Papillon Perfumery Tobacco Rose

"Romeo and Juliet," by Sir Frank Dicksee. Source: caitaratartaglia.wordpress.com

“Romeo and Juliet,” by Sir Frank Dicksee. Source: caitaratartaglia.wordpress.com

Tobacco Rose is a rich, saturated, luxurious rose fragrance from Papillon Perfumery that would probably have inspired Shakespeare to write another dozen sonnets or plays. In Romeo and Juliet, he said “a rose by any other name smells as sweet,” arguing that names do not matter, only the essential nature of a thing. He’s right, but I don’t think that his philosophy always holds true for perfumes. Names do matter in the expectations that they create, and “Tobacco Rose” is no different. Yet, in this case, I find none of darkness that is suggested, and I think that the scent would appeal far more to a “Juliet” than to a “Romeo.” That said, if a particular Juliet were a really passionate rose fanatic, I suspect she might swoon far more over Tobacco Rose than any words spouted by a pimply Romeo.

Papillon Perfumery (sometimes called “Papillon Artisan Perfumes“) is a fledgling, British, artisanal brand founded in 2014 by Liz Moores. Ms. Moores is a self-taught perfumer whose first creation was Anubis, a fragrance that bowled me over with its magnificence and is one of the best things I’ve tried this year. The other two scents in her debut collection are Tobacco Rose and the floral-woody chameleon, Angélique. All three perfumes were released in the U.K. in June, are eau de parfums in concentration, and are now carried in America by Indigo Perfumery.

"The Roses of Heliogabalus" (1888), by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Source: Wikipedia.com

“The Roses of Heliogabalus” (1888), by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Source: Wikipedia.com

On her website, Ms. Moores describes the character of Tobacco Rose as follows:

Anthropomorphised throughout literature and poetry the illustrious rose is immortally bound to its sweet, old fashioned and pretty stereotype. Tobacco Rose combines the scent of overblown roses with rich, mineral notes, as though one were breathing in not only the fading petals but the rich earth from which a rose grows. This is a perfume that rejects prettiness but instead combines the opposing masculine and feminine elements that fuse within nature.

Source: Indigo Perfumery.

Source: Indigo Perfumery.

Fragrantica‘s entry page for Tobacco Rose has a note list, but it is missing a number of key ingredients. Indigo Perfumery has the official perfume pyramid:

Top notes: Bulgarian Rose Otto, Rose de Mai, Geranium Bourbon;
Heart notes: Galbanum, Beeswax, Vetiver, Hay, Ambergris;
Base notes: Oakmoss, Musk blend [Perfumer’s original custom blend].

A quick word about the geranium bourbon note. As some of you know, that is another name for rose geranium, only in its richest, most concentrated, and most expensive form. Rose geranium has a powerful rose aroma, with strong elements of either fruitiness, lemon, or both. Sometimes, it carries a tinge of mintiness as well. For the most part, though, I think it creates a sense of a rather green, fruity rose.

Otto Rose, named for Otto de Jager. Source: ludwigsroses.co.za

Otto Rose, named for Otto de Jager. Source: ludwigsroses.co.za

Tobacco Rose opens on my skin with rose, rose, rose, more rose, then rose geranium and greenness. It is a really rich Otto-type of rose instead of the sort you’d find at the florist, and it simultaneously smells red, green, and fruity, all at once. For a brief moment, it feels as though the petals are coated with honey nectar, but it is a quiet note that soon fades away. Much more noticeable at the start are splashes of soapiness, though they are overshadowed within minutes by an even larger wave of greenness, followed by stronger fruity tonalities and lemon.

The rose does not feel “boozy” in the ways that the term is usually used, but there is a definite sense of something liqueured at play. Have you ever made a balsamic vinegar reduction? It’s a delicious, highly condensed sauce which ends up having a suggestion of tart, tangy, fruit (black cherry) liqueur. Something similar is at play with Tobacco Rose whose red petals have been coated with geranium fruitiness that feels reduced down to a super-saturated liqueured tonality.

