There are some houses that simply leave you cold, generating an apathetic indifference at best, and a raging dislike the rest of the time. Atelier Cologne is one of those for me, a brand that I find whiter than rice a good portion of the time with perfectly serviceable fragrances that are burdened by an incredibly mundane, safe, pedestrian character. For me, they never stand out except, on occasion, in the absolute worst way possible. (A future review for Mistral Patchouli will make that very clear.) A few Atelier scents (like Orange Sanguine) have brief moments that are utterly gorgeous, but all of them inevitably devolve into an incredibly boring, linear singularity marked by a signature accord that drives me insane. Rose Anonyme is one of the most beloved in the line, and it is one of the better Atelier fragrances that I’ve tried. The scale is wholly relative, however, and “better” for Atelier Cologne means very little in my view in an absolute sense.
Atelier Cologne was started in 2010 by founders and romantic partners, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel. It is the first fragrance house entirely dedicated to fragrances in the classic cologne formulation. As many perfumistas know, eau de cologne is typically the mildest, weakest form of fragrance, so the creators decided to take it one step beyond. They created a whole new formulation of perfumery called the Cologne Absolue which seeks to amplify the freshness of a cologne with the longevity of an eau de parfum through the use of a much higher percentage of essential oils. Instead of using the usual 5%-7% levels, Atelier injects between 12% to 18% fragrance oils in their creations, while still maintaining a certain freshness. In my opinion, they achieve the latter through what seems to be a signature base accord of soapy, clean, fresh white musk. It is a signature that I’ve found in all their scents, and one which perpetually gives me a headache. More importantly, it smells bloody cheap.
Rose Anonyme was created by Jérome Epinette, and released in 2012. It is an eau de cologne absolue that contains 18% concentrated perfume oils, a level which is akin to that of some eau de parfums. Atelier Cologne describes the scent quite simply:
Rose Anonyme, a breathtaking seductress caught in a stolen affair between light and dark, Turkish Rose Absolute sparkles and intrigues beneath notes of spicy Ginger, enwrapped in sultry veil of Velvet Oud, Indonesian Patchouli, mystic Papyrus and Somalian Incense.
Atelier says that the full list of notes is:
Calabrian bergamot, Chinese ginger, Turkish rose essence, Turkish rose absolue, Somali incense, velvet oud accord, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, benzoin from Laos.
Rose Anonyme opens on my skin with a rose turned jammy and concentrated with the vile, dreaded, purple fruit-chouli. It is syrupy, excessively sweet, and smells strongly of grapes and fruit molasses. The duo are infused with a brief pop of crisp bergamot and, more importantly a whole lot of an arid, acrid papyrus. The latter smells both like ancient parchment paper and something wholly aroma-chemical in nature. Moments later, a soft, emasculated “oud” arrives, followed by the lightest whisper of candied ginger. Deep in the base, there are traces of a soapy tonality.
The whole thing is oddly acrid, jammy, syrupy, soft, intense, and candied, all at once. There are definite resemblances at this point to Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir in the richness of the blood-red rose infused with a grapey darkness, purple patchouli, and the merest flicker of muffled oud. However, the Tom Ford fragrance feels infinitely more luxurious, rich, deep, and smooth. It has no jangly rough edges, or notes of aroma-chemical aridity. It is also not cloying sweet, as the purple patchouli is much better calibrated. Later, as Rose Anonyme develops, it loses that kinship even more, as Noir de Noir takes on a powdered, violet quality that makes the fragrance resemble Turkish Delight.
