All Natural Independent Perfumery Review Rose Single note exploration

Three Roses by Annette Neuffer

11th July 2024


The only possible reason why Annette Neuffer is not discussed in the same breadth as other talented, self-made European perfumers (Andy Tauer, Vero Kern, Antonio Gardoni, etc.) is because, unlike these, she has been unable to professionalize her operations or achieve economies of scale in her production so that her perfumes are priced at a point where regular perfume wearers can buy them. 


In Europe, at least, there is great respect for Annette’s style, and a rather robust grey market in swapping samples and full bottles of her work.  But not even a glowing review from Luca Turin in the Guide 2018 wasn’t enough to shoot the brand into the indie stratosphere currently occupied by Teone Reinthal, Manuel Cross, Clandestine Laboratories, Zoologist, Tauer, and so on.


Which is a shame because it proves that a certain measure of market exposure and self-promotion is what gets some perfumes talked about, therefore keeping them ‘alive’ in the mind’s eye, while others, none the less important or beautiful a creation, risk trailing off into the darkness of the void.  This is why it’s important for people to write about Annette and people like Annette.  I don’t claim that my words have any impact – blogs have been dying for years now, and this one is no exception.  But as the lights start to go out on this ship, there is a certain sense of freedom in realizing that I can write about anything that strikes my fancy, with no regard for what might be current or ‘hot’, because nobody is watching.  


And what I want to write about today is Annette Neuffer, because unless she suddenly starts sending free bottles of perfumes out to YouTube and Instagram perfume ‘influencers’, her work will remain largely unknown to all but those who deliberately seek her out.  Her perfumes are as worthy of the intense fandom discussions that swirl around around Teone Reinthal or Zoologist.  A jazz musician living in Freising, Germany, she works completely in naturals, but with a deftness of touch that made even Luca Turin – famously a critic of all natural perfumers – marvel. 


I don’t like everything she makes, but even those I don’t like, I find myself thinking about and trying to understand how they work.  Enter clumsy yet obligatory metaphor about jazz; though I don’t understand jazz and its weird, cacophonic ‘non-structure’, I enjoy it at a subliminal level once I stop trying to analyze it.  I think that’s probably the key to Annette Neuffer’s work too.


First up, three roses.


Honeysuckle Rose is a fat but wilting white flower, a vine of jasmine or tuberose curling in on itself, buried in swathes of beeswax and furniture polish.  It smells like sweet tea and nectar and female skin putrefying in a Southern heat so intense that you can almost see the beads of moisture popping up.  I smelled a honeysuckle bush once in the South of France and was shocked by how fleshy and sultry it actually is, in contrast to its rather innocent reputation. 


This perfume smells like honeysuckle in the air – heady, rudely floral, honeyed – but powdery and slightly dank on the skin, like a cup of over-stewed tea.  The oily cedar-like notes of a dank rosewood add to the impression of a flower floating in a gong bath, a flash of something white and delicate in the Vantablack gloom. 


It is only later, once the bitterness of the tea and woods has subsided, that Honeysuckle Rose reveals its final, true form – a sunny orange blossom busily licking the sticky grunge of beeswax and rosewood off its fur.  The contrast between light and dark is startling, like a bar of the whitest goat’s milk soap carved from a block of resin.  A trace of warm, dark honey lingers underneath this, like licked skin, recalling some of Vero Kern’s perfumes (Rozy in particular, with its attractively stale, louche rose breath). 



Rosa Alba is based around a rare, white Bulgarian rose varietal named, well, Rosa Alba (rose of the dawn).  It has simple but powerful beauty of a freshly picked rose from a wet garden, with its alluring mixture of lemon zest, geranium leaf, and finally, a trembling, jellied, pink rosewater loukhoum nuance tucked deep into the tightest folds near the heart. 


A resinous, powdery (slightly sour) sandalwood is the only other element here, lending the fragrance the feel of a traditional Indian attar.  This is the immense, timeless beauty of a flower stuffed inside the flimsiest of shells.  And though arguably a direct copy of nature, you’d have to be a marble statue not to be moved by a smell like this.



Avicenna White Rose & Oud is my personal favorite of Annette Neuffer’s takes on rose, perhaps because it turns such a (by now) familiar paradigm on its head.  The marriage of rose and oud is a natural one, the gentle, bright sweetness of rose tempering the sour, moody darkness of oud, and as such is a popular trope in perfumery.  But even a template this good gets old after a while. 


What I love about White Rose & Oud is that it reimagines the rose-oud pairing in the context of a witch’s apothecary in the Middle Ages, giving it new angles I hadn’t considered before.  The opening is a pungent herbal lemonade that has dried to crystals on a mantelpiece somewhere, before being swept into a pestle and mortar with a bunch of dusty culinary herbs and ground to a fine powder.  But before you think, wow, this is super sour and harsh and I don’t like it, in rolls an intoxicating lush, Turkish delight rose that softens all the sharp edges.  The interplay of that rosy loukhoum against the tart, almost brackish oud – which you realize is what the deeply sour herbaciousness in the topnotes was camouflaging – is brilliant. 


The umami, wheaten sandalwood in the basenotes interacts with the oud and other woody notes to create an accord so dry and 3D and aromatic that it feels like watching plumes of barkhoor smoke hanging heavy in the air or hot benzine shimmering in the thick air at the fuel court.  


But while recognizably (finally) a rose-oud scent, White Rose & Oud never feels exotic in a tokenistic manner, perhaps due to its persistent streak of antiseptic sourness – that medieval apothecary vibe – that runs through it from top to bottom.  I like to think that Bernard Chant would have liked the witchy 1970s feel of this, even if he didn’t quite get the whole rose-oud reference the way modern perfume wearers do. 


Source of sample:  I bought a sample set directly from Annette Neuffer’s website back in (I think) 2017 or 2018.  


Cover Image: Photo by Christina Deravedisian on Unsplash






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