On the dome of the Temple of Love at the Petit Trianon—Marie Antoinette’s last home—centifolia rose wreaths and ribbon-bound arrows make up the decorative theme. History records that the last Queen of France, renowned for her romantic impulses, loved the intoxicating scent of these exceptional roses.
Famous despite its unknown origin, the Centifolia rose is nicknamed the “cabbage rose”. Deep and globular, the flower was prized by Dutch painters of the 18th century who readily depicted it in their still lifes or romantic portraits. Nevertheless, the perfumers are the ones who dedicated an unfailing adoration to it, due to the powerful way its perfume irremediably registers in memories.
As it only blooms in May and June, Her Majesty requires patience. Moreover, the climate of Grasse seems to suit it best—in the world capital of perfumes, the Centifolia rose has become, along with the jasmine, the city’s ambassador. The annual ExpoRose festival has now been dedicated to its glory for 50 years.
The Perfumer’s Flower
Among the 3000 existingones, the perfumer uses only two varieties of roses: the Centifolia Rose—the rose of a hundred leaves or May rose—and the Bulgarian rose, called damascena. The Centifolia Rose has a typical smell: herbaceous, with aspect of dried petal, hay and even henna. Moist, powdery and extremely greedy, it is a gift from heaven for fragrance designers! Depending on the time of day, it can diffuse scents of honey, musk, lemon, apricot, tea or raspberries. Inherited from the Arabs, the first distillation tests took place in the 13th century in Montpellier, France, under the direction of the doctor and chemist Arnaud de Villeneuve. During baptisms, rose water was then generously consumed. In the 18th century, it finally entered the world of feminine toiletry with the first scented waters called Eau céleste, Eau de dames or Eau divine.
A Return to Grace
Very popular in the 1980s, rose-based perfumes are now making a comeback in the heart of contemporary high perfumery. “The rose finds its place in all olfactory families. It blossoms as a base note, heart note or top note. A rich, multifaceted ingredient, it lends itself to infinite play. Whether it’s a feminine, masculine or unisex fragrance, I can make it fresh, woody, powdery and even fruity,” reveals Geoffrey Nejman, olfactory director at M. Micallef. “Rose Centifolia is a major ingredient in our olfactory compositions. From our best-sellers for men such as Royal Vintage to our classic powdery women’s Mon Parfum Pearl to our musts such as Royal Muska, Pure Extrême and our Secrets of Love Collection, we are all the more delighted to use its magic since we have the privilege of using our own flowers harvested just a few steps away from our factory. From the flower to the bottle: that’s our motto to make you see life through rose-colored glasses”!