Papillon Artisan Perfumes Tobacco Rose, 2014

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Perfumer, Liz Moores.

Rose’s complex olfactory make-up gives it flexibility but expectation can get in the way of an easy range of motion. The person looking for a sunshiny soliflor won’t necessarily dig an earthy rose/patchouli or a mossy rose chypre. And there are assumptions to navigate. Dewy roses imply innocence and boozy roses seduce. A garden rose is Elizabeth Bennet but a candied rose is Lolita. A misjudged tone creates the wrong impression and drama ensues. The stakes are high with a symbolically loaded flower.

So what sort of rose should we expect from a fetching English perfumer nestled in the countryside? A blushing rose? A sundress and parasol number? Remember before you answer: this is the perfumer who would a year later give us Salome, the fire-breathing jasmine.

Bucking any expectation of gentility, Tobacco Rose lives large. The top notes come bounding out of the bottle and create an exaggerated flower. It is oversized but proportionate enough to avoid caricature. Tobacco Rose is a dypso amber-rose with a green streak though the center to keep it steady. The splash of acidity brings out the jammy balsamic heart and introduces the bit of tension that keeps the honeyed ambery base in line. Creating a floral perfume is a particular type of fiction and Tobacco Rose tells a great story.

The aromas of rose and fresh tobacco go hand in hand. The lemony aspects of rose match the sappy bitterness of tobacco and create a lush woody floral accord, as in Sophia Grojsman’s Beautiful for Estée Lauder. * Liz Moores says she looked closely at various tobacco absolutes but opted to build her own accord. She uses hay, rose geranium and a touch of galbanum to recreates the live, sultry scent of fresh tobacco leaves. Tobacco matches the bright, leafy rose of the topnotes and folds smoothly into the waxy balsamic base.

Tobacco Rose isn’t retro in the least, but neither is it ‘modern’ in the sleek, streamlined sense of the word. It is the successor to the big rose chypres of the 1980s, all of which have had their wingspans clipped and their confidence shaken by the IFRA. When I wear Tobacco Rose, I feel like I’m letting out a breath I’ve been holding since the the ’80s rose chypres began their long goodbye. Moores seems too well-versed in perfume history not to have at least considered Tobacco Rose’s relationship to these bad-assed chypres.

Moores hit the ground running in 2014 with a bold perspective on classical perfumery’s Big Three Flowers. Anubis’s gasoline-jasmine was ferocious and Angélique’s melancholic iris was introspective. Tobacco Rose strikes a different tone–as bombastic as Anubis, but less threatening. It shares Angélique’s lushness but forgoes the moodiness. It’s the most approachable fragrance of the trio but doesn’t settle for less. It aims for pleasure and hits its target dead-on.

Sample from a bottle I purchased.

(Image, Silva-Thins ad, 1980s.)


* I’m from a small part of Connecticut called the Tobacco Valley. The summer air near the fields was filled the scent of tobacco growing under shade-cloth in the fields and curing in the barn. It was green and sappy but also woody and floral. It’s a pervasive sweet scent with only a passing resemblance to dried smoking tobacco.




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