Friday, October 31, 2008
Like most perfume aficionados, I have my favorite accords. I can spend hours, days, or months, tracking a good leather scent down, and toward that end have amassed: Knize Ten, Tabac Blond, Cuir de Russie, and any number of lesser known specimens. My nose is always alert for galbanum, and iris is a big draw as well, as are tobacco, oakmoss, and virtually all things green. There are a lot to choose from in each of these categories, and I'm kept pretty happy, but rose, another favorite, has eluded me.
It isn't that I haven't found rose fragrances I like, or even that I've been looking for something incredibly specific, which is to say something I know before I smell it, as opposed to the other way around. It's just that most rose fragrances I've smelled or purchased haven't seemed exactly right for me, however much I admire them. Rose is in so many perfumes and colognes to varying degrees, right up top or submerged down below. I've enjoyed some of the masculines, like Cerruti 1881 and Aramis 900, and many of what I call the cult roses, particularly Ungaro III and Alain Delon Iquitos. I've looked into all sorts of unisex roses, like L'Artisan's fleeting Voleur de Roses, for instance. I enjoy many of the alleged feminines too--maybe even most of all--like Cannabis Rose, Paris, and Mille et Une Roses. I'll take high end, like the Rosines, and low, like Coty Exclamation. I have no shame. Some of these I own and wear occasionally, but none come close to Frederic Malle's Une Rose, which struck me as the perfect rose, perfect for me, from the moment I first smelled it.
Une Rose was created in 2003 by Edouard Flechier, the man behind Poison, among others. Une Rose is to rose what Poison is to tuberose, and takes over the senses in similar ways. The profile for Flechier on the Malle website states that in 1967 he entered the perfumery school of Roure Bertrand Dupont and studied with the son of the school's founder, Jean Carles, he of such classics as Shocking de Schiaparelli, Miss Dior, and Ma Griffe.
Une Rose conforms in theory to the vogue for what Abigail recently called the "dirty rose." To me this phrase, aside from basically alerting the consumer she or he is not looking at a bottle of "old fashioned" rose perfume, is practically useless. It's true there's a grunge note to Une Rose, as with Voleur de Roses and any number of contemporary rose fragrances. Often, dirty is meant in a literal way, indicating that the fragrance smells of the soil it was theoretically yanked from. In the case of Une Rose it seems to mean animalic, too. But Une Rose is much more complicated than this kind of simplistic designation can account for. The notes are listed as wine dregs and truffles, and though these pyramids are usually more fanciful than factual, this one offers a useful imaginative keyhole into the perfume.
I sprayed Une Rose at Barney's on a drizzly day in Seattle and forgot about it--for a few minutes, anyway. When I stepped outside it came rushing back at me full force, and seemed a perfect sensory accompaniment to the weather, lushly colored the way things are on an overcast day, more deeply saturated than otherwise, with a density I would probably be apt to characterize as romantic in the rain. It seemed so full-bodied you could get drunk on it, so when I later saw "wine dregs" on the packaging it made sense to me. I couldn't stop sniffing my wrist. I couldn't stop thinking of a fall day back in high school when I'd worn a blood red flannel shirt I'd gotten at a thrift store, and somehow, because of that color, felt ten times moodier than I had any right to be, totally melodramatic, as if I were a perfect accompaniment to the golds and browns falling off the trees out the window. The word intoxicating gets thrown around a lot when discussing perfume, but Une Rose is one of the few scents I feel the word isn't compromised by, and when I open my cabinet it seems to stand out in a burnished glow, drawing my attention among the other boxes and bottles.