I’m going to start this review off with a question. How do you know when it is time to harvest a rose? I have been part of the wine harvest in California and it is a scientifically determined level of acidity and sugar in the grape that triggers the harvest. Oranges, apples and other fruits on trees signal their ripeness by their color. So how do you know when a rose is ready to harvest? A few years ago, I learned the answer to that. In Grasse, the people responsible for the fields of Rose de Mai get up in the morning and break off a petal and bite in to it. If the taste is sweet the rose flowers are “ripe” and ready to be picked. It makes sense as the natural sugars of the bloom would move outward to the petals as the flower reaches its peak. It is one of my favorite anecdotes about perfumery I have heard. I was thinking about this with the new Diptyque Essences Insensees 2016.
Diptyque started releasing yearly versions of soliflore fragrances highlighting a particularly good harvest and calling them Essences Insensees. Essences Insensees 2014 was mimosa and Essences Insensees 2015 was jasmine. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has been the one tasked with overseeing these precious ingredients. For Essences Insensees 2016 M. Pellegrin focused on Rose de Mai.
I have never visited Grasse. In my imagination, it is the perfume version of Willy Wonka’s Perfume Factory with fields of some of the most prized raw materials in fragrance growing everywhere. I’m sure the reality is less prosaic while the truth of the raw materials is grounded in reality. When Rose de Mai makes it into a perfume it has a sparkle to it as it sits in a sweet spot between the demure English rose and the spicy Turkish rose. For Essences Insensees 2016 M. Pellegrin is using what is an exceptional harvest of Rose de Mai while using only two other notes as companions.
M. Pelegrin uses different isolates of Rose de Mai to form his central note. It is a glittering central axis around which he uses a red fruity note above and a honey accord below. What these accomplish is to accentuate the inherent sweetness of the Rose de Mai. It is what makes me think of it as a perfume which represents a “ripe” rose.
Essences Insensees 2016 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will eventually make my way to Grasse someday. I will bite a petal of Rose de Mai off the bush. Until then Essences Insensees 2016 fits my imagination about what a ripe rose should be.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Diptyque.
If there is any one perfumer who could break me out of my first half of 2016 funk over the amount of pretty, demure roses it would be Francois Demachy. Certainly the sugar coated Rose de Mai he did which was Poison Girl offered me something different than everyone else was doing this year. I have to admit though when I saw the description for the latest Christian Dior La Collection Privee was meant to be a paean to the “flower queen, Rose de Mai.” I was prepared for La Colle Noire to be disappointing. When I finally got the chance to try it when visiting the boutique at Bergdorf Goodman during Sniffapalooza Spring Fling the first sniff did not draw me in. Except the longer I held the card the more I kept coming back to it. La Colle Noire was a pretty, demure rose that was growing on me. After wearing it for a couple of days it finally broke through my general level of disdain for this style of perfume, this year.
The name La Colle Noire comes from the chateau Christian Dior purchased in 1951 not far from the rose fields of Grasse. Grasse is where the Rose de Mai is cultivated. It has become the standard bearer for pretty florals everywhere. There is a part of me that sees its overuse as devaluing what makes it special. M. Demachy wanted to remind me why this particular rose is so prized as a raw material. To do that Rose de Mai is used in overdose and it is practically all you smell for a very long time. La Colle Noire does eventually evolve but if you aren’t a rose lover I don’t think you’ll have the patience to get to where things eventually change.
La Colle Noire feels almost like a linear rose perfume for about an hour on my skin. It is nothing but Rose de Mai. I suspect there is some other source of rose, otto or centifolia, underneath it all. There are moments where there were some facets not generally present in Rose de Mai. Or maybe this is just what you get when there is so much and there is nothing else to distract. At this concentration Rose de Mai loses a little bit of its politeness. Reminded me a bit of a Southern Belle saying, “bless your heart”. It sounds mannered but there is a definitive edge. Eventually the mix of sandalwood and white musks find some traction and begin to add some much needed harmonies. The sandalwood is typical woody contrast. The white musks provided some softening of the overall effect. For much of the last hours I wore La Colle Noire it was much less pronounced than earlier on.
La Colle Noire has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage especially early on.
In the end I feel La Colle Noire is a fragrance primarily for the rose lovers out there. M. Demachy’s presentation of one of the finest sources of rose is worth it for those who can’t get enough rose. It would also be a really fine choice for someone who wanted an excellent representation of Rose de Mai. La Colle Noire stands out for me for the sheer extroverted quality M. Demachy brings to the fore. It took an overdose to get me interested again.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample from Bergdorf Goodman.
As reliable as the first robin; when my mailbox starts to fill up with new rose perfumes it must be spring. Rose perfumes, when done well, carry a vivaciousness to them that matches the season of renewal. The other thing about rose perfumes is despite the hundreds of them out there a creative new life in a classic theme. The new L’Artisan Parfumeur Rose Privee is a lively new take on a rose fragrance.
