When you think of rose perfumes, you probably associate them with the traditional floral fragrances worn by your grandmother. Cloying, overbearing, stuffy—and actually quite unlike the sweet, fresh scent you experience when surrounded by fresh-cut roses. Whilst many established (and indeed, iconic) fragrances revolve around it, rose has long since been a note that I've avoided and eschewed in favour of brighter green scents or trendy woody and musky ones.
However, I was recently introduced to a new fragrance which totally took me by surprise and made me rethink everything I thought I knew about rose. I am rarely surprised by a perfume—my career as a beauty editor has taught me how to decipher ingredient lists, and so I'm able to look at a lineup of fragrance notes and make an educated guess as to how the scent will come together.
I fully expected to take one sniff of Tom Ford's Rose Prick and pass it on to my mum, but on this occasion, she wasn't so lucky. What struck me was the fact that, despite its name, the rose in this fragrance didn't overwhelm at all, and actually felt like it was taking a back seat to the warmer, spicier notes that I was greeted with. Further investigation revealed that rose is a heart note in this scent, and that pepper and turmeric sit at the top.
The base notes of patchouli and tonka bean are much more subtle, but give the scent an impressive longevity. Altogether, Rose Prick presents rose in a totally unique and truly refreshing way, and I've not stopped wearing it since.
My experience not only totally humbled me, but has, over the past six months, led me on a mission to rediscover rose. I've learnt that the note really is undergoing a modern-day revival, in an attempt to banish its old-school, fuddy-duddy connotations. Unlike traditional rose fragrances with which a top note of rose seems to overpower all others, in modern rose scents, the flower plays a supporting role.
Rose works well with citrus notes for a light and fresh summer fragrance, or it can create a sultry, sexy vibe when combined with musk or oud. My favourite rose combinations, I've realised, are those which pair it with sweet, fruity notes; resulting in rich, jammy scents.
Ahead, I've picked out the best rose perfumes that are not only fresh, fun, and modern, but also bound to get you compliments. You can thank me later.
The Best Rose Perfumes:
1. Tom Ford Rose Prick
2. Boy Smells Rose Load
Boy Smells always reinterprets classic scents in interesting and refreshing ways, and this take on rose is no exception. The blend positions rose as a heart note alongside sweet, fruity raspberry. The top notes of rhubarb, pink pepper and cardamom give it a simultaneously fresh and spicy intro, whilst rich oud, sandalwood and papyrus ground it with a woody base.
3. Obvious Une Rose
4. D.S. & Durga Rose Atlantic
5. BDK Tabac Rose
6. Maison Francis Kurkdjian L'Homme À La Rose
Rose is traditionally referred to and utilised as a feminine note, so when I read that this fragrance was a rose scent for men, I was intrigued. It's a really fresh, crisp take on rose—elegant, uplifting, perfect for summer and definitely the type of fragrance you could gift to (then steal from) a man in your life.
7. Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin
At first smell, you could be mistaken for thinking this a classic rose perfume. The note definitely takes centre stage, but as it settles onto skin, a supporting cast of geranium, honey, moss and patchouli emerges. It's a modern, cool-girl take on floral.
8. Maison Margiela Replica On A Date
This multi-layered fragrance is packed with powerful notes like patchouli, vetiver and bergamot, so it's a real head-turner. There's a really balanced blend of fruity and floral thanks to the pairing of rose with geranium and davana. Choose this if you like perfumes that really make a statement.
9. Frédéric Malle Portrait of A Lady
This is considered to be one of the modern classics of rose perfumes. Each 50ml bottle contains 200 Turkish rose flowers, but spicy notes of patchouli, sandalwood and frankincense give it a warm edge that makes it smell really unique and addictive.
10. Penhaligon's Portraits The Coveted Duchess Rose
11. Chanel Paris-Paris
12. le Labo Rose 31
13. Molton Brown Delicious Rhubarb & Rose
14. Byredo Young Rose
Byredo is fast becoming known as one of the greats of modern perfumery, so I was intrigued to smell the brand's rose-based fragrances—it actually has a few in the collection already. This is my favourite. The warm, sweet notes of ambrette and musk balance beautifully with the florals.
15. Aesop Rōzu
16. Diptyque Eau Rose
17. Jo Loves White Rose & Lemon Leaves
18. Jo Malone Red Roses
19. L'Objet Rose Noire