I don’t have to look far in my home to find a beautiful item or a gorgeous offering from Roses & Rue. Kate’s meticulously curated antiques house my jewelry and perfumes; they hang from my walls, lurk on my vanity, and one particularly lovely and moody wrought iron piece of vining roses lays casually propped against a wall in my office because I don’t quite know what to do with it, but it’s such a striking visual that I always want it in my line of sight!

An aesthete with a keen eye for detail and a vast knowledge of vintage treasures, Kate has an uncanny knack for finding pieces that whisper mysteries of the past. A chipped porcelain doll with hauntingly absent eyes, a faded painting conveying the cryptic messages of flowers, a deliriously evil inkwell – these are the gems that truly spark the imagination!  Her expertise in antique history ensures each piece has a fascinating tale to tell, adding another layer of intrigue to her collection. One only need  peruse a small sampling of her Instagram stories to quickly learn this is a person of exquisite tastes; every image, whether a film still or a photo of her own collection, is deliciously arranged and luxuriously lensed, and often set to a sumptuous soundtrack, and if you’ve had the delight of chatting with Kate, you’ll know what wit and brilliance she possesses! Truly, she is one of my favorite people under the sun..

…which is why you will not be surprised to learn that the following is her second guest post here at Unquiet Things. Four years ago, she generously shared with us details of her ten favorite antique pieces from her personal collection, and today, she is back to chat with us about some fragrances from her stunning perfume collection. AND she included a playlist! I cannot imagine a more thrilling sentence to have typed out just now, and you don’t even know how excited I am to hit the “publish” button on this post.

Flowers & Flesh: 10 Fragrances from the Collection of Roses & Rue

Sarah and I are like a pair of squawking magpies: Whether it’s a fragrance, a painting, a couture collection, or a piece of 19th-century chinoiserie, our eyes are always drawn to the most beautiful, luxurious things. It was Sarah’s enthusiasm for fragrance that motivated me to explore on my own, so it would be fair to say this extravagant pile of bottles you see before you is entirely her fault. Very soon after arriving at my last day job 5 years ago, I became the go-to staff member for the store’s fragrance line. Someone else on the management team told me I knew so much, they were surprised I’d never sold perfume professionally before. Yet another fragrance fancier told me that my very good nose would make me an excellent evaluator… Heavens, what a dream come true that would be! I think that learning about fragrance is the same as learning about wine: There’s a little science and a little jargon to memorize, but beyond that, it’s simply a matter of trying everything under the sun and figuring out what you like and what you don’t. I’m not an expert- I’m just lowkey obsessed.

Today I’m sharing 10 fragrances in my current rotation. They are mostly amber florals: That’s the scent family that I am always most drawn to, no matter what. I don’t care for green florals much, nor for the dainty soliflores that would have been popular for women during my era of expertise, the 19th century. The fragrances I like best combine a dark floral with something warm and musky and something sweet.

I really loved the question Sarah asked during the last AMA I did in my Instagram stories: She asked me to pair a favorite song with a favorite fragrance I’m currently wearing. I’d already begun this article, anyway, so I was inspired to pick a song for every fragrance. Find the playlist here. 

1. Lorenzo Villoresi: Alamut

I discovered Lorenzo Villoresi only about 5 years ago: A client was wearing his most popular scent, Teint de Neige, and her fragrance suffused the entire floor. Although he’s Italian, Villoresi studied the art of perfume making in the Middle East; his work is very much a marriage of these two cultural sensibilities. Alamut is a complex, amber floral inspired by the epic One Thousand and One Nights. Building on the powdery character of Teint de Neige, which basically smells like the world’s fanciest baby powder, Alamut is a warm scent that is slightly spicy, sensuously warm, and lightly sweet. It’s very gender-neutral and about a million times more interesting than more popular amber scents like the ubiquitous but extremely dull Baccarat Rouge 540.

It truly wears its literary influence on its sleeve, so I couldn’t help but pair it with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” also based on One Thousand and One Nights. The framing device of this collection of Arabic legends is the narration of Scheherazade, who saved her own skin through storytelling: The sultan, having been betrayed by a woman, resolved to marry a different virgin every day and behead her the following morning. Scheherazade survived by telling him a story before bed and stopping in the middle before dawn. By the time she ran out of tales, the sultan had fallen deeply in love with her. She is a woman saved not just by her beauty, but by her wit and her charms.

