I generally think that it’s a good idea for a perfume lover to go outside their comfort zone from time to time, and to stretch themselves by trying a different sort of olfactory style than what they are usually drawn to, so long as the scent in question has a few notes which they really love. Yet, even with that last part as a solid and absolute requirement, I usually end up wondering why I bothered, because the end result is almost invariably, inevitably, a failure. “Stretching oneself” seems to be great in theory, but actual perfume experimentation outside of my olfactory comfort zone — and, most particularly, amongst brands whose aesthetic I don’t enjoy — rarely results in a happy surprise or a miraculous find. More often than not, I’m left feeling greatly irritated.
That was the case with two new releases that I tried recently: Diptyque‘s Florabellio and L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s Rose Privée. Diptyque is not a brand whose aesthetic I enjoy, because I find their scents to be excessively synthetic, fresh, clean, and sheer, but Florabellio tempted me with claims of coffee, saltiness, and toasted sesame seeds. Hmmph. L’Artisan is another brand that rarely works for me, primarily due to synthetics, sheerness, and longevity issues, though I did really love the great, once discontinued Safran Troublant (which, alas, was also badly flawed by unusually brief longevity on my skin). Nevertheless, the new Rose Privée beckoned to me, not only because it was created by Bertrand Duchaufour, but also because it contains lilac, carnation, basil, patchouli, hay, and amber. What an intriguing set of elements to go with rose, I thought. It can’t be too bad. Well, it wasn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever tried; it had a few bits that were quite interesting or intriguing in the first hour; it was far from the rose soliflore that I was dreading; and it was an A/P scent that actually lasted on my skin for a change. Unfortunately, I also found it to be schizophrenic in its changes, and unappealing as a whole. I’ll cover each fragrance in turn.
Florabellio is an eau de toilette that was created by Firmenich’s Fabrice Pellegrin and released a few months ago. Diptyque’s website gives only a brief note list and description:
-Apple blossom, marine accord, coffee-
A fragrance created as an olfactory landscape: in the foreground, invigorating and salty sea spray mingles with the vegetal bitterness of sea fennel. It then develops around soft and sensual apple blossom, and in the background, like an optical illusion, swirling wafts of roasted coffee with toasted sesame accents.
Luckyscent‘s note list encompasses all the elements in that description, and adds osmanthus as well:
Sea air, sea fennel, apple blossom, osmanthus, coffee, toasted sesame.
Florabellio opens on my skin as an amorphous floral laced with clean musk, then drenched in the synthetic aquatics of calone. The scent bears an strong resemblance to Issey Miyake‘s famous and revolutionary 1990s calone hit, L’Eau d’Issey — except this is harsher, more overtly clean, unbalanced in its synthetics, and smells of chlorine instead of sweet, melony wateriness.
Subtle, minute slivers of cool melon (with the tiniest undertone whisper of wet cucumber) wrap themselves around a floral bouquet that feels largely abstract and faceless except for an initial resemblance to artificial freesia. Not once do I smell anything reminiscent of actual, clear, concrete osmanthus or apple blossoms. I’m not even sure that apple blossoms have much of a smell in nature, and I suspect that is a wholly man-made note that my nose is reading as “freesia” instead. The latter is definitely a laboratory-created ingredient that, in my experience, is common in hair or body sprays and is painfully redolent of overly fresh cleanness. I’m not a fan. Here, the best thing I can say about the “Whatever The Hell It’s Supposed To Be” floral note is that at least it’s not soapy or like Tide dish washing liquid. Still, the scent feels wholly abstract except for the wet, liquid, and melon facets.
As for the aquatics, I don’t think any of it is salty in a natural way. The salt water here bears no resemblance to the photorealistic accord that makes Profumum‘s Acqua di Sale stand out so much. THAT is the scent of the sea in a bottle. If I were to sniff Florabellio blindly, the first thing to come to mind would be Calone, smelling here like an overly chlorinated pool mixed with the sharpness of the chemicals in a dry-cleaning shop, coated with tiny slices of melon aldehydes and wet cucumber. I’m shuddering even as I type. I used to own L’Eau d’Issey, and never once did I think of chlorine or dry cleaners when I wore it.