"Red Rose, Green Background" by Thomas Woolworth on FineArtAmerica.com.

“Red Rose, Green Background” by Thomas Woolworth on FineArtAmerica.com.

The flower feels fresh, but it’s so concentrated, heady, and opulent that I’m not sure I would describe it as a photorealistic rose. Nothing in my mother’s garden smells quite as rich or as green. Yet, at the same time, there are stretches of time when Tobacco Rose feels like the most magnificent, giant rose has suddenly sprouted out of my arm, complete with dark leaves and prickly stem. So, perhaps this rose would be better described as the High Definition HD version of something growing in your garden. The fact that Tobacco Rose has an extrait-like density and heaviness in its first four hours certainly contributes to that feel of a hyper-saturated rose concentrated down to its richest essence.

Source: ElementalLife.org

Source: ElementalLife.org

After the rose, the second most significant element on my skin is a greenness that is both abstract and multi-faceted. It’s a hard note to describe; I can’t pull apart its individual components, but I know they’re there in this very seamless blend. The greenness is neither strongly mossy, nor is it similar to the way that galbanum usually manifests itself on my skin. The latter is usually a black-greenness with razor sharpness. I often find it to be a brutal note, one that I’ve struggled with in such fragrances as Etat Libre‘s Rien or Piguet‘s famous Bandit. Thankfully, it’s very different here. Tobacco Rose’s greenness is simultaneously soft but sharp like thorns, and a little prickly. But it doesn’t feel like it’s going to slice you apart like a scalpel. (No, I’m not a fan of galbanum in most instances.)

You may be asking where is the “tobacco” in all this, and why is there is no such ingredient listed in the notes? Well, it would be a good question, as it is something I wondered about myself. No, there is not one whiff of tobacco on my skin at any point in any of the few times that I’ve worn Tobacco Rose. There wasn’t even anything that could be metaphorically described as an abstract “tobacco” aroma. Not one shred, not even microscopically.

Rose geranium. Source: sett.com

Rose geranium. Source: sett.com

In fact, I have to say that Tobacco Rose does not change its core essence on my skin at any point. It is a linear scent that is centered almost entirely on a bright, natural, rather fruited rose that is thoroughly and seamlessly imbued with rose geranium and various forms of greenness. Some of the secondary or tertiary notes may occasionally vary, as I’ll explain in more detail in a moment, but they’re extremely minor on my skin, and the perfume is really just a rose soliflore without any darkness. (A “soliflore” is a fragrance that centers on or amplifies one key note.)

I wrote to Ms. Moores to ask about the absence of tobacco in the official notes, its inclusion in the perfume’s name, and my own experiences with the scent. Her reply helped to shed light on the situation. In a nutshell, the “tobacco” is supposed to be a blurry suggestion whose aroma replicates a particular scent combination that she experienced one day in her garden, but not an actual tobacco element:

It was the combination of damp earth, wet concrete and roses that sparked my imagination. The scent was incredible and I could detect faint tobacco nuances from the damp earth around the roses. I began playing with mods built around this olfactory picture with tobacco absolute being the obvious choice but it didn’t work; it wasn’t what I had smelled that day. The tobacco aspect had to be softer and blur with the roses. An idea came to me to create a tobacco accord than I could softly bury among the roses in my imagined perfume. I built this accord using oakmoss, hay absolute which has a lot of delicate tobacco nuances, labdanum, patchouli and Peru balsam.

Using this accord enabled me to build the olfactory picture I remembered. So you are completely right when you question the inclusion or not of tobacco absolute. The ‘tobacco’ is my interpretation and not the literal material. There is no listing for tobacco simply because it isn’t there and I wasn’t comfortable saying it was when it wasn’t.

The name itself sprung from the moment in the garden when I smelled a wet rose blurred with delicate tobacco facets. I could make out very ‘feminine’ notes and ‘masculine’ ones too. I love this juxtaposition in nature and remember thinking that Tobacco Rose would be a great name for a rose species, instead it became the name of my perfume.