The violin solo in Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite, a classic of 19th-century romanticism, represents the voice of Scheherazade. I love it the way I love mauve roses, embroidered silk, mother-of-pearl inlay, high cheekbones, good tailoring, and expensive perfume. It is everything I find delightful and irresistible in the world. The entire piece is about 50 minutes in four movements; I’ve included just a brief selection from the start of movement 2, “Tale of the Kalendar Prince,” on the playlist.

2. Rogue Perfumery: Jasmin Antique

When I was in my early 20s, my signature scent was Lust from Lush. It used to be the dirtiest, nastiest, most delicious jasmine scent I’d ever met, balanced out by a sweetness that turned heads and awoke libidos wherever I went. Regrettably, it was reformulated several years ago: After buying one final bottle on my lunch break and wondering if I was crazy, a co-worker asked, “Why do you smell like a bath bomb?” Humiliating! I would call it a ylang-ylang bomb, specifically. The ferocious musk component is entirely missing, the jasmine fades immediately; it’s now hideously, sickly sweet.

I searched for a better, more refined replacement for years and almost found it in Serge Lutens’s Sarrasins. This is why it’s so crucial to buy samples and test drive a perfume before committing to a full bottle: Sarrasins was the perfect dupe, but it’s $300 per bottle, the sillage is terrible, and it completely disappears from my skin within an hour. The performance simply wasn’t worth the price, an especially great bummer since I do adore Serge Lutens. I finally found the perfect replacement last September at Scent Bar in New York: Rogue Perfumery’s Jasmin Antique. There’s just enough musk to amp up the indolic, fleshy aspects of the jasmine. This is a jasmine that bares its teeth. It smells like a fevered, illicit tryst, your lover’s sweat mingling with the nightblooming jasmine on the warm, summer air. Wear it to seduce.

I’m pairing it with “My Birdman” by Christine and the Queens, which is the sexiest song I currently can’t stop listening to. This man makes me blush like a 14-year-old girl. I’m going to go out on a limb and presume the title is a Max Ernst reference? Whatever happened to Jamil, I wonder? It sounds like he set the bar pretty high but, Chris, beau gosse, I’m very confident I can clear it.


3. Lvnea: Babylon Rose

As you might guess from a person who put “roses” in her business name, I adore rose scents and have several. There are many, many different kinds of roses: They can smell dainty and delicate, green and fresh, jammy and rich; dark and mysterious… It’s probably obvious that I’m not much of a damask rose girl. I don’t like scents that are too polite; I’m always on the lookout for the exotic. One of the most interesting rose scents I’ve encountered in the last few years is Babylon Rose from Lvnea, which is only available from time to time due to the high cost of the real rose absolute it contains. This one needs at least half an hour to settle down and develop: It opens with a very strong petrichor top note that comes across as quite camphorous at first. This fades gently into the background, supporting the notes of clove, saffron, and black pepper that give this dreamy rose its thorns. Whatever she’s using for attar of oud and musk, this thing is incredibly animalic and dirty. Another big, sexy scent.

Its sonic complement is an early Dead Can Dance track, “Frontier,” a drum-heavy, dizzy number that sounds like a 19th-century painting of an ancient world femme fatale.



4. Serge Lutens: Chergui

Although most of my favorite scents are amber florals, as I’ve been wading more confidently into a genderfluid space, I’ve been exploring scents that read a little more traditionally masculine. (To the contemporary Western nose, anyway: Men all over the world have been wearing florals for thousands of years.) Chergui is an amber tobacco scent that I chose for fall: Its golden notes of sun-kissed hay make it feel like the perfect autumn fragrance for a New Englander who likes tweed. I thought about retiring this for the season, but I’m curious to see what qualities it takes on in the summer: Although it reminds me of fall, the Chergui is actually named after the hot, dry, easterly wind that blows from the Sahara desert into the southernmost parts of Morocco.

With this in mind, the song I chose for it is “Blues Nile” by experimental composer and trumpet player Jon Hassel. His 1977 debut Vernal Equinox is an ambient classic and one of my go-to Hot Weather Albums: It’s a sensuous soundtrack for the kind of heat that’s so oppressive, you can’t do anything besides disrobe and lie down, feeling like a puddle of molasses. His trumpet sounds like it’s drunk.


