Just when I thought this season's wave of rose-inspired perfumes had tapered off, one more has come my way, and it's a very unusual example: Asphalt Rainbow, the second release from Brooklyn-based independent perfume brand Charenton Macerations. This fragrance was developed by perfumer Cecile Hua, and its notes include rose, spray paint (aerosols), galbanum, lily of the valley, lychee, ylang ylang, saffron, magnolia, leather, cistus, asphalt, "detritus," patchouli, wood and amber.
Asphalt Rainbow is described as "an olfactive love letter to the street: a roughed up rose that’s been hyper-colored, torn apart and twisted on its head, then nailed to the wall for your sniffing pleasure." It's actually discussed at much greater length on the Charenton Macerations website, in various posts that occasionally read like an M.F.A. thesis; once you sift through the verbiage, you can take away the idea that Asphalt Rainbow is designed as a homage to graffiti and street art of all kinds, an olfactory tribute to an art form that's vibrant and temporary and rebellious.
If I had to come up with just one phrase for Asphalt Rainbow, I'd call it "a deconstructed urban rose." For its first hour or so, it's all street and very little flower: lots of damp cement and rusted metal, a nose-tingling hint of acrid ozone, a greenish edge from the galbanum. When the rose does start to emerge, it's a saffron-y rose bound with strips of leather and foil. It never smells like a conventional "perfume," which adds to its quirky appeal. Instead, it feels more like an experimental short film or a scroll through someone's Instagram feed. (Not by coincidence, Charenton Macerations is very active on social media.)
Asphalt Rainbow's floral and leaf notes peek in and out of the metallic and earthy background, as though they were growing through a chain-link fence; layering is one of several concepts behind this fragrance, which doesn't evolve in a predictable manner. The patchouli is one of the more natural-smelling notes in this environment, and it joins the woodsy amber to push the rose into a deeper, warmer phase. Overall, Asphalt Rainbow is more androgynous than the fragrances I typically wear, but I've enjoyed experiencing it. It also has excellent staying power; it lasted through a work-day on my skin.
Each bottle of Asphalt Rainbow is labeled with an iridescent sticker, rolled in a square of gray leather, and packed in a cardboard tube with a small sachet of dried roses. It's an industrial-bohemian presentation that suits the fragrance within.