And also for women, of course - we don't discriminate here at Art de Parfum! Our motto is: if you love it, wear it. Don't let a label put you off.
That said, we know that men can be a bit wary of wearing rose-based fragrances, so this list is curated specially for them.
What is it about the smell of roses that make men categorize it as strictly for women? In truth – nothing. There is nothing gender-specific about the smell of roses per se, and if you study rose oils carefully, you will see that the rose aroma is made up of several different facets that should be easy for a man to wear – roses are simultaneously lemony-citrusy, green-leafy, honeyed, peppery, and sometimes extremely animalic. But somehow, taken together, this note seems to be intrinsically linked in our minds with the Feminine.
The secret to making a rose fragrance wearable to a man is in its construction. You can mask the persistent sweetness of rose with earthy patchouli, clove, pepper, and leather. Or you can use it strategically as a counterpoint to darker, woodier materials like oud. In these cases, the rose lends sweetness and lushness to materials that are dark, bitter, or very masculine, and the rose gains depth and gravitas – a great trade-off!
But perfumers can also use other materials to give a perfume a rosy tone without actually using rose otto or absolute. I am thinking here of geranium leaf, raspberry, and chemically isolated components of rose such as damascones. In more animalic rose ottos, you can also see the relationship with honey, civet, and lemon (citronella oils).
For example, rose-themed fragrances built using a related material such as geranium leaf give you the intensely green, herbal, and lemony facets of the rose without the pinker, lusher, sweeter side of rose. I thought of this myself when making Sensual Oud – I wanted men to feel comfortable wearing it, so I used geranium leaf to give the oud wood note that green, herbal rosy tint without weighing it down in sweetness. The result is a rose that even men will love wearing.
By the way, as you can see from this photo, I am crazy about roses myself. I love their colors, their scent, the way they look - everything. But I am also crazy about a rose scent on a guy. There is nothing more surprising or attractive as the contrast between the smell of roses and the sight of a masculine, stubbly chin. Here is a list of my top ten rose fragrances that men can easily wear:
Sensual Oud by Art de Parfum
Sensual Oud uses the aforementioned geranium leaf to create the rose note, and its bright, herbal feel is a welcome contrast to the smoky, leathery oud and the hot, spicy clove. It is an incredibly sensual, exotic fragrance that uses the rosy note cleverly, using its sweet brightness to balance out the noble, sour smokiness of oud. If I smelled this on a man, I would feel compelled to follow him, press him against a wall, and bury my nose in his neck. You can buy Sensual Oud here.
No. 88 by Czech and Speake
No. 88 also uses geranium leaf to provide a strong rosy note without any sweet “pinkness”. It is a herbal, aromatic rose fragrance, and quite dark in tone. It is a very masculine treatment of rose, placing the rose in the context of a barbershop fougere, which makes it an elegant choice for the man who still believes in dressing for dinner.
Black Aoud by Montale
Black Aoud was one of the first commercially successful fragrances to bring the concept of the rose-oud combination to the Western market. It’s a classic – and for good reason. The rose is strong and sweet here, but is a necessary counterpoint to the rubbery, medicinal oud that Montale uses and the inky-black patchouli. Notoriously strong, this is definitely a rose that men can wear without the worry of being pigeonholed.
Voleur de Roses by L’Artisan Parfumeur
Here the name refers to a rose that is “stolen” by a masked intruder, in other words, the damp, earthy patchouli. Voleur de Roses smells like lush rose petals that have been dashed to the ground by a rainstorm, where they lie bleeding into the dark, wet soil underneath. A dramatic and dark fragrance, I would suggest Voleur de Roses to men who are looking for a gothic take on rose.
Le Labo Rose 31
If you’re a man and scared of roses, then this is an excellent place to start! For one, Rose 31 barely contains any rose at all. It is more a fragrance centered on warm, brusque woods with an overload of animalic spices like caraway and cumin than a rose fragrance per se. But it’s a fabulous scent nonetheless – a cozy, spicy woodsy scent to wrap yourself up in on a cold winter’s day.
Domenico Caraceni 1913 by Domenico Caraceni
An absolute gem and a must-have for any gentleman, Domenico Caraceni 1913 frames a red rose against a backdrop of aromatic herbs, a hot clove-like carnation, and dusty, gruff tobacco. The rose here is subtle and a little soapy, as if you’ve just shaved using a rose shaving soap. Underneath the rose and tobacco, there is a wonderfully smoky frankincense that lingers like incense on cold church air.
Lyric Man by Amouage
Although I personally prefer the darker, smokier Lyric Woman, I have a soft spot for Lyric Man too – it was the first Amouage I ever smelled and I instantly fell for it. It is a fresh, almost watery rose surrounded by citrus and green notes. It smells clean and bright, like a favorite sweater taken out of the dryer. Suitable for men to wear even during hot weather, which is not something you can say about many other oriental fragrances.
Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle
Despite the name, this is a rose fragrance that tilts ever so slightly towards the male end of the spectrum – so wear it without fear. The opening of raspberry and camphor is stunning, because it serves to sharpen the palate for the hot, lush rose that follows. Soon, the rose is swallowed up by a smoky incense and earthy patchouli, and swathed in a persistent musk. The rose is an important part of Portrait, but for me plays second fiddle to the incense, woods, and musk.
Rose Poivree by The Different Company
Rose Poivree is intensely animalic and peppery, in fact resembling very closely some of the more animalic, “skanky” pure rose oils I have smelled. The rose here is made sharp and “hot” with a strident black pepper note, which also brings it close to traditional male perfumery. There is also cumin, civet, and coriander seed, and a dark, musky cedar, all of which frame the rose perfectly. This is a devastating scent on the right man.
Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligon’s
The rose in Hammam Bouquet is dry and dusty, more rose potpourri than a fresh, live rose on the stem. It plays perfectly against the soapy aromatics and woods, creating an old-fashioned (but amazing-smelling) dandy scent that goes perfectly with a hot shave and a warm towel handed to you by a pool attendant as you climb out of the Turkish bath. I like Hammam Bouquet because it is Victorian in both its buttoned-down feel and love for exotic, oriental touches.
Other amazing roses: Space doesn’t permit us to list everything, but other rose fragrances we love on men include 1876 by Histoires de Parfums, Mayfair by Creed, Egoiste by Chanel, Geranium Bourbon by Miller Harris, Paestum Rose by Eau d’Italie, and Rossy de Palma by Etat Libre d’Orange.
What rose fragrances do YOU love? Feminine, masculine – we don’t care. We want to hear about your absolute favorites!