Amidst this badly handled flashback to 1992, something arrives that finally hints at perfume modernity and an attempt at originality: coffee. The small drops of it appear on the sidelines after 10 minutes, initially feeling rather nebulous and hazy, and I think Diptyque is right to describe it as an “optical illusion” because it really does feel that way a lot of the times. For a short time, roughly 30 minutes into Florabellio’s development, the coffee grows somewhat stronger and more concrete, and it’s easier to pull it out, but that doesn’t last long.
Around the same time, thin ribbons of creaminess start to stir in the base, smelling like lightly sweetened, abstract, white woods more than anything evocative of actual sesame seeds — toasted or otherwise. Unfortunately, the white musk and the aquatics grow stronger in parallel conjunction. The tiny melon nuances in the background feebly strive to stay alive, but they soon fade away entirely. As for the largely indecipherable, quasi-“freesia” floralcy, it grows more nebulous and hazy, rapidly turning into that synthetic, generalized “I’m A Floating Flower” vagueness that plagues so many cheap, mainstream scents.
In short, at the 30-minute mark, Florabellio is an overly synthetic, overly clean, fresh bouquet of artificially sterile, crisp, freesia-ish florals drowned in salty-ish chlorine water that is mixed with dry-cleaning fluid, then splattered with drops of dark coffee, all atop a white, lightly creamy, vaguely woody base. May the Gods save me.
Unfortunately, relief is not in sight. The “woody” note (I refuse to call it “toasted sesame” because it simply isn’t so on my skin) goes haywire, taking on an increasingly synthetic undertone of pepperiness mixed with dryness. I wouldn’t compare it to a synthetic cedar, but it’s a peppery woody something. (Why did I ever chose to test this scent?!) It starts to bully its way onto center stage at the end of the 1st hour and the start of the 2nd, sending the wimpy coffee note flying into the gutter. The feeble coffee lies there briefly, resulting in a scene dominated largely by an amorphous, indistinct, aquatic woody, floral musk, accompanied by cleanness, peppered woods, barely any coffee or creaminess, and no sweetness. The coffee crawls away at the 90 minute mark, never to be seen of again and ended what little hope there was of something interesting happening.
From the start of the 3rd hour almost to Florabellio’s very end, the fragrance is just a hazy blur that can be summed up as an aquatic twist on a basic, general floral musk. The white musk and the calone both grow stronger and stronger with the passing hours. The former reminds me of the sharpness of Bounce’s vaguely floral laundry drier sheets, while the latter is even worse as it turns to hardcore dry-cleaning fluid with only a hint of salty wateriness. In the end, all that’s left is the smell of dry-cleaning.
Florabellio has okay projection and decent longevity for an eau de toilette, though I should emphasize that my skin projects and retains scents with a lot of clean, white musk longer than the average person. Using 3 smears equal to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with 3 inches of projection. It turned into a skin scent after 4 hours, and lasted 8.5 hours in total. I tried it twice, but scrubbed it off after the first 2 hours the first time around.
Florabellio receives very mixed reviews on Fragrantica, though the majority skew towards the negative. People are split in terms of how much they can smell the coffee, and on the sorts of floralcy that appears on their skin. I’ll leave you to examine that in more detail if you’re interested. Since Florabellio puts me in such a bad mood, I’m going to highlight the more hilarious negative comments about the scent:
Swing and a miss here. This fragrance reminds me of actual garbage, complete with yesterday’s coffee grounds soaking into a sheet of newspaper, a half-eaten fruit, and dead lilies. The drydown was incredibly salty on me, almost like sesame crackers. There is just too much going on in this one.
