Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose ~ perfume review

Norma Talmadge (circa 1919)

Roses are red, violets are blue...and this "valentine" to Lipstick Rose is long overdue. Seriously, I've intended to write a review of this fragrance for quite a while, but I kept getting distracted by new releases and so on. Sometimes we tend to take our loved ones for granted, in perfume as in relationships, but I've decided not to delay any longer in sharing my thoughts on Lipstick Rose.

Lipstick Rose was launched in 2000 as part of the original product line from Editions de Parfums. It was created for Frédéric Malle by perfumer Ralf Schwieger, and it is described by Editions de Parfums as "a vision of glamorized femininity" that evokes the "bonbon" scent of lipstick; its notes are listed as rose, violet, musk, vanilla, vetiver, and amber. Lipstick Rose has a fizzy, aldehydic opening with a sweet-but-tart raspberry note. The fragrance's heart is a blend of talc-dusted tea rose petals and violet liqueur that does, yes, remind me of certain highly-scented lipstick brands. After Lipstick Rose's flirtatious early development, its base of vetiver and soft musk makes a sophisticated appearance. The lasting dry down is a haze of candied violets and plush, ambery vanilla, with that sly musk lingering beneath. This fragrance has excellent staying power and noticeable sillage (particularly during the first hour or so).

Lipstick Rose is something of a paradox: it's a nostalgic fragrance that feels modern, as Robin once wrote about Guerlain Après l'Ondée (another violet-based beauty). Years ago, I read a short article about Editions de Parfums in some now-lost magazine (Vogue? circa 2003?) that discussed Lipstick Rose as a descendant of Yves Saint Laurent Paris, that over-the-top 1980s bouquet of violet and rose, with a more subtle, costly blend of ingredients and a more selective appeal. That sounds right to me. Lipstick Rose refers to earlier perfumes, and to an old-fashioned idea about what a woman's perfume should be, but it does so with a wit and a style of its own.

Sometimes I feel that Lipstick Rose is typecast as a purely frivolous scent, all fluff and giggles, when in fact it does have something more serious at its core. Even Mr. Malle himself recently said of Lipstick Rose, "You get a powdery, comfortable effect, but the fragrance is still playful and young."1 I see what he means by the playful aspect, but on the other hand, Lipstick Rose shouldn't be dismissed as "girly" (a term I despise, but that's another story). Other reviewers and wearers have occasionally compared it to stereotypical "pin-up" attire such a marabou-trimmed satin robe, but to me, it's more like a cropped jacket crafted from pale-colored fur, perhaps ornamented with a fur rosette or some sparkly buttons: pretty to look at, but also warm and substantial.

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose fragrance

There are other rose-violet perfumes on the market, of course, and many of them are delightful in their own ways. (For something that really does feel purely winsome and light-hearted, you might try L'Artisan Parfumeur Drôle de Rose). Still, Lipstick Rose remains my ultimate choice. I'll continue to wear it as long as it exists; it feels like a part of me, to the point where I've even adopted its name as my Twitter identity. (I revealed this fact to Frédéric Malle when I met him during a recent store appearance; he seemed amused.) And I've just realized something: one of the reasons I've waited so long to write about Lipstick Rose may be that I don't want anyone else to wear it and love it as much as I do.

Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums Lipstick Rose is available in 50 ml ($130) and 100 ml ($200) Eau de Parfum, or a set of three 10 ml travel sprays ($80); a 200 ml Lait Parfumé ($85) is also available. For purchasing information, see Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums under Perfume Houses.

1. Allure, February 2011, p. 64.

Note: image is Norma Talmadge (circa 1919), via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Bear says:

    When I received a sample of Amouage’s Lyric Woman I found it to smell of expensive lipstick. Saved me pennies and purchased, it is wonderful. Will have to score a sample of this to compare.
    Great review!

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Bear! Do give it a try when you have the chance.

  2. Delfina says:

    “I’ll continue to wear it as long as it exists”. *Shivers. Runs to buy big backup*

    • Jessica says:

      Don’t panic… I always think too far ahead! There’s no sign of this being discontinued.

  3. tulp says:

    Thanks for the review. I have got always problems with rose scents. I love roses, but I couldn’t wear a rose perfume. Either it was wearing me or it turned out to be sour on my skin. And then I read in the NST blog an article of Amouage Lyric Woman. I gave it a try when I saw it in a small store, and it is wonderful. I am so happy I now have a 10 ml split of it. So I tried two samples of two other rose scents: Liptstick Rose and Drole the Rose. I like Drole the Rose but I love Lipstick Rose. And I am not the one who wears fluffy rosa pullis and so on.

  4. I have yet to sniff this one, though I keep hearing such glowing reviews and it sounds just like something I’d love — I’ve heard it likened to Lancome lipstick which was my first foray into lipsticks when I was younger and I love the smell.

