On The Oudification of Perfumanity: Czech & Speake Dark Rose
I believe it would be fair to call Dark Rose (2003) a cult favorite. At least I remember it being very much loved around 2004-2005-ish, when I first discovered Makeupalley. And at the danger of making swiping generalizations, I am also going to call it, along with Donna Karan Chaos (1996) and YSL M7 (2002), one of the first "oud" scents we wore, before we really knew about ouds. The exact date is hard to pinpoint, but just a little later, Montale suddenly appeared on the scene, and then seemingly all we wore and talked about and lemmed were ouds. Then every brand jumped on the oudwagon. And then we also got to try Real Stuff, non-adapted for "western" liking, and then Montales etc. weren't good enough (oudy enough) anymore...So, anyway, this is my version of how the oudification of perfumanity went down. Dark Rose and its comrades* made us receptive to ouds, prepared the soil of our collective taste, so to say, like, um, Decabrists prepared the soil for Lenin.
...Coming back to Dark Rose... The fragrance has not lost its appeal for me, possibly because it's not really about oud. It is a rose blend in which oud (as well as patchouli, sandalwood and amber) was used to achieve a dry-smoky effect...to paint an image of smoldering and scorched petals...When I first apply the perfume, the rose is fresh, ripe, nectarous...but almost right away it catches on fire lit by saffron and agarwood and starts burning on my skin...the aroma that is released by that flame is incomparable to any other rose perfume I know...it is as if the petals were first caramelized and then torched. That vaguely gourmand quality of the rose is unexpected and appealing in such a dry, nocturnal, brooding composition. Never has a scent been so rightly named; Czech & Speake's creation rules the pantheon of Dark Roses.
As an aside, since I am already on the subject of Cz&S and roses, the brand's other rendition of the flower, called simply, Rose (1988), while perhaps not as striking, is also a very elegant blend, which might delight those who don't like their roses sweet. Spiked by the verdant spiciness of geranium in the top notes, Rose softens in the heart, where its angles are smoothed by creamy ylang ylang. The dry, green leitmotif is, however, present throughout the development and even the rich, slightly earthy base retains a hint of geranium.
*Some other fragrances that have been sneaking oud in our olfactory wardrobes long before it was all ouds, all the time are: Balenciaga Pour Homme (1990!), Nina Ricci (!) Deci-Dela (1994), Gap Om (1996), Yves Rocher Nature Millenaire (2000) and Rykiel Woman (2003). Have you worn an oud way back then and haven't realised it? Do tell!
Dark Rose and Rose can be found at shoplondons.com, $130.00 and $125.00 for 100ml respectively.