Roses de Mai Marathon: Roses Musk

Roses Musk is one of many rose-centric fragrances in the Montale line and it is said to be the line’s bestseller. Wow, is it polarizing! Some online commenters love it, others really hate it. 

Personally, I quite like it, but I am guessing that what others react to negatively may be some of the aromachemicals in the fragrance. Specifically, I wonder if Ambroxan causes problems for some. There is a great post on the blog Perfume Shrine, by Elena Vosnaki, that goes into detail about those materials and how they work: Ambrox/Ambroxan: A Modern Fascination On An Elegant Material. Also, apparently a number of people are anosmic to Ambroxan (meaning they can’t smell it or smell it only faintly), which would naturally affect one’s perception of a fragrance that relies heavily on it.

I think Roses Musk probably does. Here is the brand’s own summary of the scent: “The most pure Roses delicately harmonised by the precious Musk, underlined with a touch of Amber and Jasmine, for an elegant sparkling sillage.” Ambroxan is known to impart an ambery, musky base note, which some also perceive as sparkling. The Candy Perfume Boy is a fan, and has blogged about it here: All About Ambroxan. I love this part of his description:

There’s also a sweetness to Ambroxan – a transparent, glittering and crystalline feel, as well as a soft, skin-like woodiness. It’s a fascinating, multi-faceted material that can be pulled in many directions, but it’s also tremendously diffusive, adding an expanse to fragrances, creating space, in which beautiful nuances can dance.

This aligns closely to Montale’s own description, and it would explain the polarized reactions among those who comment online about Roses Musk. (There has also been some controversy about the background and ownership of Montale fragrances, I’ve discovered, but I’m reviewing the fragrance, not the company, so I won’t pay much attention to that).

So what do I like about Roses Musk? It just smells like a fresh, linear rose soliflore to my nose, with a warm, soft, slightly woody drydown. I don’t smell any jasmine at all. And I wonder if that is due to my own inability to smell fully another aromachemical, Hedione. That one is often used to impart a jasmine note, as well as floral transparency and diffusiveness.  On my skin, Roses Musk is a pretty, soft rose. It doesn’t develop much at all, but it does last a long time for me. Some commenters have noted that they experience a very sharp chemical opening, and I do too for the first three seconds. Literally, that’s it — three seconds, and only if I put my nose to it as soon as I’ve spritzed.  There is a light citrusy floral note at the start, and maybe that’s supposed to be the “jasmine.” It’s very pleasant, though, after those first three seconds (which are easily ignored or avoided, again, to my nose. YMMV).

I haven’t yet figured out if Roses Musk has the same sillage as the first Montale I tried (and loved), Intense Cafebut it does seem to have a similar “wafting” effect. When I wear it, I get wafts of fresh rose, off and on, for hours. Unlike some other rose scents, even soliflores, I get no greenery, no leaves, no stems, no earth — just the scent of the flower of a rose, although it does display some of the different facets of the flower’s scent at different times, including on my two arms which I sprayed half an hour apart. That aspect alone is very appealing to me. It does smell floral to me and not soapy. It’s a good scent to wear to the office in light doses, as I doubt it will offend anyone after its opening phase.

Finally, I get a kick out of the name Roses Musk. One of the oldest types of roses recorded is the “musk rose“, first mentioned in English literature in the 16th century but known to European gardens before then. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life, but it is grown (and sometimes sold) at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Like the Montale line, it too is apparently the subject of old controversy between 20th century rosarians Leonie Bell and Graham Stuart Thomas! I used a Redoute illustration of what was then supposed to be the old white musk rose as my featured image, but Roses Musk smells bright pink to me.

Have you tried any Montale fragrances? Or, are you anosmic to any modern aromachemicals?


5 thoughts on “Roses de Mai Marathon: Roses Musk

  1. I’m not aware of being anosmic to any particular aromachemical. My only experience of anosmia was to Ormonde Jayne’s Isfarkand, in the store. I couldn’t smell a thing whether inside or outside. No problem with all the perfumes I tried right before or right after, in the same store. Never figured out why!


  2. Montale line is huge and completely unrepresented around here, so my familiarity with it is very sporadic. I would have bought some of their 20 ml bottles had they been easily obtainable. But for now I have a couple of decants (one of them – for Intense Cafe) and samples. I haven’t tried Roses Musk, but From your description I might like it.

    I love Iso E-Super but half of the time I cannot smell it :).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find this interesting, even if I have never tried this perfume. I think I may be partly anosmic to ambroxan, at least there’s perfumes which others perceive as much more complex than I do. Same thing with certain musks, but with musks there’s the added problem of some of them feeling very piercing to my nose. I have tried only few of the Montales, and mostly perfumes suitable for winter..


    • It is interesting, isn’t it? I don’t even know if I’m anosmic to hedione, I just wonder if I might be. Montales are probably best sampled before buying. I was able to try Intense Cafe and Roses Musk through a Scentbird subscription.


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