Perfumes: A guide to rose scents

Perfumes: A guide to rose scents
Rochas Tocade has a vanilla rose scent and comes in a whimsical bottle.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

‘Rose’ perfume can smell green, spicy, powdery, sparkly, fruity or more.

The ubiquity of roses in early to mid-February can be overwhelming (their prices, shocking), but their association with love and romance — and perfume — is hardly a modern convention.


Roses are referenced in Greek and Roman mythology, and humans have distilled fragrant oils from rose petals for millennia. Rosewater colognes were popular with both sexes in the 19th century.

But it’s only recently that scientists discovered that essential rose oil contains more than 400 individual components. Which means that anyone who shops for rose scents before Valentine’s Day would do well to give it some thought. Depending on which aspect the perfumer emphasizes, “rose” can smell green, spicy, powdery, sparkly, sweet, fruity, woody, earthy, dark or richly boozy.


One of the most beautiful rose soliflores (a one-note perfume) is Yosh Han’s Sottile, which evokes a delicate tea rose opening its dewy petals at dawn.

Other virtual roses: CB I Hate Perfume Tea Rose; Frederic Malle’s Une Rose, Jo Malone’s Red Roses and Creed’s Fleur de Thé (Rose Bulgare.

If you favor Victorian gentlemen’s cologne, explore Penhaligon’s Elizabethan Rose and Czech & Speake’s No. 88. For a leather jacket sprinkled with petals, try on Kerosene’s Whips and Roses.

For bargains, you can’t beat Perfumer’s Workshop’s Tea Rose. Kuumba Made,


sold at Whole Foods and online, offers reasonably priced tea, honeysuckle and Arabian rose perfumes. Other great values? Yves Rocher’s underrated Rose Absolue, Jean Charles Brosseau’s powdery woodsy Ombre Rose and Rochas Tocade, a creamy, well-constructed vanilla rose in a whimsical bottle.

Caron’s Parfum Sacre’s blend of rose, musk and incense is cozy and meditative for cold February days.

In summer, try lighter, sheer, 21st century roses: the cool incense of Eau d’Italie’s Paestum Rose or the cracked black pepper of Le Labo Rose 31. Atelier’s Rose Anonyme pops with citrus and vanilla, and Rose Poivre by the Different Company is cumin-kissed.

Stella by Stella McCartney balances among fresh, floral, amber, green and sweet rose. (The frosted purple bottle is a bonus.)


Annick Goutal’s classic French compositions Rose Absolute and Ce Soir Ou Jamais are bursting-ripe sweet rose scents, while Ineke’s fruity Briar Rose and Royal Apothia’s powdery English Rose are demure yet sexy enough for Snow White. For naughty roses, Vivienne Westwood’s aptly named Boudoir is thick sweet rose syrup.

To channel your inner Marie Antoinette, try Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady (spices, patchouli, sandalwood, berries, incense) or Moroccan-inspired Serge Lutens. His Sa Majeste La Rose smells like rose liqueur, while Rose de Nuit is dark and sexy and the brand new Fille de Berlin is a cool retro rose floriental.

When only classic, old school French perfumery will do, Guerlain is your house, with Rose Barbare (jammy, honeyed) and Nahema (plummy, woodsy) set off by the famous Guerlinade base of vanilla, orris, dark animalics and resins.

For all-natural opulence, Mandy Aftel’s new Wild Roses (boozy, spicy, resinous) will have you anointing yourself like Cleopatra awaiting Marc Antony. Lalun Naturals’ Quajar Rose is a stroll through ancient Persian rose gardens.

Three of Andy Tauer’s fragrances are rose-centric: Une Rose Vermeille (candied scarlet), Une Rose Chypre (resins and oakmoss) and Une Rose Incense (incense).

Rosine’s 50-plus perfumes all feature prominent rose notes, and the note also runs through many Montales and Juliette Has a Gun perfumes.

For rose candy pastille perfume, you

cannot beat L’Artisan’s powdery Drole de Rose. For exotic dessert perfume, try Neela Vermeire’s Mohur (cardamom, coriander, rose, almond, vanilla), Amouage’s Lyric Woman (opulent spices, saffron, incense), Parfumerie Generale’s Brulure de Rose 13, L’Artisan’s Saffran Troublant and Ormond Jayne Ta’if.

The moody vetiver-rose pairing in L’Artisan’s Voleur de Roses will have you humming Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” On the dark end of the spectrum, try Czech & Speake’s Dark Rose, By Kilian’s Rose Aoud and Montale’s Black Aoud, the subterranean goblin queen of all rose perfumes. It’s not for everyone, so sample first.

Hamilton writes about perfume for The Times.