Mama Rose

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Madonna of the Roses

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.

UNE ROSE by Editions de Parfums

Editions de Parfums - Une Rose

Editions de Parfums – Une Rose

Red wine, black truffles, blue camomile + Turkish rose. Stately and majestic.

ROSE ANONYME by Atelier Cologne

O8-RA 100ml Packshot
Hot dark nights spiced with ginger, incense, oud and patchouli.

TOBACCO ROSE by Papillon

Papillon - Tobacco Rose

Papillon – Tobacco Rose

Heady surreal clouds of overblown rose, beeswax, honey and patchouli.

DELIRE DES ROSES by Caron.

Caron - Delire de Roses

Caron – Delire de Roses

Sweet and diaphanous; jasmine, lychee & lotus at a cool poolside.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Editions de Parfums

portrait of a lady 100ml

Editions de Parfums – Portrait of a Lady

Turkish roses fizzing with spices,patchouli and amber. Audaciously elegant: a silver frost melting to golden sun.

LIPSTICK ROSE by Editions de Parfums

Editions de Parfums - Lipstick Rose

Editions de Parfums – Lipstick Rose

Raspberries, vanilla and the scent of a gleaming lipstick warmed on a lovely mouth.

UNE ROSE VERMEILLE by Tauer Perfumes

Tauer Perfumes - Une Rose Vermeille

Tauer Perfumes – Une Rose Vermeille

Sweet, creamy rosebuds served with cream in a silver bowl. Playful & joyous.

A LA ROSE by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Maison Francis Kurkdjian - A La Rose

Maison Francis Kurkdjian – A La Rose

Inspired by the pastoral portraits of Marie Antoinette; a rococo cascade of pink champagne.

FLEURS DE BULGARIE by Creed

Creed - Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed – Fleurs de Bulgarie

A favourite of the young Queen Victoria, lover of flamboyance and colour: crazily deep, dark and intense Bulgarian roses.

HIPPIE ROSE by Heeley

Heeley - Hippie Rose

Heeley – Hippie Rose

Hommage to the 1960’s and that Summer of Love: take a lovin’ spoonful of incense and patchouli with your roses.

PAESTUM ROSE by Eau d’Italie

Eau d'Italie - Paestum Rose

Eau d’Italie – Paestum Rose

Roman temples and the votaresses of Venus: myrrh, coriander & osmanthus.

ISPARTA by Parfumerie Generale

Parfumerie Generale - Isparta

Parfumerie Generale – Isparta

Turkish rose oil sharpened by piquant red fruits and deepened with woods and aromatic resins.

Wishing you all a very Happy & Loving Mothering Sunday!

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Be Like Dad: Keep Mum

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In the old times, when Mothering Sunday was a feast of honouring one’s mother church, children brought home a posy of wild flowers for mamma. I remember as a tot that my grandmother was still keen on this idea. When I made a fuss about the problem of finding them in our streets she allowed that flowers picked from the garden would just about do. I was wary of this as there had recently been a row about helping myself to daffodils but I remember gathering a small bunch of sea blue sillas from beneath the sitting room windows and these went down well.

So I have been scanning the shelves here at Les Senteurs looking for the fragrance of wild flowers that might intrigue you and please your mum. You can cheat a bit if you want to, as so many of our garden blooms started off in hedgerows, fields and streams before being refined for the garden. You can always blur the edges and fall back on iris, rose, jasmine and tuberose if you must. Meanwhile the more creative can use their imaginations to romantic effect.

James Heeley’s L’Amandiere is an enchanting visualisation of a perfect spring day. An orchard of almond blossom spreads a pink and white canopy over a carpet of hyacinths and bluebells while a note of linden florets suggests the imminence of summer while evoking the sweet green lushness of new grass. Almonds and their flowers are loaded with appropriate symbolism – the Mystery of the Virgin Birth, hope, fertility, life’s sweetness & bitterness, the path of righteous living, the passing of the years. Maybe to emphasise the intensity of spring, L’Amandiere is conceived as an extrait, a parfum: concentrate and compressed vitality, the richness and bounty of the two Universal Mothers: Earth & Nature.

Now wander barefoot into a field of red and white clover. Are children still taught to suck nectar from the flowers as we used to do? Atelier Cologne’s Trefle Pur continues a tradition of clover fragrances which began with Piver’s barnstorming Trefle Incarnat nearly 120 years ago. This new 21st century clover is a fragrance simultaneously lush and innocent, rainy and sunny, with touches of violet leaf, basil, moss and neroli. Knee high in buttercups, “when the fields are white with daisies” as Florrie Forde used to sing.

Lorenzo Villoresi’s Yerbamate is another perfumed pasture, this time revolving around sharp green galbanum oil. This plant, related to our cow parsley & fennel, grows wild in the mountains of Iran but this scent to me is very English: emerging from a deep dark wood into open meadows under a clear blue cloudless sky. It’s like wading through trefoil, camomile, ferns and sorrel surrounded with flowering trees rampant with sap & spring vigour.