My skin doesn’t bring out almost any of Ms. Moores’ hay absolute accord. There is no “delicate tobacco nuances, labdanum, patchouli and Peru balsam.” All that happens is that there is a brief, subtle whiff of hay which appears in the background roughly 20 minutes into Tobacco Rose’s evolution. It’s as quiet as a church mouse, and heavily muffled.

What is much more significant on my skin is Tobacco Rose’s distinct muskiness. It is hard for me to separate out the finer notes, but it seems like castoreum’s particular sort more than anything else. Apparently, I was right and Tobacco Rose does have castoreum in its custom musk blend, but such a microscopic amount that Ms. Moores was surprised I detected it. All I can say is that there is more castoreum sharpness emanating off of my skin than hay, let alone any of the balsamic resins that I love so much.

Source: Wikipedia.com

Source: Wikipedia.com

At the start of the 2nd hour, Tobacco Rose is still a High Definition HD rose with endless amounts of rose geranium and waves of greenness, but there are subtle changes occurring in the background. The lightly honeyed nectar reappears to coat the velvety petals once in a while. It also feels as though yellow pollen were sprinkled over it, which is odd as nothing about Tobacco Rose feels powdery on my skin in any way. Tiny strands of hay blow back and forth, carried on a soft breeze of subtle warmth, as if the amber had awoken in the base. It never rises to the surface, but Tobacco Rose feels deeper and slightly warmer now.

In the furthest reaches of the background, a tiny wisp of vetiver pops up at the edges. It adds to the bright freshness of the scent, perhaps to counteract the richer elements and Tobacco Rose’s slowly deepening character. It also serves to underscore or amplify what had been a microscopic dash of wintergreen in the geranium bourbon. The end result of all these combined factors is a different sort of greenness than what had appeared at the start. It’s brighter, warmer, and less sharp.

Drew Barrymore, "Beauty and the Beast," U.S. Vogue, April 2005

Drew Barrymore, “Beauty and the Beast,” U.S. Vogue, April 2005

For the most part, however, Tobacco Rose is primarily a very fruited, concentrated blend of rose and geranium rose, followed by fluctuating levels of greenness, liqueured “booziness,” and muskiness. It feels highly feminine and romantic, as if the woman wearing it belonged in an elaborate ball gown in a Vogue photo shoot or in a pre-Raphaelite painting. Yet, it never smells old-fashioned or dated. Tobacco Rose may be an uncomplicated, linear scent on my skin, but it smells very expensive-smelling, luxurious, and timeless.

The only substantial changes involve sillage and soapiness. At the start of the 4th hour, Tobacco Rose turns slightly soapy, and by the middle of the 9th hour, that aspect is quite prominent indeed. In essence, Tobacco Rose is now just a rose that is covered by a thin veneer of soapiness, and it remains that way until its very end.

One of my more technical struggles with Tobacco Rose is its softness. The perfume opens with moderate sillage, but it drops at the start of the 2nd hour to lie just an inch above my skin. It acts like an extrait in that regard, as it doesn’t project much, though the bouquet itself feels like an utter powerhouse when sniffed up close for the first few hours. The real problem occurs at the start of the 7th hour when Tobacco Rose was so quiet that I thought it had vanished entirely. I noticed that someone on Fragrantica voted for “Poor” in the Longevity category, and I have to wonder how much the hushed sillage impacts that perception.

I myself was continuously thinking that the scent was going to die on me at any moment after the start of the 8th hour, so I was surprised at just how tenaciously Tobacco Rose held on. It was still vaguely noticeable when I put my nose right on my skin at the 12th hour and, for several quite while after that, the perfume could occasionally be detected on tiny, little patches scattered at random places on my arm. A patch here, a smidge there — one of them even held a gossamer touch of Tobacco Rose at the 17th hour. But it took a hell of a lot of effort to detect, I must say, and it wasn’t a uniform occurrence.

