Summer may be drawing to a close in many parts of the world, but Roja Dove has two Extraits that seem well suited to any time of the year. Each one is a pure parfum and soliflore, a fragrance highlighting one central note. In this case, it is Neroli and Lilac, respectively. Both are lovely fragrances, though not without their flaws. I thought I’d take a look at each one in turn.
Roja Parfums classifies Neroli as a Chypre, and describes it as “refined fresh sophistication.” The notes are as follows:
TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Petitgrain
HEART: Geranium, Neroli, Orange Blossom, Violet
BASE: Ambergris, Frankincense, Musk, Oakmoss, Styrax
Neroli opens on my skin with wave upon wave of photorealistic, green, tangy citruses. It wouldn’t be wholly accurate to describe the lead note as “orange” since neroli skews so much fresher in its green tartness. The note here is concentrated, juicy, and a little mouth-puckering in a good way. The bergamot and a brisk, cool lemon dance all around, creating mental images of sunbeams and lemon drops floating in a turquoise sky. Quiet but distinct flickers of petitgrain add a subtle woodiness, while growing ripples of geranium convey a sense of leafy, piquant green foliage. In the background, shimmering like diaphanous gauze, are delicate wisps of orange blossom. They’re non-indolic, and so fresh and green that they might as well be the buds surrounding unripened fruit on the branch.
In essence, Roja Dove has bottled the entire upper portion of an orange tree at its greenness, freshest phase, then amplified that bouquet further through bergamot, lemon, and geranium. The only thing missing is the damp, black soil in which the tree grows. On my skin, there is nothing mossy or earthy that appears at any time in Neroli’s development. All the greenness stems from other sources. There is also no styrax smokiness, incense, or salty, musky, caramel-nuanced ambergris on my skin, either.
After 10 minutes, Neroli shifts a little. The scent turns more floral as the orange blossoms join the citrus medley on center stage. As the green naturalistic flowers become more noticeable, the woody petitgrain and leafy geranium fade a little in parallel, but Neroli is still an extremely crisp, green scent. In essence, it now straddles the line between a strongly neroli-centric quasi-cologne and a fractionally more floral, neroli-orange blossom bouquet.
It’s a very short-lived phase, though. I think Neroli skews towards the sweeter orange blossoms for a mere 10 minutes before the woodiness and geranium return. Thereafter, the three notes take turns supplicating and dancing around the central neroli note, each one waxing and waning in strength. Personally, I wish the petitgrain and geranium were stronger, because I think it would have given the scent a bit more of a backbone or distinctiveness.
It’s hard to wear Neroli and not think of Tom Ford‘s Neroli Portofino, but there are differences. I don’t think the Roja Dove is as refreshingly cool or as brisk as the Tom Ford scent. One reason why is that the bergamot and lemon notes are significantly less here than in Neroli Portofino. Another reason is that, for the first two hours, there isn’t a lot of the annoying white musk that imbues Neroli Portofino right from the start. In Roja Dove’s Neroli, it takes 20 minutes for the first hint of white musk to appear, but it is the lightest touch that remains in the background, at least at first. Another difference is that Neroli initially feels deeper in body than the Tom Ford, though that is to be expected from a pure parfum versus an eau de parfum.
What I really appreciate, though, is that there is nothing shrill or screechy about the notes in Neroli Extrait. The bergamot in most modern or reformulated Guerlains might as well be sharp, pointed lemon. The actual lemon is usually even shriller still. In other fragrances, the orange blossom can sometimes skew into the dreaded realm of bug spray or cloying syrup. None of that is the case here. The notes are supple, smooth, and seamlessly blended, while still being individually distinct and clearly delineated in the opening hour.
