It’s the beginning of February and my desk is awash with this year’s crop of the new spring rose perfumes. As they are most years it is an unremarkable collection of fragrance. I usually end up finding a rose perfume less interested in being innocent to cleanse my palate towards the end of spring. Also to remind me that rose doesn’t have to be this bland. I thought for 2020 I’d change things up by beginning the process with a rose perfume that is exactly what I look for, Etat Libre d’Orange 500 Years.
Etienne de Swardt
One of the mysteries of the way rose is currently being used is that it isn’t being featured in more gourmand style fragrances. The best roses have an inherent sweet depth that is often described as jam-like. My favorite rose perfumes have a gourmand undercurrent even if it only comes from the rose. If there is one gourmand ingredient which perfumers have not been reluctant to use it is chocolate. Taking the rich depth of good cacao with a similarly deep rose is a natural pairing. For 500 Years creative director Etienne de Swardt and perfumer Cecile Matton take this to a joyful extreme.
500 Years starts with the keynote Turkish rose in place from the start. In the early going it has that silky velvet quality which bergamot and cardamom breeze over the top of. Saffron begins to find that jamminess while amplifying it. It is like the rose transforms from crushed textural material into rich gooey jelly. Rarely does a textural shift seem so natural as it does here. Mme Matton then layers on the cacao. There is a fattiness to this cacao and it really meshes well with the rose because of it. A tiny smidge of oud is what completes the chocolate rose accord. A dark patchouli helps to accentuate the cacao over the later stages as some leather finishes things.
500 Years has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
While it is still cooler out is the ideal time to be wearing 500 Years. It will be overwhelmed by the pile of new releases on my desk soon enough as the temperature warms up. Until then bite down on this gorgeous gourmand rose.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.