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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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]
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.
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?