That said, there is an odd thing that consistently happens when I wear Neroli Extrait, starting roughly 45 minutes into its evolution. The scent feels more diffuse in a way that I can’t easily describe. It’s not airier, thinner, or lighter, per se, but several of its key notes feel less dense or rich. It’s as though they had diffused on the wind, instead of being concentrated in one place. They also start to feel hazier, perhaps because the clean musk has finally kicked in, serving as a sort of Photoshop finish to blur the lines, in addition to aerating the notes. As the white musk slowly grows stronger, Neroli Extrait starts to change in body. After 90 minutes, it really feels more like an eau de parfum on my skin than a rich extrait. It certainly is lighter and softer than several of the Roja Dove extraits that I’ve tried.
As a general rule, soliflores are largely linear fragrances because they are always highlighting one central note, rather than changing directions in their top, middle, and end stages. Roja Dove’s Neroli is no exception to the rule and doesn’t alter in any significant way, but there are some small shifts as time goes by. In addition to the lighter body that I’ve mentioned above, the scent turns a wee bit powdery in texture at the end of the 2nd hour. The sense of floralcy fades at the same time, as the orange blossom retreats to the background where it is soon joined by the geranium. The petitgrain remains but it is a light touch now, one that is fully melded into the neroli. The latter feels less rich, tart, and concentrated. In essence, the bouquet at the start of the 3rd hour is primarily citrusy neroli and clean musk, lightly infused with petitgrain woodiness.
To my great surprise, the whole thing has become so soft that Neroli consistently turned into a skin scent after 2.75 hours. I had a small atomiser, and typically applied several spritzes amounting to somewhere between 2 or 2.5 good, solid sprays from an actual bottle. If I used a bit more, Neroli generally became a skin scent after 3.25 hours, but my overall longevity, projection, and sillage numbers were always low. Much lower than what I usually get with Roja parfums.
The notes turn into a blur around the same time. After 4 hours, Neroli is mostly citrusy greenness with clean musk. The musk feels as though it were almost equal to the neroli but, over time, it overshadows the main note completely. At one point, at the start of the 6th hour, it felt as though 75%-85% of the scent were only the clean musk. It also felt as though the fragrance were about to die away at any moment. Neroli grazes the skin so softly, it is barely perceptible after the 6th hour unless I put my nose right on my arm and sniff really hard. To my disbelief, Neroli actually lasted 10.5 hours before it finally died away as a wisp of clean musk, but it took a substantial effort to detect it long before that point.
Neroli Extrait generally receives good reviews on Fragrantica. One person says: “it’s the best neroli based fragrance I ever tried in my life. Definitely outstanding.” Another feels the same way, using words like “absolutely gorgeous” and “definitely the best.” A third person thought Neroli was “simply spectacular,” but found Le Labo’s Neroli 36 to be superior. For one commentator, the scent was heavily infused with jasmine, while another experienced styrax smokiness in the opening. As a side note, four people voted for a similarity to Acqua di Parma‘s Essenza di Colonia, while 2 people voted for Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino. It is the latter which is mentioned most commonly in the handful of reviews on the site. I haven’t tried the Acqua di Parma or Le Labo scents to know how they might compare, but I agree with one poster, “Taskphorce01,” who said the Roja Dove is superior in quality to the Tom Ford. He experience superior performance as well.
His analysis is also one of the two reviews on Neroli’s Basenotes entry page, but the other commentator there was less enthused. His main problem was poor longevity and sillage. “Rollzst” writes in full:
Starts off with a wonderful sharp blast of Neroli that unfortunately does not last more than a couple of minutes. As the fragrance develops a violet note starts to become noticeable which unfortunately ruins the scent for me. The thing that really kills this for me more than anything though is the poor sillage and longevity. At £275 for a 50ml bottle there is nothing that really stands out and makes me want to purchase this. Looks like I will be sticking to Neroli Portofino.
