Rose Prince Arthur




















I have just three work days left. And I couldn’t be happier to spend three weeks at home in Kamakura writing, reading, taking secret trips to the beach. On August 31st I will be doing an interactive live Zoom event with Art & Olfaction : 70 Years Of Vintage Perfume, so I hope to meet you in person. Suffering from stage fright I would like it to be more akin to a discussion with friends, rather than a ‘presentation’ (enough of teaching already!), but I had better start gemming up on my D’Orsays and my Lucien Lelongs.




It is an alternate universe. We were supposed to be going back to England. Obviously, that is now thoroughly off the table. Just the idea of getting on a plane and travelling across the world feels completely absurd; impossible to imagine. I am content in some ways not to be going anywhere: the realities of this ‘hiatus’ year have seeped in to all of our bloodstreams now: we accept. At the same time, we literally can’t leave the country even if we wanted to. And I am not just talking about the inevitable quarantines.




Japan has mandated very strict rules on the comings and goings of non-Japanese (  – leading to an international outcry. Though I understand the motivations to a certain extent – everyone is afraid, and all societies are ethno-centric/culture biased to a certain extent, afraid of the Other, it does somewhat feel like an infringement on our human rights. It also doesn’t really surprise me: I sussed out the core feeling many years ago  – the country might arguably be less racist than other places, but it is certainly more politely xenophobic (and thus I have used it like a surrogate mother to suit my own ends and creative purposes). I adore the place to a degree, but I know that it will never truly love me back. We know our limits.





Had we gone back home it would have been fun, if busy. The usual flurry of family visits, dinner with friends, perfume window shopping in London, late summer evenings in the garden with black birds and wood pigeons, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and freshly made fish and chips (sheer heaven, and something you just can’t eat authentically here); cider and beer in proper pint glasses and sparkling wine with my cousins.I was looking forward to some car rides into the countryside with our families, and maybe also having a day in Cambridge with D  – it has been decades since were there together, and scouring the charity shops of Leamington Spa, tea and scones (all the clichés) at the white Georgian Pump Rooms next to the river Leame; the perfume shop Cologne & Cotton, which, for soap and huge bottles of colognes, fluffy towels and unusual niche fragrance labels is a perfume lover’s bliss.





Last night D brought him take out salads and for dessert, mont blancs, very popular here in Japan with their mounds of puréed sweet chestnuts centred with thick cream. This was an unusual purple mountain potato Kamakura take on the classic with a different colour and texture, but delving into the bottom of the paper cup I spooned some of the base into my mouth; meringue. I was at a summer christening in England ; raspberry trifles, mum’s homemade fruit salad (my favourite; she would overdose on the lemon juice – I see myself on the stairs, maybe nine or ten, spooning endless red coloured fruit into my mouth along with ‘pavlova’, and knowing me, probably a a small beaker ferried off furtively of sparkling wine just to see what all the fuss was about as adults swanned about tipsy in floral dresses and open shirts reflected through the cut class decanters and vases filled with sweet peas from the garden and roses.


















The Proustian rush, overdone as a motif in perfume writing as it might be, is truly a miracle of the human consciousness. It is not a question of (slap thigh   –  ) Oh, this reminds me of so and so or this or that   –  it is actual time travel.  There is no music cue nor lacuna ellipsis : you are just there. Surviving in the memory. Or reliving, reactivating what was lived (and still exists) : placed there as a mockery of the usual space/ time continuum.




Although meringue was never a favourite of mine, especially (nice, but under that brittle  egg texture enamel lurks something distracting);  still, that air-biting crunch piercing down through sugar clouds of bake-petrified yolks, led to gelatinously layers of peel-fortified lemon curd  or else delicious raspberries (a fruit I only properly enjoy when it has been ‘treated’ – the hair-rubbered mouthfeel of the fruit straight off the vine is repellent to me in a way that strawberries, equally delicious and fragrant but texturally favourable do not – (the white/pink/red fleshed juiced anatomy of those divine creatures easy to gorge on by the handful).





