Hermes Rose Ikebana (Perfume Review) - compared to YSL In Love Again

Hermes Rose Ikebana was instantly one of my favorite perfumes. I still recall when I first tried it: it was a sunny Sunday in the spring, and I was standing in my bathroom when I first sprayed it on my arm. In the first 10 seconds, it was incredibly strong, with three main notes punching out and struggling forward as if they were each racing to monopolize the scent. I immediately smelled the sharpness of grapefruit, the warmth of rose petals (sans the powder you find in fragrances by designers other than Jean Claude Ellena), and the damp tug of black tea to tie the two together. And then, perhaps the most critical addition, the rhubarb is there. It was not a singular, detectable note in that first sniff—because truly, how many among us can recognize the scent of rhubarb? In the beginning, I believed it to be an odd lemon, combined with the grapefruit, which was sharp and neither sweet nor sour, and remaining incredibly tart throughout the drydown. Only later would I discover that it was rhubarb with the tea that made this Hermessence so unique. Rose Ikebana was, in those top note moments, a powerful scent.

Then, as I recall, it seemed to fade for a moment. I wondered if the fragrance would be that fleeting… but later in the day, I continually sniffed my arm and caught whiffs of Rose Ikebana on the air around me. It has excellent sillage, in fact, so it’s a fragrance that you can smell in the room, even when you are the wearer.

I also found myself yearning for more of it. It was an odd sensation—I wanted to drink the perfume, wanted to cup it in my hands and keep it pressed to my face and my nose. Because somehow, that fading feeling never leaves the scent for me. It always feels just slightly out of my grasp (though do not take this as criticism in any way). I’ve often wondered if I am anosmic to one of the notes, and if maybe that anosmia is the cause of the feeling of Rose Ikebana rushing away from me. It’s a feeling I have not yet had with any other perfume. It’s even harder to understand when paired with how strong and sharp the notes are: grapefruit, rose and tea are not delicate in this perfume’s composition. And yet, the feeling remains after multiple wearings: it’s a perfume that plays and flirts and dances slightly out of reach, refusing to be owned and fully known by the wearer. It’s a lovely characteristic that I haven’t again experienced.

Haven’t smelled Rose Ikebana yourself? You can get a slight inkling of what it’s like by comparing and contrasting it with other fragrances that you might already know. It has the rose of Hermes Kelly Caleche edp, but is missing the leather entirely, and has the addition of grapefruit and tea. Therefore, you might find them somewhat slightly similar, but they remain drastically different. For your collection, you’ll definitely need both.

I find Rose Ikebana most similar to the now-discontinued Yves Saint Laurent’s In Love Again. Jean Claude Ellena was commissioned in 1998 to create In Love Again as a limited edition perfume to celebrate Yves’s 40 full years as a fashion designer. Remember, this is several years before Ellena was hired to be the exclusive perfumer for Hermes—long before Kelly Caleche, Rose Ikebana or Un Jardin sur le Nil were born. In Love Again is deserving of it’s own full review, which I will post in the coming weeks, but in short summary, I can say that it is one of the best fruity florals that I have found. The main top notes are rose and grapefruit, but several other notes play a critical role, since grapefruit itself can smell too much like cat pee when done wrong, and rose can be so powdery and dull. JCE added black currant to the top, to create that slightly-sweet fruity quality, and sandalwood and musk to the base. If worn in heat, the drydown begins sooner and lasts much longer, with the musk developing larger. I’m not a huge fan of musk, but in the drydown of In Love Again, it remains clean and woody. In fact, the drydown reminds me of the last few moments of the later-created Un Jardin sur le Nil, if both are compared on skin and in the heat. Listed on Fragrantica, Tomato Stem is also listed in the perfume base for In Love Again--- though I admit that I don’t detect it in that perfume at all. Instead, I sometimes think I find it in the middle notes of Rose Ikebana, and it is all the better if true (though I’ve never seen tomato stem listed as a note for Rose Ikebana anywhere).

So, how do Rose Ikebana and Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again compare? Quite simply, In Love Again is the younger version of the same composition. If they were women, I would say that Rose Ikebana is In Love Again all grown up, after she went to Harvard, hired a stylist, and had a nose job. Rose Ikebana is incredibly similar, though lacking the musk in the base, and with the addition of rhubarb instead of berry/currants, and the damp addition of tea. The critical exchange is rhubarb for berry/currants, making it far less fruity. In fact, I don’t think you could classify Rose Ikebana as a fruity floral at all. Rose Ikebana is more formal, and she loves you less. She doesn’t quite trust you and she’s not very intimate. You’ll always love her from arm’s length.

Update: 3 hours in: no tea detectable at this point: mostly pink grapefruit, a tad bit of rhubarb, and rose. Remarkably similar (though less musky by a few hairs) to ILA.

Here’s a surprise: Fragrantica classifies Rose Ikebana as a Woody/Spicy perfume. Perhaps the person performing this classification was only reading the notes, because indeed, it does list Pink Pepper (but it also lists magnolia, which I don’t detect). But it’s hardly a woody/spicy perfume (this calls to mind something more like Poivre Sacremande). I am not sure how I would personally classify this perfume. Tart floral? Citrus floral? It’s a unique niche perfume, defying easy classification.

Rose Ikebana has decent lasting power. I’ve read that others were unhappy with how long it lasts, but maybe it’s because they expect the top notes to last all day, which of course they don’t. On skin, the perfume develops. It looses the tea, develops a very, very slight wood in the base, and mainly keeps the sparkly effervescent grapefruit/rose/citrus/rhubarb qualities. If you would like to extend the top notes, I’d suggest spraying it on fabric. On fabric, Rose Ikebana perfume wafts all day and remains all top. You can still smell the tea two days later. Plus, you can wear a different perfume and keep this gem tucked into your desk all day, or by your bedside, when you get a longing for something beautiful.

Perfume Review: Rose Ikebana
Perfume House: Hermes
Creator / Nose: Jean Claude Ellena
Year: 2004
Classification: Woody/Spicy, according to Fragrantica.
Perfume Notes: Rose petals, peony, magnolia, pink peppercorns, grapefruit zest, green rhubarb, vanilla, honey, and black tea.
What you mostly smell: Rhubarb, rose at a distance, balanced with tart grapefruit, and black tea
Lasting Power: Moderate
Similar to: Very similar to Yves Saint Laurent In Love Again
Overall impression: A tart floral perfume: formal, beautiful, and brilliant. A must-smell for any fan of Jean Claude Ellena and perhaps the most remarkable out of all the Hermessence line.


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