A tale of two roses.
Both by Guerlain.
One, Nahema. The other, Rose Barbare.
Nahema, over which there has been much keening and gnashing of teeth, due to it no longer being in production. Much praise from the Book of Evaluation and Two Word Summaries soon to be available in paperback.
Rose Barbare, the highly priced rose from the Le Art et la Matiere series. Guerlain says it is a "rose over chypre."
Fans are legion for the first, it seems; more mixed for the second.
On me, Nahema has always had an underlying hum of screech, a combination of something vaguely plasticky--ever eat a Jolly Rancher and wonder if part of the wrapper was still stuck to it? can a Jolly Rancher go bad? but that kind of taste/smell--plus sharp fruit. There is a Crabtree and Evelyn scent, Nadira, which I thought I liked for a while, and has less plastic with more honest fruit. Fresh Jolly Rancher, if there could be such a thing. And the rose feels...fake. Not in a "Oh this is an interesting something" way, but in a "hey, who's trying to pull the wool over my eyes?" way.
Could just be the bad Jolly Rancher, of course, getting in the way of rose alternative genius.
Rose Barbare, on the other hand, works for me. It's also sweet and fruity, but for whatever reason, doesn't grate my nerve. I think that's because while it opens with this fruity rose, I am willing to stay for the ride because it doesn't grate. And then there's a payoff, because if you wait for it, Rose Barbare dries into something a deeper, almost as if it has hints of the chypre-y rose that something like Ungaro Diva hits you in the face with from the start.
So it's a sweet that won't set my teeth on edge, and then has a grown-up justification for eating it in the first place.
I have to say, I feel kind of badly about this...people whose writing I enjoy and whose perfume friendship has sent me many a joyful vial really tried to hook me on Nahema. But it's been over a year now. And because of their enthusiasm, and a touch of my own insecurity willingness to learn, I will continue to take a hit on it every now and then, to go for a Sunday drive and see if there isn't something I've missed about that one.
Meanwhile, if I had the chance, I'd go for a decant of the Rose Barbare.
In the end, I still like my roses with a little Night Magic. Or flat out "Chypree."