Trifle in summer. Could anything be more English?  The raspberries and jelly at the bottom of the glass bowl tinkered with yellow custard a delight. Cut roses, or roses on the stem in the garden, still light at ten in the evening, another thing I associate with the fruit. As a child I would not just inhale, but suck up the scent of the most luscious roses like a honey bee. Plunge my face into the petals and beyond to drink in the rose perfume – another form of travel in itself; spatially/spiritually altering). A rose in all its glory (uncapturable); all of its nuances (indescribable); the nobility of its crimsonous coolness tainted with microspider; aphid unawaredly sharing its joy.




Rose oil, extracted, doesn’t replicate the living flower respiration, green from the stem, the thorns, and the roots. I have smelled some very beautiful essential oil extractions, and enjoy the darker rose ottos like oil paints in chypres, but I find that jasmine, the rose’s royal rival, has been more efficiently immortalized in scent. Department store ‘roses’ disgust me unreservedly; oudh roses kind of bore me (but I get the point); sweet Turkish loukhoum roses like the original Rose de Rosine I can do and I loved the original Voleur De Roses by L’Artisan Parfumeur which I wore quite a lot in my early twenties), but I don’t like rose to be too over-eager, too virtue over vice; it should be composed; and needs both.




Rose Trocadero by Le Jardin Retrouvé, which I have mentioned before in conjunction with reviews of rose perfumes by Diptyque and Tom Ford doesn’t reach deep into these categories (it is more of a snapshot than a faithful rendering), but with its raspberry and blackcurrant-tinged crispness and fresh erect ‘rose in a summer garden’ impression it is less fruited and fussy than Goutal’s Rose Pompon and its fellow blackberry-budded clones. I quite like the edp of that perfume and would gift it to an ingenue or burgeoning debutante in a voluminous tea dress, but there is something very conservative, sub-fashionista about most rose perfumes; they are the most restrictive from the feminist perspective. Nice little girls doing precisely what they are told; a fettered ugliness of societal and chemical fascism I abhor (something about Big Beauty behemoths in Switzerland churning out reconstituted patchouli and recriminatory musk bases makes me just want to scream out my lungs into the void). Rose Trocadero is pretty and full, without being too anodyne. Though a little repetitious  – what you get is what you get – it is nevertheless a pleasing rose soliflore that got me mulling on all of the points in this piece in the first place. Something about that first spritz brings back wonderful memories.









Mona Di Orio’s Rose Étoile De Hollande is a very different beast: less pretty in frills and more intent, serious, inward-looking. A woody rose blend mixed with real artistry, on my skin the hints of peach and clove as well as what smells like Bulgarian roses soon warms up to a cedar and leather aroma with a dry down of subtle patchouli that is like a distant cousin to Shiseido/ Serge Lutens Feminité Du Bois but with more room inside the perfume for maneuver. Understatedly carnal and very (obviously, as is usually the case with this house) overtly dignified, this is not a perfume I could love personally but can imagine becoming an outright obsession with the right rose lover : a calm lethality.











Ormonde Jayne’s new Damask, part of La Route De Soie collection to be released in October, is a savvy, niche/ commercial fresh rose ( a mineralic lemon / pear/ pink pepper musk, jasmine and blackcurrant with a brief rush of rose top notes) that will tickle the senses of the casual browser but which I didn’t like as much as other perfumes in the collection such as Levant and Tanger. Ta’if Elixir, a new version of the popular dark rose by the London-based house, is much more replete and exotic with its new heartcore of Cambodian oudh – a warm, animalic addition that works well as a more languorous reprisal of the original. If you like Ta’if, I would recommend layering it with the new version for deeper emanations from the skin – the two complement each other perfectly.













The roses are still in full bloom in Yokohama : we had a wonderful Sunday just traipsing around in the very hot sun (and possibly had mild heatstroke as a result, sleeping for an abnormally long time that evening and the following morning ), but as I leaned in to smell a yellow-orange rose that reminded me of both of my grandmothers I thought to myself cornily that at rose is a rose : the scent is virtually identical. Japanese roses, English roses:  the fully scented ones usually smell very beautiful. That smell I remember though, the almost splenetic, lemon- raspberry rosum gorgeousness of my childhood roses that dazzled and bowled me over in our garden on Dovehouse Lane continues to somewhat elude me –  both in the roses that I encounter, and in perfume.



