A Rose in Winter: Yosh Han’s Sottile


In the fall I crave the scent of roses. I want them dark and full blown, like the true red roses in the heart of Teo Cabanel’s Oha, or roughed up by oud and patchouli like the wonderful/unbearable Black Oud by Montale. When fall turns into winter, I like them jeweled, with a touch of frosty pink pepper, like Ormonde Jayne’s regal Ta’if, or swimming in mulled wine and figs like Parfums DelRae’s delicious, jammy Bois de Paradis, or solemn and rich like Caron’s Parfum Sacre, where the wine and spice comes along with plenty of incense.


But then, after all the feasting and color of the holidays, there comes a moment when richness and ornament feels wrong. I began this post in January, a month that, no matter the actual weather (it was in the low seventies at the time), will always be cold, spare and windswept to me–an empty landscape. We’re done with January now, but we’re still in the middle of Lent, and I still want the clarity of that landscape. Clarity, and a bare hint of spring. I want my life and mind illuminated by something like the Scandinavian light in Colin Fraser’s painting up there.


When I think of a rose for winter clarity, I think of perfumer Yosh Han’s Sottile. I first smelled Sottile near the end of the day at my first Sniffapalooza. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by fragrance and fellowship, covered from head to toe with who knows how many perfumes from–not from my own testing but from standing next to dozens of enthusiastic spritzers. Just when I was sure I couldn’t smell anything anymore and was about to flee for open air, I bent toward one of the wine glasses Yosh had lined up on her table. Up came the scent of a rose like the sound of a small silver bell, simple but true, and the rest of the room went magically silent.


Sottile is a soliflore, a portrait of a single flower–in this case, a tea rose. It is clear and pink rather than rich and red, with a touch of lily of the valley, like the hint of green in the center of a just open flower.  It’s not the kind of perfume I normally gravitate toward, but I am always grateful for its existence and when I want to wear it nothing else will do.


Sottile is also one of the five California perfumes Chef (and writer) Dana Tommasino and I included in our scent dinner at Woodward’s Garden. We translated it into a simple champagne cocktail, and you can too: simply add a few drops (only a few!) of rosewater, a twist of lemon rind, preferably Meyer lemon, to your glass of dry bubbly. If you have a few lemon blossoms–we did–float one or two on top. If you don’t (or even if you do) you could put a single dried tea rose in the bottom of the glass. I buy mine in the spice section of my local Middle Eastern grocery store. Bulk tea sections and Asian grocery stores often have them, too.



The personality of Sottile’s creator may have influenced our decision to use champagne. I have met many generous and enthusiastic people in my perfume journeys but Yosh Han simply amazed me. As soon as she found out the dinner was happening she threw herself into helping us in every way she could including connecting us with the journalist whose article I just linked to above. She even asked me if I needed a place to stay when I was in town. (I didn’t, but what a delight it was to be asked!)  I know I’m not the only one Yosh has treated this way–she’s kind of an all-purpose ambassador and MVP of the indie perfume world. I’ve always wanted to thank her publicly. So thank you, Yosh.


And I’ve been meaning to share Yosh’s generosity with all of you for quite some time, too. The guests at the dinner all received the above deluxe samples of Sottile pictured above complete with an extra gift of the dark and mysterious special edition, Sombre Negra. These three are for you. Please leave a comment about the kind of January/February scents you’ve been craving, or a favorite rose (scent or flower), or even a favorite champagne cocktail, if you’d like to be in the draw.



Note: While I was dilly dallying around in New York and Idaho and then catching up on work, Ayala Sender headed up a great blogging project, A Dozen Roses for Valentine’s Day. Please see her site for a full list of the bloggers officially involved (and her own very delicious post), but don’t miss my friend Elisa Gabbert who decided to crash the party over at The French Exit. For even more roses, including another take on Sottile, see Denise Hamilton’s recent column in the L.A. Times.


Image: Colin Fraser, Winter Rose Suite Number 4. For more of his images go here.

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  • Katy McReynolds says:

    I am so longing for Spring by this time of the year that I start layering on the jasmine and coconut body lotion with Fracas, Esprit de Oscar and any other rambunctious white floral I can find. Alas, they stay rather meek without the heat of the summer to coax out their true splendor! Thanks for the draw and Yosh sounds like a truly inspiring person.