An honourable mention here too for Ophelia by Heeley Parfums. Think of Millais’s painting of Elizabeth Siddal floating downstream on a current of flowers. Though here you must permit a certain poetic licence for we smell not rosemary, pansies and rue but the tropic elegance of tuberose, ylang ylang and jasmine. However these heady scents are treated with a freshness, lightness and modesty which are the special charms of a wild flower.

As for the charms of your own wonderful mother find them all reflected in the 1001 myriad magical perfumes of Les Senteurs. Why not pop round?

Mothers Day

American Mother

Do you remember that Nancy Mitford novel in which a daring lady attends a costume ball in a fig leaf, dressed exiguously as Eve The Mother of Us All? It is a banal old truism to say that mothers come in every age, shape, style and size but you might be amazed at the number of people who ask for a suitable gift scent and when asked what sort of lady it is for, reply, “oh you know – just a mum!” How depressing is this? You often hear the same remark about grandmothers: “It’s only for gran…” But do try to refine the search: is granny a glamorous 36 year old with a new baby of her own or a thrice widowed World War veteran of 101? Is she an Adele fan or still stuck on Gracie Fields? Is she a practising brain surgeon, a housewife, a ballet dancer or a street sweeper, like those little old ladies who used to sweep Red Square with dustpan and brush? I remember working in Harrods one Christmas Eve and trying to help a girl who came by with her boyfriend to find something to offer up to granny the following day. We narrowed the search to a toss-up between rose or gardenia. The conscientious granddaughter appealed to her young man who shrugged eloquently in obviously terminal throes of boredom, at which point the rich Eastern European tones of an amused onlooker boomed out, “Ho! ho! ho! He don’t care what the old grandmother wear!”

But we have to care, and here come a few suggestions to help.

First of all, define in your own head the kind of personality your mother is; after all you may well be the person who knows her best. Is she the sort of adventurous woman who likes a surprise, a novelty? Or would she be happier with a bottle of her favourite signature scent. Might in fact a Gift Voucher be best, so that she can decide for herself, uninhibited by the ideas of others? Again, do consider whether she is the sort of mum who may be perturbed, even distressed by the idea of your spending what she considers to be too much money on her. In which case, perhaps choose a delicious soap, a room scent for her bedside table, a scented body cream; or even a deliciously perfumed candle with all its ritual associations – “To Mum: shining out like a good deed in a naughty world”. Those gorgeous new Laduree candles for instance come packed in delicate biscuit china cups in a wide array of colours, redolent of all sorts of wonderful odours from rice face powder to wild strawberries and orange blossom. The boxes are so exquisitely designed that you don’t even have to wrap.

Then to go a stage further: say you have decided to give her a surprise and to pick out something new and different – a little adventure. We’ll assist you as much as we can, but please do a little preparation in advance. Think over what scents the lady has worn in the past (and perhaps even more important what she has hated – so we know what oils and ingredients to avoid). It helps a lot to know what her favourite colours are, how she dresses and also WHY she wears scent at all.( I might say at this point: be sure in your own mind that she DOES wear scent. Though even if not, this could prove to be a turning-point in her life: a REAL adventure!). But the last point is important: mothers of families especially tend to wear scent for their husbands and for their children. They often have the lovely idea of sticking to one particular perfume so that their offspring will remember them by this in later life. The late Rita Hayworth’s daughter even a bespoke candle made up of her mother’s personal scent so that she could feel her presence about the place. Less romantically, mothers are often bullied into wearing a perfume for which they don’t much care, but of which their whole family approves. And children’s acute but unsophisticated noses are not the best judges of a good fragrance. Allow your mother some self-expression: try to find the one that best evokes her tastes, personality and dreams. Every man and woman (mums included and especially) should have at least one fragrance that they wear for themselves alone – to boost their morale, use as a comfort blanket, an aphrodisiac or whatever the occasion demands. Please don’t ever say – “She’d love this. I hate it. She’s not having it.”

But mothers are so incredibly emotionally generous to their children that you can be sure that on Mothering Sunday it really IS the thought that counts; and if you still find yourself completely stumped (for we can sometimes find it most difficult to analyse our nearest and dearest) consider buying her something of symbolism, like that candle I mentioned above. Select a perfume whose ingredients say a little something – a rose scent for instance; rose representing pure love and the pearl of womanhood. The violet is for unselfishness love; peppermint (there is a wonderful James Heeley scent which uses this) for warm feelings; juniper (recently fashionable in perfume) denotes protection; the lily, purity; and jasmine for elegance and grace. With a little ingenuity you can make up a ciphered olfactory bouquet that goes straight to the heart as well as the nose. This is the day of all the year when a mother wants to FEEL a mother: use that nurturing instinct that she has always lavished on you to buy something instinctive and special.

Image of Norman Rockwell’s Mothers Day painting sourced by Lemon Wedge