In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Raspberry

I picked up a large jar of raspberry preserves at a local ethnic food store. It has been a while since we had any so the moment we opened that jar it sent my vSO and me down memory lane.

In our childhood there were no mass-produced fruit preserves or jams. The only way to get those was to make them during summer when fruit and berries were in season. City dwellers had a limited access to any produce so each family would make just a few jars. Usually those preserves were saved for winter, when you couldn’t get almost any fresh fruit.

Raspberry

In mental hierarchy of preserves those made from raspberries were probably on the top. Not just for their taste or because raspberries were more expensive than some other berries, but also because raspberry preserves were believed to serve as a natural cold remedy. So even in winter we normally didn’t get to eat raspberry preserves “just because.” But once you got cold, the sacred jar would be summoned from the depths of the storage cabinet and you’d be treated with (and to) a cup of hot tea with several tea spoons of raspberry preserves in it. I’m not sure if it worked or not but it was the best part of being sick. Well, after not going to school, of course. And getting to finish preserves in the open jar after you got better.

I remember that distinct aroma of raspberry coming from the cup. It was so strong that it would get through the worst nasal congestion, which I cannot say about the content of the jar I bought recently. I don’t know what torture those strawberries went through but they had completely given up their identity: with my nose almost pressed against the opening of the jar all I can get is a faint smell resembling raspberry. My vSO couldn’t smell anything at all. We didn’t test it on Rusty since all he has for the point of comparison is a raw raspberry.

Rusty and Berries

I could keep looking for better preserves/jam (and I might still do it) but meanwhile I decided to concentrate on perfumes featuring raspberry note.

When I read notes for Russian Tea, created by Julien Rasquinet for Masque in 2014 (mint, black pepper, raspberry, black tea, magnolia, immortelle, leather, incense, birch and labdanum), I was excited, partially because of that association with tea and raspberry preserves. I even bought a sample! Isn’t that a recipe for a disappointment more often than not? Russian Tea starts promising: I can smell a little bit of black tea and even some mint. But that’s it. I can’t smell raspberry at all. The rest of the perfume development is mostly birch tar and smoke. Since I do not plan to do a post on this perfume, I want to use this chance to say that I find the whole story for the perfume bizarre: Russia has never been known for its tea and there is no special significance for either this product or tradition of drinking it. OK, maybe using samovars in the past can be considered a distinct and distinguishable tradition but still 5 o’clock tea it’s not. The only association I get when I hear “Russian tea” is Kustodiev‘s painting Merchant’s Wife (the original name in Russian is something like “merchant’s wife drinking tea”).

Kustodiev Merchant's Wife

In the first post of this berries series – the one about strawberries – two people mentioned Ambre a Sade by Nez a Nez and one of them – Susan from now closed FineFragrants – even sent me a sample to try. While strawberry note is the most prominent berry in that perfume, raspberry is also noticeable and, in general, it’s a very interesting and quirky perfume. Too bad it seems to be discontinued. If you haven’t tried it, you can read Suzanne’s (Eiderdown Press) post Ambre à Sade by Nez à Nez: Berry Unexpected to see what you’ve missed (and to learn what Marquis de Sade’s wife would bring him to sweeten his time in prison).

Birgit (Olfactoria’s Travels) attracted my attention to Parfumerie Generale‘s Brûlure de Rose almost four years ago (if you haven’t tried the perfume yet, you should read her review… on the second thought, even if you tried the perfume, read her review anyway). I got a sample, tried it several times, liked it – and completely forgot about it. I tried it again several days ago and was amazed by how much I liked it. It’s beautiful on all stages – from the lemony rose in the opening to the warm ambered drydown. I’m not sure I’d recognize raspberry in Brûlure de Rose without reading the notes (Brazilian rosewood, amber, musk, raspberry, vanilla, cacao and rose) but the berry part in this perfume is a very mature one. And since my sample is empty, I think Brûlure de Rose will be added to my “to buy” list.

