Sunday, October 11, 2009

A rose is a rose is not a rose

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."


Musette said...

I KNOW! on the Jolly Rancher issue! on Nahema, not so much. It's been too long - must revist.

RB, dunno - must visit.

I have found I don't hate rose quite as much as I was expecting to so we'll see how it goes.

Mals86 said...

I love rose. Loooooove it in all its guises, from girly to demure to Miss Marple prim to femme fatale to slutty... and am utterly puzzled as to why I cannot smell Nahema at all. At all. I can sense there's something there, but I cannot actually smell it.

Have not smelled Rose Barbare but might try to scare up a sample somewhere. Magie Noire - of which I have only smelled vintage edt - is a creature from another dimension, isn't it? Gorgeous. And for me, only wearable in certain rare moods.

ScentScelf said...

Yes, yes!! the Jolly Rancher...ack!!! :)

It's funny; given my gardening interests, and the grand tradition of rose in perfume, I took it for granted I would like it as a scent when I first started. NOT.

Then I learned that "not" was really "not always"...I had just been trying stuff that was too cheap. Or went directions I didn't generally care for, like fruity sweet. Who knew that the oh-so-special Nahema would bring together the best (worst?) of both in my nose???

Would love to hear what you think when you get a chance.

ScentScelf said...

You can see from my note to Musette that I defintely had a progression when it came to rose in perfume. I now know that I need the rose to be real, or sumptuous, or dark...and my favorites start at the end of that trio.

Oh, Magie Noire...that stuff works so well for me that I even like the current version.

Have you ever tried the original Shiseido Zen? (in the black bottle?) Woody rose, hint of the MN vibe, but its own thing...

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Rose is my favorite note in perfume (as you know I love me some Stella)... I have never tried Nahema... Rose Barbare sounds lovely!

Mals86 said...

No, I haven't smelled Zen (in any formulation). Magie Noire feels like a wet, windy November evening to me - have to post about that one sometime because it blew my socks off. Both of them, straight across the room.

Mals86 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ScentScelf said...


Would love to see what you have to say about it.

Rose said...

Oh dear I am going to be one of those people who prefers Nahema. I would say though that I only like it as pure parfum. I am not a parfum snob at all and to be honest a lot of the time don't think it's necessary, I prefer EDP's. In this case though it's a different scent. There's a honey and a singing note to the rose I don't get in the other formulations.

ScentScelf said...

See? Another blogger I like who likes Nahema. :) And your experience is exactly the kind of feedback that makes me wonder how/what I'm missing. Honey, you say? Flourescent screech, step aside! I want to smell honey!!

My sample, sent by a kind and generous fellow perfume lover, is marked "edp." Guess I need to withhold final judgement until I find the parfum.

BTW, no snobbery about that at all. Some scents are clearly different in their different concentrations. And others certainly end up effectively different...I never would have come to appreciate Mitsouko if I hadn't gotten over my "blech" reaction to the edt and tried the edp. Can only imagine what the parfum would offer. And I highly value my small parfum of Chanel No19, which is the only way I truly enjoy wearing it.

Olfacta said...

S, you're back! I'll put you back on the blogroll.

ScentScelf said...

:-) {waves}