I seem to have forgotten how impressed I was with Florabotanica. For some reason, my brain decided to file it under 'pleasant yet unremarkable floral', ie the type which evokes a smile and is then doomed to be forgotten. But looking back at my review from 2012, I see that I called it "intriguing", that I applauded its avoidance of cliches and that I even praised its ability to appeal "to a younger demographic without being condescending." Maybe I was just in a good mood when I wrote those words... or maybe Olivier Polge and Jean-Christophe Herault were on to something when they bottled their slightly off-centre rose for Balenciaga. The scent's first flanker - Rosabotanica - certainly suggests that their success was the result of some pretty intelligent design rather than just a happy fluke.
Once again, the perfumers' intention appears to have been to construct an unusual rose, but this time, the suits at Coty have permitted them to make their brew even weirder. They have, of course, kept their work within the realms of mainstream accessibility: the scent never veers into the truly bizarre territories frequented by niche brands. But given that it has to be viewed in its middle-of-the-road context, Rosabotanica is fairly bold. Its opening is a neon flash of pink, plastic bubblegum - a sly dig at the default setting for youth-focussed fragrances? - which is immediately undercut by a vein of dry, salty, vegetal greenness. A soapy note bubbles up too, but it's saved from over-laundered dullness with an injection of mint. And entwined around the whole is a thorny, unexpectedly dangerous lattice of woodiness. In short, Polge's and Herault's commendable achievement is to present the wearer with a wealth of olfactory surprises and yet maintain a recognisably rosy profile throughout: they've put the flower through an auto-tune machine, but they haven't completely distorted its personality.
The scent becomes more pedestrian as it reaches its drydown - the soapiness begins to dominate after a while - but it's never anything less than enjoyable and, with its skilful juxtaposition of both tamed and wild 'nature' notes, it recalls Jean-Claude Ellena's 'Jardins' series (and perhaps even his recent Eau De Narcisse Bleu) for Hermès. Its name may be innocently verdant, but this stuff doesn't mind baring its fangs every now and then, a fitting trait for a perfume endorsed by the Twilight films' Kristen Stewart. It won't throw the industry into a swoon, but Rosabotanica is ironic, colourful and compelling. I certainly intend to reserve a special little place for it in my mental databank.
[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Balenciaga in 2014; for more reviews of Rosabotanica, please visit Candy Perfume Boy, Now Smell This and Bois De Jasmin.]