Roses can be big drinkers. They certainly are in gardens, where you can easily go through gallons of water for thirsty roses on hot days, but perfumers have discovered the affinity that roses also have for alcohol. Perfume roses can belly up to a bar with the best of them. There are rose liquors out there, and I’m sure that somewhere some ambitious bartender has come up with a rosatini, but in the perfume world, the contenders for the booziest rose on the block are rather few.
I simply have to mention Frederic Malle’s Une Rose first. Une Rose is the biggest most swaggering rose I ever remember smelling coming through the swinging doors of the local saloon. But this Rose is not Yosemite Sam, no sir, he is Pierre Portager and he wants to know why they don’t have his customary cognac behind that bar? He will shoot down the chandelier if they “don’t get eet”. This is all to suggest that there is something inimitably French about Une Rose, even down to the style of its Gitane smoking, cognac back-tossing masculinity.
In fact Une Rose behind its outsized handsomeness, is exceedingly tough, and for the first twenty minutes or so very boozy, recalling cognac to me although the back story on this fragrance, suggests that it is the nature of the distillation of rose itself that’s responsible for the alcohol note. Rose is meant to be a soliflore, and it is, but in the extremely sophisticated fashion of nature specific scents, using tremendous materials to accomplish its task. This means that Une Rose is a carefully reconstructed rose, a portrait from life of a blooming rose. The whole is like the smell around a big red Damask bloom on a sunny morning when the perfume is an expansive advertisement to pollinators, but it also has that booze subtext trailing it at all times, like a bibulous ghost.
The combination makes this a very strong rose, an overbearing presence on my skin, though indisputably an absolutely brilliant one. When I first smelled it on a tester in a cognac glass, that one sample perfumed the entire kitchen and dining room for two days. That’s very impressive, and at no time did it cease to whirl in its hurricane of rosiness . There can have been very few rose soliflores ever made up to this standard, possibly Coty’s La Rose Jacqueminot. This is so emphatic however, that I’d actually say that it smells as though it were conceived for men, as a sort of masculine floral, constructed with the same techniques as Diorissimo, but butched up. Its dry down too, is rather woody and comfortable, suitable for those who live their lives in cotton, flannel, and wool. Here, quite possibly, is a masculine soliflore, a soliflore that blooms on men, but is not predicated on lavender, but whether or not that’s the case, the perfume itself is a masterpiece.
The other rose alcoholic I have to mention is Serge Lutens’ Rose de Nuit. This fragrance follows in the old tradition of the rose chypre, and it’s a well known genre (see Red Light Green Light) but there’s a distinct kind of night life note to Rose de Nuit. I’m not smelling a booze component per se, but there is something there which suggests a bar and what you could drink at one. Tequila, maybe? Rose de Nuit has something salty about its beginning which probably recalls the salt you lick after a tequila shot.
What it also has about it is the faintest sense of the louche. It does not , however, sacrifice elegance to the gods of sex. This perfume may be, like Tom Ford, too sexy for your party, but still circulates amicably and makes small talk. Rose de Nuit is not about to get stinking or arm wrestle anyone. The scent is also related to some of Serge Lutens’ older fragrances. I smell a distinct kinship with Feminite du Bois. They share a prominent beeswax component which modifies the rose and mellows this perfume out, so that it is less strident than many of the Coriandre relatives. Rose de Nuit’s notes are reminiscent of Nombre Noir’s as well, with coriander in the head, rose and geranium in the heart, and honey and woods in the base, as well as amber. This line up is quite like what I smelled in Rose de Nuit.
The quandary comes in, where you would wear these? A night out boozing? Yes, perfect. A night in? Hm. No, over-kill, I’d say. The office? No. Well, maybe Une Rose, provided you are a stylish man who can exercise restraint with the atomizer.
Really though, these roses prefer the night life, baby, and when I’ve been out with them, man, does my head hurt the next morning.