I rediscovered L'Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses during a severe bout of perfume ennui. I still loved my wild herd of woody roses: Malle Une Rose and Portrait of a Lady, Byredo Rose Noir, People of the Labyrinths A*Maze, Amouage Homage, Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Agent Provocateur Signature, but overfamiliarity with these high-rotation favorites had slightly stilled the thrill.
So I found myself cruising the perfume room of Liberty in London like Don Draper looking for his next extramarital conquest.
I wanted another sultry rose, and reconsidered some intriguing ones that hadn't yet made it across the velvet rope into my collection: Annick Goutal Ce Soir Ou Jamais, Creed Fleurs De Bulgarie, Keiko Mecheri Attar de Roses. Every time I smell them I go “oooohhhh!”, but in wearing them, they always seem a little emphatic: too puffy, too stuffy. I was in the mood for something leaner, something with less frills and ruffles. That something turned out to be Voleur de Roses.
Voleur de Roses was created all the way back in 1993 by Michel Almairac (Bottega Veneta, Gucci Rush), and anticipated the “stern rose” genre of dominatrixes like Une Rose (2003) and Rose Noir (2008): roses without the softening, “please like me” tics of vanilla or powder.
VdR's rose is so stern it stays stubbornly in the shadows of the composition, arms folded, letting the patchouli do all the heavy lifting. The perfume works that “goddess in a forest” effect of Aromatics Elixir, and in fact smells like a component part -- a stripped-down remix -- of that peerless creation.
(Considering VdR as a melancholic byproduct of AE makes me think of the recent remake/remodel of David Bowie's “Sound and Vision”, stripped of instrumentation and leaving only Bowie's voice, a plaintive piano, and Mary Hopkin's doot-doot-doo's. Listen to it here.)
VdR is redolent of wine and earth and glamour. There's an initial, twangy clash of sun-baked weeds and a kind of Good & Plenty, nail polishy sharpness. Then it settles into the scent of old leather suitcases, permeated with the perfume of party dresses that have been shown the time of their lives.
VdR's got some theatrically gothic mystery going on that puts me in mind of those sexy-campy Hammer Horror movies from the 60s and 70s, like The Vampire Lovers:
One sorrowful truth of Voleur de Roses is that it is fleeting. Its initial bold salvo implies a sillage-fest, but it quickly mutes and spends the rest of its lifespan in a barely-there haze of wine and roses.
To fall in love with VdR is to enter into a chase-the-dragon relationship with this quixotic perfume. But I willingly chase, and continue to spray spray spray on skin, clothes, and hair. As The Vampire Lovers' narrator might put it, I yearn for its "cold caress -- the kiss that kills". Kill me a little more, Voleurs de Roses.
Top photo: Jane Asher in The Masque of the Red Death