Reviews are equally mixed in a Basenotes discussion thread. One person writes that “it’s probably the most incredible neroli fragrance I’ve ever tried,” but others call it simply “nice” and/or find the fragrance to be over-priced for what it is. Several people note how the scent feels wholly natural and high quality, rather than screechy or synthetic like the neroli releases from Le Labo or Tom Ford, but a number of posters don’t find the Roja Dove to be very interesting in terms of its overall development. For example, “Larimar” found the scent to be “rather dull,” and he also disliked the violet note. He writes, in part:
Well, it starts off beautifully, bright and heady… a lovely accord, but I am somewhat disappointed by the uninteresting development. It’s rather dull and I do mind the violet, which always smells ‘cheap’ to me in such a composition (it reminds me so much of Lush, where it is often used in overdoses). I would have wished for a hint of naughtiness, a continuation of the headiness initially in the drydown. It’s playing it safe, too, I guess.
As with all soliflores, I think you have to love the main note passionately, or you’ll be bored to tears. Personally, I like neroli, but not enough so to buy any fragrance centered on the note. My main issue with the Roja Dove, though, is the sillage and longevity. (The preponderance of white musk didn’t help, either, but you all know how much I loathe that note by now.) Pure parfums will always have softer sillage than an eau de parfum, but Neroli Extrait seems to be particularly discreet, to the point that it impacted my sense of its longevity unless I expended serious effort to sniff at my arm. Yes, the perfume was actually there, but I’d rather not whuffle at my arm like a boar snuffling for truffles. Not at these prices.
I’ll talk more about pricing at the very end, but I do think you should give Neroli a sniff if you love the main note, and are looking for a fresh and refreshing, slightly green, clean soliflore that highlights neroli in a very naturalistic way. Plus, most people don’t seem to have the longevity problems that I did, and everyone appreciates its clear quality. It’s an easy-to-wear, versatile fragrance that is generally unisex in nature, unless you think that even light whiffs of orange blossoms render something “feminine.”. All in all, I think it’s a nice fragrance, and a superior version of the genre in terms of quality.
Roja Parfums describes Lilac as “heady, sweet freshness,” and provides the following notes:
HEART: Heliotrope, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Peach, Rose, Violet, Ylang Ylang
BASE: Amyris, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Oakmoss, Orris, Patchouli, Peru Balsam, Sandalwood, Vanilla
Lilac Extrait opens on my skin with the crystal clear, liquid floralcy of lilacs, dusted with their delicate, pollinated sweetness. It’s a visual of endless purpleness that is consolidated and amplified by sweet violets whose petals sparkle with fat drops of bergamot like dew. Unlike many fragrances that I’ve tried with violet, none of it smell sharp, excessively green, lemony, or synthetic, perhaps because the source here is probably orris root and ionones rather than actual Parma violet or violet odorata oil. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter, because the overwhelming focus of the scent is lilacs, lilacs, and more lilacs.
Other members of Nature’s garden crowd around the edges, often more like floating specks in the lilac sea, but perceptible nonetheless in the opening minutes. There is the palest, blushing rose bud, smelling fruity and lemony, nestled next to the softest peach dusted with sweet vanilla powder. The palest hues of heliotrope also waft a powdered sweetness that intermingles effortlessly with that of the lilacs. In the furthest distance, almost ghostly strains of soft, sweet patchouli weaves around the plush greenness of fresh oakmoss. I’d swear the merest wisp of something spicy floats around, almost like the cinnamon listed in the notes, but it’s far too muffled, hazy, and minor for me to really tell.
These members of the garden party hover like the shyest debutantes at the edges, wallflowers whose breathy, demure presence serves merely to accentuate the main note. This is the lilac’s show in the first two hours, almost every last drop of it. Yet the supporting elements like the watery rose, the moss, the subtle spices, the powdered violet, and the vanillic heliotrope are all essential in recreating different facets of the titular note, resulting in a truly exquisite, photorealistic portrait.
