L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses ~ fragrance review

b&w roses

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.

L'Artisan Parfumeur 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.

Note: top image is Rose and family [cropped] by Neetesh Gupta at flickr; some rights reserved.

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  1. Jill says:

    Thanks for such a wonderful review, Angela! I adore Voleur de Roses. It’s strange — I discovered it in summer (2006, I think) and maybe for that reason I have always tended to wear it in warm weather — associations, I guess. But now I’m totally inspired to wear it today! (Was going to go with Ambre Narguile, but your review put me in a completely different — more gothic — mood!)

    • Angela says:

      It really is nice in summer. There’s something cold and wet about Voleur–although I’d never call it “refreshing”–that fits right in on a summer’s day. But boy does it suit those days in autumn when it’s rainy and the sidewalk is slushy with leaves.

      • Jill says:

        It really does. Have been wearing it and enjoying it today (it’s been quite gray here and it fits nicely).

  2. Rappleyea says:

    I agree with your second situation of wearing VdR – to complement a hot summer day. I love this fragrance and when I wear it in the heat and humidity of summer, it feels like eating a dripping plum in the middle of a cool, shady grove. VdR would make me shiver on a cold, rainy day (like today!). On my scent-glue skin, it lasts for two days! :-D

    A great review of a wonderful fragrance. Thanks, Angela!

    • Angela says:

      I admit I’m not wearing Voleur today–I went for another Almairac, Bottega Veneta. It’s much warmer!

  3. OperaFan says:

    Voleur de Roses was among the first samples I ever ordered when I began my active perfumista journey. I was so excited to try it for the roses – little did I know. Cold and earthy it was. Patchouli works beautifully for me when it’s a team player, but when it’s featured in all its raw glory I can’t seem to handle it. Too bad, really liked that rose in the opening.

    • Angela says:

      Voleur de Roses has such a distinct personality, and that personality has shockingly little to do with roses! I bet a lot of people are surprised when they first try it.

      • OperaFan says:

        It really IS a skin chemistry thing. I really enjoy smelling patcouli EO out of the bottle, but I just can’t seem to carry the perfumes on my skin. On DH – totally opposite. He smells wonderful wearing Timbuktu – another patch-heavy L’Artisan. On me, it smells like mud….

        • Angela says:

          Between the two of you, you could amass a nice, complementary fragrance collection, it sounds like!

      • Rappleyea says:

        Hence the name – the roses in this scent have been stolen! :-D

        • Angela says:

          You’re right! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that….

        • OperaFan says:

          No kidding! The rose lover in me wanted it to keep on singing, but the patch muffled it after a while. :(

          • Rappleyea says:

            As you know, I’m *not* a rose fan, so I was quite happy with their minimal appearance!

  4. ggperfume says:

    At first I read “leaf rot in the streets” as “leaf riot in the streets” – there’s an exciting image for a windy day in late autumn! What scents could one wear for leaf riots?

    • Angela says:

      Leaf riot! I love it! I’ll have to ponder that one. Something colorful and active and woody could work.

    • Rappleyea says:

      Interestingly enough, another patchouli, CdG’s Patchouli Luxe. But in that one the patchouli was entirely missing on my skin. It smelled exactly like a big pile of dried leaves.

      • Angela says:

        I haven’t smelled that one in a long time. A pile of leaves might be really nice, though.

    • Bonbori says:

      Leaf riot in the streets! Goes like this:

      CB I Hate Perfume Perfume Burning Leaves. Also, SL Fille en Aiguilles.

      • Angela says:

        Great perfume suggestions. I have to wait until I’m at a different computer to see the leaf riot, but I sure am curious!

        • Bonbori says:

          Don’t get too excited, it’s just a Bon Jovi video. No leaves. Should have also said before, I liked your post. Roses are hard for me but your description was very evocative.

          • Angela says:

            Hey, in my world Bon Jovi is as exciting as anything else going on.

  5. KRL says:

    Not really my thing, last summer I explored Hippie Rose and sprayed this as a comparison. Then, I went to the market and got a compliment from a complete stranger (which has happened maybe 4 times in the past 3 years). So, I snagged a 1/2 full bottle on ebay and while I don’t turn to this often, I’m so glad it’s part of my scent wardrobe. Neither rose nor patch excite me, but together they are sublime! So glad you reviewed this one!

    • Angela says:

      I don’t wear Voleur often, either, so I was surprised to see I had drained my 50 ml bottle. I must have been reaching for it more than I thought–always a good sign.

      • KRL says:

        That’s amazing! I have not finished a bottle in years :) Although my 50ml of Cadjmere only has about month left in it…

        • Angela says:

          To be honest, it was a bottle I got in a swap so it wasn’t entirely full. Still, it’s a rare feeling to spray that last few drops!

  6. FragrantWitch says:

    You’ve really piqued my interest with this review, Angela. Your description is so evocative- I love it! I am definitely a rose-phobe that does alright with patchouli so I will seek this out. Haunted basement on a rainy day with a window open onto the rose garden maybe??Thanks for the lemming!

    • Angela says:

      I’d love to know what you think if you do try it!

    • Rappleyea says:

      I don’t even know about the rose garden, Wtich. More like a ripe plum tree, and the neighbors two doors down have a rose garden!

      • Angela says:

        Now you have me longing for a big vase of fragrant roses. I might need to buy a few of them to get me through the next few days.

        • Jahn says:

          After reading this review this afternoon, i went out and got 50 native roses and a bag of sea salt for a rose, clove and vetiver wet potpourri :-)

          • Angela says:

            Oh, that sounds marvelous!

