Tom Ford‘s Rose de Russie is described as an “opulent, darkly dramatic rose” that evokes “the extravagant allure of night.” Symbolically, I suppose the “dark” part of his hyperbole may have some basis in fact. On an olfactory level, however, I have to say “Hmph.” I would – and will – describe the fragrance quite differently.
Rose de Russie is an eau de parfum that is part of the Private Blend collection. It was released in February 2022 as part of a trio of rose scents anticipating Valentine’s Day. I’m unclear as to whether the trio are limited edition releases or if they’re permanent. At the time of this review, I’ve read both that it’s limited and that it will remain as part of the line.
On his website, Tom Ford describes the fragrance and its notes as follows:
An opulent, darkly dramatic rose, Rose De Russie conjures an extravagant bloom seduced by white pepper, woods, and dark-as-midnight Russian leather.
Evoking the extravagant allure of night, Rose De Russie merges an exquisite “rose on-rose” distillation with the vibrancy of spicy white pepper oil and woods while passionately sexy, supple black leather begs to be touched.
Though Tom Ford’s description explicitly lists “woods,” the official note list omits them:
Exclusive Rose-On-Rose Co-Distillation, White Pepper Oil, Black Leather Accord
Rose de Russie opens on my skin with a highly peppered rose nestled amidst an abstract greenness then placed atop a base of smoky, highly synthetic, extremely arid leather. The rose is pretty, sheer, pink in hue, and sweet. The indeterminate greenness evokes an out-of-focus photo of dark, green leaves but, on a purely olfactory or note level, it doesn’t smell of anything specific. The leather (synthetic) accord has a strong undertone of chemicals and rubbing alcohol hospital antiseptic in its billowing gales of bone-dry smoke. (Thankfully, the overtness of the powerful base synths drops after 45 minutes, though it reemerges stronger than ever later on.) As for the pepper, it lies in a thick cloud over everything.
Rose de Russie loses its note clarity after just 15 minutes. Truth be told, it’s not bad at this point, synths notwithstanding, and it’s all thanks to the rose note itself. It smells lovely and purely natural. When taken as a whole, however, the rose is predominantly peppery, smoky, dry, stained with a quietly fresh greenness on its outer petals, and growing darker as the minutes pass. The leather clearly translates as actual “leather” when I sniff my arm up close but isn’t at all solid or concrete on the scent trail. There and from afar, Rose de Russie is merely a pink-hued, peppery, smoky, dry rose with only an occasional and fleeting of suggestion of greenness flickering around the background. (The greenness is an interesting facet on my skin because it fluctuates constantly over the first four hours in prominence and presence.) For me personally, the opening bouquet is prettier on the scent trail or air around me than close up since the rasping, absolutely bone-dry, and heavily smoked leather makes my head throb when I inhale deeply.
A word about the leather note. Traditionally, there have been a few different ways in perfumery to recreate the cuir de russie style that we call “Russian leather.” There’s the classic birch tar, there’s birch tar mixed with some castoreum, and there is isobutyl quinoline. In the modern era and in large part thanks to IFRA/EU legal restrictions on natural raw materials, perfumers for the big fragrance conglomerates — like Givaudan, which is where Tom Ford gets most of his “noses” — tend to use a mixed accord heavily compromised of their company’s aromachemicals. What I smell here in Rose de Russie smells like the latter. To me, on my skin, the leather accord does not smell of either birch tar leather or isobutyl quinoline, both of which (as compared to whatever the heck has been used here) I find to be richer, more olfactorily nuanced, more rounded, more smooth, less abrasive, less headache-inducing, less overpoweringly smoky, and/or some combination of the above.
Rose de Russie shifts in small ways as the fragrance develops. 45 to 50 minutes in, the rose grows more withered and dark as the leather’s smoke saps vitality and freshness from its petals. (The growing smoke levels also reduce, temporarily at least, the pepper note by half.) At the same time, however, and paradoxically, the desiccated rose turns somewhat jammy; there is a raspberry ketone quality to it that makes me think that the undefined “woods” in the base include fruitchouli. 90 minutes or 1.5 hours in, the jammy, fruited patchouli grows stronger and more prominent. The bouquet as a whole turns woodier as Rose de Russie gradually segues into its heart stage.
As the 3rd hour begins, about 2.25 hours in, the darker base notes continue to rise and also continue to shift the fragrance’s main focus by incremental degrees. What’s interesting (and, frankly, rather a relief) is that the leather, its smokiness, its aridity, and the forcefulness of its aromachemical character no longer blare in my face. In fact, the leather takes a step back at this point, retreating to the background. Taking its place on center stage is a robust woody accord that consists of dry woods as well as a woody-amber or amber-woody synthetic. However you’d characterize the latter, there is definitely a sticky and resinous undertone in the base that feels quite separate from the purely woody tonalities. In other words, it smells as though there were at least two different components to the umbrella “woods” label. And they’re completely separate from the patchouli/fruitchouli and the smoky leather.