I absolutely love lilac both in real life and in perfumery, and I’ve rarely encounter such a beautiful version of it in a bottle. There is something so ethereal, so hushed, and so evocative about the scent that my mind is flooded with images, one after another. There are 19th century Edwardian belles twirling around a dance floor in huge skirts of billowing lilac chiffon; there are the purple and green hues of Monet’s Giverny gardens (which are some of my favorite pieces of art); and there are photos I’ve seen of Japan’s wisteria-lined avenues creating virtual canopies of purple froth. (As Fragrantica explains, wisteria smells somewhat similar to lilac, perhaps a bit spicier through a clove-like undertone. Here, the Roja Extrait has the subtlest touch of spices, including clove, so there is a definite, though brief, resemblance to wisteria on my skin.)
Like hyacinths, another one of my favorite flowers, lilacs have a narcotic, crystal-clear, sweet liquidity that is hard to recreate in perfumery in a non-synthetic, truly naturalistic way, but this is truly a masterful, brilliant interpretation of it. It is so perfectly captured and so realistic that I can’t stop smelling my arms. In the opening hour, none of it smells synthetic; none of it is shrill, shrieking, or poorly balanced. There is never too much sweetness, powder, greenness, or clean freshness. It is simply pitch-perfect. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to smell lilacs up close in nature that I almost became a little emotional at the scent here. Puredistance‘s Opardu turned my head because of its exquisite lilacs in its first 15 minutes, but they didn’t last on my skin; the scent quickly became both soapy and overly clean. Here, the the rendition lasts much longer and is significantly better, in my opinion. Miles better.
Lilac Extrait shifts after 30 minutes. The first hint of a velvety, almost custardy ylang-ylang appears, trailed by a touch of clean musk. The oakmoss and patchouli melt into each other, and join the lilac on center stage. The rose bud, violet, and heliotrope converge in a similar manner, but they remain in the background. The bergamot fades away entirely. I don’t detect the jasmine in any distinct way, but I have no doubt that its syrupy sweetness is largely responsible for the narcotic liquidy quality of the lilac. The oakmoss is perhaps the loveliest touch of the supporting players. It is not dry, earthy, dark, fusty, or mineralized, as oakmoss can sometimes be, but extremely bright, warm, fresh, and plush. Like all the other notes, it is superbly blended into the lilac, so it merely accentuates the titular note’s natural green facets. The spices and patchouli indirectly work to do the same for the lilac’s other sides.
As a soliflore, Lilac is largely a linear scent, but there are two other points of change. About 75 minutes in, the white musk grows quite noticeable, which may be one reason why all the notes start to blur in shape, overlapping, and taking on a hazy diffuseness. The musk connects them all into a single “lilac” accord, but also makes the fragrance feel airier and lighter in body. In essence, the perfume is now a simple lilac bouquet infused with some fresh, soft cleanness and a subtle suggestion of sweet powderiness.
The next change occurs towards the tail end of the drydown phase, roughly 6.5 hours from the start. Lilac becomes warmer, almost creamy in nature, and is flecked by subtle, quiet muskiness, though it never smells dirty in any way. It’s more as though the resins and balsams have finally woken up, even though none of them are individually distinct. For the most part, Lilac Extrait smells like a hazy, soft, warm, slightly sweet, creamy-ish cleanness, infused with tiny tendrils of abstract floralcy and something vaguely citrusy. In its final moments, all that is left is a wisp of sweet cleanness.
Like the Neroli Extrait, Lilac is very soft on my skin and not particularly long-lasting for a pure parfum. Using several spritzes from my mini atomiser roughly equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, Lilac generally opened with about 3 inches of projection and a soft scent trail that extended maybe 5 inches at best. The projection dropped to about 1.5 to 2 inches after an hour, and the fragrance became more intimate still by the end of the 2nd hour. Lilac turned into a skin scent on me 2.5 hours into its development, with very discreet sillage. As with the Neroli, I thought Lilac was close to dying after 6 hours, but it clung on a bit longer, lasting 7.5 hours in total.