In a number of perfumes, the attempt to create a “papyrus” impression is done through the use of something called Cypriol, an essential oil (or, sometimes, a synthetic) derived from the roots of the Cyperus scariosus plant. The latter is known in English as cypriol and in Hindi as Nagarmotha, and it is a member of the papyrus family. (You can read more about it on The Perfume Shrine‘s analysis of cypriol.) The only reason why I’m bringing it up here is many fragrances that claim to have “oud” really don’t. Andy Tauer argues that the vast majority just use a drop of “oudh” in a cypriol base. On his blog, he once wrote:
Often, “oudh” is used as a tag allowing brands to charge more because somehow everybody seems to think that perfume lovers are willing to pay extra for a fragrance with oudh notes. This does not make sense as there is not much oudh in anything. Yet, consumers pay the extra$$$ and are told that they get the exclusive fragrance with this expensive ingredient. This is wrong.
Apart from a drop or two, the rest of the “oudh” is bases, often with cypriol, in varying qualities, far away from the “real thing”. The real thing does not find its way into perfumes that you buy in your perfumery.
Atelier Cologne has the honesty to admit that Rose Anonyme only contains a “velvet oud accord,” but given the inclusion of “papyrus” and the way that particular note smells on my skin, I’d bet the whole thing is one laboratory-driven concoction. You definitely smell “papyrus” in Rose Anonyme, but if you’re expecting a significant oud aroma — let alone a genuine one — you’ll be sorely disappointed. On my skin, Rose Anonyme is merely fluctuating degrees of jammy rose infused with purple fruit-chouli and synthetic, acrid “papyrus.” And I cannot tell you how sick to death I am of fragrances that are essentially rose-patchouli soliflores.
The things that comes to mind repeatedly in the opening hour of Rose Anonyme are candy and soap. The richest, gooey-est, chewy, almost grapey candy sitting side by site with a bar of floral soap, close enough for the candy to pick up its small traces. The two are wrapped in a dry, acrid-smelling paper that almost has a grassy whisper to it. Something about the scent gives me a headache, though I’m not sure if it’s from the cloying sweetness or the cheap white musk that I find in so many Atelier scents. It is a synthetic cleanness that is always soapy at its core and, in this particular case, smells like really strong, sweetened, car freshener aerosol. If you’ve ever gone to a car wash and gotten the “rose” spray option for the inside of your vehicle, you’ll know a bit of what I mean.
The sweetness is intense, though I blame some of that on my skin. It always amplifies base notes, including anything sweet, and purple patchouli in particular. That said, I’ve noticed that the more you apply of Rose Anonyme, the worse it gets. With 2 sprays from my tiny atomizer or the equivalent of one good spray from a bottle, the sweetness is far too excessive for my personal tastes, but not so much as to make me want to scrub off the perfume. With 3 tiny sprays, however, amounting to 2 sprays from a proper bottle, the perfume is utterly unbearable. And there is no escape from it either, because Rose Anonyme initialy wafts a good 4-5 inches (regardless of quantity) in a dense cloud of rose jamminess.
Thirty minutes in, Rose Anonyme is a syrupy rose patchouli scent, with a subtle note of biting dryness and aridity, and the merest suggestion of some eunuch, emasculated “oud.” Unfortunately for me, it is now also trumpeting that Atelier signature of clean, fresh musk which always gives me a headache. Ignoring my personal sensitivity to white musk, I always find the note to have such an incredibly cheap feel. Any number of generic, mainstream, $50 floral scents in Sephora have it, perhaps because it is a way to comply with the modern mania for “freshness” at little to no cost to the manufacturer.
Speaking of Sephora, Atelier Cologne is now carried there, which says something. And the line has increased its prices so that the small 1 oz bottle now costs $75. Atelier may pretend to be “niche,” but it really is not. Plus, Rose Anonyme has a wholly generic, pedestrian profile that imitates a million other boring rose-patchouli-white musk scents also carried at Sephora. The degree of my boredom knows no bounds.
Rose Anonyme is an extremely linear scent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that if you like the notes in question, but, in this case, I don’t. The main changes in the perfume are one of degree. The sillage drops after 90 minutes, and the perfume feels softer, more pillowy, though it is still diabetically sweet. It is a candied rose-fruitchouli scent with a miniscule drop of bergamot atop a dry papyrus base that feels peppered and a bit acrid. The whole thing is nestled in a cocoon of fresh cleanness. None of it smells opulent, luxe, rich or special to me. The blasted concoction turns into a skin scent after 4 hours, and continues on its singular path with all the determination of a red bulldozer. I’m so utterly bored, I contemplate making a list of how many scents out there might have been a model for Atelier to copy, but there are too many choices.