    • Alyssa says:

      Oh yes, white flowers! I always get a big craving for Carnal Flower, Frederic Malle’s big tuberose soliflore, right around New Year’s Eve. I find the wintergreen note in the beginning does beautifully with the cold, like a link between winter and summer. And I wear all my big white lilies, too: Donna Karan’s Gold, Yosh’s beautifully soft Stargazer, and Parfums DelRae’s Amoureuse.

  • Deborah says:

    Bal a Versailles.
    A memory scent for me.
    Evocative, rich and warm/hot…a harbinger of the spring.

  • Shaney says:

    I’ve been dying to try sombre negra forever! I am craving Ormonde woman and SL fille en aguilles in my still chilly montana. Thanks for the draw!

  • breathesgelatin says:

    Seems I’ve been craving mossiness lately. Wearing a lot of rich chypre-ish things, which is kind of a departure for me. I’ve been testing so many things and had barely any time to write! I’m transitioning between jobs, which is exciting, but that transitional time between jobs when you’re doing both jobs is overwhelming.

    Anyway. That is to say, I’ll let you know more about Beloved someday. Thanks so much again for sending that to me! :)

    • Alyssa says:

      It was my pleasure! And you have just summed up why I will never be a true perfume blogger. Too little time, too many things to test. I always end up wanting to actually *wear* my perfume rather than test it, you know? But I have been making my way through a new line that I met at Elements and will report on that soon.

  • Jeff Berbert says:

    For a week now I have been craving Andy Tauer’s Zeta. This fragrance is light in liquid form. Linden blossoms are a fairly recent obsession for me, and Zeta is a burst of green joy. As for rose scents, now and always, Lyric. Thanks so much for both the draw and your continuous inspiration.

    • Alyssa says:

      Oh, linden blossoms are the very essence of spring! They are like lily of the valley scents for me–like Sottile, I wear them rarely but when I want them nothing else will do. Do you know Annick Goutal’s Eau de Ciel? It is a wonderful linden scent. And for a not-quite-soliflore I love Mandy Aftel’s Honey Blossom, which was my 40th birthday present to myself.

  • Annikky says:

    This is my first seriously perfumed winter and it hasn’t gone the way I expected at all. I thought I would be craving ambers and vanillas, something thick and comforting, but no. If anything, I have been wearing subtler scents than usual. It is especially strange considerig that in Estonia, It can get pretty seriously cold. Somewhere else, I tried to describe my mood as wearing scents that work with the cold, rather than against it. But your notion of craving clarity seems to me about the same thing. 

    Arquiste Aleksandr has been a big favourite and on really cold days, I have worn Zagorsk (I admit that I am probably influenced by the back story in both cases, but I don’t care), and I have been sad that my sample of Iris Silver Mist is gone. I have been wearing all my white florals (I call them winter whites now:) – all the usual suspects, but let me mention Jour Ensoleille, that has been a delight. My big florals are more elegant and crisp in the cold and there is this delicious and unexpected puff of scent when I remove my coat, after having stepped in from the cold. It’s getting warmer and wetter now and I have become obsessed with Un Matin d’Orage – I don’t own any of it, so I need to visit our only Goutal counter every other day to spritz myself. 

    Oh, I am sorry to ramble like that and in my first ever comment, too! I am probably slightly starstruck – I read your book more-or-less in one sitting and your blog is wonderful. Thank you for both.

    • Alyssa says:

      No need to apologize for such a lovely comment! (And thank you!!) I love the idea of “winter whites”–so perfect. You make me want to write a post about them. Jour Ensoleille is from Sonoma Scent Studio, yes? I remember that one and will have to get my sample out again. And you comments about working with the cold reminded me of a Bois de Jasmin post–about Diorissimo I think–where Victoria writes about how, in the winter, there are so many fewer smells in the air, so it makes sense to wear cooler, more minimal scents. That makes a lot of sense to me. But this time of year especially I also like the idea of being able to just barely smell the spring–the mud underneath the snow.

      • Annikky says:

        A winter whites post would be very much appreciated! And yes, you are correct, JE is by Sonoma Scent Studio. It is probably not a universal crowd pleaser as some other Laurie’s scents and I can see how it could be challenging – the greenness and the moss underneath the white blossoms initially caught me off guard as well and the trinity of tubereuse, jasmine and orange blossom is enough to send many people running in panic. But it is so distinct and complex without being dense or stuffy and nothing I have smelled can replace it. Makes me feel like the queen of forest fairies.

