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.