The one saving grace to this endless stream of banality is Rose Anonyme’s final drydown. In its last two hours, it turns into a genuinely pretty blend of a soft, dusty rose-patchouli dusted with chocolate powder. It’s lovely, and I wish it had been the dominant heart of the annoying scent. All in all, Rose Anonyme lasted 12.5 hours with 3 small sprays from the atomizer, and 10.25 with 2 smaller ones. I gave it two full, proper, focused tests, but I’ve also worn it a few times prior just casually for myself. (Only to scrub it off after 2 hours. That syrupy sweetness is revoltingly excessive on my skin.)
My feelings about Rose Anonyme are very, very far from the common consensus on the fragrance. It seems to tie with Orange Sanguine as many people’s favorite from the line. I concede fully that skin chemistry, amplification of the purple patchouli, my dislike of the note and of white musk, and my leeriness of rose scents are all to blame. However, I refuse to change my stance on Rose Anonyme’s utterly generic, common profile. And I point to Fragrantica where the (admittedly very positive) discussion of Rose Anonyme brings up a plethora of comparable fragrances. First and foremost, Juliet Has A Gun‘s Midnight Oud. Other names that come up are Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir, Montale Red Aoud, Thierry Mugler‘s Angel La Rose, Thierry Mugler‘s Amen line, Sisley Lune or de Soir, New York Oud, and several others.
Yet, Fragrantica commentators seem to overwhelmingly adore the softness and sweetness of Rose Anonyme. Even those who note the perfume’s linearity, its soapy quality, or the “synthetic” “metallic musk, love it. The one wholly negative review comes from “Sherapop,” who had great difficulty with the papyrus element:
Atelier Cologne ROSE ANONYME “cologne absolue” (isn’t that an oxymoron?) opens with a striking resemblance to Thierry Mugler Jardin d’Etoiles entry ANGEL LA ROSE. The first word out of my mouth was actually: patchouli. Then the rose swept in and I felt as though I really was wearing the Mugler flanker for a couple of minutes.
ROSE ANONYME continues to develop, however. What I perceive next is the emergence of a very strong and dominant papyrus note. Because focal papyrus is rare in my experience of perfumes, I have a very strong memory of it, and it appears most markedly of all in Jessica Simpson FANCY NIGHTS. I’d thought that the reason why I did not take to that perfume was because it was a vat-produced Parlux juice. Now, after sniffing ROSE ANONYME, I think that it must be the papyrus which makes me less than enthused about that perfume, too.
It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what exactly it was that I was smelling, but once I did, the connection to FANCY NIGHTS seemed unmistakeable.
One negative review, and that’s it. So, I’m clearly in the minority, and that’s fine. I find Atelier’s stuff dull as soapy dishwater, but Rose Anonyme is obviously everyone else’s rose candy.
If you like Juliet Has A Gun fragrances or are looking for a very jammy, lush, slightly clean rose scent, then you may want to give Rose Anonyme a try. It has an extremely emasculated (read, virtually non-existent) oud accord, but Atelier compensates by providing instead quite a bit of dry papyrus. It’s not enough to counter the diabolical intensity of the fruit-chouli, but that seems to be what makes the rose note so “velvety” in most people’s eyes. The perfume is definitely unisex (men seem to adore it), and has good longevity. However, I’d be extremely careful with the quantity that you apply if you want to wear Rose Anonyme to work. Also, if you have any issues with clean white musks, you may want to test the perfume first. However, if you’re not a lover of rose-fruitchouli or syrupy sweetness, then you can join me in the pariah’s corner and we can yawn ourselves to sleep.