    A friend of mine just sent me a link to this lovely feather trimmed bias-cut white evening gown and now I’m invisioning wearing this perfume with it … gorgeous.

    • Jessica says:

      That gown sounds divine! I love the scent of Lancome and L’Oreal lipsticks, too.

    • Ari says:

      You are gonna LOVE it, girl.

  5. elise says:

    I’m not a huge rose fan (other than Lyric Woman!) but this review has me running to buy a sample! :)

    • Jessica says:

      Elise, it’s just as much violet and powder as rose, so who knows, you may like it!

  6. ScentScelf says:

    I can’t help it, but I still respond to Lipstick Rose in the way I did a few years back: Who’s laughing?

    I get that the materials are quality, but there is something about that powdery Choward’s violet mashed up in there that just makes me think we’ve gone beyond irony to prank. Probably doesn’t help that I don’t get any sophisticated later act; if I did, that could make all the difference. In your honor, I’ll try once more. :) (I’m always game for revisits; I’ve done turnabouts before, it could happen again.)

    You’ve branded your Twitter self with it? Now there’s love. J + LR 4ever :)

    • dee says:

      I hate those violet candies! I have a drawer full of them, because they’re my best friends favorite candy, but every time I open said drawer I think “gods thats potent!” :)

      • Ari says:

        Oh nooo, dee! I love them! I found them in the gift shop of the Baltimore Museum of Visual Arts. They certainly are strong, though.

    • odonata9 says:

      Those violet candies are terrible! My dad and brother love them. Couldn’t even stand to spritz Jolie Madame on skin since when I opened the cap, that is all I could smell!

    • 50_Roses says:

      I love those violet candies, but I don’t know where to buy them. I only see them once in a blue moon, usually when I am about a thousand miles away from home.

      • Jessica says:

        Those candies are still fairly easy to find at NYC newsstands… I actually enjoy them, in a strange way.

        • 50_Roses says:

          Unfortunately, I am almost two thousand miles from NYC. Whenever I see those candies, I buy some, but then I usually don’t see them again for years. I guess they are not popular around here.

    • Jessica says:

      ScentSelf, what greater tribute could there be, right?! lol.

  7. Filomena says:

    I am not exactly a lover of rose fragrances, but there are four that I really do really like a lot: Lipstick Rose, Citizen Queen, Lyric Woman and Drole de Rose. Jessica, your description of Lipstick Rose is right on the money. I own a few other rose scents that I never wear and I can’t say I am that crazy about Portrait of a Woman, but like you, I intend to wear Lipstick Rose as long as they make it.

    • Jessica says:

      Filomena, I had mixed feelings about Portrait… I need to try it again.

  8. Jill says:

    What a wonderful review, Jessica! I have yet to try Lipstick Rose — somehow it’s just never been at the top of my must-try list — but after reading your review I’m dying to try it!

  9. dora says:

    There used to be a Floris fragrance that smelled just like Lipstick rose. The box was pink. I don’t see it on there site anymore. My sample is over 5 years old.

    • Jessica says:

      Hmm… wonder what it was! Floris has cut so many nice fragrances.

    • tulp says:

      Hm, maybe Snow Rose or China Rose?

      • Filomena says:

        Yes, it was China Rose! I still have a bottle of it along with the body cream.

    • dora says:

      The scent was China Rose; and I believe they no longer sell it.

  10. kjanicki says:

    Great review, I think we might be scent twins.

    • Jessica says:

      It’s always a good feeling to have a scent twin. :)

  11. austenfan says:

    I am a huge fan of Paris, YSL. I have worn it for more years than I care to remember. ( basically from when it was first launched up till today). I will have to try this one. I have tried the FM Une Rose,which I liked, but that one is not like Paris at all. Drôle de Rose makes me smile. It is such a fun fragrance.

    • Jessica says:

      F Malle Une Rose is such a dramatic winey-truffley rose! I admire it but can’t pull off wearing it.

  12. Haunani says:

    Jessica, I loved reading about your love for this fragrance! Thanks. :-)

  13. Elizabeth says:

    This post makes me so happy! One of my favorite perfumes of all time, reviewed on my birthday! And I wore Lipstick Rose today! It was meant to be. :)

    And I completely agree about LR being unfairly typecast as a giggly pin-up scent. It’s not that at all. It makes me think of a 1940s suit dress in raspberry red, worn with gold button earrings and precisely-matching lipstick.

    • Jill says:

      Happy Birthday!

      • helenviolette says:

        Happy Birthday to you :)

    • Jessica says:

      Dear E, that makes me so glad! Happy Birthday to You!