My absolutely favorite raspberry perfume – the one that isn’t ashamed of its association with raspberry – is Une Rose Vermeille by Tauer Perfumes. It is so powerful that sometimes I choose to wear it from a dab vial – even though I own a bottle, which is a little ironic knowing Andy Tauer‘s views on the importance of “the flacon, the packaging, the hand written note” for the complete perfume experience (for those few who weren’t around a couple of years ago, more on the topic in my old post Perfume Bottle Splitters: Friends or Foes?). I can’t say that I love Une Rose Vermeille but I like it very much and it’s one of my mostly complimented perfumes.

Rusty and Une Rose Vermeire

I’ve tried several more perfumes that feature raspberry note. Courtesan by Worth is nice but I’m not sure I’d recognize it if I smelled it even a couple of hours after I wore it. If raspberry is in there, it contributes to the general “fruitiness” and sweetness. By Kilian‘s Back to Black definitely has raspberry but, as many other perfumes from the line, is unpleasant on my skin. And Rose Oud by Parfums De Nicolai, for my nose, doesn’t have any raspberry and is very unpleasant on my skin.

Do you have any favorite perfumes with prominent raspberry note? Do you have any favorite raspberry preserves/jam brand?

 

Images: Merchant’s Wife from Wikipedia; the rest are my own.

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37 thoughts on “In the Search for the Perfect Berry: Raspberry

  1. Very interesting that you say Russian Tea is not a “thing” in Russia, here it definitely is. When I grew up all black tea was labelled Russian Tea.

    Very happy you love Brulure de Rose! :)

  2. I enjoy this post on more levels than you can shake a stick at! I hadn’t thought – though I guess I should have done – you might have being deprived of jam as a child and I did not know that people ever put it in a hot drink as a cold remedy. I associate lemon and honey with that kind of illness beverage. Jam brands I would recommend? Tiptree above all, but also Bonne Maman. Basically if the fruit content is at least 45% you’ve got something half decent.

    And I do agree that Raspberry is top of the hierarchy fruitwise!

    Then like B, am pleased you have had a Brulure epiphany! I might wear it today in fact. Tart’s Knicker Drawer by Sarah Mc has raspberry, also a perfume by Lynn Harris for M & S which is quite like it in that Poudre d’Orient powdery diva way. Also a Bond No 9 whose name also escapes me – one of the very few I like from the line.

    • Thank you, Vanessa. I hesitated if I should tell you that lemons also weren’t something easily available all the time ;) I mean, some years there were several winter months when you could buy lemons but cold season/colds season was much longer :)

      I should try Tart’s Knicker Drawer (despite the name) but no amount of raspberry will move me towards Bond N9’s perfumes.

  3. Fascinated to get your take on “Russian Tea” since I read up about it after testing the Masque fragrance. There’s this whole tale of the tea being a bit smoky because of the caravan’s camp fires and the Siberian weather giving it a delicate flavour etc etc. I also assumed adding raspberry preserve to sweeten tea was a nightly occurance.

    As the tea travelled by camel from China across Russia to Europe do you think that’s why people outside of Russia referred to as Russian Tea? We are also talking about the 18th century here.

    Anyway, I didn’t pick up the raspberry either. Vanessa’s already mentioned Tart’s Knicker Drawer which I’m a fan of but Liqueur Chanelle by Huitieme Art/PG also has a raspberry note. I think it’s my favourite fruit perfume note now actually. A nice mix of sweet and tart.

    • It might be the case (the Tea Road, caravans, smoke and cold) – just too long ago to survive the progress and political changes. What I find interesting is that other cultures preserved these memories better than the native one.

      Liqueur Chanelle’s notes sound very interesting. And it’s a nice bottle. I’ll try it if I come across it.

