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Rose Barbare – rosy and sweet and woody



Photo courtesy of Guerlain

If you were to ask anyone who knows me well, what my favourite note in perfume is, they would tell you it's rose. I can't really explain why I'm so drawn to this note. Oh, I suppose I could talk about the roses that bloomed in the garden of my childhood home or the rose in the perfume my mother wore or the first perfume a boyfriend gave me, but that would just be reaching. The best explanation I can offer is from a friend who says I was born with a rose in the centre of my heart.

As a perfume lover, I explore many fragrances and many notes, but I always seem to loop back to rose-based scents. Lately, it’s been Rose Barbare from Guerlain’s exclusive L'Art & la Matière Collection. How did I get here? By way of Francis Kurkdjian, of course. I was test-driving his A La Rose, which is a stunner by the way, when I remembered my bottle of Rose Barbare, which Kurkdjian worked on. When a perfumer known as the king of roses, teams up with a perfume house where rose has been the muse of five generations of perfumers, from Nahéma to La Petite Robe Noire, by way of Idylle, then I just had to make time to revisit Rose Barbare. But first, the origin story.

According to Chandler Burr, in 2004, the Creative Director of Guerlain, Sylvaine Delacourte, approached several perfumers, among them Francis Kurkdjian, with the proposition of creating a new Guerlain feminine. What was interesting about the "perfume brief" (the perfume's conceptual blueprint) was that there was no brief, at least not in a traditional sense. Delacourte wanted, she said quite concisely, a concept of rose. She stipulated a rose not vapid, not romantic, and not sweet. But what it could be? No guidance. "Give us your concept— whatever you want." Kurkdjian not only created Rose Barbare, a sublime rose, in three weeks, he did it in one, single modification.

And so, in 2005, Rose Barbare was launched at the event celebrating the opening of Guerlain's newly renovated 68 Avenue des Champs-Elysées boutique along with two other fragrances: Cuir Beluga and Angélique Noire.

Rose Barbare opens with nose-tingling aldehydes, sparkling and bright, and they usher in a note of Bulgarian rose. The rose is opulent and fresh, and I smell its facets of honey, warm spices, lemon and green leaves. I get a whiff of raspberry too. The heart of the fragrance takes us deeper with lush, plush, jammy Turkish rose flanked with fenugreek, spicy and maple-syrup tinged. At the base, a note of peach echoes the raspberry at the top, and I can smell honey here too. Patchouli is dark and sweet, its woodiness is extended by more woody notes, giving Rose Barbare a little sexiness. And while the base is dark, it has a luminosity that allows the roses to shine through.
Rose Barbare is a perfume wonder, going from sparkling light to sheer darkness, with elegance and refinement. Every note in Rose Barbare is perfectly placed and in perfect balance so that it's not too sweet, too warm or too green - it's just a perfect year-round rose scent.

And to think that Kurkdjian pulled this beauty off in just three weeks? All hail the king of the roses!

Rose Barbare is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.