Rose – Blue Collar Red Lipstick

After talking about purple frags last time, I felt fairly confident that my personal perfume collection was more or less complete. Hah! As soon as my hunt for the perfect iris perfume was over(ish), I became intrigued by a new note. No burying of the lede here: it’s rose.

I know what some of you are probably thinking.

Rose in perfumery? Groundbreaking.

And, yes, rose is as traditional a note as it gets. But my quest for a rose scent for my collection proved to be one of the most challenging yet. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but no two roses smell the same. And there are many different kinds of rose-forward scents out there. Some are fresh, some are heavy. Some are fruity, some are green. Some are soliflores (i.e. just rose), some are floral bouquets. I had not thought of myself as a huge fan of rose fragrances in the past; unaware of their diversity, I solely associated them with a certain type of scent, probably best described as a powdery rose soliflore, which never appealed to me. So what got me interested in roses now?

I fell in love with a tea.

Acquired Taste is a local shop that sells the most delicious and wonderful teas. On my last visit, a few months ago, I asked if they had a rose tea. I was feeling nostalgic; when I was little, my grandmother used to make me rose tea, to go along with my apricot jam toast, which came topped with fresh walnuts. I have tried for years, but have never managed to replicate that particular gustatory delight. No store-bought apricot jam has ever tasted like my grandmother’s homemade version, and no rose tea I’ve tried was as flavourful and sweet as I remember hers. Well, until I tried Acquired Taste’s River Valley Rose black tea blend. With my usual 2 packets of Splenda, it tastes just like rose Turkish delight – another one of my childhood favourites. (The real thing, not the Western candy.) It’s a delicate flavour but also full-bodied somehow. A strong, fragrant, jammy rose.

I decided I HAD to have the scent version of it.

And so my quest began.

The challenge of it became quickly evident; as I mentioned, there are a lot of rose-forward perfumes out there and people’s perceptions of what constitutes a “jammy” rose vary wildly. I searched endless posts on Reddit, making notes of dozens of perfumes, only to write them off again after cross-checking their reviews on Fragrantica and Parfumo. Other than the obviously-titled Rose Jam by Lush, there seemed to be very little consensus. I put that one on the back burner, waiting for the opportunity to try it out the next time I made a visit to West Edmonton Mall, and decided to keep looking. The testing I was able to do in person yielded one possible contender: Issey Miyake’s L’Eay d’Issey Rose Rose. It’s a very rosy, fruity-sweet fragrance, but I wasn’t sure if it was “the one”. So I kept looking … and, in the process, “the one” became, ermmm, several.


But no regrets! Which is saying something, considering we are talking about, yes, blind buys. Don’t do this at home, friends — or, if you do, proceed with caution.

My first blind buy ended up being Elizabeth & James Nirvana Rose. I found a 10 ml rollerball on Poshmark for $25CAD shipped, and decided to go for it for a couple of reasons. One, it’s a perfume that has a lot of devoted fans even though it’s been discontinued for a while now. Two, and more importantly, it was described as a “gothic” rose – think, the kind of perfume that Cathy of Wuthering Heights might wear. This piqued my interest even though (a) it’s not the jammy rose I’d been searching for, and (b) I hate Wuthering Heights. Well, I hate the book; I actually kinda love the aesthetic. Anyway, that’s how I ended up with Nirvana Rose. Here are my impressions:

At the top, it’s a green, dry rose with a slight hint of incense. The dryness probably comes from the geranium note. This was not quite what I was expecting; the opening leans quite unisex to me. But in a few minutes, the rose blooms and becomes quite photorealistic – delicate and fresh. Over the next hour or so, it grows into a full-bodied, smoky sweetness, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it jammy. I do think of it as a dark red, velvety rose more so than a pink, fluffy rose. I can understand why it would evoke gothic romance vibes. I would say that after a couple of hours, it begins to fade back to the opening green, dry scent and that’s what ultimately lingers – the vetiver note. I accidentally sprayed a bit on my clothes, and that’s all I could smell for the next couple of days. It’s quite a masculine dry-down.