Front and center amidst all this is the patchouli/fruitchouli rose. The greenness that has accompanied it from the start continues to wax and wane; one minute it smells quite apparent when I sniff my arm up close, the next it is buried under the fruity woody rose. The pepper plays the same hide-and-seek game; one minute it’s subsumed within the rose, the next it verges on the overpowering.
The bouquet from afar when I wave my arm around my face is slightly different. There, Rose de Russie is an out-of-focus woody patchouli rose layered with smokiness, pepperiness, dryness, and a whisper of ambered sweetness. (The sillage is dropping and turning soft in the third hour so I basically have to wave my arm around to detect the scent around me.)
As the 4th hour begins, Rose de Russie turns overtly synthetic once again. The pepperiness is not only exhausting in its might but it also seems bolstered further by ISO E Super; there is now a definite dry, woody, peppery note that has a hospital rubbing alcohol undertone as well. Or maybe it stems from the woody synths which are now billowing at a rate that threatens to overpower the rose (and me). Ditto for the smokiness which, at this point, seems to derive from the woods and the woody amber as much as from the “leather.” As for the rose, it’s increasingly impressionistic, like a suggestion of rosiness amidst a swell of dry, jammy fruitchouli patchouli. The throbbing in my head grows stronger whenever I take a deep sniff and my throat begins to feel scratchy.
If I had to take a guess at the note proportions on my skin during this stage, I’d estimate that Rose de Russie is compromised of: 50% dry and smoky woody and amber woody accord; 20% arid leathery-ish smoke; 20% rosy-ish fruitchouli; and 10% ISO E-like woody pepperiness. The fresher green smudges have been completely wiped out.
In the 5th hour, Rose de Russie is a desiccated mix of woods, woody amber, wood smoke, and leathered smoke with dark pepper and with a smothered undertone of vaguely fruited, jammy floralcy.
The drydown stage appears to begin midway during the 6th hour (or 5.5 hours in). I’m guessing that because the base notes now make up the entirety of the bouquet on my skin. Rose de Russie is just a dark, smoky, arid woody leather morass. There is, to my nose, also a serious whiff of antiseptic rubbing alcohol but who know from which of the synths it derives. As a whole, the scent is bone-achingly dry.
My head hurts so much now that I ponder whether to scrub now or merely sniff my arm every hour on the hour. In the end, I choose to scrub, 7 hours from the start. I’m afraid that my willingness to be masochistic for the sake of thoroughness and completeness has dropped dramatically over the last two or three years, so I’m sorry that I can’t give you longevity information.
In terms of sillage, with 3 generous, wide swathes of scent from a vial, equal to two sprays from a bottle, Rose de Russie opens with a scent trail that extends 8-10 inches. Though the bouquet may be forceful up close because of the synths, the body of the scent feels gossamer light and thin. At first. Once the fruitchouli kicks in at the 50 minute mark, the bouquet grows richer, comparatively speaking, less sheer. At the 2.5 hour mark, the sillage drops to about 5 inches. The fragrance is strong up close but I can’t detect it, particularly when outside, unless I wave my arm near my nose. From this point until I finally scrubbed the scent at the start of the 7th hour, the sillage continues to drop incrementally.
As you’ve gathered, I’m not particularly enthused about Rose de Russie. Putting the issue of aromachemicals to the side, I didn’t find it particularly interesting, creative, or complex. Nor was I impressed by the quality. If you want a smoother, richer, better quality smoky woody rose or rose woody leather, I think there are other options out there. Off the top of my head, Guerlain‘s Encens Mythique d’Orient or Rose Nacrée du Desert, both from the Desert d’Orient collection, come to mind. (I’m wondering, though, whether they’ve been reformulated, judging by the recent descriptions I see on Fragrantica.) I’m blanking out right now on any other good fragrances in these genres because, frankly, my brain feels scrambled from Rose de Russie’s tenacious, lingering traces which are proving resistant even to acetone and which seem to be wafting pure smoke at this point whenever I move.
Most people don’t share my acute sensitivities to and physical side-effects from woody, woody amber, or smoky aromachemicals, so your experience with Rose de Russie may well be quite different. Also, I have to emphasize as always that skin chemistry and the amount of your scent application will make a difference in what you experience and in the nature of the nuances, if any, which appear.
To read other people’s descriptions of Rose de Russie, you can turn Fragrantica, if you’re interested. Retail links and pricing information are provided below.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews and my opinions are my own.
