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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Diverse Trio of Montale Roses: Highness Rose, Roses Elixir & Taif Roses

By Donna

The house of Parfums Montale is well known for its use of rose and oud in perfumes, both separately and together, and sometimes I think the very popular oud scents overshadow its excellent treatment of roses. Some of their most outstanding fragrances are based on the many different styles of rose, and recently I have had the opportunity to try some of them that were not in my local shop. This reinforced my already high opinion of the house, and if anyone is looking for a fine rose perfume for their collection, Montale is a great resource.

Highness Rose is a bit of a departure for Montale as it is a fresh, uncluttered rose soliflore with none of the expected embellishments so familiar to Montale fans. Dewy and a little green yet with a deeply honeyed quality, it is probably the most “innocent” fragrance from this house I have ever smelled. Rich yes, but pleasingly unadorned in order to let the qualities of the rose shine through, and it is obvious that this house is really using the good stuff in its rose scents. Highness Rose is one of the few fragrances from Montale, known for its over-the-top signature style, which can actually be worn in public in amounts larger than a single discreet dab. It’s the kind of rose fragrance that is very much at ease anywhere, even in hot weather where a sweeter one might get too heady. The slightly green aspect reminds me a little of another of my favorite rose soliflores, DSH Perfumes Rose Vert, but Highness rose takes the rosy part to the next level, as it is virtually nothing but roses, roses and more roses, as though they could not stuff enough of the blossoms into the perfume. The catch, of course, is that Highness Rose is in the Montale Confidential Collection and only available in their Paris boutiques, for about $900 USD for the large size, so I don’t expect to get a bottle anytime soon. If you have the chance to get a sample, please do so, because this is not a candidate for an un-sniffed purchase, no matter how good it is – and very good in this instance is an understatement.

On the other end of the range is the recently released Roses Elixir, a sweet confection of roses with a deliciously jammy strawberry, citrus, orange blossom, amber, musk and vanilla. I had eagerly wanted to try it since I am one of the apparently rare people who enjoy strawberry in perfumes, although I know it is a note that suffers a lot of abuse at the hands of perfumers making mainstream fragrances for the American teenager demographic. I once owned a delightful strawberry “soliflore” perfume from Fragonard that I dearly loved that was not an unfortunate and plasticky mistake like most of the breed, and I have been looking for another like it to no avail. Roses Elixir is not a replacement for the Fragonard since is very sweet, but not quite to the level of Montale’s tooth-revolving Mukhallat, which along with Chocolate Greedy is a rare Montale I cannot tolerate. It is also relatively linear and does not change a lot on my skin over time except for the gradual domination of the vanilla and amber base over the strawberry, or maybe it’s just getting even sweeter on my sugar-enhancing skin. It ends up being a comfort scent, hazy and warm and undemanding and I think it’s wonderful, although I can’t think of too many occasions for actually wearing it, since this is not a workplace perfume by any means. I have several perfumes that I mainly wear around the house when I am alone because they are too powerful for most social situations, but since I love them anyway I keep them just for my own pleasure. Roses Elixir would be in that category if I could ever justify buying a bottle, which would be much more affordable than Highness Rose at $115 for 50 ml. It can be found in the U.S. online at Luckyscent and finer stores that carry the line.

Yet another style of rose composition that is strikingly different from either of the other two is Taif Roses, a dry and exotic “desert rose” that is more akin to Montale’s core aesthetic so familiar to its ardent fans. It reminds me of a very upscale take on the old Ultima II Maroc, which I loved back in the day; it was a highly pitched and effusive rose of neon intensity, and if you did not like rose perfumes, well that was just too bad, because it broadcast itself far and wide with only a light spray. I still miss it, but I would be more than happy to own a bottle of Taif Roses instead. It is another one without any oud, but it has some of the oomph of Aoud Queen Rose, Aoud Damascus and Aoud Roses Petales, due to the use of the pungent geranium which gives it a lot of “throw.” There is an unusual farina-like note in this that I quite like and I don’t know what it’s from, but it is very pleasant and it provides a contrast to the sharpness of the rose/geranium complex. The rose character is pure Damask in the manner of its namesake Ta’if roses in Arabia. This perfume skirts the edge of having too much geranium for my taste when it first goes on, in the manner of the old Tea Rose by Perfumer’s Workshop, but it is grounded enough that’s it’s not too thin and it settles and smoothes out nicely after a short time. I don’t get a lot of civet, if any, until I have worn it for several hours, but I do detect a subtle ambery note in the base that keeps the fragrance from being too sharp. It seems to have been dropped from the line, but I was able to find it on several discounter sites for not much more than $100, which is a bargain for this niche brand.

