Some time before Valentine’s Day, my other half and I were chatting and the topic of “those preserved roses that can last a long time” came up. We had seen billboard ads for them before and weren’t sure how they were made. “You should look into those,” I said, hint hint, appealing to the inquisitive nature of his scientific mind to bring some specimens in and study them…
“I should look into them,” he replied. “I should Google them.”
“I have to start by reading the primary literature!” he protested.
By Valentine’s Day, I had mostly forgotten about this exchange, but being the wonderful and generous soul that he is, he hadn’t. He had me close my eyes and held something in front of my nose for me to smell—”ROSES!” I blurted, amazed by how strongly it emanated—and then another thing, which smelled a bit more like dessert and which I couldn’t identify.
When I opened my eyes, there it was: a black hat box containing four bright red roses. I was surprised how uniformly red they were, but didn’t immediately wonder why. And how concentrated the fresh petal aroma was! At first I thought it could only be smelled when I got close, but within about an hour, it had permeated the whole apartment.
The second item turned out to be a candle, Rose Blanche, with a much more sugar-vanilla aspect and able to fill a room even without burning.
So… “Are they real or fake?” was the philosophical question we explored once we’d taken our field observations of these Eternity® Roses. They looked real enough, except for some cracks in the petals that highlighted their papery texture. They are voluptuous, as though in full bloom, but glued individually to a block of foam to secure them neatly inside the hat box, from which they cannot be removed without damage.
According to the Venus ET Fleur website (as well as many other brands with similar offerings and varying claims as to how long the flowers can last), fresh roses are sourced in Ecuador, the color is removed in a process that preserves their fresh-cut appearance, and the roses are rehydrated with a dye and re-scented. These roses can last up to a year with care, and the smell should linger 2 or 3 weeks longer than fresh-cut roses.
For the first week, the aroma was powerful. Now, more than 2 weeks in, I can still perceive it when I walk in the room. It’s a convincing rose scent, but dense, more like when I sniff a rose absolute from the vial.
The conundrum got me thinking about Voleur de Roses by L’Artisan Parfumeur, which famously recreates a rose scent without using any real rose (hence the name, which means Rose Thief). I had requested a sample of this specifically when I bought a different perfume because I was intrigued by its premise and when I first spritzed it, my mind filled with images of neon pink. I recalled various NYC art galleries showcasing provocative artworks that spurned convention. This could be a mood saver at some point.
When I got to wearing the (wand) sample, it didn’t have quite the same feel. It had toned down since my first encounter, and seemed a lot darker and earthier. The note that stood out to me was Clearwood®, a patchouli note developed by Firmenich via white biotechnology. I couldn’t find this ingredient associated with Voleur, but patchouli is the most prominent listed note, followed by rose.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare)… but would any other sweet-smelling thing by the same name be a rose?!