Rose Privee is co-signed by longtime in-house perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour along with his apprentice Stephanie Bakouche. M. Duchaufour has made rose perfumes previously but I believe this is his first for L’Artisan. Also in the past it seems like he has been more partial to the Turkish rose. For Rose Privee he chooses Rose de Mai as the source of the titular note. Rose de Mai has a gorgeous gentle quality to it. M. Duchaufour and Mme Bakouche make sure that everything that is great about Rose de Mai is displayed throughout the development.
The perfumers choose an engaging grouping of top notes. They lead with a bit of fruitiness with mandarin. It doesn’t last long as it is fairly rapidly wrapped up in leaves of basil and violet as well as pierced by blackcurrant buds. That latter note has been employed a lot recently by M. Duchaufour. As always I am captivated by how he takes a specific raw material and can alter it seemingly at will to provide a specific effect. In Rose Privee the blackcurrant bud provides a bit of tart fruitiness with much less of the sticky green it often brings. As a whole the top notes provide a fresh vibe for the Rose de Mai to bloom within. The heart is that special rose given a foundation of carnation and magnolia for depth. What I like about Rose de Mai is it feels introverted at first but once it is coaxed out by other notes it flowers into power. That power sets it up to be the equal to the oakmoss-free chypre base. M. Duchaufour has been at the forefront of creating a chypre accord that will pass regulatory standards. The accord in Rose Privee shows there is no need to worry about the future of chypres plus he is teaching the skill to another perfumer. There is a bit of musk used to replace some of what the oakmoss provides but it really is its own contemporary chypre. Together with the Rose de Mai the final stages of Rose Privee are lovely.
Rose Privee has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Rose Privee is a perfect spring perfume. It has heft without being overwhelming. Despite it translating to Private Rose I don’t think anyone who wears it will want to keep it a secret.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by L’Artisan Parfumeur.
I first became aware of perfumer Francis Kurkdjian as most did from his groundbreaking Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male that he composed with Christopher Sheldrake in 1995. In the twenty years since M. Kurkdjian has left an impression across all sectors of fragrance. While he still works for many brands since 2009 he has also composed perfumes for his own line Maison Francis Kurkdjian. The latest A la Rose represents the 24th perfume he has made for his own brand. M Kurkdjian has one of the most distinct aesthetics in all of perfumery but when working for another brand he has to bend it to another creative director’s desire. With the perfumes he makes for Maison Francis Kurkdjian he has more freedom to make something more true to his desires. A la Rose is a good example of his sense of style.
Harvesting Rose de Mai in Grasse
A la Rose is a full-blooded rose soliflore. Actually that isn’t correct it is a rose fragrance made up of two rose varieties Bulgarian Damascena rose and Rose de Mai from Grasse. These are two of the most distinctive rose sources a perfumer can use. Damascena rose has a fresh quality to it as well as a significant fruity aspect. M. Kurkdjian uses it as the focal point in the early going. Rose de Mai has more of a sensuality to it with its honey-like character enhancing that feel. M. Kurkdjian not only uses these rose raw materials but he uses them in overdose. It really embellishes these raw materials making it easy to pick up the fruity and honey nuances. What also makes it easy is M. Kurkdjian doesn’t clutter up A la Rose with too much else so that the roses are always right out in front.
A la Rose does open with the Damascena rose. This rose is probably responsible for the entire fruity floral family as perfumers tried to capture its unique profile with lesser materials. M. Kurkdjian takes the Damascena rose and lets it unfurl like a rose bud. At first you get the unmistakable rose bouquet then because it is in such high concentration the pear facets are most readily apparent. Bergamot and orange are present to focus that pear character and make it crisp. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a rose opening to a perfume as much as I enjoyed this. M. Kurkdjian envelops you in the beauty of Damascena rose. As a sort of palate cleanser a heart of violet and magnolia start to temper the fruitiness. This leads to the Rose de Mai’s emergence. Rose de Mai is a sultry rose; in A la Rose it exists as counterpoint to Damascena rose’s genial quality. Rose de Mai has this gorgeous honey quality which only truly flowers when it is used at high concentrations. I am often disappointed at perfumers who will overwhelm that honeyed beauty with other heavy notes. M. Kurkdjian wants it to be front and center over the last part of A la Rose and so he provides cedar and a few musks to provide a clean frame to house the Rose de Mai.
A la Rose has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Rose perfumes are everywhere and it takes something different to make me sit up and take notice. The use of these two rose raw materials and the opportunity to let one own the early hours of wear and the other the later hours makes for a complete rose experience. If you are a lover of rose perfumes A la Rose is a must sniff.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle provided by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.