Filed under Rose


  1. The photos are absolutely gorgeous. Enjoy your break!

  2. How many times can you time travel through a scent before the present co-opts it to dilute the scent memory?
    Today I’m trying Rose Absolument by Les Parfums de Rosine, which reminds me a little of Voleur de Roses once the juicy potpourri aspect calms down.
    Was your elusive garden rose pink in color by any chance? I remember a beautiful pink rose from an English garden many years ago that smelled like it had so much life packed into a small bud.

    • That is a really good point about memory, and it is definitely true (which is why I like having a lot of perfumes to actually pinpoint specific memories and events). Some perfumes are worn so many times that they definitely go beyond all of that and just become fully fledged phantoms of yourself.

      I think I do love the pink roses in terms of smell but also the really dark red ones. They are both part of what I remember.

  3. Rose is truly one of my favorite scents in the world!! Truly, no fragrance has perfectly captured the scent of fresh roses on the vine, even many rose bushes being sold in the states here (namely “Proven Winners”) have no scent to them whatsoever. Believe it or not, most roses that we have in our yard don’t have a scent. It horrifies me to no extreme, but they have bred them for hardiness and the fragrance part was left behind; so very typical here. We do have a beautiful old, old rose bush in the back that has the most beautiful deep dark rose blossoms and they smell divine. We also planted a beautiful David Austin rose bush out front and they smell amazing as well.
    Two of my favorite rose scents are La Rose by Rochas and Rose Absolue by Annick Goutal. These two are about as close as I have come to a really delicious authentic rose fragrance.
    Believe it or not, I am one of the few people who has not enjoyed the Ormande Jayne scents I have tried, Ta’if being one of them. They just didn’t capture me the way I thought they would have.
    I have never tried Le Jardin Retrouve fragrances, even though I receive their emails, and need to remedy that, and quickly. Is Rose Trocadero one you would suggest I try?
    Hope you enjoy your summer break, you deserve it!

    • La Rose De Rochas: you always have a scent up your sleeve I don’t know. When did that come out? I love the idea of it just from the name. I like Rochas in general.And I agree about Rose Absolue – I was going to mention that in the review as being the most beautiful capturing of a fully fledged rose, but the last time I smelled it at Takashimaya it seemed to have lost something. Do you think they have been scrimping on the rose essences or that it has been reformulated perhaps?

      Ormonde Jayne: I am not a huge fan of Ta’if either, although I think this new Elixir version deepens it a bit and takes away some of the harsher top notes (the line is always a little too ‘fresh’ somehow). I love their Tiare, and think that Ormonde Woman is good, but some of the perfumes are not ‘deep’ enough for me somehow.

      Le Jardin Retrouve are quite nice: the tuberose is really good and the jasmine too; Rose Trocadero is charming, but not on the level of the Goutal in its original form.

      • La Rose de Rochas is such a sublime scent, but not a pure rose. Rather it is a rose in a lovely garden, where she is the queen and stands out the most. There is a nice green freshness in there as well, giving it a more realistic feel.
        As far as AG Rose Absolue goes, vintage is the only way to have it. It has now been reformulated to death and the ingredients are not of the same caliber as they once were. This is what happens to the small houses when they are purchased by huge conglomerates. Then again, it happens to the large houses as well; I’m looking at you Guerlain.
        If I come across the Ormonde Jayne Elixir, in my future travels, I will try it, but will not go out of my way to orders samples or such. I’m not familiar with her Tiare, but I was underwhelmed by Ormonde Woman; it felt like something I already owned, that was done better.
        I will however order a sampler set from Le Jardin Retrouve, to see what they are all about.