5. Comme des Garçons: Avignon

Catholic iconography is a staple of my shop and a key way that I express my spirituality, although I am not technically a Catholic. Mine are the kinds of syncretic spiritual ideas that would have gotten me burned at the stake; I like to think I’m training to become a mystic in my old age like Hildegard von Bingen, Alice Coltrane, or Hilma af Klint. I think every Catholic queer needs a good church incense scent, and in terms of mood you can’t do much better than Avignon by Comme des Garçons. It’s part of a series of 3 incense fragrances representing different spiritualties from around the world: Kyoto for Buddhism and Shintoism, Jaisalmer for Hinduism, and Avignon for Catholicism. Really, what I wanted was a fragrance version of my favorite candle, Spiritus Sancti by Trudon, which smells like a pre-Vatican II Easter mass in a stone cathedral full of frankincense smoke and newly opened lilies. I browsed at Scent Bar for a comparable perfume and Avignon was as close as we came. I really love it, but I might not replace the bottle: I blew through it in just about 2 months and wish the sillage were a little better. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to know!

I’ve paired it with one of my favorite medieval devotional hymns, “Beata Viscera,” which means “blessed flesh.” It written in the 12th century by French composer Pérotin for the mass celebrating the birth of the Virgin Mary, September 8th on the Catholic calendar. I think you’ll agree it’s devastatingly beautiful.


6. Lubin: L de Lubin

Leave it to me to walk into a perfume store without any ideas and to walk out with a genuine, disco- era fragrance. One of three vintage perfumes on my list, L by Lubin is a heady, sweaty floral first manufactured in 1974 and favored by darlings of the disco scene. I swear, I didn’t know this until I got it home and read the description on the back. I have surprised, perplexed, and even alienated some folks with my love for disco, which feels like a hard-left turn for those whose musical tastes tread water in the shallows dominated by Joy Division revival bands. Disco gets a bad rep: I thought it was all ABBA, goofy dance moves, and ugly polyester. Nobody told me that disco was a Black, Latinx, and queer underground movement that was quickly appropriated by the mainstream and turned into something awful. Turns out that disco is a lot less about ABBA & Saturday Night Fever and a lot more about hot gay people sweating in Paco Robanne. What sold me on L de Lubin is its earthy heart that reminds me of a very nice but too expensive rose chypre, Rose de Nuit by Serge Lutens (a name which haunts this list like a spectre). L de Lubin has a lot more going on: More flowers, spices, and bright notes of citrus.

I’m picking two songs for each of these “historical” fragrances on the list: One that best embodies the fragrance’s mood for me and another that was released the very same year, to place the perfume in its cultural context. “It Looks Like Love” is one of my favorite, girly, flirty disco bops. I know absolutely nothing about the artist, Goody Goody. I can’t even recommend any other of their songs. I just know it puts me in a cheerful mood. Being a huge P-funk fan, I’m delighted to have found a song from the very first Parliament record that fits: “The Goose” is a shamelessly sexy groove that I hope makes you think twice about dance music from this era. If you don’t like disco, don’t worry: George Clinton didn’t either. Try funk instead.


7. Santa Maria Novella: Rosa

I was first drawn to Santa Maria Novella for its remarkable history: It’s the oldest, continuously operating apothecary in the world. It was founded in 1211 by Dominican friars, who sustained their convent by selling all manner of fragrances and medicines from their garden. They made perfume for the Medicis. Although I love all their products, I’ve found the longevity of their fragrances very hit or miss: Each one is incredibly true to life, but they diminish almost completely within an hour. Again, I strongly recommend buying samples and testing the fragrances for at least a day to see how they perform on your skin before buying a full bottle. Thankfully, their Rosa perfume, my favorite rose soliflore that I own, is an absolute powerhouse. Not for the shy or faint of heart: Its sillage is ENORMOUS. Prepare to smell like the Red Queen’s entire rose garden parading down the street. These are rich, fruity, intense centifolia roses. Uplifted by a hint of citrus in the top notes and grounded by patchouli and cedar, the fragrance gives the impression of the entire plant: Petals, woody thorns, and green leaves. It makes a great base if you like to layer your fragrances: You could skew this scent in several interesting directions if you added musk, leather, oud, amber, more citrus, or more flowers.

There’s something about this scent that reads as quintessentially Italian to me, so I’ve paired it with a track by one of the great Italian songstresses, Katyna Ranieri. Spritz a little Rosa, put on “Sensualidad,” have a seat at your favorite outdoor café, and pretend you’re in a Fellini movie.

