Crown Perfumery Crown Rose, 1873

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Perfumer William Thomson

Crown Perfumery is no longer. Clive Christian closed the line kit and caboodle not long after he bought it in 1999.  Apparently he wanted just the crown-capped bottle. He trashed one of Britain’s historically significant perfume companies and kept the hideous, tacky top to the bottle. The baby and the bathwater come to mind. I’ve tried two others in the line, Malabar and Eau de Russe. I never imagined that Crown Rose would be the most intriguing of the bunch.

Tea-rose perfumes tend to fall on the quaint side of prettiness rather than the drop-dead side of gorgeousness. Crown Rose messes with you a bit, though, and subverts your expectation. The top-notes tell you that it will be a simple sundress of a rose soliflor. The first hint that your first impression might have been wrong is a rising sourness that undercuts the unassuming, dewy topnotes. Seen from 2015, this perfume is like a mash-up of Doris Day’s “I feel Pretty” and Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You.”

The wonderful thing about Crown Rose, is that where it seems that it will be a simple soliflor it is in fact a meditation on sandalwood. I don’t know the exact vintage of my bottle of Crown Rose, but it’s old enough to have been made with a large helping of sandalwood. Sandalwood is creamy, rosy, sweet, thick. But it’s also curdled, sour and even foul-smelling. The blatancy of tea-rose soliflors can make them tiring even with brief exposure but Crown Rose deflects the caricature of a pretty rose with a sweaty, yogurt-smelling sandalwood note. The typical, over-flattering portrait of tea-rose becomes skewed as if the canvas has warped and the proportions of the face are altered.

Marilyn Monroe manipulated the low expectation of her audience and made many of them believe that she was just ‘some dumb blond’. The cleverness of this perfume will escape you if you fall for the low expectation of prettiness in a tea-rose.

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