  4. I used to love raspberry jam when I was little, I still do, but growing up it was definitely my favourite, so I understand your disappointment in sniffing it now. I’m sure there are good ones around though.
    Two perfumes in particular spring to mind, Impossible Iris by Monegal, not because I love it, but because when ever I read about it people around me seem to find it wonderful, and I try again, and then I don’t understand why it’s labeled ‘iris’, and put it aside again. I’m still waiting for it to ‘click’. perhaps viewing it under the raspberry/ yellow flower tag will help :-)
    The other is the Guelain LPRN Couture. I don’t care for the patchouli part, but the raspberry is there.Also the exclusive French Kiss has a pronounced raspberry note, but I haven’t tried it.
    From Nez a Nez Atelier d’Artiste has a fun raspberry note, together with tobacco and rhum and coffee. I like this perfume a lot, even if it is quite weird. I’m not sure it would be your thing at all.
    Snack to Rusty for being so adorable :-)

    • I wore Impossible Iris today. As I’ve mentioned before, I cannot get not only iris but any other distinct note from this perfume, so raspberry wasn’t an exception. But I still like it and enjoy wearing from time to time – so thank you for the nudge.

      I would have tried that weird raspberry-tobacco-rhum-coffee perfume but I don’t remember any store around to carry this brand so I’ll take your opinion of it not being “my thing” and won’t seek a sample – unless I just happen to come across it somewhere.

      Rusty got a treat for the participation :)

  5. Hello dear!
    Great post as always. You probably remember that I reviewed Russian Tea some time ago and for me it was quite intensive mint and then mostly birch tar and smoke. No raspberry.

    As you know I’m not very much into berry smells in perfume but the fragrance that to me had a distinctive raspberry tone was Impossible Iris from Ramon Monegal. I know that you’re a happy owner of the flacon but is it just me who gets quite an intensive raspberry from it?

    • Hi Lucas! It’s good to see you :) We’re in unison about Russian Tea (though for me mint wasn’t a problem).

      As I told Asali above, I wore Impossible Iris today – and still no, no raspberry. It is sweet enough to assume that it can be raspberry but without reading the notes list I wouldn’t be able to get it.

  6. Fantastic post. Rouge Avignon from Phaedon has a hefty wack of raspberry. I have plenty. Want some?? I must try Tart’s Knicker Drawer and the PG. I will do that soon. Hugs. xxx

  7. Hey there Undina,
    WOW! You fit so much into this post. A very interesting one on so many levels.
    When we had Russian Tea as I was growing up the story my parents told was that it tasted like that because it was the taste that the hard tea drinking caravan drovers would adore. The reason it was so strong and smoky was because they let the tannins build up on their tea jugs on the inside, the cook fires from outside and that smoky bacon smell came from the way all the food was packed together.
    The whole experience then for drinking the tea became a magical story of travel across Russia through weather extremes, with hired horse riding guards and these camel and gypsy wagon caravans. Unbelievably romantic in a young boys mind.
    As to raspberries? I liked them best fresh mixed into yoghurt.
    Portia xx

    • If I had grown up with those stories I would have probably also had a romanticized view on Russian tea :) Well… Never tasting that variety at my home country might have something to do with my skepticism as well :)
      Now I want fresh raspberries!

  8. Undina, this is a fascinating post, as I didn’t realize that there wasn’t mass-produced jams or preserves in your home country when you were growing up. It’s funny: I remember a post that you wrote a couple years ago about how your class was required to go out into the country and pick fruit (your post on working the kolkhoz), so I got the notion in my head that the strawberries you picked would end up being made into jam by one of those collective farms and sold. I don’t know why I assumed that (but probably it’s because when I was growing up, we grew strawberries and there were so many that they always ended up being made into jam).

    No wonder the scent of raspberries is so special to you. The only perfumes with a detectable raspberry note that I can think of is Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady, though lots of rose perfumes have a raspberry-like quality to them to my nose. Byredo Pulp is quite a jammy, fruity perfume, though it is not to my liking.

    Ha! So glad to hear your impressions on Masque’s Russian Tea fragrance, as they mirror my own (and glad, too, to hear that you found Ambre d’Sade an interesting perfume … thanks for the link love!)