  4. Tara C

    Another Voleur de Roses fan here. Lately I’ve been indulging in DS & Durga Rose Atlantic though, which reminds me of the wild roses growing along the cliffs here in Gaspésie, Québec. My favourite rosebush varieties are Tropicana and Double Delight, which unlike most North American hybrids actually smell wonderful. I am not a fan of Ormonde Jayne in general (too much Iso-E Super) nor of the Mdo rose, but AG Rose Absolue and Rosine Rose d’Amour are high up on the list, as well as Tauer roses and Dior La Colle Noire.

    • Rose Atlantic is fascinating – I even put it in my book – even if there is something slightly stomach curdling for me about the combination of rose and fresh ozonic notes (it definitely works, though).

      I think Rosine is underrated, personally; so many of theirs are really nice if you love roses. I haven’t tried the Dior, but now I want to. What is it like?

      • Tara C

        I have a bottle from the original release of La Colle Noire, no idea if it was tweaked when they revamped the line, but it smells like a sunny fresh rose. There is probably some white musk as it smells a bit clean. I find it cheerful and uplifting.

      • On the whole I wasn’t really drawn to the whole Dior exclusive line – they seemed to ‘overdone’ somehow. This one sounds more simple. The Burberry Bespoke Garden Rose was also a sunny fresh number – simple and clean. Sometimes those roses are better than the more overclunked numbers swimming in bad chemicals.

    • Tara, Isn’t La Colle Noire just fabulous. It is one of my favorites in the line!

  5. Robin

    It’s still rose and sweet pea season here in southern BC and coincidentally Ric’s table is covered with vases loaded with the ones from the garden. So pretty together, especially the miniature roses, which are the same visual scale as the sweet peas. What a combination scent-wise. I wonder who makes a rose and sweet pea fragrance? I’d be in so fast. (Of the rare sweet pea scents, I think I like Annick Goutal Vent de Folie best, although it doesn’t nail that elusive note by any means.)

    My favourite rose for scent is the one Ric’s “borrows” from a huge garden above the beach. It starts tangerine coloured before opening and shifting from pink to apricot to gold. The scent is equal parts centifolia, ripe peach and red apple, ridiculously intense through its lifespan. The rose bush is long neglected, scraggly and overgrown and beleaguered by black spot when the summer has been rainy, but the blooms themselves are unblighted perfection.

    I read that New York Times link and another article on the travel restrictions in Japan. Such a drag. How to make a non-Japanese resident feel shitty and abandoned. That would have been terrible if you and Duncan had been caught away from Japan and couldn’t go back to earn income, yet had to maintain your rent there and all the rest of it.

    I enjoyed all the madeleine-like memories. Ric and I went to our favourite blackberry patch yesterday and the timing was perfect. All the huge alpha ones in the centre of the clusters were at the perfect stage of ultimate ripeness. Zoomed home and made a tarte with a buttery short crust — needed very little sugar for the berries — and shared it warm from the oven on the deck outside among the sweet peas and roses. All I needed was that Mona di Orio rose on my neck and the pleasure would have been complete. I’d happily own all of the ones you describe so well. No such thing as too many rose fragrances, at least for me.

  6. emmawoolf

    I always enjoy your nostalgic posts. I agree that you can’t beat the scent of a fresh rose, and there’s nothing quite like it in perfume form. As you may remember, I was once a fan of Soir de Lune, but I haven’t worn it for years. The roses in our garden have done spectacularly well this year – they love the drought – and bring continuous pleasure. With careful deadheading they’ll last well into autumn (just call me Percy Thrower). This delicious evocation of 70s dinner parties not only brings to mind a time when single-figured tots all attempted unsuccessful perfume making at home, stirring petals into water, but also a domestic goddess friend of mine who makes the most divine rose petal cordial from the flowers in her garden. Mixed with prosecco and ice, it is wonderful. When you next come to England I’ll pour you a glass or two. Here’s to the end of term x

  7. Are you still giving a talk through the IAO? Would love to follow along, I’ve been reading your blog for several years – I didn’t see anything on their schedule.

  8. Fulaan

    hello can i ask how exactly you layer taif and taif elixir please?

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