Thursday, October 1, 2009


With her divine fragrances, vision, hard work, and pure talent…San Francisco perfumer DelRae Roth has become an international sensation in the world of alluring top-quality scents

I love perfume—and wear it every day, all day and night. I wear it to bed. To sleep.

A beautiful fragrance enriches every moment. I keep it in my pocket on a plane to give myself spritz and a lift, and I whoosh on a drift of scent when I need inspiration or a mood-enhancer. It’s instant uplift, and always the fourth dimension of sense memory of a time and a place and a person, a moment.

I adore all the Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum fragrances (Une Fleur de Cassie, Dans tes Bras, En Passant, Lys Mediterranee) and the Hermés scents (the new Gentiane Blanche, Kelly Caleche, Un Jardin sur le Nil, and Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, all designed by the great Jean-Claude Ellena) plus Guerlains’s rich Vol de Nuit and the luscious Mitsouko, which have all accompanied me on many global adventures.

But my perfume wardrobe has been intensified and scintillated recently by a dazzling new fragrance—Mythique by Parfums DelRae. And the perfumer lives in San Francisco not far from my home base.

Botticelli blonde DelRae Roth is in the business of dreaming up moments of quiet rapture. Her sweet occupation, secretive and seductive, is creating perfumes for her seven-year-old fragrance label, Parfums DelRae.

Roth’s glorious perfumes, like the sensual Amoureuse, as well as her richly redolent Bois de Paradis, sparkling Eau Illuminee, and Début, a light-hearted lily-of-the-valley composition, have been quietly selling at chic stores like de Vera in New York and San Francisco, Barneys, Tail of the Yak in Berkeley, and hot superstores like Maxfield in Los Angeles, Takashimaya in New York, Verso in Antwerp, and at Space NK and Harvey Nichols in London.

By whispered word-of-mouth they have become cult fragrances for those with very discerning noses and a love of classic scents designed with a modern, fresh style. Now she’s introducing Mythique, a surprising and elegantly modern new scent.

Roth’s distinctive fragrances exude loveliness and grace. They are not showy scents but rather classic and luxurious.

“I’ve been in love with perfumes my whole life, and now I have the luxury of creating new compositions and selecting only the finest ingredients,” said Roth, who grew up in South Dakota, dreaming of perfume.

“I am passionate to make fragrances of true authenticity for people who gravitate towards the exceptional,” she said. “ From the start, I envisioned perfumes without compromise, and scents of great independence and inspiration.”

Roth, who lives in a poetically modern apartment in Pacific Heights, was an art director for Esprit in its glory days, before engaging renowned French parfumeur Michel Roudnitska, to realize and perfect her first perfume compositions.

Roudnitska, whose late father Edmond was one of the great classic parfumeurs, is admired in the industry for Eau d’Hermes, and the rich and spicy Noir Epices, by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

“I developed the olfactory profiles for each perfume, from many different inspirations,” said Roth. “ My style of perfume is bright and modern, not heavy or overly sweet. They’re all complex compositions. I looked to a diverse range of concepts and ideas and experiences. I was inspired, for example, by walks in the forests and gardens in the Presidio preserve in San Francisco where it’s cool, herbal and fresh early in the day. As the morning progresses the fragrances develop and subtle undertones of lavender or sweeter aromatic notes come forward. I’m always looking for complexity, subtlety, surprise, delight, harmony in a fragrance.”

Working with Michel Roudnitska in his Provence perfume laboratory, she was introduced to the arcane world of fragrance making.

“I had admired other fragrances Roudnitska designed, loved his pedigree, and went to Grasse in the South of France to meet him,” recalled Roth. “He’s a wonderfully engaging man, open to ideas, and totally immersed in the secretive world of fragrance. We’ve worked together on four fragrances.”

Roth dreamed up modern perfumes with classical references, which are original, and very well balanced. Each one tells a distinct story and has its own operatic myth.

Amoureuse is floral and green, intensely feminine. Its top notes are cardamon and mandarine, which later develop rich tones of tuberose and jasmine, with captivating notes of Tahitian ginger lily.

“I wanted a fragrance that was the smell of happiness and sunshine,” recalled Roth. “It has been very popular because the floral notes are quite haunting and lovely.”

Bois de Paradis has hints of roses and wood, with suggestions of incense and woody notes of pine, cedar, and cypress with softening tones of amber.

“I designed it to be sexy and sensual, but very refined,” Roth noted.

Eau Illuminee has green notes of bergamot and basil, with fresh tones of lavender, wild aromatic herbs and oakmoss and a soft, slightly sweeter suggestion of vanilla and tonka bean.

“This perfume always give me a lift, and brightens the day,” said Roth. “It’s very harmonious. I like the deeper notes of oakmoss that give it depth and character.”

With Début, Roth dreamed of lily of the valley with a dash of sharp contrast from vetiver, bergamot, lime and linden blossom. Emotionelle is fruity, redolent of melon and memories of summer and orchards and sensual delight.

As a former art director and designer, Roth created the elegant packaging, designing and presentation of her fragrances.

Each perfume is captured in a flint glass bottle with a classic square shape and glass top. Her labels and boxes are engraved in black, gold, platinum, and bronze, on handmade European papers.

“I’m thrilled with the way things have developed these first years,” said Roth, who is looking to sell in Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt. “I plan to continue for many years to design perfumes that make women feel beautiful.”

Creams: New to the collection are rich matching body creams for Eau Illuminée, Amoureuse, Bois de Paradis, and Début. The creams were one of the first on the market made without parabens, phtalates, or artificial colorings. Roth never tests any of the products on animals (only on DR, family and friends) The perfumes are 17—20 % concentration, which is very high, the raw materials used for all are the very best, there are no artificial colorings or preservatives.

