After having smelled hundreds — if not thousands — of perfume samples, sometimes it feels that many fragrances give in to the same tropes. Rightly or wrongly, it’s easy to dismiss them with a “been there, done that” cursory sniff. If I say “white floral,” you probably mentally sniff gardenia, tuberose and musk. Or, to get more specific, “beachy white floral,” “innocent white floral” and “glamorous white floral” bring to mind particular fragrance types. If you’ve smelled one, you can assume you’ve smelled them all.
So, when Phaedon Rouge Avignon was presented to me as a “rose incense,” I figured I knew what I’d smell next. After all, I’ve spent time with samples of Tauer Perfumes Incense Rosé, Terry de Gunzburg Rose Infernale and others. What I didn’t count on was a good-enough-to-eat infusion of raspberry and cocoa along with the rose and incense. It makes for an unexpected — and if you’re in the mood for it — appealing twist.
Phaedon released Rouge Avignon in 2013, and perfumer Pierre Guillaume of Parfumerie Générale created it. Its notes include rose, ylang ylang, raspberry, “waxed” woods, cocoa bean, black truffle, vetiver, sandalwood, musk and amber. It’s billed as an “haute concentration” Eau de Parfum, meaning that it carries about a 30% concentration.
On paper, Rouge Avignon’s rose leaps center stage. It’s thick and luscious and leads me to think of it as chiefly a rose fragrance. But on skin, the perfume’s incense-gourmand body plays at least equal billing, especially as its warms. Beware: Rouge Avignon’s raspberry is a true, ripe raspberry and not a dry hint at fruit. Boxed in by incense and sprinkled with bitter cocoa, it doesn’t come off to me as jammy, but people will recognize it as raspberry. If you prefer your fruit barely recognizable, you probably won’t be a fan.
After an hour or so, the raspberry disappears into Rouge Avignon’s incense. Vanilla and sandalwood keep the incense from being too sour or tangy, as it can be sometimes. At this point, instead of morphing into a bottom-heavy incense fragrance as I’d expected, Rouge Avignon seems to shed weight and rise, maybe because of its musk.
Rouge Avignon has substantial body and sillage, but it isn’t a blockbuster, so you don’t have to worry about inadvertently clearing your workmates’ sinuses or summoning thoughts of the pope when you’d rather be projecting a more professional image. It lasts all day on my skin, melting into a vaporous sweet wood as it ages. The fragrance feels firmly unisex to me, and because of its sweetness and lift, it’s less masculine than many incense scents.
I’d wear Rouge Avignon in the autumn, when it can be swaddled in cashmere and wool, and when the chill in the air will keep the raspberry under control. Leaves crunching underfoot and chimney smoke in the air would complement the fragrance nicely. And, hey, that time of year is just around the corner…
What incense-rose fragrances do you like? And what perfumes are you most looking forward to wearing this fall?
Phaedon Rouge Avignon Eau de Parfum is $160 for 100 ml. For information on where to buy or sample it, see Phaedon under Perfume Houses.