Rose perfume has always sort of disgusted me. I mean, I love the smell of roses—who doesn’t?—but it always felt that, worn as perfume, it signified some sort of insipid girliness. Or old ladies. As it stands, I, myself, am not very rosy by nature. I tend to favor things black, angular, and a little bit stern. Rose imagery doesn't really become me.
However, after I realized my love for Frapin’s Nevermore (an Edgar Allan Poe-inspired musky rose), my friend Morgan recommended that I branch out a little from my regular scent of cigarettes and vetiver. Turns out, as often happens when I make blanket statements that are pretty much unfounded, I was wrong. I do like rose. But I like it to have a little kick—a little focus elsewhere on its drydown…and you don’t often find that in commercial scents. So, I’m giving you a warning: these are not the cheapest fragrances you’re going find. But they are some of the best. You're gonna like the way you smell; I guarantee it.
Odin Milieu Rosa
A store that sells designers like 3.1 Phillip Lim and Comme des Garçons, Odin also make genderless perfumes that have always been pretty musky. But, last year, they launched The White Line, a range of scents that are significantly lighter than their usual offering. Milieu Rosa is super-floral, with top notes of Moroccan rose. But because Odin incorporates the entire rose plant into the fragrance—thorns and all—the impact is remarkably bright, fresh and airy rather than heavy or cloying. Also—and this happened when I wore Nevermore non-stop for months on end—my barista is obsessed with it. Every time I wear it, she freaks out about how good and clean I smell. Makes getting coffee all that more enjoyable.
Les Liquides Imaginaire Dom Rosa
Because I’m still a devoted goth at heart, Les Liquides Imaginaire’s Eaux Sanguines—inspired by holy wines and apparently intended to “penetrate like a wound or a betrayal'—is right down my street. Dom Rosa's deliciously boozy champagne top note stops it from being too pungently feminine, while a darkly, fruity, and woody drydown means that it wears with a musky romance rather than making you smell like you’ve been hanging out at the bar for too long. Plus, it is a weird violet color in the bottle. So goth. So good.
Le Labo Rose 31
Famously cool, Le Labo’s Rose 31 is like a grown-up and chic version of my teenage favorite, Stella by Stella McCartney. Although it smells pretty rosy on its first spray, it wears delicately woody and spicy (with plenty of cumin), with earthy, oud-y undertones and a heavy dose of vetiver. It is legitimately androgynous and has a deliciously familiar sense to it. I’m completely besotted and now want to buy every Le Labo product that has ever been created.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian À La Rose
Francis Kurkdjian is best known for being the nose behind Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male, the perfume that comes in those ridiculously good bottles shaped like the torso of a man. He’s like the Lagerfeld of the perfume world, and has created scents for everyone from Lanvin to Dior—but his own house, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, mixes my favorites. À La Rose is inspired by Marie Antoinette and, although it’s more soft and powdery than I usually like, it’s got a citrusy kick from oranges and lemons that make it refreshingly grown up and unusually delicious.
Juliette Has A Gun Lady Vengeance
OK, this is the best-named brand ever. Lady Vengeance also has Francis Kurkdjian (possibly my future husband?) behind it, so I’m down. It’s a velvety blend of patchouli and rose but is light enough to wear during the day while smelling weirdly and intensely sexy. That’s what I want to smell like. Weird and intensely sexy. Maybe I’ll wear it to stalk Francis.
—Olivia J. Singer
Photographed by Tom Newton.