A Rose By Any Other Name – Perfume Lovers London, 21st July 2016

This was the first “business as usual” PLL event hosted by Lizzie (Odette Toilette), Laurin and Callum at the October Gallery in London since taking over the group.



The wonderful Nick Gilbert


Leading us through this rose themed evening was fragrance expert, Nick Gilbert. If you haven’t already checked out his YouTube channel Love to Smell with Pia of Volatile Fiction, you really should. Nick runs his own consultancy business and couldn’t be better placed to present us with the aromachemicals used to create rose scents along with examples of how each has been used in a particular perfume.




Below is a rough reconstruction of some of the perfumed proceedings after an introduction by Lizzie.



Lizzie, radiant in orange.


Nick: The reason I chose rose for this evening is because although there are are 300 molecules in rose absolute, there’s only 4 that humans can smell. That makes it an easy introduction to aromachemicals. The way a rose smells, whether fruity, earthy or citrusy, is all down to these molecules.


Phenyl Ethyl Alcohol

Nick: Phenyl ethyl alcohol is the main constituent of most rose extracts (oils and absolutes) but it’s not the most powerful. Perfumers use it to add a fresh, petal-y effect to floral perfumes. It can also add a sense of space. It’s very gentle and not very impactful. It’s not particularly rosy, it’s more vaguely floral. It gives a naturalist impression. Paul Smith Rose exemplifies this.

Paul Smith Rose

Laurin: This is what I’d expect a rose to smell like. Nick told me they used headspace technology to recreate the scent of a rose from Paul Smith’s garden.

Nick: It’s one of the best representations of rose in perfumery.

Audience member: It has a lot of petal-y freshness and there’s some green too. It reminds me a bit of bubble bath.


paul smith



Nick: This particular citronellol has a pronounced geranium aspect. It’s a little like bug spray.

Rosewater, Marks and Spencer

Nick: Citronellol is used by perfumers to add an uplifting, zingy effect.

Laurin: I picked up this rosewater from the food section of M&S. I thought it would be good added to fizzy water but it was disgusting.

Nick: Rosewater is a by-product of the distillation process and is used in cookery, especially sweets. I thought it would be interesting to see if we can spot the citronellol in it.



Nick and Laurin


Damascone (Beta)

Nick: It’s not massively present in rose but it’s very impactful. It adds a berry, sweet facet to rose perfumes. Some roses can smell like raspberries.

Audience member: It smells a bit minty.

Liz Earle Botanical Essence No.20

Nick: This has that gently fruity aspect. I’ve been spraying this one a lot ,especially in the hot weather. It’s quite smooth.

Audience member: It reminds me of those sherbet sweets, flying saucers.

Laurin: There’s a lot of pink pepper in it.


liz earle

Rose Oxide

Nick: A lot of people find this very unpleasant. It gets to the back of your throat.

Laurin: This is disgusting. It’s like the bottom of a rusty skip with some sludge in it.

Audience member: It’s a rose shot out of a cannon.

Nick: It has a metallic tang, it’s a post-apocalyptic rose.

Audience member: “Terminator Rose”

Audience member: Perfumer Mark Buxton used it in quite a few of his perfumes for Comme des Garcons.


Mad Madame, Juliette Has A Gun

Nick: You get the metallic tang of rose oxide in Mad Madame. It’s kind of a bitchy rose.






Nick: Without geraniol you wouldn’t have a rose with scent. It’s used by perfumers to create the leafy impression in rose, but not too much or you end up with geranium. It has a nice mint effect.

Audience member: It’s so green.

Nick: It’s very crisp.

Geranium pour Monsieur, Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums

Nick: Here you get the minty effect played up with peppermint. It’s like geranium toothpaste, in a great way.

Lizzie: It’s very good when it’s frosty. I love it.

geranium pour monsieur


Ionone (Alpha)

Nick: This is more violet-y with a green effect. It’s used at high dose in YSL’s Paris. It’s quite powerful – you only need to use a little to get a violet-y rose. Ionones were discovered in the late 19th century and so violet fragrances became wildly popular at that time.

Lizzie: There were so many violet scents, perfumers usually had more than one in their line.

Nick: Penhaligon’s had four.

Lizzie: Violet was the oud of its day. [Much laughter]

Lipstick Rose

Nick: Lipstick Rose is the example I’ve chosen for a violet rose. It’s very traditionally French.

Audience member: It reminds me of my grandmother’s lipstick.

Audience member: It reminds me of Shalimar.

Nick: It does have a vanillic undertone.

lipstick rose


This concluded the guided sniff-along portion of the evening. As usual we were then free to try a wide variety of rose fragrances and request a sample of our favourite. We were very helpfully given a list of those available.




