I was assailed by a gorgeous warm atmosphere of rose petals this evening and from a most unlikely source : a male teacher at work ( oddball, early fifties, reclusive, funny -looking) who has a golden labrador named Takuya, is ineligible but funny, and teaches maths.

The scent ?

A ‘rose shower’ general deodorant spray from the local Family Mart.

I don’t know if it was the fact of smelling perfume in a usually perfumeless environment; whether it was really as good as I was imagining (swoony and mood changing : I shall have to investigate); but when I later asked him in the teacher’s room what it was, he told me that it had cost only ¥500 and that he had only bought it to cover up the smell of his dog for the classroom and because it was a ‘great aroma’. In that context at least, I agreed : this utilitarian, generous rose did indeed smell really rather beautiful.

When and how did functional perfumery become so appealing; elevated ? I would love to know the intricacies behind the story : the perfumer(s) or technicians who created this gem. Hitting on an idealized rose note at that volume, and at that price, strikes me as an inspiration.

At approximately a hundred times the cost – a Tom Ford private blend small bottle will set you back an eye-watering ¥45,000 here, probably an abomination to the average person on the street : (around a fifth or sixth of a standard monthly salary), the recently released Private Rose Garden collection is clearly vastly superior in terms of its visual aesthetic (obviously) and also in terms of olfactory complexity — and I should hope so too.

But looking at it purely in terms of perfumed pleasure, which would I select?

I’m not sure.

I tested all three of the TFs the other day at Takashimaya but then forgot to review them ( not generally a good sign), even if I did feel an immediate attraction to Rose D’Amalfi on first impulse much more than the other two : balsamic almond tones hinting at something quite hidden and softly beckoning – I would like to try this one on skin.

Rose De Chine made little impression on me – a peony citrus with an unrevealed aspect of myrrh and labdanum that I nevertheless wouldn’t entirely mind returning to retrace; Rose De Russie ( I am such a stupid sucker for these names!) far darker, more strident and impressive – possibly a little invasive – – ding ding ), but rich and potent like a rose remake of the classic raspberry hide whip, Tuscan Leather. I can’t wear this kind of thing myself, but you can easily imagine this perfume on a Putin-esqua assassin in heels and silencer, making her way stealthily through the streets of Moscow at night for a surprise nocturnal revenge hit.

Mr Abe and I, the maths teacher bathed in roses ( the way he mindlessly sprays himself abundantly with this stuff between lessons is just hilarious), though at polar opposites of the political spectrum as he is something of a raving neo-nationalist – funnily enough actually bonded over our mutual gravitation to many things Russian one day when we struck up a conversation sitting at our desks; in particular, the classical music – Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich; the morbidly exquisite films of Andrei Tarkovsky; as well as a general atmospheric James Bond-Cold War-St Petersburg appeal – even if we are both very unimpressed by the current state of leadership.

But would he wear any of the Tom Fords?

I wonder. I doubt it. If they were diluted and bottled in the garden sprayer, it is not impossible ( I once worked with him for a period about eight years ago, when he always smelled, very soothingly, of lilac and violets). But what I have learned from close analysis of last year’s gorgeous Tubereuse Nue, is that, while Tom Ford’s perfumes can be flashy and frustratingly exorbitant, they are also quite often genuinely glamorous. I think of them as being like smorgasbords of glorious, quality (cheap) richnesses densely layered; sometimes to slightly tacky effect, admittedly, but with their smooth undernotes and tones appearing much later, these perfumes also often beg for a further scrutinization. Roses do tend to trigger that response.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Having read this, my “reader” suggested your long-past review of Rose Volupté, which I also read. As soon as I read your description of the constrained “mama-san”, I flashed to the affluent suburb where I grew up, and where my sister still lives. The fashionable young matrons there are known as “yummy mummies”, and they are, as you wrote, often bound together in inextricable Lord of the Flies spiderwebs. Shudder.

    • A brilliant way of putting it. I shall have to go back and read that one as I can’t remember it but I am sure yummy mummies and mamasan are not so far apart. I also find them alien, insane; and utterly terrifying

  2. I liked Tuscan Leather and find that raspberry goes so well with rose, so a rose-enhanced Tuscan Leather would be right up my alley. Will have to try Rose de Russie when I get a chance.

  3. This is a nice story. i cannot imagine an older male math teacher in Germany smelling of roses, even in deodorant form. Kudos to your collegue

    • Seriously, Japan is the last place you would expect such a thing as well, where people are studiously unperfumed (except for the too strong smelling fabric conditioners which have crept in over the last few years and are actually far stronger than fragrance). This guy is very eccentric though – tall and lanky and hook-nosed with the same clothes on all the time : maybe he NEEDS these roses I don’t know, as I do remember a friend of my parents having labradors and me despising the smell of the house whenever we would go there.

  4. How very Japanese to wear rose fragrance to attempt to cover up a doggy smell. I have noticed from the variety of rose fragranced Japanese household cleaning and body care products that an almost harsh Taif rose note is preferred. I surmise that rose is the scent of cleanliness in Japan much the same way lemon is in my native USA. Rose scents are unisex in South Asia too, but denoting spiritual purity rather than romance as in Western cultures.
    I prefer my rose perfumes simple, PW’s Tea Rose or Yardley’s English Rose are my favorite cheapies. Still searching for an amazing rose and myrrh attar type fragrance though.

  5. What a great review, Neil! I’m always a little conflicted about the TF fragrances. The quality of the materials is apparent, but some of the names? Cringe! This set seems to avoid the crawl-into-your-shell and die feeling I get when having to say Lost Cherry or Bitter Peach out loud. Loved reading the reviews of each. It also seems that we have another perfume perfume peep in common! Sue Hyun?

  6. Loved reading this, it makes me so happyu that an older teacher of maths is just walking around with a slight sillage of roses. How perfect.
    I have to say, the only TF fragrance I really ever enjoyed was Plum Japonais, That was just glorious, Nothing else in the line has ever really captured my fancy.

  7. Robin

    This was great and I’m glad I came back to re-read. So much to talk about, but there will be opportunities when I get my laptop back. I would love to try these Tom Ford roses. I loved the original Noir de Noir. I do like several TFs (Plum Japonais IS beautiful). The brand itself doesn’t appeal: the image, the advertising slant, the names of several. Calculated, mercenary outrageousness bores me deeply. I’d almost be a little embarrassed having a bottle sitting on the bathroom counter. I’d feel I’d have to explain it, offer a disclaimer. “I know he’s crass and the stuff is grossly overpriced and some people buy it just for bragging rights, but this particular one happens to actually smell really good.”

    I love that man spraying on his lovely rose from that cleaning product trigger bottle, with lovely intentions.

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