Suzanne's Perfume Journal

She sends me perfume-sample packages with “OMG!” written across them in black marker, accentuated by a heart drawn in her girlish, looping style. Her emails are short and sweet, punctuated by LOL’s and signed with x’s and o’s. Her phone conversations are as unhurried as a Sunday afternoon.

Once or twice a year she’ll ask me if I can write a little something for her online perfume magazine—and when I ask her what she’d like me to write about, she says, “Write about what you love.” The couple of times I have failed to come through for her, she is forgiving, and when I am able to help her out she is full of thanks and praise.

We’ve never met in person—there’s lots we don’t know about one another—but something flowing, natural and easy passes between us, such that I consider her a friend. In phone calls, she’s quick to remind me she’s older than me, which makes me laugh, since neither of us are spring chickens. And I know by certain things she says that her life is like any other—full of complexities—and that she, too, must navigate her way through its maze of quiet and startling joys, petty nuisances, and grievous disappointments. Yet there is something eternally girlish about Raphaella Barkley: an enthusiasm that is child-like in its directness and full-on affection. She collects friends the same way she collects rose perfumes—passionately and from all corners of the globe—and so it comes as no surprise that one of her friends, natural perfumer Laurie Stern, recently created a perfume of rose essences from (yes!) all corners of the globe to honor her.

Bed of Roses, from Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery, is an all-natural, botanical parfum centered around an accord of nine distinct rose distillations from some of the most prized, rose-growing regions of the planet—and despite how intensely rosy that might sound, it is, without a doubt, one of the easiest rose perfumes I have ever worn. I never thought a rose perfume could be complex and gentle at the same time, but this one has proven it so and made me see the virtues of natural perfumery in a new light. While the perfumer has created it around an accord that would seem, by description, to shout “rose!” from every field and mountaintop (there is rose de mai from Grasse, France; Indian roses from the Himalayas; damask rose otto from Bulgaria; and Moroccan and Persian roses, to name a few), she has married this accord to notes of dark chocolate, cognac, and aged sandalwood, with accents of tuberose, boronia, orange blossom and green mandarin, and a crown of rose leaf absolute. The result is a fine liqueur of a rose scent that has a rich, warm buzz to it, as well as a calm, cashmere sweetness.

It is also anything but linear, so when it first hits the skin, the rose accord isn’t yet evident. Instead there’s an absinthe-like greenness, slowly joined by a patchouli-like dark chocolate, and as they meld together, Bed of Roses makes good on its promise of rich cognac. A touch of citrus chimes in too, such that tiny whiffs of orange-peel-and-dark-chocolate candy peek out from the edges of this cognac. This urbane opening to the perfume makes it clear that Bed of Roses ain’t for little girls; in fact, this is precisely the kind of rose perfume that would appeal to men as well as to women.

As the rose accord at the heart of the perfume starts to bloom on the skin, Bed of Roses softens, sweetens, and gets cozy. The roses smell true and natural—quite beautiful, in fact—without ever being overwhelming. The other floral accents in Bed of Roses are not evident to an untrained nose like mine; in whatever manner they lift, cushion or extend the rose fragrance, they do so furtively. The aged sandalwood is equally discreet, adding a suede-like nap to the scent and accomplishing this, seemingly, without its usual companion scent of vanilla.

Composed entirely of natural essences (which are far quieter than the synthetics), Bed of Roses has a light sillage: It is not a scene-stealing perfume, but it will capture your heart with its warmth, sophistication and easy-going nature. Much like the friend it was dedicated to captured mine.

Raphaella Barkley

Bed of Roses and a Love Letter

December 6, 2010:

Bed of Roses is a limited-edition perfume from Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery in El Cerrito, California. Made from all-natural essences which are costly and rare, Bed of Roses is priced at $295 for 8 ml. and can be purchased directly from the company website.

(Owner and perfumer Laurie Stern is offering a complimentary sample of Bed of Roses with every order she receives FROM NOW UNTIL THE END OF DECEMBER 2010.  So if you’re interested in trying it, check out Laurie’s site, where she offers a wide variety of scented products, including her luscious “body frostings.”)

Bed of Roses was dedicated by Stern to Raphaella Barkley, former editor of Sniffapalooza Magazine and, later, founder and owner of The Perfume Magazine.

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