Roses de Mai Marathon: Geranium Bourbon

So many of the rose fragrances I own lean to the traditionally feminine side (if you feel that the more flowery or powdery scents are more feminine) that I think I need to balance things with a rose that may feel more unisex or even masculine. I myself believe that people of any gender can wear any fragrance, but the men in my household beg to differ. Take that with a grain of salt, though; one is my teenaged son, who only a few years ago thought Axe was the greatest fragrance he could wear (!!) and the other is my husband, who wears Mennen Skin Bracer and Old Spice when I don’t prod him to try something I’ve given him.

So here comes Miller Harris’ Geranium Bourbon, sadly discontinued but still not too hard to find online. I really don’t understand why they discontinued it (as I don’t understand with many discontinuations), but I have to assume it wasn’t selling as well as others after more than a decade in the Miller Harris line. I really like Geranium Bourbon; there are times when it just strikes the right chord with me, and I reach for it instead of a more flowery floral. I would call it an “aromatic floral“. The name accurately portrays the egalitarian balance between geranium and Bourbon roses in this fragrance.

To my nose, the geranium and palmarosa clearly open the fragrance, with support from a note of cassis (more leaf than fruit). Palmarosa is also a note in Lutens’ lovely rose, La Fille de Berlin, and I think it is used to great effect in both of these scents. The rose saunters in after several minutes, nonchalant and debonair, not making a scene or an “entrance” but stepping up to its fellow geraniol-dominant notes and strolling alongside them like a trio of boulevardiers.

Geranium Bourbon is a very dapper fragrance, and I was amused to find that the blog “What Men Should Smell Like” reviewed it very favorably as “a great dinner or formal fragrance that could be sprayed on a pocket square or carnation boutonniere.” Yes! Calling Chris Collins …

Chris Collins in grey suit with pocket square

Perfumer and model Chris Collins; image from

Okay, Chris Collins will probably wear one of his own fragrances on his pocket square, but you get the picture. In fact, when I’m not wearing Geranium Bourbon myself, it would make a great companion, on my husband, for when I wear one of my all-out glamor roses, like Amouage’s Lyric.

As it develops, Geranium Bourbon goes through a rose-centric heart phase, livened up by black pepper, then into a warmer base, when the rose steps back and I smell mostly a good blend of patchouli (light), amber, and vanilla. The geranium is still present, keeping that aromatic impression going even with the warmth of the base notes. Although violet is listed as a heart note, my nose doesn’t really pick that up.

Do you know of any other rose-geranium combinations you like? How about other “aromatic” rose fragrances, or unisex roses?

Featured image: Geraniums and Roses on a Mossy Bank, by Charles Archer (1921).

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