Montale has taken a lot of flak for making too many similar perfumes, but at least they are making good ones that people like. How can you go wrong with a high quality rose perfume anyway? It’s kind of like complaining that Entenmann’s makes too many kinds of delicious breakfast pastries. I guess if I were not a fan of rose, oud, vanilla, sweet fruit notes or the other main ingredients in their fragrances I could find something to criticize, but what can I say, I love these big, rich luscious perfumes, and as long as they keep them coming all I can do is enjoy the show.

Image credit: Pink cake with sugar roses from, original source unknown.

Disclosure: The samples of Montale perfumes were all gifts from fellow perfume lovers.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful and informative review. I've been a little rose-obsessed lately, so this was timely for me.

11:23 AM EDT  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

I really loved reading this, Donna (as well as Tom's recent review of Montale Roses Musk), because my view is the same. I find Montale's rose scents mesmerizingly beautiful, I like more than a couple of their ouds, and it bothers me not one bit that they've created seemingly infinite variations on these two themes (after all, it's their business, they know their customers, and I think they're doing it well. I've heard many glowing remarks about their customer service on the perfume blogs and forums). Thanks for the well-written reviews on these three that I haven't tried yet.

1:13 PM EDT  
Anonymous Kym said...

Why is it that the idea of roses in summer heat does not sit well with me? I see my bottles and think, "nah, when it's cooler." Does anyone else feel this way?

1:22 PM EDT  
Anonymous Joanna said...

I'm eager to try Roses Elixir in particular. I make homemade jam, actually I'm a bit of a mad scientist, always trying new and odd mixtures just to see what happens. Making jam makes me think about perfume and I always wish there were more, "jammy" scents.

2:08 PM EDT  
Blogger Parfumista said...

I really enjoy Montales fragrances and think there are enough differences between them to justify wearing for example several of their rose and rose/oud scents.
I can't understand the critizism of the house in many perfume blogs and other perfume communities during the last one-two years.Montale is the forerunner, many years before the oud trend and I think some reviewers lessen the Montales and much more value less interesting oud/rose compositions from the followers in soon almost every nichehouse. And Montales customer service when calling their shop in Paris is outstanding.

2:15 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks for stopping by, anotherperfumeblog! I am on a rose kick too, and I don't want it to stop!

11:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Suzanne! I am still working my way through the Montale catalogue too, and I have been very pleased so far. The difficulty is choosing which rose perfume I like best!

11:52 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Kym, I can see how some of them might not work in summer - like maybe Rosine's Rose Kashmirie - but the greener ones work well for me. Of course, those around me may not feel the same! ;-0

11:54 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Joanna, I love jammy rose perfumes! Have you ever made rose petal syrup or preserves? They are so delicious that way! Adding rose syrup to raspberry preserves is just divine.

11:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Parfumista, I completely agree! Why are they criticized for doing something so well? I don't understand it. And they were the leader with oud - it would not be so popular now in Western perfumery if it were not for their excellent oud scents.

11:59 PM EDT  
Anonymous Joanna said...

Flora, yes I love using rose petals in jam and other recipes! I was inspired years ago by the book Like Water For Chocolate...the quail with rose petals scene has never left me.

12:47 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I simply adore Oud Queen Roses by Montale, it was my first 'must have lest I die from wont' into the niche market. No one does rose like Montale with their Black and White Aouds, and don't even get me going on Attar . . .breathtaking. I pay no mind to the naysayers regarding their volume of product, no one is holding a gun to my head to buy them. I have Ta'if rose as well and am now feeling the need to revisit it. It struck me as a soliflore, but now I feel I must try again to see what 'shows up'. One of the aspects of Montale that appreciate is the lasting power of their fragrances, the intensity, and the marvelous sillage. I never have to hold my wrist to my nose to wonder "Hey, where did it go?" Thanks for a lovely review and for showcasing a line that I think has not gotten the accolades it deserves!

7:09 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

we're rosy over here this week!

5:37 PM EDT  
Anonymous Claudia0219 said...

Donna Roses Elixir is one of my favorite Montale Rose fragrances right behind Roses Petals. To me the Roses Elixir is not straight up Roses which makes it appealing to me. Also in case people don't know, if you contact the Montale Paris store you can get a 100ml bottle for around $128 free shipping and a free 20ml bottle of the same or another fragrance of your choice, which to me is a fab deal.

10:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, yes we are! I am really on a rose roll!

1:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks so much, Anonymous! I totally agree about Montale.

1:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Claudia, that is very good to know, thank you!

1:23 AM EDT  

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