Saturday, November 29, 2014

April Aromatics - San Francisco Rose (perfume review)

A couple of weeks ago I picked up my lovely bottle of San Francisco Rose from the post office, eager with anticipation. The bottle is my first blind buy - but I was really moved by the cause and couldn't help myself. I had also been hoping to try several April Aromatics scents so this felt like a win-win. I do not know Tama (or her cat Buster) personally or virtually, but I have read many positive things about Tama and her contributions to the perfume (and non-perfume) world. I wish her the best.

This perfume is a limited edition with 200 bottles created. Every box was hand signed and numbered by the creator, Tanja Bochnig. I got bottle #051.

San Francisco Rose opens up surprisingly green and herbal - quite minty. That minty green is paired with an incense like note that lends the perfume a cool astringency in the opening. This gives San Francisco Rose a slightly medicinal quality that's also reminiscent of a strong tea. Beneath this astringency, however, lies a brewing thunderhead of thorny dark roses - plush but fierce and alive with electricity. You can almost feel the storm coming, ready to swallow you up in it's dark, dewy haze.

Unfortunately for me, the cloud never swallows me up and the rose storm dissipates. Instead of drenching me in roses, my skin heavily amplifies the sharp, peppery, medicinal oud+patchouli notes - which cling to my nostrils while drowning everything else out. (I should clarify - I *think* its the oud+patchouli based on what I've read about those elements, but I'm not positive.) Over time the sharpness is muted, but in the dry down I'm still left with a spicy, earthy 'band-aid' adorning my wrist instead of flowers. Several hours into the drydown, I do get some sweetness, and instead of earthy I get a slightly sweet and slightly ambery band-aid.

I wondered if perhaps my perception of the scent was wrong and I was somehow anosmic to the other elements of San Francisco Rose. I asked my friend what my perfume smelled like and her response was "hippy". When I mentioned that it's a rose scent, she looked shocked and reached for my wrist again - still unable to detect any florals.

On the sleeve of my sweater, however, the faint lingering rose is heartbreakingly beautiful (rendered more heartbreaking by the fact that I'm not able to get it on my skin). It captures the subtle beauty of a Rose Black Tea - the forceful medicinal notes on my skin here downplayed to a mild tannin. The roses feels lighter than in the opening and in my head I conjure pink roses instead of the dark roses of the swirling storm cloud. The freshly rain-kissed roses are lightly honeyed, their delicate sweetness buoyed above thorny green vines and wet earth. I'm not sure why my sweater got the rose so well.

In an effort to recreate the elusive sweater rose, I sprayed Clint's wrist and a scarf to see how the perfume would unfold on them. Sadly both proved similar to my skin - with the earthy and medicinal patchouli/oud combo dominating the perfume. It wasn't quite as overwhelming as it was on me, though. The perfume did possess an undertone of the dark rose present in the opening - not unlike the rose in early La Fille de Berlin - but still probably not enough for me to enjoy the scent. Sometimes when I walk by the bottle I also catch faint whiffs of dark rose, but it just doesn't register for me.

I've given San Francisco Rose tries on different days to see if I could get the rose to bloom on my skin because I really really *want* to love it, but thus far my results have not wavered. I'll try a few more times, but if nothing changes sadly I won't be able to wear San Francisco Rose. At least not anytime soon. If patchouli (or patchouli+oud?) is an acquired taste, it is one I have yet to acquire. In fact, I might actually hate patchouli. Upon closer inspection of the 30-ish perfumes I've tried thus far, there were very few that I really hated (1 star level) and now I notice that they're the only ones that feature patchouli. (Most also have amber, which I'm also beginning to think might not agree with me).

For what it's worth, it seems that everyone else that has tried San Francisco Rose (and commented online) has gotten a lovely, dewy rose scent. The perfume appears well-liked and I've seen no other mentions of patchouli (overwhelming or not). The perfumer Tanja (she's so sweet) also seemed surprised by my experience and noted that there was only the slightest amount of patchouli in San Francisco Rose when I asked her about it. 

Clint's 3: Faint, Unpleasant, Wet soil

I'm not really sure why the scent is so faint to Clint - I feel like the sillage is actually quite powerful (which I've heard is unusual for a natural perfume), but he has a self-professed terrible sense of smell. Clint didn't find San Francisco Rose particularly pleasant and likened it to new wet soil laced with compost. I guess he is not a lover of patchouli either. 


My rating of San Francisco Rose: 2 

1  -  - -  -  2  -  -  -  -  3  -  -  -  -  4  -  -  -  -  5
   Nausea/Gagging         Meh        Decent       Great         Olfactory Elation    

Honestly if I rated San Francisco rose on my skin alone, it'd probably be more of a 1 or 1.5 strictly based on the pungent projection of the earthy medicinal patchouli/oud combo, but the sweater rose was so lovely I couldn't discount it completely. If I could recreate that rose on my skin, San Francisco Rose would be quite lovely, probably around a 4. 


San Francisco Rose as described by the April Aromatics website:

Notes: Rose Otto from Turkey, Rose Absolute from Bulgaria, Orris Root from France, Hibiscus Seed from Ecuador, Tonka Bean from Brazil, Sandalwood from India, Patchouli from Sumatra and a touch of Oud from Saudi Arabia.

Perfumer: Tanja Bochnig


Have you had the opportunity to try San Francisco Rose or anything else from April Aromatics? I also purchased samples of Nectar of Love and Ray of Light (I had such a hard time narrowing the want-to-try list down to 2) and can't wait to try them!


  1. I just received a bottle of this scent (purchased on eBay) and I honestly thought it had turned. I get no rose at all, but an overwhelming...something... that makes this a real scrubber for me. Even after scrubbing, I can't get rid of it. I am familiar with all of the posted notes (except for hibiscus seed) and have no problem with any of them. Maybe it is the hibiscus seed. I get a strong celery or carrot seed vibe from it. I, too, have other April Aromatics scents that I love. I don't know what it is about this one that I (and apparently you, too) am so repulsed by. Sad - I wanted very much to like it.

    1. Oh no Callie, in so sorry to hear that! Isn't it bizarre that there is so little rose?? I'm not sure what out was exactly that made SFR a scrubber for me, but I hope not to come across it again. :) Best of luck finding a rose you love!

  2. I just discovered that hibiscus seed is the same as ambrette, which is lovely, so I am still stumped. Maybe I just have a bad bottle.

    1. I dunno, I doubt the perfume is even old enough to have turned? I asked the perfume of there were perhaps any batch variations but she assured me that was not possible. :( it is confusing though.


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