    • Those strawberries were sold to eat or, if they didn’t survive the road to the store well, to go into personal jam making. I don’t know why they didn’t produce it industrially… Or maybe they did somewhere but it was a huge country – so it just never made it to the part where I lived? I don’t know.

      I love PoaL but I’m not sure I recognize raspberry there. I’ll check it out the next time I wear it. Love Byredo Pulp for hot weather but no, not raspberry.

  9. Great post, dear Undina! Maybe my nose is not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between red berries and raspberries. The ozone-friendly Angel Eau Sucree 2014 (and I believe 2015 is the same but presented in a different flacon) has a wonderful red berry smell! I have to wear Impossie Iris to see if I get the raspberry.

    Rusty is looking good, as always!

    • Thank you, hajusuuri (and from Rusty as well :) )

      I’ll try Angel Eau Sucree when I see it. I don’t think I need another Angel, even a great one, since I have two already (the original and ToF flanker) but I’m curious.

  10. Thank you for this precious insight into your childhood. I adore raspberries (despite a very slight allergy) and got quite mad at my husband for weed-whacking down a wild black raspberry vine that was growing near our raspberries – of course I had specifically pointed it out to him beforehand telling him not to kill it. I have never experienced preserves in tea, but I can imagine it being quite lovely.

    • Wait… Your husband did weeding? Don’t jinx it! :)
      I’ll have to find better preserves and, when I get sick the next time, I’ll check if it actually helps.

  11. Wonderful post Undina. Especially about THE Raspbery jam and tea. It reminds me of jam my father used to buy from Rumania, Maritza, but stopped buying after Chernobyl. Prune jam That kind of thing, no Raspbery though.

  12. Hi Undina,
    Lovely Post! thank you. I have been looking for the perfect raspberry too! I do like the raspberry element in Rouge Avignon. Other raspberries include Ungaro Apparition (good initial raspberries but eventually too sweet and cloying) and the fragrance of one of the Orlane skin products that I use. It seems that the fruity/raspberry fragrances I’ve tried manage to convey the sweet aspect of the berry but never the tart. I wonder why?
    Azar xxx

    • I’ll try Rouge Avignon – it’s the second vote for it.
      I think that raspberries smell rather sweet, tartness comes from the taste – so perfumes represent just the smell we get before we start eating berries.

  13. That was very interesting Undina – raspberries for colds. It’s always fascinating to hear about other cultures and the simple things. Also no Russian tea! It was always lemon and honey in NZ or a horrible concoction of marmite / vegemite and hot water which my mother only tried a few times with us. Yuk. My favourite raspberry in perfume is definitely Une Rose Vermeille as well. I adore that fruity rose. It’s one of my favourite Tauers and roses in general.

  14. I didn’t know raspberry preserves could be used as a cure for the common cold! That would’ve made being sick as a little kid more bearable. I used to (and still do) drink a mix of hot water, lemon juice, and honey for colds/sore throats. I’ll think of raspberry jam next time though!

    Ah, Russian Tea has been on my sample list for a while now. I will temper my expectations though after reading your thoughts. Obviously I’d rather get more of the tea and raspberry notes than the smoke blast!

    • As I mentioned in one of my comments above, lemons weren’t readily available all the time so I think people figured out the best they could do under the circumstances. At least it was a pleasant remedy :)

      It’s always better to come to the testing with low or no expectations: negative feelings from a disappointment are much stronger than those from a simple dismissal after the test. But maybe you’ll be one of those for whom this perfume works?

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  18. The raspberries and blackberries that Rusty is sniffing look so delicious! I cannot think of a single perfume I have sniffed that has a prominent raspberry note. Blackberry is easier…my favorite being Jo Malone’s Blackberry & Bay which I happen to enjoy in soap format in the summer.

    By the way, your pingback format is excellent….I like maneuvering through your blog in this way :)

    • I appreciate your doing all the maneuvering :). I put my heart and a lot of thinking in most of my stories, and sometimes I feel sad when people who are new to my blog won’t “hear” them.

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