I’ll be honest, Tobacco Rose is far, far, far too much rose for me personally, especially given the linearity. As regular readers know, I’m not a rose person. I can handle the flower if it’s essentially squashed, drowned, sat on, and then beaten to a cowering pulp by a plethora of oriental notes, but pure rose soliflores tend to make me shiver in my boots and run screaming for the hills.

Part of "My Sweet Rose," by John William Waterhouse. Source: beauty-edit.com

Part of “My Sweet Rose,” by John William Waterhouse. Source: beauty-edit.com

Yet, even I can see that Tobacco Rose is a really lovely, special version. I wouldn’t wear it if you put a gun to my head, but I respect it enormously and can objectively perceive the beauty it radiates so clearly. In fact, it would be one of my first recommendations to any woman who was a die-hard, hardcore, rose fanatic and was looking for a non-oriental, rich soliflore.

While I don’t have a vast repertoire of rose fragrances to which I can compare it, I think Tobacco Rose has the elegant luxuriousness of an Amouage rose-centric attar for much of its life. Amouage’s Homage is quite soapy on my skin from start to finish, so it may not be the truest comparison, but Tobacco Rose does have the same full-bodied, concentrated feel, along with Homage’s largely uncomplicated character, and its flashes of green. The Papillon scent is certainly more opulent than other fragrances I’ve tried in the rose genre, admittedly few as those may be, and it’s definitely richer than several “eau de parfums” in other categories that I’ve encountered recently.

What was interesting to me is that Tobacco Rose does not seem to have been a rose soliflore without darkness on everyone who has tried it. When I wrote to Ms. Moores to inquire about the “tobacco” note, I mentioned the soliflore issue in passing. I was intrigued to learn that Tobacco Rose was quite different on some members of her family. One person experienced a dark, “urinous,” dirty rose, but another had almost no rose at all on their skin. Clearly, it depends on one’s individual skin chemistry.

Source: onlybackground.org

Source: onlybackground.org

There are a few blog reviews already out for Tobacco Rose, and all rave about the flower’s lushness. For Tara of Olfactoria’s Travels, the perfume was a “seductive,” “intoxicating,” photorealistic rose that was the closest thing that she’d smelt to a flower in nature, but one which was also flecked by a dark earthiness. It was her favorite of the Papillon trio, and her review reads, in part, as follows:

Tobacco Rose starts off rosy green like a bud encased in leaves. Within half an hour it opens up to reveal a vivid red rose in full bloom. I haven’t come across a rose that is so close to the scent of the real thing. It feels like I’ve rubbed rose petals onto my skin and am left with a strong impression of their scent. Plush and intoxicating, this rose may be at the point of tipping over into decay but right now it is living and breathing at its absolute peak.

The distinctive honeyed sweetness aided by the beeswax is perfectly counterbalanced by hay and vetiver, creating a background of dark earthiness. This intensifies towards the end as the rose returns to the soil from which it came.

Although the composition also features rose centfolia, I happily find it dominated by the deeper Bulgarian rose Otto. I’ve loved this essential oil for a number of years but never really found it in perfume form to my liking. Tobacco Rose has now fulfilled that desire perfectly with its rich, seductive beauty.

Source: wallpaperscraft.com

Source: wallpaperscraft.com

Tobacco Rose was also The Candy Perfume Boy‘s favorite out of the Papillon trio. He writes, in part:

OBSESSED! It is the rose scent that sent me swirling off on my recent rose kick and it is nothing short of addictive. […] [¶] What makes this particular take on nature’s most famous red flower so wonderful is the fact that takes a straightforward rose accord and turns it on its head, making it something brand new by adding a few small and unique touches that have a big impact.

These little inflections – a touch of minty geranium, a dab of beeswax and strips of cold metal – bolster the rose, strengthening its many nuances and ultimately making for an exciting new presentation of the flower. They also give Tobacco Rose a multi-faceted feel, meaning that it appears to be refreshing (thanks to the geranium), metallic, oriental and vegetal all at once. It’s complex but not hard to handle in any way, in fact it is effortless in its wearability and feels suited to almost any occasion.