- I had the bottle on preorder, picked it up in-store, and returned it on the spot. Diptyque, what is going on?? It smelled like a hot diaper! Ok, obviously that’s an exaggeration but it is way too sweet and straightforward.
Une odeur d’anis est trop forte. Ça me fait penser aux pattes de poule aux cinq épices. C’est un plat chinois. Je suis très déçue! [Translation: the smell of anise is too strong. It makes me think of Chicken Feet with Five Spices, a Chinese dish. I’m very disappointed.]
I have no idea how someone’s skin might turn Florabellio into the scent of Chinese Five Spice Chicken Feet, but the thought of it made me laugh for days. That, and that alone, has been the saving grace of trying this fragrance.
Some Fragrantica posters and a few bloggers give Florabellio positive reviews. You can read the thoughts of The Black Narcissus and of Jessica on Now Smell This for a counter-balancing perspective if you’re interested. Personally, I would not recommend going near Florabellio with a forty-foot pole unless you love aquatic fragrances, have no issue with calone in any of its manifestations, are immune to strong synthetics, and don’t have a high expectation of a lot of coffee. My suggestion if you want an actual, photorealistic, truly interesting salty sea fragrance (complete with the sense of kelp!) and if you don’t mind some herbal soapiness, is to consider Profumum’s Acqua di Sale instead.
L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR ROSE PRIVÉE:
Rose Privee is an eau de parfum created by Stéphanie Bakouche, an in-house junior L’Artisan perfumer based in Grasse, along with her mentor, Bertrand Duchaufour. Luckyscent explains the fragrance’s background and notes as follows:
Bertrand shared his passion, knowledge, and talent with Stéphanie guiding her to find the right proportions, and a memorable ‘hook’ to the fragrance. He shared his savoir-faire, helping her to be objective regarding her creation and to build longevity into her fragrance. Through this Eau de Parfum, L’Artisan Parfumeur illustrates its unique approach to perfume-making, with a Master training a new generation perfumer, in the great tradition of French craftsmanship.
[Notes:] Basil, lilac, carnation, hay, magnolia, may rose, patchouli, violet leaf and amber.
I suspect that the “memorable ‘hook'” mentioned by Luckyscent is not only the basil but also cassis, which seems to be Bertrand Duchaufour’s favorite note these days, judging by how many of his recent creations include it. The cassis is certainly very plentiful on my skin after the perfume’s opening stage, and I noticed yesterday that the Paris’ niche boutique, Nose, explicitly mentions it in Rose Privee’s note list (as “blackcurrant bud”).
Rose Privee opens on my skin with a duet of fresh basil intertwined with green, piquant violet leaf, and lightly streaked with spicy, fiery carnation. The bouquet is strewn with a few wisps of hay and drops of delicate lilac, then nestled within a rather illusory mirage of sweet cabbage roses. None of these last notes is particularly strong or deep. The basil and violet leaf pretty much outweigh everything else, with the fiery, pepperiness of the carnation lagging a few feet behind. The result is a very green scent that is extremely fresh and crisp, skewing heavily towards the leafy side with a fresh aromatic quality rather than true, actual herbaceousness.
The floral note is peculiar for a scent ostensibly devoted to roses. Up close, the flower feels as though it is buried under numerous layers, and it’s frequently a peek-a-boo note that hides its full face, appearing simply as a vaguely rosey-ish floral sweetness that has been drenched with spicy carnation before being surrounded by piles of peppery, green violet leaf. From afar, though, the rose is stronger and clearer in its own right, particularly on the sillage scent trail, though it is a still a rather diaphanous, gauzy note that seems to sometimes shimmer out of view entirely. Part of the reason why is the basil which is extremely prominent, to the point where you might even describe it as “loud.” Thanks to the violet leaf, the basil sometimes bear a distinct undertone of mint as well. It is a surprising, unexpected, and very original twist on roses, certainly far from the typical gooey sweet floral that I had expected, and I admire it intellectually and theoretically quite a bit. In terms of practical reality and as an actual scent to wear, however, not so much. It’s a challenge, largely because I’m not keen on that much basil, and I don’t like violet leaf.