I was so pleased Nick decided to talk us through some aromachemicals because it’s topic I know very little about and I found it extremely interesting. I hope there will future talks on this subject.

Huge thanks to Lizzie, Laurin and Callum for keeping the group going and continuing the fragrant fun. I’m really looking forward to seeing where we go from here.





Are you a fan of any of these rose fragrances? Are you interested in aromachemicals?







Filed under Perfume Events

15 responses to “A Rose By Any Other Name – Perfume Lovers London, 21st July 2016

  1. Loved the phrase ‘guided sniff-along’, and the comment about violet being the oud of its day is priceless!

    Really informative account of the evening as ever – I didn’t think I was all that interested in aromachemicals but rose is my favourite style of perfume so learning about the different ways its facets can be created was fascinating.


    • Always happy to come up with a phrase that tickles you, V! Lizzie is very adept at the odd one-liner.

      Yes, you make a good point about being interested in the aromachemical effects because you’re interested in the perfume genre. Being a rose lover definitely added to my enjoyment.


  2. Thank you for sharing all this information with us, Tara. Great to read. Damascone Beta smells minty to me too. I am very interested in aromachemicals especially the ones used to create rose accords so I am very glad you wrote this with all the perfumes they are used in. Xxx Esperanza


    • Very nice to hear you found this info valuable, Esperanza.
      Interesting to hear that you also get the minty facet in Damascone Beta. Most aromachems are a mystery to me so it was good to expand my knowledge and I love learning something new.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful evening it must have been, and also a wonderful post! I love roses and rose fragrances (Parfums de Rosine is a favorite line); thank you for this clear explanation of what goes into them.


    • Roses are my favourite too, Old Herbaceous, as you could have guessed from the blog name 🙂
      So lovely to hear you enjoyed the write-up. Thanks for reading, commenting and re-blogging.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Serenity Now and commented:
    This is a very informative post about a recent meeting of Perfume Lovers London, where they explored rose scents and the aromachemicals that make a rose, by any name, smell sweet. Enjoy!


  5. I love these wrap up reviews you do of events Tara, it’s amazing how you capture a night in words.
    Portia xxx


  6. cookie queen

    Hey! Better late than never. Sounds like it was a brilliant evening but I wouldn´t expect anything else really. I do really really like Lipstick Rose and if anyone is reading this and feel that want to give me a few mls I would be happy. But i don´t think I would buy a bottle as Misia seems to fill that hole? And I really must spritz the Geranium Pour Monsieur next time I have a chance. Perhaps when we are together? Keep up the reporting please. xxxxxx


    • Misia absolutely would fit that hole as it’s also inspired in part by vintage lipsticks. No doubt it’s just me but I get a sweet raspberry note from Lipstick Rose so I prefer the Chanel.
      I’m terrible with minty notes so Geranium pour Monsieur is a no go for me but it’s top quality stuff and apparently good when it’s super hot or super cold. I hear the shower gel is excellent too. We’ll definitely get you a spritz in October if you don’t get to it before.


  7. Anka

    Hi Tara,
    what a great post, thank you very much! London and the PLL-meeting is still on top of my travel wish-list!
    I love abstract roses like Mohur, Rozy and Misia, from the above list Nahema and Paris are favorites. And I recently bought a decant of the wonderful Lutens Rose de Nuit due to a review of yours. Very unusual combination of rose and leathery facets!
    Do you know Elie Saab Essence No. 1 Rose? It has four different kinds of roses listed and I think a little knowledge of aromachemicals could help to differentiate them (I can’t – well not now!).
    Have a nice weekend!


    • HI Anka!
      Really lovely to hear from you. You must let me know when you do book up for that trip to London.
      Oh yes, Rozy is fabulous and I totally get what you mean about abstract roses. I really hope you’re enjoying Rose de Nuit. Stunning stuff but not one for everyday wear 🙂
      I haven’t tried the Elie Saab rose but can imagine it would be tough to separate out four different roses in one fragrance.
      Hope you have a great weekend too!


  8. I’ve tried 14 perfumes from your list (I’m not sure if it’s a lot but for whatever reason feel very proud of myself 🙂 ).
    Portrait of a Lady is my absolute favorite from that list – and I do not care if it was a real rose or a chemical rendering of it, as long as it smells good to me.
    Thank you for the round-up – it was interesting to learn (I wouldn’t have read all that if it weren’t on your blog)>


    • That is a strike rate to be proud of. I’d only tried nine before the event and I’m a big rose fan. Portrait of a Lady is amazing.

      I’m happy to hear you found the report interesting even if it’s a topic you might have otherwise avoided. I’ll take that as a compliment!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.