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Viola Levy explores the timeless appeal of rose perfumes …
While many rose perfumes are full of fanfare and grandeur, Sana Jardin took the opposite approach with Incense Water. Fresh and subtle, it takes inspiration from the rose water traditionally used to anoint guests’ heads, hands and feet in East Asia. Here this beguiling flower is stripped bare of its finery, whittled down to a delicate whisper on the breeze, sweet and warm – while being light enough to wear throughout the day.
The rose in general is probably the most well known ingredient in the whole of perfumery. (75% of contemporary fragrances are said to feature it.) And its unifying appeal is apparent to anyone with an appreciation for perfumery. But people are less aware of this flower’s chameleon-like ability to adapt to different scents, depending on what other notes you combine it with. Mixed with powdery iris and violet, rose can be sweet and girlish, while oud and patchouli give it a darker, more seductive overcoat.
Rose scents have famously lifted the spirits during darker periods of history, from The Wall Street Crash to WWII. And it’s easy to see why – during times of uncertainty, who wouldn’t want a perfume that smells like burying your nose in a bouquet of beautiful blooms? Rose is also synonymous with romance, providing the muse for many a poet and musician (as well as being the go-to prop for spurned lovers begging for a second chance).
The reason that rose extracts are so versatile is because they contain hundreds of molecules, which create a multi-faceted aroma, ranging from citrusy and green, to spicy and sweet. Any of these aspects of the rose can take centre stage, depending on what other ingredients are used to enhance them. So even if you think you know what you’re getting with a rose perfume, you may no idea which particular character of rose will emerge from the bottle once you spray it on.