  • Karen says:

    What a wonderful draw! I’ve been obsessed with roses for a long time – my mother used to have old fashioned roses everywhere, I adored the perfume and one of my most vivid childhood memories is wandering out early on summer mornings to be enchanted by their fragrance with the dew still on them. Yet I have never found a rose perfume that crystallized that memory for me. I’ve tried Tocade, Paul Smith Rose and a few others but with no real success. I think I’ve just got close with ELDO Rossy De Palma and am wavering on full bottle status. Thanks for some great suggestions!

    • Alyssa says:

      Rose perfumes are their own joy, but it is difficult to find one that can compare to real life roses, especially if you’re looking for the scent of a specific rose. I do an annual event at Brenham, Texas’ Antique Rose Emporium where the grower cuts 100 different scented roses (antique/non-hybridized roses are much more fragrant) and I put them into different categories–citrus, fruits, incense, musk and so on–and lead people through smelling them. It’s really heavenly and it’s amazing how different they all smell.

      If you follow the like to Denise Hamilton’s article you’ll see she has a section on “true-to-life” roses. I agree with her picks. Good luck!

  • dabney says:

    I know Spring is around the corner when i can smell the Sweet Violets on her breath. Violets also have that ‘note of clarity’ to them and reading your description brought them to mind. I would Love to smell how the genius of Yosh brought forth this attribute.
    I admire how you keep this pleasure of scent refreshing!
    A big fan of yours.

    • Alyssa says:

      The fandom is mutual! I would very much like to smell your violets in person some day, Dabney. And I have a friend in the UK who wants to show me bluebells, which I’ve neither seen nor smelled in person. Who wants to fund my next travel project? :-)

  • Lori S says:

    I feel like this quiet, introspective time requires a rose with a bit of spice, richness and depth …not the green, fresh, lighthearted rose of Spring. My favorite fragrance is Alexandria by Kirsten Schilling at Arabesque Aromas–Rich rose with the spicy earthiness of cinnamon. So warming and comforting on a cold, barren day.

    So excited about the opportunity to win several of Yosh’s samples….thank you, Alyssa!

  • Julie F says:

    I’ve been wearing my heavier scents while we have cool weather – I know it won’t last much longer. Mostly amber oils and occasionally Vol de Nuit EdP (afraid it may be turning). Thanks for the draw.

    • Alyssa says:

      I always have that feeling in Texas–that I should be wearing my cold weather scents in the few weeks that it’s cold here. But I promised myself there would be no shoulds (or as few as I can manage) in my perfume wearing so…

      Too bad about the Vol de Nuit! I have some parfum that must be 30 years old or more at this point and it seems fine. Maybe it’s just the top notes?

  • Nancy Bonham says:

    I live in Maryland, and am definitely a person who lives for warm, even hot weather. I woke up this morning to see yet another sprinkling of snow on the ground. It was crackly under my feet, and when I went out to fill the birdfeeders the air was so cold it burned my nostrils. I long for the week when my lavender rosebush grows buds again and blooms for me – I have several rosebushes but the lavender is so fragrant and is the one to which I accord the most attention. Since that won’t be any time soon (insert a restless sigh here), I will go to my perfume cabinet and take out the tiny vial of Homage, the costliest sample of perfume oil I have purchased thus far, and place a drop – no – a smudge, on my inner arm. I close my eyes, sniff, and am instantly transported to an arid desert, burgundy velvet tentcovers wafting lazily in the soft warm wind. There is an endless azure sky; I feel the sun on my upturned face, and the heady engulfing fragrance of an overblown rose, syrupy with jasmine and smoky frankincense surrounds me, invades my head and settles itself warmly. I swear, every time I smell this oil I give a little mew of pleasure and have to sit on the bed for a minute to gather myself. It’s amazing what a scent can do for a woman who is trying to survive the cold months. Hurry, Spring!

    • Alyssa says:

      Ah, Homage. I have a tiny sample vial–just half a ml–that I treat the same way. I don’t know if you’ve read Coming to My Senses, but there’s a scene where I’m in Aedes de Venustas, near the end, and that is the perfume I’m smelling.

      I know that mew of pleasure very well!

  • Mary Stephens Mitchell says:

    I like my roses on the Goth side…cool (cold actually), dark, and dry. Voleur de Roses from L’Artisan and John Galliano’s eponymous fragrance are a good fit for me, although I’m also fond of Rose by Sonia Rykiel when I need to lighten things up a bit. I’ve also paired austere woody/incense fragrances like CdG Avignon with rose attar to achieve the effect I’m after.