Rose Privee quickly shifts. 5 minutes in, the lilac quickly retreats to the sidelines, then vanishes completely a short while later. It’s disappointing, not only because the lilac was one of the reasons why I wanted to try Rose Privee, but also because the scent of the flower was enormously strong when I sniffed the vial. On actual skin, however, it’s not only an insubstantial note, but a brief one. So is the hay, which rapidly joins the lilac on the sidelines. On the plus side, though, the first hint of patchouli pops up there as well, throwing off the smallest flickers of both woody spiciness and berry-like fruitiness.
The end result is only the second in Rose Privee’s list of unexpected twists. The perfume goes from smelling primarily of fresh basil (with tiny minty undertones) and peppery, green violet leaf shot through with the thinnest streaks of spicy, peppery carnation — to — something that consistently made me think of a very fresh summer salad made of basil, mint, and juicy dark berries, all dusted with a few pinches of spicy pepper and perhaps pink peppercorns. 30 minutes into the Rose Privee’s development, that mental association becomes overwhelming, thanks to the patchouli turning strongly fruity (fruitchouli) and the arrival of a more important note: Bertrand Duchaufour’s beloved, tart cassis berries. Something about the combination of notes here also sends off distinct whiffs of raspberries as well, so I guess a comparison to a summer fruit salad with leaves and fresh herbs would be more precise.
Never in a million years would I have guessed this was where Rose Privée would go, but this is the bouquet that appeared on both occasions when I tested the scent. I was rather astonished, to say the least. Again, it’s intellectually interesting and enormously original, so kudos to the two perfumers for doing something different. But do I actually want to smell like a summer basil-berry salad with purely green (violet) leafiness and with a frequently elusive, illusory mirage of a rose that is growing increasingly faint? Eh, not so much.
At least this opening phase of Rose Privee has some intriguing twists and a host of nuances to draw me in again and again for a sniff, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the scent once the 1st hour is over and the 2nd begins. The rose is becoming so shy, it’s even becoming hard to detect on the scent trail from afar. Unfortunately for me, the clean musk grows more prominent, turning Rose Privee cleaner and crisper in nature. It cuts through some of the fruity sweetness and amplifies instead the leafy greenness. The result is a thoroughly green scent dominated in overwhelming part by basil (with minty undertones) and violet leaf, all shot through with clean musk.
There are other changes which I like even less. The scent is slowly turning quite sharp. It’s also taking on a different, less natural source of pepperiness thanks to a new note, a dry, very thin woodiness that appears in the base and smells very synthetic. It doesn’t last for long, though, and soon joins the carnation, lilac, hay, and rose on the departed list. Even the most abstract suggestion of floralcy has vanished, but a muted fruitiness lingers at the edges. It smells mostly of tart cassis with very little of the raspberry left, but both fruits are drowned out by the increasingly shrill clean musk.
The musk is a killer, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Its power makes Rose Privee’s sillage bloom on my skin, in addition to making the scent overly sharp to my nose. By the end of the 2nd hour and the start of the 3rd, the musk adds the distinct whiff of Bounce laundry drier sheets to the mix. The blasted white musk is even starting to overwhelm the basil which takes a few steps back, though the violet leaf remains as sharp as ever. From afar, Rose Privee now smells primarily of leafy greenness with sharp laundry cleanness that is laced with basil, peppery undertones, and only small smudges of tart cassis.
Rose Privee devolves even further. Roughly 3.25 hours in, it’s basically just a green scent with pepperiness, sharpness, and a whopping amount of laundry musk. It turns a bit smoother at the 5.5 hour mark, and takes on a brief suggestion of creaminess in the base at the 6.5 hour one, but these are all minor points of degree. The main part of the scent is overly clean, fresh, green leafiness. Yet even that eventually succumbs to the blasted laundry musk which slowly takes over in Rose Privee’s final hours, wiping out all else in its line of vision. All that’s left is synthetic laundry cleanness. The whole ordeal ends just shy of the 10th hour.
