The Perfumers Workshop Tea Rose is something of a legend in the fragrance world: people seem either to love it or hate it, mostly depending on how they feel about strong rose scents, but most agree on a few things: it is cheap-cheap-cheap; it is STRONG; it is a linear rose, without much else going on. If you have a half-hour to spare and want to be amused, go to Basenotes.net and read the reviews there! And if you like rose fragrances but are looking for a bargain beauty, try Tea Rose. You can still buy 4 fl. oz., or 120 ml, for less than $15.
Tea Rose has a really interesting history, recounted on The Perfumers Workshop website:
In 1970, after ten years in the industry learning from legends such as Charles Revson and Leonard Lauder, Donald Bauchner formed Perfumer’s Workshop Ltd with his wife Gun. Armed with a vision to create a new company with a character and personality reflecting an ‘underground’ movement then surfacing, Perfumer’s Workshop was born. Bauchner had an intuition that the consumer was ready to deconstruct the fragrance business, stripping it of the pomp and formality that had permeated it since the beginnings of the century. Its first breakthrough was a Bloomingdale’s counter which transformed the idea for using essential oils, a mainstay of the youth and hippie culture, remade as a luxury product, an uptown meets downtown spirit. It was the industry’s first custom-blending fragrance concept. Perfumer’s Workshop allowed the customer to create their own individual scent in a variety of fragrance forms. In its basic, simple package, this custom-blending opportunity actually empowered the customer for the very first time, and would set the tone for much of was yet to come, foreshadowing so many of today’s boutique, niche brands.
In the late 1970’s, the company transformed its best-selling essential oil into a more traditional fragrance line able to be sold at thousands of perfumery counters in the United States and throughout the world, rather than remaining available in limited distribution only at Perfumer’s Workshop custom-blending counters. The magical fragrance Tea Rose was an immediate perennial favorite everywhere. It became an instant ‘classic’. Princess Grace of Monaco… Catherine Deneuve… Princess Diana…Nicole Kidman – the list of Tea Rose adoring fans is endless. Its stories the stuff of fragrance legends. Perfumer’s Workshop has lost count, but probably 55- 60 million bottles of Tea Rose have been sold.
Basenotes lists the perfumer behind Tea Rose as Annie Buzantian, which is not included in Fragrantica’s information but is confirmed by Luca Turin’s four-star review:
Composed in 1972, Tea Rose was the first fragrance signed by the great Annie Buzantian (Pleasures), and was in many ways the first niche fragrance: the Perfumer’s Workshop did nothing but fragrances, had a small range, was fairly hard to find, and had a devoted following. Tea Rose was and is a rose soliflore that illustrates how complex a composition must be before it can actually claim to smell of rose. The rose it depicts is huge, painted in watercolor, and has the species name written below it in cursive.
Turin calls it a “green rose”, and I agree. There is certainly a lot of different information about Tea Rose online: Basenotes lists an actual pyramid for it, with top notes of peony and chamomile; heart notes of tea rose, damask rose, and Bulgarian rose; and base notes of geranium leaf, violet leaf, and cedarwood. Fragrantica does not list a pyramid (and I think that’s more accurate, as this scent is very linear) but does list these notes: bergamot, rose, lily, tuberose, sandalwood, amber, cedar, and brazilian rosewood. While one might be tempted to ascribe the discrepancies to different versions over the years, or reformulations, The Perfumers Workshop firmly squelches that thought in its FAQ: “The Tea Rose formula has remained unchanged for 50 years.”
If I had to create my own list from scratch, I would include a strong green presence up front, maybe geranium leaf (I’m guessing from geraniol, which is a main component of rose oil as well as citronella); a mix of rose essences or rose oxides, including but not only tea rose; green apple (which likely comes from the roses, as some roses smell a lot like green apples, like Rosa rubiginosa); and some kind of wood in the drydown. Cedar seems most likely. I would think that was created by Iso E Super, except that the latter came along a few years after Tea Rose and was created by IFF, not Firmenich (Annie Buzantian’s workplace in 1972). But apparently Iso E Super came out of research in the 1960s into various compounds that resembled ionones, the molecules that create the smell of violets, so if Tea Rose incorporated some of those, that would account for the Basenotes inclusion of violet leaf and cedarwood in its list.
Okay, that’s as far as this amateur gardener can get with basic chemistry copied from other, more knowledgeable sources! Bottom line: Tea Rose smells a LOT like the David Austin English Rose “Teasing Georgia”, currently in full and magnificent bloom in my garden. Both have that note of green apples but are unmistakably ROSE-scented. Coincidentally (or not), “Teasing Georgia” is described on the David Austin website as having a “lovely, strong tea fragrance.” If you like a strong, straightforward rose fragrance with a linear development, maybe more green at the start and more woody at the end, but very similar throughout), you should try Tea Rose, especially given how affordable it is. Many commenters online have described how they like to layer it with other, more complex and/or more expensive fragrances to amp up the “rose” in those, and at this price, why not? In fact, one could easily emulate some of those commenters and spritz it freely on linens, clothes, wherever one wants a straight-up rose scent.
A couple of weeks ago, MMKinPA commented that her mother often wore Tea Rose. Anyone else have specific memories of it? Strong reactions pro or con?