RETAIL Details/Links: Rose de Russie is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml bottle for $270, £178, or €215. In the U.S.: retailers include Tom Ford; Luckyscent; Sephora; Nordstrom; Saks; and Neiman Marcus. Outside the U.S.: Rose de Russie is sold at Canada’s Holt Renfrew and the UK’s Harrods and Selfridges. The latter is sold out at the time of this review, Feb. 12, 2022, but is bound to be back in stock soon. Other retailers include any Sephora location, Australia’s Mecca and David Jones, John Lewis, and others. Samples: Luckyscent sells samples. On the day of this review, they are sold out of samples. To find a Tom Ford Store near you, you can use the Tom Ford Store Locator on his website.
Long time lurker, I am very much a fan and have appreciated the incredible resource of your blog and your twitter reviews. I started discovering perfume as an interest more seriously just as you were having to step away from the blog to take care of life (I am very sorry you had to go/are going through all that and glad you prioritized what helped you get through it). So while I have enjoyed plumbing the depths of your blog to enlarge my own perfume knowledge and improve my approach to figuring out what I enjoy, I am very pleased with your return (although I hope you still continue to prioritize your health and happiness).
Sorry, the real reason I wanted to comment is I do not think I have anything like the sensitivities to aroma chemicals that you have, but I have noticed that some perfumes are sort of painful to smell. A recent example is Tom Ford’s Ébène Fumé, which was just…painful to smell in a weird way. It did not give me a headache exactly, but smelling it caused headache-esque feelings in my nose and behind my eyes. Are there certain aroma chemicals or natural oils that do that which it might be good to know so I can watch out for them?
It does not seem to be “thick” or “heavy” perfume. Through your blog I have discovered that I quite like Areej le Doré and with most things of Russian Adam’s I could basically aspirate them through an oxygen mask and be just fine. But there are things like Ébène Fumé or Oud for Greatness or most of the Ormonde Jayne perfumes I have tried that are not quite headache inducing, but are in a weird way painful to smell.
Sorry, I just wondered because you have smelled so many things that you might have some ideas for what it is. I know the internet is at my fingertips, but I have been a bit stumped on how to figure it out because, for example, everyone seems to love Oud for Greatness and Ormonde Jayne and some non-perfume friends I have shared my samples with do not seem to notice what I am talking about. Also perfume companies basically keep the real ingredients private so I was not quite sure how to figure out what to watch out for other than to just sample everything, I guess.
Anyhow, please do not feel any pressure to reply. I can in fact do some more googling, but I thought you might have figured it out given your sensitivities and you vast experience.
Thank you again for all the work you have put into your blog. It has been both an incredible reference and a frequently thoroughly diverting read. I have appreciated having a more thoughtful counterbalance to the mainstream mostly video-based perfume review community which I have found perhaps less than helpful in terms of finding things that make my nose drop its panties, rather than magic spray to make everyone else drop theirs. Sorry, this probably could/should have been much more succinct.
Thank you so much for the touching words and kindness. They mean a lot, perhaps far more than you may realize. 🙂
Oud for Greatness is chock-full of aromachemicals. I didn’t even dare to apply it to my skin lest I keel over, lol. Not kidding. I could actually smell them through the bubble wrap in which my sample was packaged!!
Ormond Jaynes always have ISO E Super, at a minimum, thanks to Geza Schoen’s passionate love for it.
You are not crazy in how you feel. They may not induce headaches for you, but they’re clearly making you feel uncomfortable in some way or making the scent experience unpleasant. Your nose may just be more attuned than that of your friends, but you’re not imagining things.
Btw, dont hesitate to chat with me on Twitter if you want. 🙂 Only Apollo gnaws on people. Heh.
Hi Beloved Kafka!!!
I only get 5 minutes of rose, followed by white pepper, and zero leather. The pepper lasts 4-5 hours. It’s not unpleasant, however, it’s not going to work well in the swamp! Sweet, wonderful, Bern gifted me with the travel set for Valentine’s day. Of the 3, it’s the best and that’s not saying much. How does this “guy” get away with this? His legions of “fans” are learning really bad lessons about fine fragrance! Thankfully, I never buy from the Private Blend Collection, the Signature line is expensive enough. 🙁 Thank You for this review, it’s so lovely to read you again!
4-5 hours of just pepper?? Yikes!
Someone on Fragrantica wrote something similar. Something like: a 1000 lbs of pepper and one drop of rose. So you’re not alone.
I consider that a very accurate description, lol! Are you going to review the other 2 as well? I was less impressed by them, than the Rose de Russie. It’s a mystery why this “stuff” is so popular! Please give Apollo lots of snuggles for me!!! 🙂
I don’t know. This fragrance may have been the tipping point for me with Tom Ford. He’s just become too wretched for me in terms of … well, everything. I may do Rose de Chine much later, if I run out of samples or things to write about. But I’m staying far, far, far away from the Amalfi one. I’ve heard uniformly bad things about it and the twofer of candied sugar with laundry clean musk would probably send me over the edge entirely.