      • FragrantWitch says:

        Even better!

  7. Merlin says:

    This review is so scintillating! I tried VdR on me once and it turned ULTRA metallic, awful. I don’t know what note or chemical does this, but I had the same reaction to EldO’s Rossy de Palma which I had hoped to love. Even Rose Poivree, by The Different Company.

    Don’t know why since I love rose, and can wear many others?

    • Angela says:

      That’s too bad! Skin chemistry is so mysterious to me. Just last weekend I sprayed the same EdP on a couple, and it smelled heavily patchouli on one of them and really floral on the other.

  8. Emily says:

    “Rose-phobes who do all right with patchouli …” That would be me. Thanks for the review of a fragrance I probably would’ve overlooked otherwise — can’t wait to try it.

    • Angela says:

      Let us know what you think of it!

  9. Amanda says:

    So glad for this review, perfect timing! Am on the fence about VdR to be my winter purchase this year, am thinking its the right choice and have been craving it lately.

    • Angela says:

      If you’ve been craving it, that’s a pretty good sign. Especially if you already have plenty of warm fragrances on deck.

  10. Jared says:

    Your review made me pull out my sample of this again, a perfume which I haven’t smelled in over a year. I wrote it off as not intense enough, too “rosy-fruity”, which was understandable given the rose-patchouli-oud combo of Montale’s Black Aoud. However, Voleur again this evening has been a pleasant surprise. I notice the “L’Artisan patchouli” from their Patchouli Patch, and given that I am a patchouli fan, I could really appreciate having this. It’s just plain nice! I love how it blooms in the cold autumn night air. Maybe it’s worth a second chance after all….

    • Angela says:

      It really is a one-of-a-kind patchouli. So wet and chilly compared to many patchoulis. I can’t think of any patchouli, really, with the same qualities. But compared to Montale Black Aoud it really is a different creature.

  11. annunziata says:

    I’m pretty much of a rosaphile, but have never tried this. Lately I have been wearing both Amouage Lyric and OJ Ta’if quite a bit. Your review is wonderful, I can’t imagine how strange and alluring a rose scent that is metallic and oceanic could be — so I will be trying it anon.

    • Angela says:

      I sure do love both Lyric and Ta’if. This rose is different still than those. I’d love to know what you think of it, though!

  12. Nlb says:

    Oh, I adore this scent so much. Mostly because it calls-up a very, specific moment in my childhood.

    I loved walking alone when the days were gray and drizzly — I loved rainy days. This scent reminds me of a distinct moment when I was about 8 or 9 years old, standing at the corner of my hill, right next to rose bushes and autumn olives. I was eating this candy from the 80’s, these little nibs of grape-flavored powder. It was early summer, an unusually gray week and it had just rained. I could smell the wet earth and pine woods, a wet neighbor’s barn, a wet picnic table, the soaked roses and bushes, the taste of minty grape in my mouth, the thick, foggy air from a warm rain. It was this fascinating combination of coolness and humidity, with molecules of bitter greens floating on the air, also heavily sweet with the scent of summer roses in full bloom, the moisture giving the scent a larger-than-life, “technicolor”, plum-like intensity.

    VdR conjures-up all of it for me. It’s heaven :).

    • Angela says:

      What an amazing description! I was right there with you, every word, smelling and feeling. Thank you.

  13. Nile Goddess says:

    A friend made me a present of it a couple of years ago. Since then, it’s been haunting my refrigerator. And I really have no excuse, having selected it myself.

    Rose and patchouli are a nice if extravagant couple, , except and in Midnight Poison I like them. In Voleur de Roses, they really need to become a threesome … but where is the plum? Can’t smell it. It’s cold, stony/metallic and for me awful. People tell me I smell like a church. I wish, incense would be great, but i do feel like I’ve been sharing a crypt with a vampire.

    It sort of layers well with something ambery and sweet, or indeed jammy and sweet, but for me it remains a fragrance for one of my rare Cirque du Freak moods.

    On a man it may work better.

    • Angela says:

      Cirque du Freak mood? I like the sound of that! Maybe you can swap your bottle to get something you’d wear more. Of course, it’s hard to part with something that was a gift.

  14. Julia says:

    Oh, Angela! Thank you for another great review of an old favourite. I pulled Voleur de Roses out over the weekend when we were talking about comfort scents. I think we are scent twins. I’ve purchased several fragrances you’ve given positive reviews (sometimes unsniffed) and I’m never disappointed.
    I still aspire to the dream wardrobe you outlined in your review of Laura Mercier Minuit Enchantee – “Except for the little black dress, my dream basic wardrobe looks a lot different: try for starters 10 cotton sundresses from the 1950s, four 1940s suits, enough vintage cocktail dresses to last a few seasons in Monte Carlo, and an armload of dressing gowns.”
    I can also remember, all to vividly, your description of Charlie! because I was there, too. It wasn’t kinda fun or kinda wow.
    Now – I’m off to douse myself in Voleur de Roses again.

    • Julia says:

      Also, you had me at Don Knotts. I simply adore the man and mourned his passing.

      • Angela says:

        I think Don Knotts is a genius! I’m so glad you loved him, too.

    • Angela says:

      Gosh, I still aspire to that wardrobe, too! I’m inspired, now, to take off my rain-sodden work clothes and toss on a dressing gown, and maybe a quilted satin bed jacket for warmth. Hey, and maybe some Shalimar in your honor!

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