Although this was NOT the rose I had in mind when I started my quest, it’s a perfume I am very happy to have in my collection. Perfect for rainy days when I want to lean into my dramatic side. Hey, I’m a Leo with a Taurus Rising sign, I can’t help it!

My second blind buy was a real shot in the dark. One of my favourite things to do, when it comes to my perfume hobby, is to discover overlooked gems – inexpensive perfumes that deliver a beautifully crafted scent. Some aren’t especially overlooked, like Lolita Lempicka; lots of people love it and it’s talked about quite a bit, and you can buy a 30 ml bottle for $20 at Shoppers Drugmart. It has become one of my faves, and I don’t care if doesn’t carry the designer cachet of, say, Tom Ford or Maison Francis Kurkdjian. Anyway, when it comes to finding these little treasures, I like going as obscure as I can. Iris Noir taught me how well that can pay off. Which I why I took a gamble on a perfume called Velvet. The brand? Avon. Yeah, that Avon. I paid $39 for a 100 ml bottle on Poshmark and, let me tell you, I don’t regret a penny.

First impressions: a rich, boozy rose. Love it! It quickly settles into something quite jammy, though it’s definitely more velvety than juicy. Dark and slightly fruity (it has top notes of fig, pomegranate and raspberry, but don’t expect any kind of fruit cocktail here), with just a hint of smokiness and spice (patchouli, saffron, and musk are the base notes). Unlike many other perfumes, I find that the name and bottle very accurately reflect the scent profile of the ‘juice’. Over time, the scent becomes less jammy, and more straightforwardly rose (less sweet, a bit more green). Longevity is decent, about 3 hours on skin.

My last rose blind-buy was a bit of an afterthought. I was ordering a couple of other perfumes on FragranceNet and needed to hit the $100 mark to qualify for free shipping, so I added a cheapie to my cart: Oscar de la Renta Rose. At $20 for 100 ml, I figured it was worth a shot.

I truly wasn’t sure whether this would be a very traditional, ladylike rose or a jammy rose, but I was very pleasantly surprised. To my nose, this smells very similar to Lush’s Rose Jam (which I had managed to sniff in the meantime) and it is, yes, jammy enough to make me happy. It is not dissimilar to Velvet, though I find it sweeter and lighter, without the smokiness — instead of patchouli, the base notes include white amber. Between Velvet and OdlR Rose, I am now set for jammy rose perfumes for a WHILE. In fact, I may never need to buy another one ever again. Which is a good thing, because the industry has a habit of discontinuing perfumes I like, and I am not a fan of proactively buying back-ups.

So, I thought my rose quest was complete, but then came a last minute plot twist. One of my IG followers reached out and kindly offered me a box of perfumes samples she wasn’t using; to my surprise, the box also included a full-size bottle. To say that I was ecstatic is not an overstatement: that bottle was the original Stella by Stella McCartney. Long discontinued, long mourned by the frag community.

Stella, along with Stella InTwo Peony, was one of the perfumes of my youth that I’ve been missing a lot. To be able to wear it again was such a wonderful gift, and I am beyond grateful to the person who made it possible. (I am paying it forward, because I always feel that gifts like this are part of a give-and-take with the universe.) I hesitate to talk much more about Stella, since it’s not a perfume that is currently accessible unless you are willing to spend a lot of money on eBay. But here are my impressions of it: it’s a beautifully blended rose, not jammy but not green either. It falls in the middle between Nirvana Rose, at the green, cold end of the rose spectrum, and ODLR Rose, at the jammy sweet end. It’s all rose petals, no green bits, no sharpness. Smooth and well-blended, soft without being powdery. Longevity is about average for rose scents, lasting about 3 hours on the skin before it begins to attenuate.

And that’s it — I promise! — for my rose perfume collection. Next time, we are going to talk about some other new discoveries, included some thrift finds. Yes, thrifted perfume. You will want to hear those stories 😉

Like this:

Like Loading…

error: Content is protected !!