Not for nothing is the rose known as the queen of flowers and, we can add, a mainstay of perfumery. This year alone, big releases include Mon Guerlain Bloom of Rose EDP, Tom Ford Rose Prick EDP, and Dior Miss Dior Rose N’Roses EDT.
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Rose fragrances are always popular and part of their appeal is due to the multitude of ways in which they can be interpreted. From fresh and dewy to rich and decadent, there’s one for you.
We’ve included a mix of styles, modern classics and newbies on this list to give you a sense of the variety on offer.
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady EDP
Perfumer: Dominique Ropion
No best rose fragrances list would be complete without the inclusion of this modern masterpiece, a Portrait of a Lady that’s affectionately known by its fans as P.O.A.L. An extraordinary perfume demands a different type of review, so here are five facts:
- It’s named after the Henry James novel, which was published in 1891.
- Its creator, Dominique Ropion, who is highly regarded for scents such as Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower, Givenchy Amarige, Lancôme La Vie est Belle and Mugler Alien, received The Fragrance Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement, Perfumer Award in 2019.
- Released in 2010, it has become one of the most revered niche fragrances of the last decade.
- According to the brand’s website, each 100ml bottle contains no less than 400 Turkish roses.
- That said, this is a seamless fragrance that whispers its supreme beauty from the opening rose note. Tinges of raspberry and black currant bring delicate fruity piquancy to the blend, while cloves add spicy warmth. An ultra-refined patchouli note takes the lead in the drydown and is given just the right amount of sensual mystery with swirls of smoky frankincense and creamy sandalwood.
While you are in Frédéric Malle mode, make sure to sniff out the other superb rose EDPs from the Paris-based niche house, including Lipstick Rose by Ralf Schwieger, Une Rose by Edouard Fléchier, and Rose & Cuir by Jean-Claude Ellena.
Perfumer: Amandine Clerc-Marie & Michael Almairac
That freshness is evident right from the opening notes of freesia, peony and lychee.
When the rose comes through, it’s dewy, perfectly pretty and supported by lily-of-the-valley and magnolia notes.
Featuring notes of amber and cedar, the drydown is warm and woody.
Yes, it’s a popular fragrance. But don’t let that put you off sniffing out this modern classic that can give much pricier niche options a run for their money.
Acqua di Parma Rosa Nobile EDP
This EDP centres on Centifolia rose buds. According to the Italian niche brand, these are hand-picked from an organic plantation in Piedmont. They give the scent a fresh, leafy facet that’s perfectly complemented by notes of Sicilian mandarin, pepper, peony, cedarwood and musk.
There’s also a hint of ambergris in the drydown, which could be why this perfume is usually on the pricey side.
We’d love to congratulate the creator of this 2014 release on a job well done, but Acqua di Parma frequently doesn’t disclose its perfumers.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian L’Eau a la Rose EDT
Perfumer: Francis Kurkdjian
Launched in 2014, Maison Francis Kurkdjian À la Rose EDP is a truly gorgeous rose fragrance. This 2019 release is a good alternative if you’re looking for a softer, but equally alluring take on the theme.
It opens with an airy lychee accord, without becoming a typically sweet fruity floral.
Centifolia rose absolute and Damascena rose oil give this EDT its floral flair, while peony keeps it on the fresh side of things.
Settling on a base of musks, it’s luxurious and sensual in a quiet way. Perfect for spring and summer – and even before bedtime.
Lancome Idole EDP
Perfumers: Shyamala Maisondieu, Adriana Medina-Baez & Nadege le Garlantezec
Lancôme’s Idole, their first new perfume since the decade-defining La Vie est Belle, has received much love and hate since its release in 2019. Negative reviews have declared it “boring” and “predictable”. We say try it for yourself, as it’s actually very well-composed and a great example of a clean rose scent.
A delicately sweet note of pear opens the fragrance.
