I am a big wearer of flowers, always on the lookout for new varieties of beguiling fresh florals, particularly come the summer months, when the jasmines, tuberoses, frangipanis and gardenias come into play, though I can be equally content with some blue-freshing hyacinths, carnations, or the right kind of rose. In recent commercial fragrance however, roses have been maniacally overdone in the most prissy, prudish and synthetic manner imaginable and I have come to almost hate the note: that sewn-up, more hygienic-than-thou aspect as you pass them on the street,  a note of irritation; woman as factory-machined item – bottled and pink, choreographed with a cream, plastic bow.

Sometimes I yearn for more exuding roses: powdered, glossy, but with undercushioned nuances. We were in Shibuya the other night (having missed the last train: we slept on the steps of Bunkamura for a while and wandered the streets like nightcrawlers until the first train), but there were some girls up ahead on the pavement in their heels, and one of them was wearing a rose that was familiar, but which I couldn’t pinpoint, and it changed the midnight air beautifully: lending a satin swagger and flirtatious uplift that I had been craving in my nose brain. I was inhaling greedily as we followed them down the street.

Yes: why not sucker punch your perfume (especially on a Japanese girl, quite unusual), rather than this pseudo demure that pollutes our cities?: these hideous red belts of chastity that come across like olfactory interdictions from the religious police. Be. Clean. Smell. Fresh. Like a rose that has never been. Plucked.

This is all perhaps a strange opening for a rose review that isn’t what I am describing here:  A La Rose is something of a compromise between the two, but at the very least, smelling A La Rose yesterday I didn’t feel sick as I usually do these days with the endless stuck up posies of chemical rosies. In fact I thought, mmmmclever….

A Japanese only release, Kurkdjian has here found a way to stride the river of prim and sensual and create a rose perfume that is rosy (it certainly is very rosy), but without that pink pepper / ‘peony’, nose-nauseous bllieeiruruugggh that the majority of ‘rose’ perfumes currently evince : there is a freshness and a softness but as though through the billowing bottomness of glass. Damascus rose and Turkish rose absolute are citrified and violetted, but only gently, and there is a rougeness that blends naturally with the cedarwood musks of the base. It is one of those perfumes I would never wear (it is still a little bit straitjacketing for me, this style), but which I nevertheless distinctly thought nice on first sniff; a rose that smells urbane but light-hearted; effortless yet thought-out. I can imagine it being quite a big hit here among the Tokyo cognoscenti.

I had actually gone into Takashimaya though, pre-work, to smell L’Isle Au Thé, the new release by Annick Goutal that has had great reviews on several sites, and whose imagery caught my fancy: the island of Jeju in South Korea, and its tea, and its flowers, and I very much liked the idea of a mandarin osmanthus revivifiying summer spritz that might get me through the final two months of term (eleven weeks down, still eight weeks to go). I adore the smell of a well done orange perfume, or mandarin, or tangerine, or any citrus scent if it is handled in an imaginative way, and had imagined an eye-opening citrus perfume with green tea accents; a sly lick of osmanthus.

I immediately liked the perfume, as I had anticipated I would: I think Annick Goutal is one of those houses whose perfumes smell joyous. To me they smell unfettered and alive and devoid of crass commercialism though managing to smell current. Unbased on gimmickry and boilerplate fashion tags they are just bottles of beautifully made scent: romantic: well crafted, and pleasing. This new release is another successful addition to a line that encompasses all flowers done in the French contemporary style yet with classicist leanings: a musc softened green tea neroli with mandarin accents: lovely, but for me a touch too heavy on the orange blossom: I have already fallen in love with the brand’s sharper and more uncompromising pure Néroli, as I wrote the other day. My immediate impression was that L’Isle au thé was like a combination of that perfume, with an underlying dose of Bulgari’s Eau Parfumée Au The Vert (which I have and wear on occasion), but which smells a touch nineties to me in a way, a bit of a throwback. However, the osmanthus touch is very appealing, and so is the overall execution of the perfume, and I would certainly keep an eye out for a discounted bottle as I can imagine this being delightful when you are in the exact right mood. As a full priced bottle though it doesn’t quite reach the mark. I already have my cabinets full of more exciting, sense-gratifying treasures.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Sun Mi

    I am interested that you like the AG, it seems most of the reviews I’ve read have been rather negative about it. My grandmother was from Jeju and I was so hoping to love this one for sentimental reasons but have been afraid to try it because nobody seemed to like it. Perhaps I will end up giving it a go.

    • To be honest it just smells one hundred per cent French: there is nothing Korean about the scent ,but the word Jeju is beautiful in itself for me to be slightly captured. I suppose I am a bit pretentious (or poetic) that way.

  2. Beautiful reviews. I am curious about them both, but sadly I might not smell a la Rose anytime soon :(. The Annick Goutal I think I might be able to find in Boston when I am there next week. I am curious to see how I will enjoy the AG, I always love wearing AG scents during the warm summer months.
    Thank you again for sharing your glorious writing, it really makes my day.

  3. jennyredhen

    Do you think these new Rose perfumes smell kind if peppery because they use Rose geranium leaves to make them instead of actual Rose petals? I have heard that happens a lot.. far cheaper.

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