Mighty like a rose.

As my pal Nan and I have wended our way through Carol's Bag of Wonderful, it has come to my attention that neither of us have stopped to smell the roses. By this, I mean that we both instinctively avoid the perfumes whose names suggest a predominant rose note. Standing over that fragrant tote bag, heads together like two ten-year-olds contemplating a shared stash of Hallowe'en candy, we find that a mutual wince passes between us whenever one or the other picks up a rose perfume and holds it aloft. Said perfume invariably gets chucked back into the shadowy depths of the tote bag, untested.

Conclusion: rose perfumes are the molasses-flavored BB Bats of fragrance.

Well, that's not entirely fair-- nor is it accurate. A lot of people like rose perfumes. There are several I myself adore-- Parfums de Nicolai's Balkis and Creed's Fleurs de Bulgarie, to name two. But even in my own backlog of perfume samples, roses routinely get bumped to the back of the line. Last night, I gathered together all those rejected blossoms and gave them my undivided attention. Here are the ones to which my nose said "yes"-- the "no-no-no's" will follow.

Early Roses (Téo Cabanel)
Promo Copy: "Just close your eyes and picture yourself walking leisurely in a rose garden still bathed in a delicate morning dew..."
Scent: Don't mind if I do! The trick to a successful rose perfume appears to be moderation; this one exercises it admirably. A sweet and peppery tea rose with a nice bit of tonka tagged on and fairly low sillage, Early Rose suggests the bashful bud rather than the full-blown flower-- and who says that's a drawback? Appropriate for those who love the rose note but want to keep it all to themselves, whether out of greed or consideration for their fellow man (who might not harbor the same enthusiasm for this flower).

Scent Elements: Rose, jasmine, pink pepper, amber, woods and musk

Rose Absolue (Yves Rocher)
Promo Copy: "For women who love the very best in a floral fragrance..."
Scent: I don't know that it's the 'very best', period; I'm not even sure it's a 'floral fragrance', as it comes across as much more of a gourmand. But I liked Rose Absolue the most of this bunch-- quite possibly because it smelled the least like a natural rose. I take Rocher at its word when it claims that it utilized only the best and purest natural rose essences, but it's super hard to tell with all that apple pie on top. Still, who am I to turn down pie?

Scent Elements: Cinnamon, apple, Turkish, Bulgarian and Moroccan rose ottos, patchouli, tonka bean


Now here are the roses, wilted and dried, which left our noses unsatisfied:

Zephir de Rose (Parfums de Rosine)
Promo Copy: "(A) fresh and soft summer morning... an English rose emanating an anise fragrance..."
Scent: "A fresh and soft slice of focaccia emanating a fennel-and-pesto fragrance" would be closer to the truth. Clearly a result of its support elements having extremely strong associations with popular Italian cuisine, this rose seems hardly a rose at all, but an appetizer. Apply to skin, and loved ones will assume you had a sausage sub for lunch.

Scent Elements: Bulgarian rose, anise, basil, ambrette

Elisabethan Rose (Penhaligon's)
Promo Copy: "Imagine a premier cru champagne, frothy and gorgeously light, softly fizzing, shot through with heady rose scented bubbles..."
Scent: Quick rule of thumb: the more florid the description, the less tolerable the actual fragrance. No matter how many chances I gave it, the blast of mildew that shot up from the top of this vial stopped me cold. Even when I forced the issue and applied it to my skin, Elisabethan Rose struck me as a scent so fusty that it could actually have been bottled in the sixteenth century.  Eventually -- a long time in perfume minutes -- it becomes more like a natural rose petal scent.  Sadly, the spectre of blue mold remains fixed in mind, spoiling all pleasure.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, geranium, chamomile, violet, rose, musk, amber, sandalwood