  14. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Great review and taste in Twitter names, Jessica! :) If only I could commit to one fragrance in a similar fashion… I’d feel the urge to adjust or change it in ten minutes when another of my fragrance loves captures my attention. lol

    Lipstick Rose was my first FM sample and I fell head over heels for it. It reminded me of the lipsticks aimed at little girls with their fabulous smells and just a touch of color I used to get by a company called Tinkerbelle when I was a child, but also of those wonderful powders that come in big containers with a puff for application. I always felt like the cat’s pajamas when I used them. Lipstick Rose is all this with a nice dollop of violet candies, which I also love, and I bought a travel spray last year and it still makes me smile.

    Now that I’m supposedly a grown-up, Lipstick Rose also reminds me of YSL’s Paris and the distinct and almost wine-like fragrance of their lipsticks, sipping Chambord and champagne on summer nights when friends come to call, nuzzling my nose into a bouquet of roses and of the delightful ritual of applying cosmetics.

    I was curious when it launched and discovered that Amanda by Amanda Lepore is like Lipstick Rose Extreme, though the original LR is plenty potent enough. But Lipstick Rose immediately came to mind when I tried AL–both are so irrepressibly well… girly for lack of a more appropriate term. I haven’t tried Droll de Rose yet but have just put it on my sample list, too.

    Glad to see Lipstick Rose get so much well-deserved love. It just makes me feel fabulous when I wear it like Fracas or Divine, and I do hope it is never altered drastically or even worse, discontinued. That would be cause for panic. :)

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, I remember those Tinkerbelle cosmetics! They really were all the rage for 6- or 7-year-old girls. I love dusting powders, too… cosmetics (and perfume) should always have *some* element of fun to them!

  15. olenska says:

    Love that opening line! It sets the tone for a great review. I was describing Lipstick Rose to a coworker the other day, but rather inadequately. Now I’ll be able to point her toward your review, particularly the point LR “evokes the ‘bonbon’ scent of lipstick”– exactly what I wished I could have said, but didn’t have the words.

    • Jessica says:

      Olenska, the Malle website describes it in those words… but thank you!

      • Jessica says:

        (That is, they used the word “bon bon” to describe the scent of lipstick.) :)

  16. helenviolette says:

    Thanks for the Valentine Jessica. I am a fan of Lipstick Rose and Drole de Rose- I have a purse spray of LR and have numerous samples/decants of DdR- I think if I could decide which one I like more- I might one day take a Full Bottle plunge :)

    • Jessica says:

      Helen, a tough choice… both are lovely, I think!

  17. 50_Roses says:

    Jessica, I am intrigued by your statement that you waited so long to review LR because you don’t want anyone else to wear it and love it as much as you do. That same theme came up here earlier this week, i.e., not wanting to share your perfume with others. Some people do not want others around them to wear “their” perfume, while some are not bothered by the idea. I think it might make an interesting poll question, if it hasn’t been done before: Do you share your perfume loves with others or do you keep them to yourself?

    • Jessica says:

      50-Roses, That’s a good idea… I’ll bring it to Robin’s attention, if she hasn’t already seen your comment!
      One day, at work, I smelled Bellodgia (another all-time favorite) on someone else. I felt the back of my neck start tingling; I was ready to go into some primitive “fight or flight” mode. It was very odd. Fortunately, that person was just wearing a sample she’d received when she was buying her usual fragrance… so it didn’t happen again. ;)

  18. Ari says:

    My favorite damn fragrance. Personally, I find it closer to YSL Yvresse than Paris, but I have no qualms with either of those lovely fragrances. Thank you for the great review!

    • Jessica says:

      Oh, I need to try Yvresse again… it’s been a very long time!

  19. Warum says:

    I love Lipstick Rose! I am not 100% sure I can live up to its glamour, but I associate it with little black dress, precious pearls and red lipstick, and I don’t wear neither.

    So far, I tried it in a sample, one spritz and… it may very well be love!..

    • Jessica says:

      Warum, I’ve loved it since first spritz, too… and it’s a bit dressed-up, but nowhere near as much as FM Iris Poudre or Une Rose, both of which are a little too dramatic and elegant for me!

      • Warum says:

        Une Rose is very pretty, Iris Poudre is too cold for me… and Lipstick Rose is just right — when I’m dressed up. I need to sample it more.

  20. mals86 says:

    Lipstick Rose was the first Malle I tried, and since I have no access to Malles I had to buy the sample. My thoughts went something like this: Oh, very nice – girly, powdery, pretty, smells exactly like fancy lipsticksNOWGIMMEMYMONEYBACK. I still don’t love it, although I am a huuuuge Iris Poudre fan, and I like YSL Paris very much. I am, in fact, a huge fan of anything girly at all – except this one. Sigh.

    More for you, right?

  21. missminute says:

    It’s odd but when I tried this at the counter just last week, it smelled to me of church – of dried roses and sticky church candle wax. I didn’t like it at first, but I have been compelled to go back for more.

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