Czech & Speake Dark Rose ~ fragrance review

Czech & Speake Dark RoseCzech & Speake Dark RoseCzech & Speake Dark Rose

Czech & Speake is a British bathroom fixtures brand. They started their fragrance line in 1980 as part of an overall strategy to "do everything that has to do with luxurious baths" (they also carry shaving products and leather toiletry bags).1 Dark Rose is one of their newer scents — it launched in 2003, and I can't say for sure when it was taken off the market (reportedly due to production problems of some sort or another), but when I first tried it in late 2006, it was already impossible to find. Is it a kindness or a torture that perfumistas routinely share samples of discontinued fragrances?

Dark Rose was re-launched this year, and I was looking forward to trying the new vs. the old. Most unfortunately (or not: sometimes it's best not to know) my original sample has turned, so I can only tell you about the new. It has rich top notes, with lots of saffron and that medicinal smell that often accompanies oudh wood (the notes: saffron, Bulgarian rose, patchouli, sandalwood, oudh, amber and white musk). It does, undoubtedly, smell vaguely like bandaids for a time, but those of you who are accustomed to the unforgiving blast of oudh in the opening of some of the stronger Montale fragrances will find Dark Rose to be relatively easy going: it's generally a much softer and smoother fragrance.

The rose, which is hardly noticeable in the early stages, comes into its own in the dry down. It's fruity and bright, but cut by the spices and laid as it is over the darker woods and patchouli, it doesn't strike me as the sort of girly-flirty rose that some men — and women — would find hard to wear. Kevin, however, found it too feminine ('MISS English Rose', he called it), so I suppose it all depends on your taste. Do bear in mind that the "Dark" in the title is a relative sort of thing: it isn't a moody, gothic sort of rose, and I don't find it more than middling dark. Once the top notes fade, it isn't particularly heavy either, although it has reasonable sillage and the lasting power is excellent.

Dark Rose is a wonderful scent — I'd love to have a bottle, although I have to say I don't care for this particular bottle design at all — but it probably isn't as unusual now as it was in 2003, rose + saffron (and even rose + saffron + oud) fragrances not being so hard to come by these days now that even the niche market is glutted with new fragrances.2

Czech & Speake Dark Rose is available in 100 ml Cologne Spray for £75. For buying information, see the listing for Czech & Speake under Perfume Houses.

1. Quote via Women's Wear Daily, 9/15/2000.

2. See the review of Washington Tremlett Black Tie for a partial list of rose, saffron and oud fragrances, and do feel free to comment if you can think of others.

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  1. Joe says:

    Great to see this nice review, R. I love this one and don’t find it too feminine at all. I also like Montale’s Black and Red Aouds, but C&S is definitely easier to wear, so any rose lover should try it. I must say I don’t get the “band aid accord” from this fragrance or oud in general — thankfully! Also, the saffron in these scents never really equates in my nose to the saffron in my spice cupboard, which I use in rice quite often.

    I have to say that, as a man, I love exactly this type of rose scent and I think they do really well on my skin. I wish I knew what you were going to review each day sometimes so that I could bring my vial to the office and have scented accompaniment.

    Oh, also worth mentioning that it’s been difficult for me to fully embrace Paestum Rose, which I know a lot of people love. It’s nice, but something about it is a little odd to me.

    • Robin says:

      Joe, I’d agree — saffron in perfume is only vaguely related to “real” saffron.

      And do think there’s something odd about Paestum Rose…it’s that same thing that’s in Timbuktu (to me, anyway). Do you like Timbuktu?

      • 2scents says:

        I will have to test these two again because they are both fragrances that I *should* like but I also find something strange in them that puts me off. You think it’s the same note?

        • Robin says:

          No, not the same note, but a similar combination of notes.

      • Joe says:

        I love Timbuktu! It’s one of my top 5 if not top 3. However, PR is so different, maybe because of the rose. I doubt my decant is off, but you never know, I guess. It’s a very strange scent; I can easily wear it, but I certainly don’t love it, which is okay because there are plenty of other things I love (even from Eau d’Italie; their Sienne l’Hiver is amazing to me).

        • Robin says:

          Interesting. I love Timbuktu also, but think PR is so much easier to wear. Perhaps it is the rose…

        • Jared says:

          I have to chime in on the Timbuktu love…I tried it a year ago and wasn’t that into it, but after buying my bottle of Dzongkha I got it out again and had an “oh my god” moment…it’s AMAZING.

          • Robin says:

            I did the same thing…took me awhile to appreciate it.

          • Haunani says:

            Funny – I love Timbuktu (broke out it a big grin immediately at first whiff), but Paestum Rose didn’t particularly wow me. I’d better try PR again. Joe, I love Sienne l’Hiver too (trickier to wear, perhaps, but SO compelling! And Dzongkha — well, that’s the queen of them all, IMO.

            Oh, and a bottle of Dark Rose is on my wish list. I enjoyed my sample of their regular Rose, too. Anyone else like that one?

          • Robin says:

            Haunani, I haven’t tried the regular Rose, what’s it like?

      • bergere says:

        I have to say, that’s a plus for me. While I like the faintest whiff of saffron in a rice dish, I am put off somewhat by its musty quality. Yet I adore Safron Troublant.

    • Paestum Rose is one of my true loves, but I think its as much about the resins as the rose. Perhaps its the way the oppoponax sits on your skin that makes it odd? I adore its progression from pure resin, to resins warmed by dark rose, to incense ashes. Ahhhh… Got to get a full bottle before they mess with it.

      • Robin says:

        I’d like to buy it too, A…mean making do with a decant & it’s almost gone.

      • boojum says:

        I’m still trying to figure out oppoponax. I *think* I’ve identified it, and if I have, it’s a frag-killer on me… but I really need to find a way to be sure that’s what I’m smelling.

  2. Karin says:

    Thanks for the post, Robin. I have to say, this whole oud trend has me curious. Never tried anything with oud in it (that I know of), so I have NO idea what it smells like. To those of you who have tried oud scents, are there some recommended “starter” oud fragrances? And what does oud smell like? Bandaids? :-) Is that a common interpretation?

    • Robin says:

      Oud smells like what it is: wood, very deep & dark. It’s usually only in the top notes that there’s something kind of medicinal & astringent (to me, like bandaids with a drop of vinegar) — that wears off.

    • Robin says:

      Oops…and would add that I think this is a good starter oudh. Also 10 Corso Como.

      • Karin says:

        Cool! Thanks!

      • Butting into say that in my humble opinion 10CC used to be a good starter oudh, but they’ve reformulated almost all of it out. Or so it smelled to me the last time I sniffed a new bottle.

        But maybe that’s what makes it a “starter” :-)

        • Robin says:

          I finally tried new vs. old, and think it’s softer too. Also have a feeling that Dark Rose is softer than it used to be. But yeah, do think that makes them perfect starter scents…the stronger ouds are rather hard to take.

    • miss kitty v. says:

      I just tried a bunch of the Montales, and wasn’t crazy about most of them. But the Wild Aoud (or however they spell it) was really, really good. My partner and I have been fighting over the sample of it.

      • Robin says:

        I haven’t smelled the Wild Aoud — and probably lots of others. The Montale line is huge now.

    • Kess says:

      As far as how oud smells, Bois Fonce is pure hot ambers. I also tried a Cambodian oud oil, and Ava Luxe’s appear to be unadulterated; she must be using good stuff.

      To me, Bois Fonce evoked a camp fire at night, as it’s almost done, with hot ambers and just a hint of smoke, under a star-lit sky. (But it may be just a personal association from the summers we spent camping.)

    • Oud has different aspects, depending on its origin (or formulation in the lab): I’ve experienced it as leathery, woody, sour and/or bitter. Sometimes it strikes my nose with an almond-like twang. A nicely mild starter oud can also be found in Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood. And I love the softness of Montale White Aoud, which is another good example of a rose/saffron/oud blend. Not so soft – but mesmerizing – is People of the Labyrinths A*Maze, yet another rose/saffron/oud that is one of my current obsessions. And I can’t wait for Juliette Has a Gun Midnight Oud, a promising-sounding rose/saffron/oud. Can you tell that I’m living in a rose/saffron/oud bubble right now?

      • divinemama says:

        Oh! Thanks for the recs, Katie. I love White Aoud, but I haven’t tried the others. My current favorite oud scent is Aoud Queen Roses.

  3. Kess says:

    For a ‘starter oud’ I’d recommend sampling Ava Luxe Bois Foncé / Oude; I actually prefer it to Montales where a bunch of other notes are thrown in, especially their rose-based ones.

  4. 2scents says:

    So how do this one compare to some of the other oud+saffron+roses? Is it more like one than another?

    • Robin says:

      You know, these scents are working with such a similar palette that it’s hard to say. I tried it next to several, and it isn’t exactly like any of them.

  5. Bunny says:

    eeek! When you say band-aids I swear I can feel the smell of those fabric Elastoplasts in the back of my nose *shivers* lol

    • Robin says:

      Yeah, just add a touch of vinegar & that’s the smell.

  6. mikeperez23 says:

    I really wanted to love this. I too, compared old (vintage) to new juice and yet in the end it was: Too. Much. Saffron.


    • Robin says:

      Kevin doesn’t always like heavy saffron either, so was surprised he complained about the rose & not the saffron.

      • Kevin says:

        R/Mike: the saffron didn’t bother me in this one…but the rose went from “dark” to faded pink pretty quickly on me…it became soapy, rather “tea-stained” in the sense it smelled VERY “twee”, cottage-y, “soapy.” (if any of that makes a lick of sense! HA!)

        The “prim-Miss” dry-down killed this one for me

        • Robin says:

          So funny…it really doesn’t strike me as “prim miss” or twee at all. Maybe I’ve just got more rose tolerance!

        • Zeezee says:

          That’s so funny to me, too! I have an *allergy* to soapiness in scent and I interpret most roses as way too soapy for my liking. This is one of the select few that I can tolerate at all because it’s jammy, rich, round and unsoapy.
          Too bad most of the “darker” roses have patchouli in them, lending the darker, grittier nature. I hate patchouli.

          Coincidence has it that I’m wearing Safran Troublant today (top of my wishlist) – it’s so gorgeous.

  7. Daisy says:

    Of course I dashed to the fridge to retrieve my decant of C&S Dark Rose….it’s been a while since I’ve had it out for a spin…
    Saffron and rose and that medicinal tang of oud…it’s kind of a hot smell, spicey, get a glass of water….it is not a ladylike rose or a flirtatious girly rose to me but a kind of “in your face” rose….if I had a Harley, I’d wear this rose while riding it….

    • Robin says:

      See, it isn’t goth enough for a Harley to me…

      • Daisy says:

        but considering my other favorite rose is Drole de Rose….and of course Citizen Queen.

        • mals86 says:

          CQ would go perfectly on a Harley!

          • Daisy says:

            a Harley AND the tight red dress, fishnets and 4″ heels?? I think that combination might get you arrested.

    • SmokeyToes says:

      Hi Daisy,
      I dunno about the heels, depending on the red dress, I think Fiorintini & Baker combat boots would work well too! (IMHO)… I’ve got a really cute Betsey Johnson dress that I wear those with and it totally works.

  8. Daisy says:

    Off topic and all, but I can hardly drag my nostrils off of the OTHER arm… which has been spritzed liberally with Fendi Theorema…SNIFFFFFFF ahhhhhhh…..

    • crowflower says:

      Let us now lay burnt offerings at the Altar of Theorema!
      We are not worthy!

      Crow(six bottles hidden in my sock drawer)flower

      • Daisy says:

        well, you have me beat…I do have “extra” but NOT six bottles…holy cow, you are my new hero!!
        That’s some impressive perfume stashing!

        • crowflower says:

          It was the result of a brief bout of mania–first tried Theorema–didn’t see what the fuss was about– retested later and went straight to a smallish buying spree.

          The only other perfume I have such a backlog of is Caswell-Massey’s Hot Stuff–when I found they had discontinued it and every other wonderful oil they carried, I bought the last FOURTEEN bottles ( okay, so they are small–1/2 oz., I believe).

          I’m much better now.

    • Robin says:

      You have SIX bottles of Theorema????

      • Joe says:

        Perfume lovers suuuuurrre are eccentric! (says he who has never had the sublime pleasure of smelling the vaunted Theorema)

        • crowflower says:

          I’ll send you a sample so you can be eccentric, too.

          • Daisy says:

            I was going to send Joe a sample…let’s fight over him!

        • boojum says:

          I keep *almost* buying a mini, then thinking I’ll be disappointed. So I keep *not* buying a mini.

          • Daisy says:

            I haven’t sent your box yet…shall I slice the tape and stick a sample in???

          • boojum says:

            Should I let myself get hooked on something that’s no longer available? Come to think of it, I think THAT was actually why I didn’t buy the mini. :D I’ll refrain, at least for now… maybe with a future split/swap. But thanks for the offer!

          • Daisy says:

            too late, it’s in there and all retaped….but look at it this way: it’s still available at a couple places for a very reasonable price…or you might hate it! or you could buy some from Crow!

      • crowflower says:

        Alas, it is true–

  9. Rappleyea says:

    Great review Robin! I won’t be any help as I have yet to try any rose/saffron/oud fragrances. In fact I only sampled Saffron Troublant last week for the first time! Loved it and now of course I want to try some of these frags with oud added.

    • Robin says:

      ST is such a great scent, and one of the earlier saffron-heavy fragrances I can think of. Another fun saffron: Odori Zafferano (sp?)

      • Rappleyea says:

        I know which one you mean! The Posse reviewed some of the Odori scents a while back and they sounded pretty good. I’m finding that I generally like spice in fragrance (although too much cinnamon will eat my skin!).

        • Joe says:

          I don’t personally find either of the following screaming “SAFFRON!” to me, but there’s enough of it to notice and mention to someone exploring the note (both are well-blended with a variety of other spices and accords… again, I’m not good at picking out “saffron” on its own):
          – DSH Cimabue: just got a sample of this, and Oh Yes!, it’s All That!
          – Diptyque L’Eau de Tarocco, which I enjoy quite a lot.
          (PS to Robin: I finally tried L’Eau de L’Eau the other day and really loved that most of the cologne trio).

