What’s with all these blooming roses?

— by Alyson Walsh

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Photo: Nick Knight via Instagram

Love them or hate them, rose scents are in the air this week. Comfort factor or cloying cliché? Vicci Bentley grasps the thorny issue.

So Valentine’s Day’s just around the corner and predictably, Planet Beauty is awash with blooming roses. Everything it seems from lip balm to body lotion has been blessed by the petal. Moisturisers boasting the collagen boosting powers of rose extract (it’s a plant source of firming pro-Retinol) are oozing out of the woodwork, while Rosehip Oil (same sort of claim) is this spring’s hot cure-all. Best thing about rose essential oil? Virtually everyone, everywhere in the world loves its calming, reassuringly familiar scent. For centuries, it’s been seen as the epitome not only of feminine beauty – and lurve, actually – but as synonymous with perfume itself. In today’s scent industry however, not all roses are equal.

If you ask me, too many sickly, heavy, fruity brews with the half-life of strontium have given rose scents a bit of a naff name. Sadly, the culprit is often rosa damascena – Turkish or Bulgarian rose absolute – which should ideally give scents a spicy, velvety and elegantly carnal appeal typical of oakmoss and patchouli-based chypre fragrances (think Sisley’s magnificent Eau de Soir). But start overdosing sweet, ‘gourmand’ ingredients such as vanilla, or a cloying whack of amber or oud, and the result is an olfactory tasering no grown-up should own up to.

Rosa centifolia, or the May rose on the other hand is fresh and airy with a slight lemony riff. It’s at the heart of classics such as Chanel No.5 and YSL’s Paris – both take-you-anywhere scents. If you like rose scents, that is. Personally, I think they’re like red lipsticks – a tad cliché’d and not always easy to wear. It must be hell for a perfumer to come up with a ‘different’ rose, but every now and again, one pops up on my radar. Here’s my pick of the bunch…


L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses, £90, 100ml (available HERE). This beauty from the 90s is first rose scent I actually liked. Meant to capture the earthy humidity of the soil beneath an old-fashioned rose bush, a ‘dirty’ patchouli gives it an almost occult oomph. It was originally made for men, which is why it’s not a cloyer.

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Liquides Imaginaires Dom Rosa, £160, 100ml (available HERE). Another dark and mysterious creation from the super-stylish Liquides team, who in my mind are the most exciting in the business. This celebrates the rose planted at the end of each vine row as a litmus for disease – rather like the canary in the mine. Like sparkling pink champagne spilt on sun-baked earth is addictive.

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Aerin Garden Rose Eau de Cologne Spray, £120, 6.7oz (available HERE). Estée’s grand-daughter’s take on English garden roses – and she’s crammed four varieties in here. Yet the effect is sunny and fresh, thanks to a nifty nip of geranium and the easy-going woody-musk base.

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Sisley Izia, £69, 30ml (available HERE). You can trust Sisley scents to be as elegant as founder Isabelle d’Ornano and this latest one, based on May-flowering roses in her garden, doesn’t disappoint. Dewy and lemony, angelica gives the it an intriguing, aromatic edge, while a powdery amber-musk base leaves a warm skin trail. Check out the matching Tinted Rose Lip Balm, too.


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Love them or hate them, rose scents are in the air this week. Comfort factor or cloying cliché?