8. Diptyque: Fleur de peau

I picked this up one day on a whim simply because I don’t have anything else in my fragrance collection quite like it. What can I say? I started my musk journey on a very small, timid scale: Diptyque’s Fleur de peau (flower of skin; sounds nicer in French) is basically just a soft blend of iris and musk. I might not replace it once it’s gone: I think I’m ready for something a little more forward and bold when it comes to musk. This said, it did earn me a compliment from another girl at an annual white elephant sale at a local convent. She was very demurely dressed but looked quite curious, even more so when I told her the perfume’s name. She blushed and told me it was lovely. I hope I gave her a few bad ideas.

I’ve chosen as its song companion Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man:” It’s sexy in a soft, gently insinuating, but nevertheless insistent way. Like Cohen’s voice, this is a musk that purrs.


9. Dior: Poison

An extremely loud, bombastic, polarizing classic, Dior’s Poison might be the best-known but most offensive fragrance on this list. To me, it represents everything that was the decadence of the 1980s. I have both a contemporary and vintage formulation of this: Definitely spring for an old bottle if you can. They are fairly common wherever secondhand goods are sold. I picked up by bottle for only $10 and it’s much more well-rounded than its current formulation, which fizzles down to a rather generic, spicy vanilla after a while. Poison blends a bouquet of queenly flowers with wild berries and dark plum, while anise, coriander, musk, sandalwood, and cedar lend it a dark, narcotic undercurrent. I rarely wear anything this fruity but it never veers into dreaded gourmand territory. I’ll be retiring this one soon: It’s resolutely a winter fragrance; I think it might actually be discourteous to wear it in summer. It comes alive in the bitter, winter air, transforming you into the formidable snow queen of your wildest fairytale dreams.

Hence, I’ve paired it with “Ice,” a spellbinding track from the soundtrack of Sally Potter’s Orlando. Your historical song from the year of Poison’s release, 1985, is “Boys and Girls” by Bryan Ferry. Nothing says 80s bombast quite like a cheesey saxophone and Bryan Ferry’s white suits- a whole mood.

10. Gayle Haymon: Delicious

I tested this when I found it at an antique store because the bottle looked so absolutely fucking stupid I couldn’t resist. I am astounded that I like it: Yet another amber floral, but it’s a 90s perfume through and through; I usually never like anything this… Sunny? But it makes me feel nostalgic for the fantasies of womanhood I aspired to when I was a little girl flipping through fashion magazines: Versace and Chanel dresses, big, side-swept hair, juicy red lips; skanky little pointed-toe pumps. It was a god-tier decade for the bimbo aesthetic; the 90s elevated her to very elegant, ladylike heights. A slightly more sentimental reason for its appeal is that the star floral here is mimosa: I grew up fascinated by a number of gold perfume bottles from Fragonard that my grandfather brought home to my mother from a trip to France. The mimosa fragrance was always my favorite; in fact I stole it and used to rub small amounts onto my lightbulbs with a cotton bulb to perfume the room.

Your track for this one is Mylene Farmer’s “Je t’aime mélancolie,” which embodies everything about that 90s high femme aesthetic I described. Your historical track from the year of the perfume’s release, 1994, is just as perfect a fit: “Secret” by Madonna, a favorite song since childhood.

11. Le Labo: Lys 41 (EDIT: Kate was so into writing this that there are actually eleven fragrances on this list, and man, I find this overachieving enthusiasm so wildly, hilariously marvelous and relatable on a soul-deep level. I love you dearly, my friend!)

Le Labo gets a lot of flak in the perfume world. Look, I get it: Is it too expensive? Yes. Does the fragrance ever match the name on the bottle? Nope. Are there better perfumers out there? Absolutely. Nevertheless, Lys 41 was love at first sniff. When Poison gets relegated to the back of the cabinet for the season, Lys 41 will take its place. It’s a tremendous white flower bomb: Florist-fresh lilies, jasmine, and tuberose, rounded out with vanilla and musk. Tuberose is one of my favorite florals and like rose (a different flower entirely, thank you very much), it can bend in several different directions: It can be creamy and sweet, fleshy and indolic, green, or even beachy like coconuts and sunscreen. I think this would be a great intro tuberose fragrance for someone: It’s very true to the actual flower. If you keep your empty bottle from Le Labo and bring it back to the store, they will refill it for you at 20% off, which brings the perfume down to a reasonable price.

I’ve paired it with one of my favorite songs that reminds me most of spring: “Your Dream,” a 1973 psychedelic pop track by South Korean artist Kim Jung Mi.

Find Kate and Roses & Rue: website // instagram // facebook

Add Comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.

Discover more from Unquiet Things

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading