The Crimson-Petaled Dark and Light


– a review of En Voyage Perfumes’ L’Emblem Rouge

Without roses, there would be no perfumes. Roses are the heart and soul of more great perfumes than you could possibly name in one breath, in grand, opulent soliflores and classical florals, in chypres and Orientals…there’s always, but always… rose. One niche line – les Parfums de Rosine – does nothing but interpretations of rose in all its myriad glories, and others create entire Wagnerian operas of rose, such as Serge Lutens’ staggering Sa Majesté La Rose or Amouage’s equally titanic Lyric Woman.

Once upon a time, I loved a rose perfume so much, I moved on to other things when it was reformulated rather than be bitterly disappointed. Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Paris’ – or should I say, the memory of what it used to be – will always be very dear to my heart. Since then, I’ve loved a few, but these days, I have a caveat…I like my roses dark, rich and complex, roses with a definite Gothic vibe, and such roses are not so easy to find.

Or so I thought until I received samples of En Voyage Perfumes’ L’Emblem Rouge eau de parfum and the accompanying hydrosol.

Shelley Waddington, the Carmel-by-the-Sea based perfumer behind En Voyage, has thoroughly impressed me before, when I encountered her Vents Ardents. Vents Ardents, which I reviewed briefly here, is a tropical citrusy tobacco vacation in a bottle, the Montego-Bay-in-a-spray that takes me away…so much, I’m saving it for those really wretched November and January days when I need all the help I can get.

The eau de parfum of L’Emblem Rouge is an altogether extraordinary rose. If you think you have rose perfumes all nicely categorized, if you consider rose perfumes to be rather insipid, old-fashioned or…perish the thought – boring, then I beg you to reconsider. L’Emblem Rouge is not…that kind of rose.

A bal masque is in full swing as I open that vial, swirling and sparkling in the light with all the èlan of its many characters – all of them different aspects of the star of the show. You know she’s there, but first, say hello to the many parti-colored dominoes she likes to wear to the ball…the spicy, warm spark of cinnamon, mace and cassie, and next, the dusky twilit greenery of citrus, green pepper and galbanum, adding yet another facet to the velvety depths that draw her out and lure you in, one plush crimson petal at a time. And such petals they are!

Whatever the quality of the organic Iranian rose otto that’s listed in the notes, it must be truly spectacular stuff. Hidden in those crimson depths is an all-star cast of supporting roles, some of them easily detectable, such as the ylang ylang, a whisper of jasmine sambac with its intimations of sensuous green, and violet that makes every rose bloom more opulent than before. But the overall impression, that heady, audacious, silky-velvety rose in the darkest, deepest shades of crimson never wavers and never falters, it just opens and blooms for its long, lovely entrance, and there it stays, finally giving way to an equally luscious drydown of woods, benzoin, tolu and a mere touch of vanilla and ambergris, all of them somehow adding up to a memory of a rose you’re not likely to forget anytime soon.

L’Emblem Rouge also comes in a hydrosol – the watery end-product of essential oil distillation, but here enriched and accentuated by master distiller Dabney Rose by further additions of rose…and I suspect a few drops of moonlight, too! I’ve sprayed this in my lingerie drawer and I’ve sprayed this on my pillow, and it was never less than a sheer, rosy delight to encounter. But rose water is one of the oldest cosmetics in the world, and on the recommendation of Trish of Scent Hive, I sprayed it on my foundation brush the other morning. I knew she was on to something when a colleague complimented me at work. Of course, I’ll never tell that for an ordinary Thursday, I borrowed just a little beauty….from an extraordinary rose called… L’Emblem Rouge.

I’m never happier than when I get to prove Gertrude Stein wrong. This rose is no mere rose, no run of the mill garden mainstay. This is an altogether different velvet-petaled crimson promise, and something in L’Emblem Rouge makes me want to paraphrase a few lines of one of my favorite poets, who was never a stranger to roses such as this one.

What was said to the rose…
That made it open
Was said to me
Here, in this vial…

Five percent of all L’Emblem Rouge proceeds are donated to Broadway Cares, a leading non-profit AIDS fundraising and grant making organization.

Notes:
Top: Cassie, mace, cinnamon, bitter orange, juicy grapefruit, green pepper, Iranian galbanum, violet, cistus
Heart: Organic Iranian rose otto, ylang ylang, heliotrope, French jasmine sambac, violet and honey
Base: Gaiac wood, sandalwood, capaiba, vetiver, cedarwoood, tolu balsam, Siam benzion, tonka, vanilla, ambergris

L’Emblem Rouge and L’Emblem Rouge Hydrosol are available from the En Voyage Perfumes website.

Disclosure: Samples of the eau de parfum and the hydrosol were provided by Shelley Waddington of En Voyage Perfumes for review.