February 18, 2017
Jean-Claude Ellena (photo courtesy of The Different Co. and Rose Poivrée
In 2000, when Jean-Claude Ellena started his path as an independent perfumer, founding The Different Company with his long time Grassois colleague Thierry de Baschmakoff, he took the most important step in his aesthetic path. They had worked together previously in 1992, when de Baschmakoff designed for the Italian Jewel Designer Bulgari the frosted green bottle housing Jean-Claude Ellena’s astringently elegant Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert. Since the collaboration worked beautifully (setting the green tea trend that was prevalent in the 90s), it’s no wonder they decided to collaborate on a new perfume company.
The Different Company was unlike anything of its time as they sought to explore a new approach to perfumery. Right after the launch, I recall reading in an interview with M. Ellena “that everybody in the 1990s wanted to smell clean, harmless or sweet as a cookie”. Whilst the idea of associating smell with taste was fashionable, Jean-Claude Ellena took a different approach with using salt and pepper which became the backbone of Rose Poivrée, the mother of all peppery, salty roses of the XXI century.
Parfumerie Bruno Cort, Grasse, le triage des roses, carte postale du XIX siècle., Marseille
The first rendition of Rose Poivrée in eau de toilette concentration felt like someone pinched your nose on top because of the vegetal liveliness of pink pepper and crisp bergamot pushing hard up your nostrils. I remember it was shocking to sense even the savory aftertaste of overdosed iso-e super with vetiver that took my nose straight into those cute salt jars with real rose petals inside you can get in the markets around Grasse. The current eau de parfum concentration has smoother top notes focusing more on the waxy, jammy rose-red berries heart and yet the contrast still is lip-smacking. Whether the rose-raspberry chypre theme rooted in the ‘70s creations like Maurice Maurin’s Amazone (that Jean Claude Ellena reworked more than once) isn’t new itself, the neo-chypre set in Rose Poivrée drenches it in the overexposed light of salty velvet dryness backed by the human spiced intoxication of coriander, cumin and immortelle that add one more Indian foody connection echoing another classic masterpiece, no less than Edmond Roudnitska’s WWII sex bomb Rochas Femme.
Rose Poivrée at the Musée de la Parfumerie in Paris courtesy of The Different Company
Being so forward and yet so deeply rooted in classic French perfumery, Rose Poivrée was chosen as a permanent installation at the Musée de la Parfumerie in Paris.
Roses salt with pink peppercorns
As perfume and food lover I immediately compare Rose Poivrée to the rose jam that I bought last summer in Croatia (a must try for rose lovers too) sprinkled with crushed pink peppercorns over a melba toast (the soupçon of cumin in the basenotes surely adds that grilled warmth). More than any insight into perfume history and raw materials, this is the best and easiest way to understand how Jean Claude Ellena shaped his own vision of a “different gourmand”, making Rose Poivrée a Modern Masterpiece.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I received from The Different Company; Opinions my own
Ermano Picco, Contributor and Editor of La gardenia nell'ochiello