          • Rappleyea says:

            Thanks Joe! I really appreciate the recs. I’m especially interested in the DSH as I plan to really start exploring her line. I haven’t tried any of the Diptyque’s yet – YIKES! So many ‘fumes, so little time!

          • Robin says:

            I adored the top notes of Tarocco…but the dry down left me cold — I liked the other 3 in the original trio much better.

          • Daisy says:

            Robin has my vote on this one….Tarocco was great…for almost 5 minutes then it turned blahhhh….zzzzzz…
            Glad you like it Joe….I have a couple new samples for you Humeicki Geste and Multiple Rouge….

  10. divinemama says:

    Thanks for the review, Robin! I think I can move this down further on my must sample list, as I am well past needing a starter oud/rose scent. I consider Montale’s Aoud Queen Roses one of my comfort scents.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, but it’s a great scent in its own right, I wouldn’t write it off just because the oud note isn’t overpowering.

      • divinemama says:

        I am not writing it off completely, Robin. Just moving it down the list. I am slowing down a little after going full tilt for about a year now. Still, I have many on my ‘to sample list’ and a few on my ‘totally want list’. This is the first Czech & Speake perfume that has stuck on my radar so far.

        • Robin says:

          Makes sense…ignore me, or your list will be worse than it already is, LOL!

          • divinemama says:


        • divinemama says:

          Oopsies, the No 88 that Kevin just reviewed looks interesting also. These ‘to sample’ lists have a life of their own, don’t they? ‘-)

          • Robin says:

            Hey…should have said that if you sign up on their website and tell them which you want, they might send you samples for free!

  11. Tama says:

    We sure have been talking about roses a lot lately, says she who is currently swathed in a new Montale rose – Louban – didn;t someone mention this the other day? Notes: violet leaves, rose, olibanum, oud, musk, sandalwood, patch
    It’s not bad – the violet is coming out a bit more as it dries down but it is definitely a woody rose. Not quite my style but pretty nice.
    I would like to try this Dark Rose as part of my ongoing but low-key rose quest.

    • miss kitty v. says:

      yes! I loved the Louban! I’m not normally a rose girl, but I really liked that one!

      totally unrelated, but I had to share: a friend of mine just gave me a full bottle of Joy perfume she got for $5 at a garage sale! The actual perfume. She said it was my perfume karma coming back, for giving her all my cast-offs over the years. :) I can’t believe someone would sell it for $5. Bad for them, good for me!

    • Robin says:

      Have not even heard of Louban! I admit I’ve taken to ignoring the new Montales…too many to keep up with.

  12. mals86 says:

    I quite liked Dark Rose in its current iteration, but thought it didn’t last long enough on my skin (2.5 hours TOPS) to warrant a FB purchase. And then the next rose/saffron I tried – Ta’if – blew its socks off.

    (Isn’t Theorema wunnnnderful? I have a mini and only use it sparingly. I *must* stop getting mini bottles of stuff that’s discontinued…)

    • Robin says:

      Ta’if is gorgeous, no doubt! The Dark Rose lasts all day on me, nearly — I must be lucky!

  13. Carlos BFL 319 says:

    I’ve been looking forward to smelling this, although I’m probably well covered with Rose and Oud scents. This retails for 185 at Lucky Scent, but I found a store here in NY that sells it for 132. They also carry the whole line. Cambridge Chemists

    • Robin says:

      Yes, I’ve got them listed in the “Where to buy” section.

  14. SmokeyToes says:

    llol, I can totally relate to the tortured perfumista take. So many times I’ve smelled what I thought was new, only to discover it’s been out a while and is being discontinued….

    I am getting to know saffron in scents, and I like it. I’d be interested in trying this.

    • Robin says:

      Exactly! It might be kinder if we all just kept them to ourselves, LOL…

  15. Outlandish says:

    I wanted over to C&S site, registered and paid my cashola for some samples. Now I need to hide my Visa…

    • Robin says:

      Hope you’ll like some of them!

  16. Tama says:

    Well, I tried a bit of this and hardly got any rose at all, even in drydown (just a whisper), but definitely got tons and tons of soap. Soapy soapy soapy. I could have just wiped my laundry on my wrist and it would have been CLEAN. lol

    Today I am wearing the lavender one, Oxford and Cambridge (we are having what I imagine is rather English weather today), and it is also clean, but smells like clean skin rather than soap. I’m looking forward to trying the regular Rose – it actually sounds darker than the Dark.

    • Robin says:

      Oh no! It isn’t soapy on me at all, happily.

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