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The Smell of the Rose

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

This summer I had the good fortune to experience an aromatic rose flight. Unlike a flight of wine, you don’t have to drink the roses, not literally.  You inhale deeply and take in the heavenly aromas from a selection of varietals, each one being remarkably different from the next - there are over 150 species of roses and countless hybrids for every occasion and climate. I should point out that rose petals are edible and if you’ve never had a rose-infused beverage (cocktail, tea, latte, sparkling water), you are missing out.  In this case, I was at a prized rose garden so I refrained from eating the petals for fear of bodily harm.  Luckily, our olfactory system plays a big role in how we perceive flavors so in a way, I did taste the intoxicating roses.

I started my aromatic flight with a Romantica rose - a delicate bloom in a pinkish orange color so serene, it looked like the sky at dawn.  I inhaled deeply and was surprised by the fruity, juicy notes.  A ripe delicacy. Narcotic, sweet peaches and floral honey. I was transported to lazy summer day, picnics with the family, home cooked meals. There was something very nostalgic and comforting about this rose. I suddenly felt hungry and my eyes were misty. Was this my Ratatouille moment?

My second rose was a traditional red. A type of English with an intense Damask essence. A regal classic that has become the iconic aroma of a rose. If beauty had aroma, then surely this would be its bouquet. Intensely floral, at once bold and delicate; hypnotic and calming; intoxicating and provocative. I fell in love. I wanted to crush it with my fingers and inhale it whole. I wanted to consume it. I’m still coming to terms with the destructive part of this powerful response.       

I moved on to a pale yellow Tea rose, cheery and approachable, with a ‘flower next door’ type of beauty. But there was nothing ordinary about the complex aroma, with notes of citrus, spices, herbs and flowery sweetness. True to its name, I smelled tea – a mysterious blend I could lose myself in for days trying to identify all its individual parts. It was the perfect balance of exotic and bold, light and airy. It was truly enchanting.

My flight ended with a Floribunda white rose. The transparent petals glimmered in the sunlight like gossamer butterfly wings. A fragile, fleeting beauty, even the aroma was pale and barely there.  I smelled green, leafy notes and… not much else. At first, I was disappointed.  Where was the floral rose aroma?  I felt cheated.  I inhaled some more and began to appreciate the clean notes, the wisps of veiled perfume, like unripe fruit, promising a sweetness that is yet to unfold.  There was a peaceful purity in this bouquet; an ethereal quality, like it’s shimmery petals.

If I had to choose one to take home with me, I would be at a loss.  All four varieties are unique beauties to be treasured. They inspired me profoundly. Aroma evokes powerful emotions and memories. It has the power to influence and transport the mind.  My flight experience - what I smelled - is steeped deep in the essence of my past and my present adventures as a perfumer and phytophile. Where would your aromatic rose flight take you, I wonder?

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