Mothering Sunday falls on March 15 this year, which still leaves you time to choose a glorious perfume for that unique lady in your life. Maybe Mother has already dropped a hint as to what fragrance she would love as a gift; or perhaps you have a standing order for her favourite signature scent. If not, here are a few ruminations at the shrine of the modern Matronalia: potential perfumes to offer up with thanks at the altar of the Mother Goddess!
By and large the British are not so hot on botany but a rose is the one flower that everyone knows. It is a symbol of universal currency: even the name is basically the same in all the main European languages. The rose has not been on the planet as long as the Jurassic magnolia – flowers came late in evolution though they pre-date Man – but it has entranced us since anthropoid apes first stood upright and tucked blossoms in their fur.
Because of their universality, and due to their scent, delicacy, beauty, richness and colour, roses have accumulated a great body of lore and cult significance. The rose is the symbol of maternal love as well as of carnal passion. It represents altruistic suffering (the flowers sprang from the blood of Christ); or wounded rejected love (the thorns which injured baby Cupid). The goddess Aphrodite – “foam-born” – was blown ashore in a cloud of rose petals on the sands of antique Cyprus, the birthplace of perfumery. Roses are the emblem of the Queen of Heaven whether she be personified by Juno, Isis or the Blessed Virgin – “The Mystic Rose”. Mary appears in countless medieval paintings crowned with roses, or sitting with the Christ Child in bowers and arbours; even enthroned among the stamens of one vast Cosmic Rose, with angels swarming overhead like exotic insects attracted by the Divine Sweetness and Odour of Sanctity.
No wonder with all this tremendous back story we all think we know what a rose smells like; or what it should smell like. One of my favourite perfume legends is the rumour that Nahema, Guerlain’s gorgeous hymn to the Flower of Flowers does not contain a drop of rose oil: all is magnificent illusion, a dance of pink and crimson veils. What a stroke of genius that might be! Every perfumer longs to create the definitive rose scent, as he does the sheerest and most glittering of colognes. But in perfume terms, what is the scent of a rose? Should it be a beautiful template, like Garbo’s face, on which to project our olfactory desires and perceptions? Science now allows molecules to be identified, isolated and manipulated to the nth degree: yet a rose fragrance still remains one of the most controversial of creations – “THAT doesn’t smell like rose to ME!”
Consequently, Les Senteurs have cultivated an extensive nursery of roses on the shelves. Here come 12 of the best, in no particular order but all beautifully long-stemmed and worthy of Mother’s finest crystal vase. And we have plenty more to choose from,too, so why not come by before Sunday? Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
Red wine, black truffles, blue camomile + Turkish rose. Stately and majestic.
Heady surreal clouds of overblown rose, beeswax, honey and patchouli.
Sweet and diaphanous; jasmine, lychee & lotus at a cool poolside.
Turkish roses fizzing with spices,patchouli and amber. Audaciously elegant: a silver frost melting to golden sun.
Raspberries, vanilla and the scent of a gleaming lipstick warmed on a lovely mouth.
Sweet, creamy rosebuds served with cream in a silver bowl. Playful & joyous.
Inspired by the pastoral portraits of Marie Antoinette; a rococo cascade of pink champagne.
A favourite of the young Queen Victoria, lover of flamboyance and colour: crazily deep, dark and intense Bulgarian roses.
Hommage to the 1960’s and that Summer of Love: take a lovin’ spoonful of incense and patchouli with your roses.
Roman temples and the votaresses of Venus: myrrh, coriander & osmanthus.
Turkish rose oil sharpened by piquant red fruits and deepened with woods and aromatic resins.
Wishing you all a very Happy & Loving Mothering Sunday!