Tom Ford Café Rose, 2012

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Perfumer Antoine Lie.

This is the Rose of the twisted Garden? Antoine Lie, l’enfant terrible, was the perfumer? Maybe I’ve gotten high on the fumes the smoldering rose chypres of the 70s-80s, but twisted or noir this ain’t.

Woody roses are easy in concept. There is a logical fit and a mutual enhancement. Because rose provides its own top, middle and base, the pairing with woods is logical. Patchouli, incense, sandlewood: Cafe Rose has them all. Amber, another expected match with rose, rounds out the mix.

Antoine Lie has visited this idea with colleague Antoine Maisondieu in Rossy de Palma Eau de Protection for Etat Libre d’Orange. Rossy plays with a dark rose and woods, also, but uses spice and chocolate as well as tones of metal, dust and blood. Unfortunately, Cafe Rose is best captured in what it is not. Not particularly outstanding or inspiring, not polarizing (not a good sign) and to my mind, given the competition in the niche market, not worth the price.

Cafe Rose isn’t a particularly ambitious perfume. The only sense of noir it conveys is, ‘Hey. It’s dark in here. Where’s the light switch?’ The concept isn’t new and the execution is uneventful. It conveys a feeling of the satisfaction of connecting the dots. The components are in place, the bits all connect; therefore the perfume is good. To its credit, the perfume doesn’t fall apart or become unbalanced. If you like the opening, you’ll likely enjoy the rest of the perfume. But the bar just seems to be set low, and the risk-averse Cafe Rose favors balance over richness, competence over inspiration.

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