Two essences (absolute and rose water) have been used to make rose the star of the show. They give it a fresh, pure and green quality. Jasmine is in the background.
White musks feature in the drydown and maintain a sense of purity.
DS & Durga Rose Atlantic EDP
Perfumer: David Seth Moltz
Trust self-taught perfumer David Seth Moltz of NYC-based niche fragrance house DS & Durga to do something completely different with a rose perfume.
You’ll know this is not the usual rose scent right from the opening of this 2016 release, featuring bitter-ish notes of bergamot and lemon oil, with rose petals slightly softening the effect.
A fine rose accord comes through in the heart of the fragrance, with linden blossom in support. But this is a rose drenched in salt water. Lots of it. As if you’re aboard the ship Salt Spray Rose. What a clever boy!
A dose of white moss completes the mood.
Le Labo Rose 31 EDP
Perfumer: Daphne Bugey
Inspired by the aim to transform the usually feminine Centifolia rose into a powerful unisex fragrance, the NYC-based niche fragrance house does just that with Le Labo Rose 31.
This is largely due to the potent pairing of the rose with cumin in the opening. Cumin is known for its spicy, animalic quality and it’s used to maximum effect in this 2006 release.
The atmosphere is sustained through the skillful use of woody notes that include vetiver, cedar, and guaiac.
It’s not an easy-to-wear rose fragrance and the cumin will be too much for some people. But those with more robust tastes will be well rewarded.
Byredo Rose of No Man’s Land EDP
There are many notable fragrances in the Swedish niche brand’s line-up, including Pulp, Super Cedar, Gypsy Water and Bal d’Afrique. But the lesser-known and charmingly named Rose of No Man’s Land, inspired by the nickname given by soldiers to the life-saving nurses during World War I, is highly recommended if you’re looking for a gentle intro to rose fragrances.
This 2015 release opens with notes of Turkish rose petals, complemented by subtle pink peppercorn.
The centrepiece is softly-enveloping Turkish rose absolute, nicely finished off with notes of amber and papyrus.
It’s a very warm, agreeable and accessible fragrance that errs on the side of subtlety to make an impact.
Unum Rosa Nigra Extrait de Parfum
Perfumer: Filippo Sorcinelli
Filippo Sorcinelli has to be one of the most interesting perfumers working today. The Italian is the consummate slashie. Artist. Musician. Photographer. Storyteller. Designer. Creator of vestments for the Catholic Church, including for Pope Francis’s first mass. All of these talents are reflected in his conceptual perfumes. His range, Unum, was launched in 2014.
Rosa Nigra is an utterly captivating, enveloping and complex rose fragrance. Actually, it’s more of an experience, which is inspired by French cathedrals and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Except it doesn’t contain a rose note. He creates the effect through an olfactory illusion.
Sorcinelli achieves this by playing with a variety of notes, especially freesia and peach, and fleshes it out with absinthe, sandalwood, cashmere wood, amber, vanilla and musk.
Every detail, from the choice of notes to the design of the bottle, has symbolic significance. And you don’t have to be a Catholic, religious or spiritual to “get” it.
Diptyque Eau Capitale EDP
Perfumer: Olivier Pescheux
The Paris-based niche fragrance brand pays tribute to the city that’s such an integral part of its identity with this Eau Capitale 2019 release.
The intro belongs to the citrus hues of Italian bergamot. It’s fresh, zesty and slightly bitter in all the best ways. A twist of peppercorn brings spicy rosiness to the proceedings, setting the scene for the full-on heart of rose from Turkey and Bulgaria.
This is no lady-like take on the queen of florals. It’s rich, fruity, in full bloom, almost dirty. Ylang-ylang from the Comoros, not usually known for its sedateness, is very much in the background.
For the drydown, Pescheux maximises the deep, dark and earthy characteristics of Indonesian heart of vetiver and Haitian vetiver.
If you love rose scents, you can also learn how to make rose oil yourself!
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.