In the base, Tobacco Rose treads on familiar but welcome territory. It captures the essence of the rose in all of its sweet and powdery glory and even throws in a touch of moss for good measure. […] I for one, am well and truly smitten.

I can see how a hardcore floral or rose lover might react that way, because Tobacco Rose is a rich, seamless, beautifully blended fragrance that really does feel like a hyper-saturated version of the flower in nature.

Source: Pinterest and vk.com.

Source: Pinterest and vk.com.

Personally, I would recommend Tobacco Rose only to hardcore rose fanatics. I certainly wouldn’t suggest it to men (unless they were wholly obsessed with roses), because I think there is little to no darkness, and absolutely none of the tobacco that they might expect. As a result, it is a fragrance that I think skews profoundly feminine in character. I don’t know a single man who wears a pure rose soliflore, but perhaps I simply keep strange company and my friends have narrow tastes. That said, I think women who are die-hard rose addicts should definitely try the scent. I’m sure they would be impressed by its richness and, hopefully, Tobacco Rose would manifest some of the depths, earthiness, or dirtiness that a few people have mentioned.

Shakespeare may have thought that “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet,” but I think some are better than others, especially in perfumery. Tobacco Rose is one of those.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tobacco Rose is a concentrated eau de parfum that only comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that costs $160 or £94. At the time of this review, it is only available in the U.K. or America, though one new retailer ships worldwide. In the U.S.: you can buy Tobacco Rose from Indigo Perfumery, along with an individual 1 ml sample for $4. Shipping is free for all orders over $75. I opted to get Indigo’s Sample Set so I could get test more than one Papillon fragrance. The set is $18 for 5 perfumes of your choice amidst a wide variety of brands (that also includes Jul et Mad, Andy Tauer, Etat Libre, Au Pays de Fleurs d’Oranger, Maria Candida Gentile, Viktoria Minya, Tommi Sooni, and others). Plus, I’ve been told that you get a $10 coupon for use towards buying a full bottle of any of the fragrances that you sampled, so that’s a definite plus. Unfortunately, Indigo only ships within America. [UPDATE 8/26 — All Papillon scents are now available at Luckyscent which ships worldwide.] In the U.K.: You can purchase Tobacco Rose directly from Papillon Perfumery, along with a sample for £3.95. There is also the option to get a Sample Trio of all three Papillon fragrances that I will be covering. It costs £11. Finally, you can order Tobacco Rose or a sample from Les Senteurs.

21 thoughts on “Papillon Perfumery Tobacco Rose

  1. Interesting…the hay note was very noticeable on my skin when I tried it. I sense TR will play differently on different people, but always beautifully.

  2. I tested this at Les Senteurs and went back very quickly for a bottle. I do love a good rose fragrance and TR is now among my favorites. The hay note was noticeable to me, along with a rich, honeyed tonality. When I wore it a couple of days ago, I also noticed more patchouli, than I did the first two times. I imagine that it will play differently on different people, and on subsequent wearings.

  3. I’m fascinated by the greenness, you describe so lively – that’s (also) the reason for really wanting to try this.

  4. I had to laugh when I read that you like your rose notes “squashed, sat on, drowned.” My sentiments exactly-I like rose when it’s a supporting player (or sat on!). Here I was so proud of myself for being able to sniff out patchouli in its many forms in all my perfumes while you sniff out an unlisted, minute amount of castoreum. Someday, I too will be able to sniff out castoreum, mark my words. I’m a man who does his homework.

  5. I am glad to hear that you did not smell any tobacco, either. I was so excited to smell the tobacco that when it was completely missing, I was a bit sad. It is a super long lasting roseroserose, and for rose lovers this would be the bomb. Gorgeous and well described perfume review!

    Wait!!! Romeo had pimples????!!!! Not in MY version of the story. He looks exactly like Leonard Whiting!!!

    • No surprise that you didn’t smell the tobacco (or even abstract “tobacco” between quotes), but did you get any of the earthiness or hay that other people mention? Or was it purely a roseroserose bomb without even the hay?