Lilac only has two reviews on Fragrantica, and both are positive, though one person had similar struggles with the longevity and strength of the fragrance. “Anthos” calls it an “out of time” scent that recalled his or her childhood, writing in large part:
Lilac is a special fragrance, because it replicates the smell of a flower that cannot be captured through the original and converted into an essence; it’s the alchemical hologram of the smell, colour and perception of a flower. By closing my eyes, while inspiring, I see the flower. It is a fragile, tender, innocent, light fragrance. It gives me the impression of being out of time, far from thoughts and worries. [¶] It reminds me of when I was a child and, while listening to a fairy tale, I had the capacity to lose myself in it for a while… I don’t think I would wear it everyday, but just in special moments or in specific periods, when I need to get this “out of time” feeling.
For “Henrique345que,” Lilac was a “retro glam” fragrance, but not very long-lasting or strong:
Lilac is a typical Roja Dove fragrance, marrying rich aromas with a retro sofistication. It’s one of those powdery resinous florals that goes from the floral impression to the woody, balsamic base. It starts with something that makes me think of lilies, maybe due to a waxy and dry floral aroma, which i suspect that might be the jasmine used. Then, i notice a retro violet with some spicy kind of powdery combination of rose, cinnamon and clove. You also note, from the very first moments, a cherry-pie like aroma of heliotropin, contributing to the retro-glam aura, which is a kind of a link to the woody and sweet resinous base. The only thing that i found odd is that this kind of composition is usually longlasting and strong on me, but Lilac opens strong and fades to something close to skin after 3 hours.
In terms of blog reviews, my friend, The Scented Hound, really liked Lilac Extrait, calling it essentially a “cozy warm blanket of lilac comfort.” He added,
Lilac Extrait is a beautiful fragrance that is well blended and really carries lilac into comforting territory. Is it complex and daring? No. But sometimes beauty is best in its simplicity.
I agree with him. Lilac Extrait is not complex or daring, but it is very beautiful.
ALL IN ALL:
Obviously, you have to love each of the titular notes on display here to really enjoy the extraits in question. Don’t bother to sample either one if you’re not a fan of neroli or lilac in almost solo form. That said, I think both fragrances are very well done. Personally, I think the Lilac is more distinctive and unique than the Neroli, simply because there are so many fragrances that have taken on the latter note. There aren’t a lot of Lilac scents, comparatively speaking, and definitely few that are so photorealistic and so high quality. Like the Neroli, Lilac may not be an all-natural scent, but it smells real — not chemical or artificial, which is all that I really care about. Both fragrances capture the intended scent in a way that feels authentic and expensive. However, neither fragrance lasts as long as I would expect from an extrait, and both of them lose the heady, concentrated quality of their opening sooner than I’d like, the Neroli in particular.
So the issue comes down to cost. As a general rule, I always say that pricing is a very personal, subjective, and individual valuation so long as the quality, complexity, and luxuriousness are there. In fact, I’ve actually termed this the “Roja Dove Rule,” because cost assessments always come up when I review one of his fragrances. So long as the three requisites are there, I can understand why someone might think a scent is lovely enough to spend $400, $1000, or more.
That said, I personally think the soliflore/Extrait line lacks the complexity to warrant a pricing similar to Roja Dove’s more elaborate fragrances. On my skin, these two scents also lack the sillage and longevity to make it such a clear, easy sell. In the case of the Lilac Extrait, that utterly exquisite opening turns into something more nebulous and abstract after only 2 hours. I would still happily wear it because of how beautifully it captures the note during that time, but I honestly can’t fathom spending $395, €365 or £275 on a 50 ml bottle. If money grew on trees or were a wholly meaningless thing as common as air, I would buy it for myself in an instant, but that is not the case. For me, Lilac may have exquisite parts, but the overall scent isn’t complex, strong, or long-lasting enough to lead me to shell out $400. That is a personal valuation. Yours may be quite different. It will come down to just how much you love the main note, how the perfume develops and lasts on your skin, and how you interpret the quality-quantity-price ratio.
All I can tell you is that both fragrances have outstanding quality and are very nicely done. The Lilac Extrait in particular is exceptional, in my opinion. So, if you love either note, you should absolutely try the scent for yourself.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of OsswaldNYC. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.