Rose stands as a symbol of femininity, at least in the western world. Perfectly formed, delicately or more passionately hued, its scent combining freshness with powder and sweet liqueur can be heavenly ~or it can be hellish. All too often rose fragrances can turn sour or dusty, like moldy pot-pouri that has been sitting for ages unattended and unappreciated at the corner of the window ledge, sitting on a lace doily, fearing for its survival from the leap of a hundred cats vying for the tenant's attention. If you're nodding your head thinking "rose smells of old ladies" and the paraphernalia this cultural stigma evokes, I know you can understand my personal pained story with rose. But not all is doom and gloom in regards to the queen of flowers.
So what can a perfumer and a clever conceived brand do to avoid this perilous and unpopular situation?
One solution is to go for earthy and thorny and pair rose with patchouli (and possibly white truffle notes), a time-honored, but especially galvanized by niche perfume companies recently, concept. (I think Voleur de Roses by L'Artisan Parfumeur was the pioneer in making this a niche trope).
Another, no less popular route, is to cuddle the rose in peachy lactonic materials, appearing as apricot, peach or nectarine in the list of notes. This has been a collective snuggly and hyper-feminine reference since that mega-blockbuster by Lancome, Trésor, the accord "décolleté" as its creator called it. Of course if you have ever sat next to a woman wearing Trésor you know there is such a notion as "too much of a good thing"; it's as subtle as a sledgehammer and as elegant as a 100 carat diamond hanging off your neck on a chain of thick gold. But this is where the niche brands can employ their finesse (see Liaisons Dangeureses by Kilian and Vive la Mariée by Parfums de Rosine for fine roses that won't suffocate) and M.Micallef is no stranger to the concept.
Rouge #1 by M.Micallef is part Le Collection Rouge (the red collection) which comprises two scents for now (Rouge #2 to be reviewed on another day). Rouge #1, composed by perfumer Jean Claude Astier, encompasses all the guiles of femininity and renders a fruity floral you won't be sorry to pick up for yourself and own. Polished, groomed, lightly powdery, with a fuzzy opening that unites summer fruit and rose, the floral part gains on nuance as the fragrance develops. It's unmistakably rose, but even if you don't usually like roses it manages to seduce you with a smile. The drydown has lots of (clean) musk indeed (with hints of rice pudding, a nice touch which fits with the refined gourmand successes of the brand). All fragrances in this genre are musky, but it blends in seamlessly here (after all Micallef does Royal Muska too, a lovely clean heavy-duty musk scent by itself).
M.Micallef Rouge #1 is what you'd picture a young mother wearing, a woman in love and a daughter borrowing perfume off a mother's vanity to graft some of that admired but at the same time cozy, tender feeling onto herself as an amulet against the world. Alas, not fit for most men; sorry guys, this is all ours!
Good projection and very good lasting power from the dab on I have been using. The bottles as usual are hand-decorated by Martine Micallef herself with her usual flair for the artistic and the beautiful and pay homage to the Art Deco style. This is a case where niche isn't just an excuse for charging high prices for hot air.
Notes for M.Micallef Rouge#1:
Top: peach and tangerine
Heart: ylang-ylang, jasmine and rose
Base: white musk, vanilla and benzoin.