    As Spring approaches, I find myself craving unapologetically green perfumes like Vent Vert, Cristalle and Ivoire.

    Cardamom Rose Cocktail
    1.5 oz of Hendrick’s gin
    .75 oz of Rose syrup
    .Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
    Squeeze of fresh grapefruit juice (ruby red preferably)
    2 dashes of Peychauds bitters
    1 Cardamom Pod

    Muddle the cardamom pod in the bottom of a cold shaker. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Strain over ice and add a splash of seltzer. Garnish with rose petals!

    • Alyssa says:

      Wow, that cocktail looks delicious, thank you for the recipe! Cardamom and rose are one of my favorite combinations.

      Mary, have you tried Montale’s Black Aoud? It is the driest, darkest most Gothic rose I know. A She Walks in the Night kind of a perfume.

  • Elisa says:

    Thank you for including my post in your roundup, Alyssa! Sottile is lovely, so delicate and fresh. I had a tiny sample once that is now gone. I also think her Omniscent is lots of fun.

    Lately I’ve been craving all my richest, “manliest” scents, stuff with dry herbal or spicy aspects like lavender, geranium, saffron, vetiver, patchouli … which is odd because I usually crave ambers and gourmands in winter. Last night I went back to type and wore Theorema.

    I wish I could have attended your scent dinner! It sounds so fab.

    • Alyssa says:

      I love your perfume posts because they are always full of things I’ve never tried. You’re so much more conversant in department store than I am!

      I wonder if that dry, manly herbal quality has the same kind of bracing clarity for you that the more delicate florals have for me?

  • Lavanya says:

    Sounds like a wonderful perfume even though I am usually drawn to darker, more brooding roses. My favorite is probably Black Oud. I discovered my love for roses through perfume rather than the other way round. When it comes to ‘real flowers’ my favorite flowers are tuberoses, though the only soliflores I love are Tubereuse Criminelle and Carnal Flower (the wiintergreenness is such an essential component of the flower, IMHO)

    • Alyssa says:

      I love that wintergreen note in tuberose, too. So often, tuberose gets paired with orange blossom to amp up the heady sweetness and dial down it’s green aspect–a shame, in my opinion, though I know I’m in the minority on that one.

  • Cynthia says:

    A rose I have been enjoying this winter is Divine L’Inspiratrice. To me it is an elegant scent in the French way. The rose is the main player, but a touch of vanilla and tonka give it a slight sweetness and patchouli darkens the rose scent. I’m a patchouli lover, so this is what makes the scent for me. If you don’t like patchouli, this one would probably be a miss. I will have to give the Montale you mentioned a try.
    Alyssa, I loved your descriptions of your seasonal rose perfumes. When does the event take place at the Antique Rose Emporium? I haven’t been there in years.

  • Carol says:

    I recently discovered Liz Zorn’s Rosa Sur Reuse and am finding it perfect for these cold dreary February days.

  • CarolAnne says:

    Good Heavens! Have not smelled *any* of these mentioned-am a complete newbie. (tho have found-& love- a few mentioned in Your Book) So, can only recommend a drink: squeeze an orange, pour the juice into a beautiful glass, add equal amount of Clicquot, drop in an organic rosebud, sip while perusing Surrender To Chance! ; )

    • Alyssa says:

      Uh oh, that last part of the recipe has the potential to make it a very expensive cocktail! :-)

      And never worry about not knowing the names of things. As you can see from the comments people are naming lots of perfumes I don’t know either.

  • Kandice says:

    I have been craving light, pretty scents to remind me of sunshine and spring. I’ve been wearing heavier scents for months now, and I just want something subtler and pretty without a lot of depth (or at least something that smells less complex). I’m currently in search of scents that might match what I’m feeling. I’ve recently sampled Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, which I really liked, as well as See By Chloe. I’m not big on rose scents as they often give me a headache, but perhaps Sottile might match what I’m seeking. Thanks for the giveaway and your generosity!

    • Alyssa says:

      For well-done simplicity–always hard to find–I often turn to Annick Goutal or L’Artisan. Some of the Jo Malone’s are very good on that front, too. My Orange Blossom cologne from them is a mainstay.

      I would be so pleased if Sottile broke your unlucky streak with roses.

      • Kandice says:

        Thanks, Alyssa.

