When I choose a wine, I often take one of two approaches. I’ll select a wine that complements dinner, but doesn’t match it — a spicy Gewürztraminer or honeyed Chenin Blanc for Thai food, for instance. Or, I’ll choose a wine that blends with dinner — for example, a barely oaked Chardonnay with roast chicken. I tend to do the same thing when I choose the day’s perfume. On a rainy day like today with leaf rot in the streets, I might go for the complement and choose a warm, soft fragrance. Flower by Kenzo Oriental, maybe. But if I were going to choose a scent that feels like today in all its chilled autumn magnificence, it would be L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses.
Michel Almairac created Voleur de Roses (French for “rose thief”) in 1993. The L’Artisan Parfumeur website lists its notes simply as patchouli, rose, and plum. That sounds right to me. Voleur de Roses smells like a Syrah-soaked rose washed over with wet patchouli, moldering wood, and cold plum. The wet has an almost metallic edge, like the ocean. The fragrance’s patchouli is one of its main features, so if you don’t like patchouli, steer clear. Rose-phobes who do all right with patchouli might like Voleur de Roses. Its rose would be more at home at a dive bar than a garden party.
More than any other perfume I know, Voleur de Roses seems to elicit gothic descriptions. I’ve heard it compared to graveyards, dirty roots, and haunted basements. There is definitely something moody about the fragrance. Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff might have worn it. Or, for a less lofty comparison, remember the turret organ room in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken? (Even Bon Ami couldn’t get rid of the blood stains on the organ’s keys, the ladies’ psychic society said.) It had to smell of Voleur de Roses.
If I were to choose Voleur de Roses not to reflect a day, but to complement it, I’d wear it on a summer afternoon at lunch on the patio of a nice restaurant. Voleur de Roses’s thin coolness would be a great substitute for an Eau de Cologne. I can imagine someone wearing Voleur de Roses in the boardroom to send a stealth message of “I am my own person, and I don’t mess around.” To me, Voleur de Roses isn’t overtly sexual, but it would be irresistible to someone tantalized by individuality and confidence.
Voleur de Roses is distinctive enough to smell bigger than its sillage. Although I think of it as a big fragrance, soon after three liberal spritzes, Voleur de Roses shrinks to within six inches of my skin. It lasts from first thing in the morning to mid-afternoon, and quietly. To me, Voleur de Roses reads as neither traditionally feminine or masculine.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses Eau de Toilette comes in 100 ml for $145 (there is also a discontinued 50 ml size for $95 which can still be found online). For information on where to buy it, see L’Artisan Parfumeur under Perfume Houses.