      As for YOUR version of Romeo, lol! I wish I could upload that famous Meme about Romeo & Juliet being an account of a 3-day relationship between teens which ends with everyone dying, including themselves. http://www.memecenter.com/fun/303979/romeo-and-juliet It never fails to crack me up, and makes me think of Romeo as being “pimply” even more than ever. 😉 😀

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  7. It sounds wonderful, can’t wait to smell my (blind-bought) bottle. My personal favourite rose is FM Une Rose, but there are many others I love: FM Portrait of a Lady, AP Voleur de Roses, Rosine Rose d’Amour and Rose Kashmirie, SL La Fille de Berlin, AG Rose Absolue, Micallef Rose Extreme, and Micallef Nasreen. I guess I will have to keep getting my rose/tobacco kick from Andy Tauer’s PHI Rose de Kandahar, in which I can definitely smell the tobacco! I hear there will be another production run of it this fall, will be anxiously watching for it to snag another bottle.

    • Another production run for PHI definitely seems to be in the works. I’m looking forward to the new gardenia scent myself, though a 15 ml mini of PHI would not go amiss. lol

  8. Hello there,

    So in the last few days I’ve been testing my trio of samples from Papillon and Tobacco Rose and Anubis are just exquisite. I absolutely adore them (I have to leave Angelique on the side as I’m not an iris fan).

    These feel more expensive than they are – honestly, the current price is a little too much for me in principle, but they are considerably cheaper than other ‘niche’ or designer brands and lines.

    Anyway…I am a sucker for all things rose, but was worried from your review that it will only be another rose soliflore – I have plenty of those in my collection. However, I got the hay/dirt dimension of this work of art. It is more interesting than the dark roses currently available. I would even go as far as saying that this will be a game changer. It is not tobacco, but an earthy rose that I get and I love it. It has great sillage and longevity on my skin, too.

    I will definitely buy it! Anubis is another genius composition and that is also going on my ‘to buy’ list but I need to stop gushing about Papillon fragrances and really go back to my work now. Otherwise I’ll be out of work and unable to afford any of those bottles.

    • I’m so happy it worked out for you, and that you experienced both the hay and the earthiness! That’s wonderful. As a “sucker for all things rose,” I think you should consider it your obligation to add Tobacco Rose to your collection. 😉 lol. (And I’m glad you loved Anubis as well.)

  9. This was a really great review. While I think I like rose a bit more than I first gave myself credit for, I really do need other elements in it for it to work for me. I wish tobacco had been more prominent (that is to say, that it had been present at all!) in this, but it sounds like a great perfume — for the right person! Still, the added earthiness sounds lovely, though ultimately I’ll take a pass on this one.

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  11. I gave this a full wearing last Friday. Since a moderate application of Anubis gave out on me after 6 hours, I decided to spray with wild abundance the Tobacco Rose. This may have been a mistake – it seemed a lot stronger/tenacious than Anubis and was a bit overwhelming for the first half of the day. I liked it but it was not the big love I instantly felt for Anubis.

    • How interesting that it was more tenacious and bold than Anubis on your skin! Do you experience any of the earthiness or darkness that some people have mentioned? Or is it just rose, rose, rose, and then rose geranium on you?

      • Yes, I would describe it as having an earthy and dark sense to it – I could see why she used the descriptor of tobacco as well, even though there is no tobacco note as such in it.

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  13. Thank you for this very thorough review, including other blogs’ posts. I got a sample of Tobacco Rose this summer, at London’s Les Senteurs. I love it (I am a rose lover) though I wouldn’t see myself wearing it daily. The explanation of the lack of a true tobacco note was fascinating, especially as I do get a smokiness with the rose. Not dark, but a smoky haze. I am a perfume amateur and still have much to learn. I am enjoying your beautiful, informative blog.

    • Welcome to the blog, Old Herbaceous. 🙂 I’m glad I could provide some useful details on Tobacco Rose, and that you enjoyed the review.

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