        I will say that I liked a sample I received of Le Labo’s Rose, although I understand it’s supposed to be a gentlemen’s scent. However, that may be why I like it. It’s not as sweet and has a nice woodsy undertone. Still, it’s a heavier scent and not what I had in mind for a lighter scent.

        • Alyssa says:

          I know plenty of lady’s who wear Le Labo Rose 31! Have you tried Eau d’Italie’s Paestum Rose? It’s not “light” per se, but I find it very refreshing in the heat. It opens with a big, clear resin note–the rose is dark and sort of sneaks in to the heart of things when you’re note looking. A lovely thing with no sweetness at all.

          • Kandice says:

            Thanks, Alyssa. I haven’t tried that one but I’ll put it on my list of samples to try. Thanks for the recommendation :-)

  • Natalie says:

    I have been wearing a lot of florals lately. Craving spring here, too. I don’t think I’ve tried Sottile, but it sounds lovely, and I couldn’t agree more about Yosh. Each interaction I have had with her has revealed such enthusiasm and generosity – wonderful. Thanks for this draw!

  • Poodle says:

    This winter I’ve been on an incense kick. I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff. Although I will say there was one day this week that I wore a floral. Maybe that’s a sign of spring. Today though we’ve had more snow and the wind is howling with wind chills in the single digits so I still want my warm and fuzzy scents.

    • Alyssa says:

      Incense in winter is beautiful–and in the heat of the summer, too, when I find it has a cooling effect. Very popular in desert climes, after all.

  • Monica says:

    The past several weeks I keep being drawn to Stella McCartney L.I.L.Y. The pink pepper on top is a wonderful zest but it drys down on my skin so rich, a wonderful balance of patchouli with the white musk to soften it just right. It overwhelms me with feelings of peace, comfort and sophistication. It also reminds me of my grandparents house in Denver where I’m currently preparing to move. Perhaps the fragrance incites anticipation and excitement subconsciously.

    I work at the Sephora in Boise, so I am constantly surrounded by fragrance. L.I.L.Y. Has become a wonderful refuge from the recent candy-sweet fragrance popularity. It is also one that clients don’t typically gravitate to, so I can enjoy the aroma without associating it with work.

    • Alyssa says:

      Wait, you work at the Sephora in Boise?? 1) I didn’t know we had one. And 2) You know I’m from there, right? Have we met? :-)

      I believe L.I.L.Y. was Stella M’s re-interpretation of a lily of the valley perfume her mother wore–maybe Diorissimo?–so it makes perfect sense as a harbinger of spring. And maybe you’ll convert a few customers just by enjoying it yourself.

      • Monica says:

        Yes I did you you were from Boise. It was actually a client that mentioned your name and a book you had just published. She told me you recommended Sephora in your book.

        Yes, there is a Sephora in the Town Square Mall. We’ve been there 5 years this month! To my knowledge we’ve never met. Next time your visiting stop by and ask for me!

  • Yash says:

    Winters tend to be tricky for me as I crave heavy sillage ( clothes layering tend to muffle my scents) and I also want to remind myself of sunnier days by wearing cheeful florals..Therefore , I go for heavy hitters like Vero Kern ´s Rubj or Malle ´s Lys Mediterranee/Carnal Flower( sinister white florals are my definition of cheerful) and even the scary Manoumalia by LesNez and for indoors Ayala Morieĺ ´s Treazon. Beautiful flowers to ward off the cold…

    • Alyssa says:

      Ha! I don’t find Carnal Flower or Lys Mediterranee sinister, but I do find Manoumalia scary. It’s so swampy and alive I feel it’s going to eat me up. And if I had more Rubj I would wear it often–what a gorgeous, sexy orange blossom perfume. Obviously I have to try Treazon!

  • Michelle K says:

    Speaking of winter roses, have you tried Montale’s sweet oriental dream? This has been my surprising winter obsession, to the point that i’m tempted to wear it every day. I’ve never been a fan of rich gourmands – in fact i’m afraid of them – but something about this is so irresistible to me that I find myself spraying in the morning, after showers, before bed, staring lovingly at my bottle and other strange perfume related behavior. It starts out with a sharp rose jam note, overly sweet and toothache inducing. It settles into this luxurious rose jam-warm honey-almond that wafts around me all day. It remains sweet all the way through, but what makes the sweetness bearable is how natural the rose jam and honey smell. It’s such a wonderful comfort scent.

    • Alyssa says:

      I tried it once a couple years ago when I was in a big Montale phase. I don’t remember liking it, but your description is so delicious you make me want to try it again!

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