Image, Loretta Lux.
Perfumers are often associated with a particular genre or style. Instead Tauer takes a flower and makes it his focus. He uses it to find his way through and around a number of identifiable genres. He uses rose to play with the notion of what a “note” is.
With each of the perfumes, we’re questioned. Is rose a material? Is rose a note? A set of notes? Is the rose of Noontide Petals the same rose you smell in PHI? The question isn’t, are the rose oils in the various perfumes from different sources? It is, what is rose? Is a rose conceptually the same in each of the perfumes?
We can skirt the topic a little bit by relying on the generosity of the rose. Rose materials, botanical and aromachemical, contain a large range of olfactory qualities. Any single rose material can be used to make a soliflor, a chypre, a floriental, a woody floral. As with lemon, many aromachemicals and botanicals smell of rose. Rosewood, rose geranium, palmarosa, damascenones, geraniol, rose oxides. In perfumery, the question ins’t so much what is rose? It’s, what is rosiness? What are the denominators of rosy aromas?
Incense Rose (2008) Spiced rose.
Tauer’s first rose perfume places rose at the center of an East meets West dialogue. As a bright citrus rose, it follows the canons of traditional European composition. As a resinous, spicy incense perfume, it alludes to the balsamic, dark woody roses of Arabic perfumery. Rose bridges the two traditions and is the effusive and logical sequel to the spiced floriental Le Maroc and the citrus /resinous Incense Extreme.
Une Rose Chyprée (2009) alludes to genre without being trapped by it. It’s an interesting answer to the looming question: post IFRA restrictions, can a true chypre still be made? With Une Rose Chyprée Tauer not only plays with the concept of the rose, he laughs at the genre and those of us who fret over it. Une Rose Chyprée has all the complexity and glamor of a chypre, but none of the austerity. The amber of the chypre triad becomes the dominant presence in the perfume and it could just as easily be called an ‘oriental’ as a chypre. Tauer hints at the genre in the name of the perfume, but the perfume is less a literal chypre than a figurative one. Une Rose Chyprée manipulates the attributes of a chypre more than the notes themselves. Tauer works from his strengths as a perfumer and folds ambery, resinous rosy notes into a voluptuous wet kiss of a perfume.
Une Rose vermeille (2010) Rose confection.
Une Rose Vermeille is a particular slice of rose, amplified. In lieu of the green, lemony wafting quality of a rose on the bush, Rose Vermeilles creates a sweet rose-berry confection. It alters the proportions of rose the way a Manga cartoon plays with the geometry of a face to give it a doll-like appearance. At first sniff, Une Rose Vermeille might seem like the most conventional of Tauer’s roses. After all, it is fruity-floral. In fact, the sweetness is accented by a touch of spun sugar that lifts both the berry and rose notes about half an octave higher than their normal ranges.
The transition from the top notes to the heart notes captures the overall tenor of the perfume. The sweetness of the topnotes attenuates and the topnotes fold in on themselves and coalesce into a papery, cardboard-like backdrop. Sweet, yet matte. The pixie-dust sparkle of the topnotes fades but the jamminess of the berry/rose intensifies like a reduction.
Une Rose Vermeille is surprisingly the most subversive rose in Tauer’s repertoire. Unlike the others, it lands squarely in an identifiable genre, the fruity floral. Fruity floral perfumes are fairly obstinate. They tend to be linear and say the same thing at 30 paces that they do at cheek-kissing distance. They are meant to convey an affiliation, an inclusion in a group, and therefore are intended for the audience, not the wearer. Une Rose Vermeille, a rose in three acts, performs for the benefit of the wearer. If those around you are uncomfortable with ambiguity it might be confusing.
Une Rose de Khandahar/PHI (2013) A portrait of a note.
PHI is also a fruity floral, but it couldn’t be more different than Une Rose Vermeille. Tauer deflates the expectations of the genre and PHI is in fact his least sweet rose. Not syrupy, not juicy. The rose is dry and the apricot is waxy, not fully ripe. It has an objective, removed feel. Wearing it is like viewing a portrait and the experience is more about reflection than being taken on a ride. Taking in a portrait is a contemplation of the subject, the artist, the observer, and the connections and distances between them. This sort of engagement, whether with a portrait or a perfume, is extremely satisfying. PHI suits me.
Noontide Petals (2013) takes on the aldehyde, a love/hate note-genre. The floral-aldehyde genre is burdened by identifiers: soapy, feminine, retro, sparkly. It is readable even to non-perfume wearers. In the hundred years or so that they’ve been used in perfumery, aldehydes have come to have the most narrow and closed set of connotations. Even a person who has never smelled Joy or No. 5 will, on smelling it, pronounce it,”Old Lady Perfume. “
Tauer steers us away not from aldehydes, but from our associations with them. In this case not the technical, olfactory definition, but their shared emotive and cultural meaning. No. 5 and Joy have been marketed to women for decades and consequently the floral aldehyde has become synonymous with ‘femininity.’ As a note, if not as a set of materials, aldehydes are for girls.
But Noontime Petals states otherwise. It suggests state and mood but remains abstract. It doesn’t so much overthrow the old assumptions as broaden horizons. The beauty of the floral aldehyde is available to any man who would wear it without quite the gender-crossing of wearing the Chanel or the Patou.
Rose Flash is the joker of Tauer Perfume’s roses. Only briefly available online. No notes listed. Green, sweet, resinous, effusive. It smells more specifically rose-like than the other Tauer roses, but it also smells like much more than rose. It’s more enigma than contradiction. Most commentary I’ve read about Rose Flash discussed its sweetness, its gourmand categorization. I don’t doubt its ambery tone, but I find it green and tart. It’s the balance point between resinousness and piquancy. It leans in many directions, but doesn’t fall into any one category.
Edmond Roudnitska flipped perfumery upside-down and made the first true perfume manifesto with Diorissimo. Rose Flash might not be such a statement of revolutionary intent, but by sidestepping the preliminary mention of notes as a the lead-in to understanding the perfume, Tauer calls us out. He throws the gauntlet and probably laughs a bit. It’s classic block-box theory. It’s you and the perfume. No story, no list of imaginary notes to guide you. What do you make of it?
Andy Tauer talks about his work and his blog is a low-hype view into his process. His PR is mercifully free of typical marketing hyperbole and his blog is an ongoing open letter to those who take an interest in his work. In fact, it’s almost cunning the way he doesn’t tell you ‘about’ his perfume. That task is left to you. His Roses are like a trail of breadcrumbs that take you into a garden-forest. Turn around and the crumbs might be gone, but there you are. What a great place to be lost.
Still, as a particular body of work, Tauer’s roses can be interpreted and throw some light on the perfumer’s understanding of perfume. The subject (the rose) might be common to all of the above perfumes, but the investigation of the topic allows the wearer to speculate on the thinking behind them. The perfumes inform each others and Tauer gives us a brilliant opportunity to ponder the meaning of perfume. They also can be worn at face value and are a remarkably satisfying set of perfumes to wear.