeb behind the bottle, which I do – this is how celebrity frags are supposed to work, but pretending to be Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston for a day never much appealed. They seem kind of boring, don't they?
Image via Randy Read