Rose Privee’s development feels schizophrenic to me, though I suppose no-one can deny it has quite a few twists along the way. I love my fragrances to have twists and turns, but I want them to be logically connected and not to veer quite so sharply. If I may recap, Rose Privee opened as a leafy, peppery basil-floral with spiciness; turned into a green, basil summer fruit salad 30 minutes later; then, 30 minutes after that, became a blurry bouquet of peppery, leafy greenness with a lot of clean musk freshness and thin, unpleasantly synthetic, peppery woodiness for an hour; which was followed by a very long period of green violet leafiness with Bounce drier sheets and pepperiness; before ending up as laundry cleanness.
No, a thousand times, no! I don’t like primarily green fragrances regardless of whether they are herbal, fresh, floral, leafy, or peppery — never mind a combination of all of that mixed with fresh berry fruit salad as well — but adding an increasingly brutal, bulldozer amount of white musk is really the kiss of death. As a whole, what an unexpected and strange mix of stages! Each time I tested the scent, I kept thinking, “What on earth will an actual rose lover think of this, especially if they go in with expectations of a hardcore rose-centric fragrance?”
The answer to that came courtesy of Victoria of Bois de Jasmin who found Rose Privee to be sadly lacking and a disappointment. She is apparently someone who feels one can never have enough rose fragrances (so, basically, my complete antithesis), but she didn’t think Rose Privee made the cut or was worth it. She gave it a low Two Star rating, and writes in relevant part as follows:
On the rose spectrum, Rose Privée is on the light and sparkling end, although it has some dark touches. From the moment you apply it, you notice fruity notes—sweet raspberry, tart pomegranate peel and other juicy, bright effects. […] A green, spicy note underneath the pink froth should be a great contrast, but instead, it turns bitter and musty, a flower on the edge of withering.
What happens later is more of the same—bitter, stale petals mixing with fresh, delicate buds, with a handful of shredded cedarwood for good measure. Rose Privée is not quite a dark moody fragrance, but it’s also not much of a bubbly, lighthearted blend. It feels as if the perfumer couldn’t quite pick a single theme and instead you get something in between, without a distinctive point of view. On the plus side, if you find most light roses to be fleeting, Rose Privée won’t disappoint, because it grabs onto your skin and lasts beyond all expectations.
On Fragrantica, there aren’t a ton of reviews but they’re quite mixed thus far. A few people’s thoughts can essentially be summed up as “a herbal floral.” Others detected a strong, sometimes bitter, citrusy grapefruit aroma with which they struggled. One poor soul who has my complete sympathy said all she smelt was musk (presumably, of the clean, white variety), adding that she couldn’t detect any “of the other notes, and certainly not rose. I detest musk. I couldn’t get this off fast enough.”
On the other hand, one chap found Rose Privee to evoke British roses, and seemed to like it quite a bit:
Very pleasant, green and fresh English rose, the type of full bodied, multi-petaled one, that keeps going and going. The magnolia gives it a slightly exotic kick and the basil/ violet leaf accord the spicy, deep aromatic punch. [¶] A lovely abundant bouquet but nothing we have not smelled before. Go through Hyde Park in early summer and smell the lilacy, purple pink English roses and THIS is what you get. [¶] 10/10 for a Reference English Rose.
Hm. I lived in London for a good number of years and went to Hyde Park frequently on sunny days, but nothing about Rose Privee takes me back there. And Hyde Park roses are certainly a far cry from the experience of the Fragrantica poster who wrote, “All I could smell was a citrus, almost like grapefruit,” or the one who wrote, “All I smell is musk.”
Clearly, skin chemistry is going to play a major role — far more than usual, in my opinion — in terms of what happens if you try Rose Privée for yourself. I wish you luck with it.