I was only a couple years into writing about perfume when I asked to visit one of the big perfume oil houses. What drew me to request a visit was the chemist in me had heard about this new way of isolating new perfume materials via supercritical fluid extraction. I got my invitation along with a demonstration. The material they extracted for me were pink peppercorns. I was told prior to this; traditional methods of extraction were unsatisfactory due to yield and scent profile. When we finished the demonstration, they gave me some of the finished product to try. It was an herbal, slightly piquant slightly flowery soft scent. I took home a tiny vial. I didn’t really need to because this has become one of the most used ingredients in all of perfumery over the last ten years or so. I can honestly say a week does not pass where I do not smell a perfume which does not contain it. There is some confusion about the name because you will see it listed as pink pepper, pink peppercorn, Schinus mole, and the name I use for consistency, baie rose. Despite its ubiquity some of the earliest uses were the best at displaying all the facets of this dynamic perfume ingredient. Here are five of my favorites.
If there is any perfumer, I would label a maestro of baie rose it would be Geza Schoen. Over the years he has plumbed the depths of its use. He also was the forerunner of using it as he made it a keynote of many of the perfumes he made for Linda Pilkington’s brand, Ormonde Jayne. I could fill this list with five favorites, but I’ll stick to my very favorite; Ormonde Man. The baie rose is the linchpin for the fantastic spicy top accord as Hr. Schoen sets coriander, cardamom, juniper berry, and hemlock into orbit around it. This remains one of the most compelling spicy accords of a perfume I wear. It is balanced with a set of woods, but it is that spicy accord which lingers for hours which was my introduction to baie rose.
Another early use came in Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Angelique Sous La Pluie. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena would use it as the counterweight to the angelica root in the heart. There is a terpenic piece to baie rose and that matches the more pronounced terpenes in angelica root. For those who enjoy M. Ellena’s style this is one of the perfumes where his sets of minimal perfume ingredients which overlap in olfactory Venn diagrams is at a pinnacle.
Of anything which captures the minimalism of Coco Chanel’s fashion aesthetic the perfumes in the Chanel Les Exclusif collection are it. One of the most compelling, 28 La Pausa, features baie rose as part of a three-ingredient set along with the keynote of iris and vetiver. The baie rose is used as a modulator to extract the chilly silvery rooty quality of the best iris. It does it brilliantly. 28 La Pausa is close to my favorite iris soliflore because perfumers Christopher Sheldrake and Jacques Polge embraced the “less is more” philosophy.
For once Le Labo Baie Rose 26 actually featured the ingredient on the label. It is not a common event within the line. In 2010 as baie rose was gaining popularity so were the woody aromachemicals represented by Ambrox. Perfumer Frank Voelkl pairs baie rose with spicy rose in the heart. It produces a fascinating effect which is able to stand up to the monolithic synthetic wood of Ambrox. It also makes for one of the most contemporary uses of baie rose I own.
My favorite mainstream use of baie rose is in the first perfume released by Bottega Veneta in 2011. Used as the tip of a triangle with jasmine sambac and patchouli it forms an earthy floral effect which rest on a leathery chypre base. Perfumer Michel Almairac use the baie rose to get the most out of the jasmine and patchouli. They form a floral accord the equal to the base accord.
If you love perfume you smell baie rose everywhere. Here are five worth seeking out in the madding crowd.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.