Roses, Nick Knight0x0
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 It was originally made for men, which is why it’s not a cloyer.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.


15 thoughts on “What’s with all these blooming roses?

  1. I moved from lavender to Rose scented bath oil, body wash. Best scent and texture from Ren Marrocan Rose Ottoman body wash and matching body lotion. Both products are naturally perfumed and free from many synthetic ingredients. But most of all they smell lovely. Widely available in shops and online. I highly recommend along with Dr. Hauschka Rose products.

  2. I totally agree with you about Sisley, still have plenty of Eau de Soir, but might give Izla a try. Also currently wearing Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir – one of my grand daughters wore it at Christmas and I’m still not sure if I like it. And roses ARE a cliché, have never understood their popularity. But lillies and fresias, now…

    The only perfumes I avoid are what I call “Airport Perfumes” with a famous person’s name on it. Always overpowering, they enter a room long before the wearer.

    1. Then you’d adore Antonia’s Flowers, Daisy. Conceived by florist/artist Antonia Bellanca to capture the fresh, humid atmosphere of her bloom-filled East Hampton shop, it was one of the rare ‘airy’ florals to come out of the mid-eighties. It’s heart of freesia, jasmine, magnolia and lilies is still a joy and the complete antithesis to ‘airport perfumes.’

      1. Thanks Vicci, I have heard of “Antonia’s Flowers” but never tested or tried it. It’s been legendary for years, but for some reason I thought it only available in the US. However a quick search just now has revealed 3 places in London I could try/buy it. Will let you know how I get on.

  3. Whilst I love the scent of roses in nature, particularly the wild variety, I don’t like rose centric scents. But of course there are exceptions such as Etat Libre d’Orange’s tribute to Rossy de Palma, Eau de Protection, Miller Harris Rose en Noir and L’Arte di Gucci (now sadly discontinued) but not dissimilar to Eau de Soir. I agree with your point about the accompanying notes – they make all the difference. Beautiful photograph.

  4. Thank you so much for providing a window into the scents we can buy now. For years I wore First by Van Cleef & Arpels, now it has had its formula changed and is absolutely different (and less appealing, in my mind.) It’s daunting to face perfume counters without a guide I can trust.

  5. I love the scent of roses in the garden, but not usually rose scents to wear. Some of these sound interesting, though. I’ll try to check out the ones I can find here in Philadelphia in the U.S.

    In an odd coincidence, I purchased a rose-printed cardigan this week. A cotton, 3/4-sleeve cardigan for spring, from Target, with a huge, bright, floral print of raspberry- and periwinkle-colored roses. With dark green leaves and yellow buds, on a cream ground. Clearly I must be deranged. The main colors are perfect for me, however, and I was charmed that, for $22.99 US (18.47 pounds sterling), they had not only fully fashioned the join of the sleeves to the body of the sweater, they’d also very carefully matched the prints in the center front, where it buttons. I actually think that, worn with jeans, open (maybe belted with a skinny belt) over a raspberry or periwinkle tee or tank (which I have), it will be perfect for spring. For someone who loves color, anyway! But it is still pretty crazy-looking draped all by itself across the bed.

  6. I’d completely forgotten that I used to wear Antonia’s flowers………..lovely and light as I recall. I’m using Dr Bronner’s rose castile
    liquid soap in the shower…….fresh first thing in the morning. Jayne Ormonde has a rose perfume out for St Valentines, at an eye watering price.

  7. I am one of those strange people who really does not like the scent of roses… Most flowers, actually. Now, waft a citrus, mint, or herb-y aroma my way, and I am in heaven! It does make scent shopping a challenge.

  8. I didn’t fall in love with roses until I hit my forties, a which point I got a tiny rose tattoo on my right hand ring finger which I will never regret getting (now 20 years’ later). About 50 I started to plant fragrant old rose varieties in my garden – having sniffed my way around Kew Gardens and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. A bit Miss Havisham – but I let my cut roses die a little in their vases as they look so beautiful when faded and dry. I plonk rose petals in the bath – very pretty although I don’t think they do anything apart from bung up the plughole (I add rose bath oil to give fragrance to the soggy petals). Fragrance-wise although I don’t wear rose all the time (I am not bonkers yet???) I own and frequently wear Stella (original) and Paul Smith Rose. My ‘everday’ fragrance is Eau Sauvage so I still think my ‘plot’ is in place for the moment.

  9. Annick Goutal Ce Soir our Jamais. Never liked or wore rose scents (although I worked for a women who wore tea rose all the time and it was heavenly to be around her) until I found this one. Now it is my signature scent, layered with Escentric Molecule 1 to give it a little depth.

  10. I unashamedly love rose scents. I currently have Miller & Harris Rose en Noir and Rose Silence, Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose and Portrait of a Lady, all beautiful. I also use Eau de Soir for red letter days. Thank you for the recommendations, I shall be trying some of those.

  11. What an unusual post — about something I know too little about. It has made me recall than when I was 10 years old in deep Mississippi my mother acquired three small bottles of *real* French perfume. The scents were divine and vastly different from anything available down at the drugstore.

    At 21, on my first trip to Paris, I bought two tiny bottles of *real* French perfume — one for my mother and one for me.

    In my twenties, rebelling against the stench of patchouli, I wore Chanel No. 5. For the next thirty years it was uncool to wear perfume to work, so I went genderless and scentless.

    For the last decade, my parfum has been Un Jardin apres la Mousson by Hermes. I imagine that others in my life think it smells like old lady perfume. But they have never never been to India — its jungles, hill towns, or Himmalayan trails. My scent’s true nature remains a secret, as do my Indian adventures. 😉

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