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Why is it a rose perfume never smells like the flower? Unlike jasmine or gardenia, rose is often indistinct and unidentifiable in a fragrance. The reason is this: To get the scent, perfumers build upon layers of raw synthetics to try to mimic the real deal, and this differs among different perfumers.
Rose is a shape-shifter. It’s well-loved by perfumers because it plays well with other scents, behaving differently depending on what it’s paired with. This effect transforms a perfume.
Rose softens the hardness of cedarwood, making it less overpowering. It balances the tanginess of fruit, making it fuller. Paired with other florals, rose gives a finishing touch, allowing the wearer to smell like a bouquet of fresh flowers.
Why then, have rose perfumes always smelled a certain way since the ’80s? Old-world, too sweet, powdery, like your granny’s closet. It’s because woman then wanted it that way.
But now, perfumers are acknowledging that the rose is so multi-faceted it would be a waste not to explore its potential. The new crop of rose perfumes has the flower at its heart still, but it isn’t the standout note. The scent is now elevated with unexpected pairings – with citrus to brighten and freshen, or as a rose-musk to make it warm and sensual.
The scent itself is subtle, and at times, fleeting. The overall effect is still a little nostalgic, but nothing that will give you any Anna Karenina moments.
Some of our favourite modern rose scents: