If you want to woo me, don’t bring roses. Nothing intended to please most women pleases me, and while it’s true that it is the thought that counts, when you can buy “a dozen exotic roses for $9.99” while you’re filling up your gas tank, there was no thought. My aversion to rose in perfume is even stronger– rose is so often used in commercial products to cover up toxic smells like lye that I smell it and think Nair, or hair relaxer.
However, one of my most perverse pleasures in perfume is finding fragrances with notes I hate that nonetheless wow me. I love woody notes, so if I find a new woody fragrance that smells good, I’m happy but it doesn’t amaze me. On the other hand, give me something I hate in a way that makes me love it, and it’s like magic. For this reason, I continue to sample rose fragrances.
Maria Candida Gentile’s Cinabre does away with my first objection because there is nothing common about it. Its opening is downright weird. When I was a child we used to frequent a deli called Wolfie’s that kept uncovered metal buckets full of pickles and relish on the tables all day long. My mother forbade me to eat them because she was sure people spit in them when no one was looking. Maybe she was right, and in any case I don’t really like pickles or relish, but because they were forbidden they took on a real fascination.
When I tried on Cinabre the first thing it reminded me of was those vats of pickles. It smelled exactly like pickled roses. At first I thought it might be my imagination, but I enlisted the three people nearest to me at the time and they agreed that pickled roses were what they were perceiving. Nobody wants to go to work smelling of such a thing, and I debated scrubbing, but I decided to give it a shot.
Fortunately, within ten minutes, one of the base notes, opoponax, pushed the pickles aside. For two hours it smelled like a blend of opoponax and roses, but real garden roses, not the gas station or masking fragrance kind. At this stage it is quite lovely, and perfectly appropriate for work.
Somewhere around noon it changed again, and my mind strained to recognize the familiar scent. The words “lipstick rose” sprung to mind and I realized I was thinking not of the Frederic Malle perfume but of the smell of Revlon lipstick. It’s one I’ve always found pleasing, but not so much that I want to spend $120 on it.
Six hours in Cinabre changes again, to smell exactly like real roses dipped in fondue chocolate. It’s not an unpleasant scent, but the jump from pickled roses to lipstick to dessert roses leaves me a bit dizzy. In the event I admire this fragrance for being different more than I actually like it, but I suspect people who are crazy about rose would feel differently.
According to Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief of Cafleurebon, the notes of Cinabre are as follows:
Top: Ginger, Black Pepper, and Rose Baies (pink pepper)
Heart: Splendens Rose, Moroccan Rose, Rose de Mai
Base: Benzoin, Vanilla, Opoponax
She notes that the fragrance contains 79% natural essences, which explains to me why its quality is readily apparent, and states, “The smoky effect is from the splendens rose, which has myrrh nuances, a very unusual ingredient.”
I don’t get pepper from this, but I believe it is the ginger causing the pickle perception. (If you like sushi you’ll know that some places serve it with fresh ginger, while others used pickled; it is definitely reminiscent of the latter.) The roses are present more or less throughout, but their side dishes set the tone for the different stages of the fragrance.
Cinabre can be purchased in the U.S. from Henri Bendel (800-423-6335), Parfum1, Indiescents, Parfumerie Nasreen, and Olfactif, and in Europe from Maria Candida Gentile’s own site. Sillage is close but longevity is excellent; I applied this at 8 a.m. this morning and it is still going strong almost thirteen hours later.
DISCLAIMER: I received a free sample of this as part of a one month trial membership to Olfactif. I have no material connection to Olfactif or Maria Candida Gentile.