Mythique: For Mythique, Roth worked with Yann Vasnier, a French perfumer living in NYC/Paris.

“He was great to work with,” said Roth. There was great ease to our discussions because he immediately understood the concepts and we share enthusiasm for many of the same things; travel, history, art, Pierre Herme’s rose macaroons! Part of the fun is meeting people like Yann, who are generous with their knowledge and from whom I can learn,”

What’s Next: Roth is now actively working on three new perfumes; one is done (for Fall 2010), one is nearly finished (for Spring 2011) and one is still in the conceptual phase.

“The perfume creation is the part of the business that I really love. It’s not work for me because I enjoy it so much. It is so dazzling to have an idea for a perfume and then to start putting together the different facets to tell the story you have in mind. I think of the perfumes as mini-operas, they each tell a wonderful story.”

The Perfume Insider: “I think one can really see in the world today the great desire for authenticity and quality, and that is certainly true for the universe of perfume,” said DelRae Roth. “That may be why the niche brands are so very much appreciated and are influencing the bigger brands. You see all bigger brands repositioning to appear “niche”, because the niche brands are really driven by passion and commitment. And it’s definitely not an easy thing to pull off. Lili Barbery at French Vogue calls Parfums DelRae a ‘micro-niche’ brand that “respire l ‘élégance.” Which reminds me of a favorite line by Socrates, “Be as you wish to seem”.”

DelRae Says:

Mythique took a year to develop—more! I have a couple of friends who have been wearing Mythique and they are delighted that strangers stop them to ask and comment on the perfume! The cost of this perfume was crazy, the orris is the most expensive in the world, and the perfume has more in it than any iris based perfume on the market (Chanel, Malle, or other new launches coming this fall), but I could not refuse, it makes the perfume so exceptional.”

Emotionnelle is so different and, the melon speaks so brightly in the beginning, the fruity aspect is very unexpected and I think charming. It is all so very personal and depends how open someone is and all the associations people have to things. Michel Roudnitska feels that Emotionnelle is the best perfume he has ever worked on, and we did work hard on it —I wanted it to a unique personality. You make a perfume, work so hard, and then you hold your breath and hope they take on a life, that people ‘get them’, but you never know!! The competition is so fierce it can be overwhelming.”

DDS says:

“I love Mythique. It is addictive, it is uplifting, it is modern and fresh and elegant. It is bursting out—and I am confident it is going to be a blockbuster."

"Each elegant bottle of eau de parfum has a concentration of 20%, so they are very concentrated and have a beautiful sillage (after-glow, wafting and lilting drift of fragrance."

Where to find: PARFUMS DELRAE are available at 100 chic perfumeries, beauty stores and specialty stores around the world, including Barney’s New York across the US and Parfums DelRae will soon be in Australia and the Middle East. They are sold in Russia, Romania, and The Netherlands and many more countries in Europe.

Prices are US$135 for EDP and US$85 body cream (prices different in other parts of the world).

For more information:

For the October issue of C magazine—I am one of the founding editors, and the Northern California editor at large of C—I included DelRae Roth’s favorite travel hideaways to detail where she goes to get away. Please check the October issue of C magazine to see more ‘travel insiders tips’, including from Suzanne Rheinstein, Christina Rottman, and blogger Katie Denham (Katie-did).

DelRae travels often to Europe and New York, and London, and around the US, for her company. But to truly get away—she heads to the Point Reyes National Seashore, about an hour north of San Francisco.

Point Reyes National Seashore, with its beaches, cliffs, forests, hiking trails and remote hidden meadows, is so dramatic so beautiful.

For years I drove up early every Sunday morning, stopped for breakfast at Manka’s for their unbelievable breakfast of eggs scrambled with onions and spaetzle, and served with rye toast, raspberry jam and a bottle of Pilsner beer. Manka’s burned down several years ago—and I’m waiting for a Phoenix-like return.

After that, I drove to McClures Beach and was content to read and walk on the beach all day. (You only needed water for the day after that breakfast). Now, I stay at the reborn Manka’s in Inverness and although very different, simpler, smaller, it is heavenly.

I go all times of the year, whenever I can, especially after working with my perfumers in Paris. I go to one of the many solitary beaches like Drake’s Bay or Limantour, and read, and often I walk the trails. There are miles of trails, steep uphill climbs, a stroll in the shade, a Hansel and Gretel amble, a picnic in a meadow with the moon coming up. The area has something to match every mood.

I first started going there in the mid-70’s. Point Reyes embodies the best of what we have in northern California. When I lived in Paris years ago, I felt homesick for this place.

It is wild, wooded, and you are near the ocean. The air is very fragrant; I especially love the smell of the Bay Laurel trees. There is one tree in particular that is very spectacular. It is huge and elegant. It takes about an hour’s walk from the trailhead to find it. Arriving at the tree feels like I’ve made a pilgrimage. I try to imagine what its like to be there at all hours of the day or night, hear the wind in the trees and the smell of the bay, pine and ocean nearby.

The area is vast and there is something for everyone. The area is well known for the natural beauty, solitude, moody winter mists and cool summer afternoons. The nearby town of Point Reyes Station has good restaurants, a good book store and great food to buy to take on your hike. And I love the delicious barbequed oysters in Marshall across Tomales Lagoon.

After a full day (feels like a whole weekend) I head back to the City. The Golden Gate Bridge is less than an hour away. My apartment in Pacific Heights is just minutes past the bridge. What a blessing to have such a beautiful place—so close to home.

Photo credits: Home: Mark Seelen. Product: Shawn Sullivan, Karen Steffens
My dog’s name: Marcel (after Proust, Duchamp, Marceau)
Photos in my flat by: Turberville, Penn, Avedon, Mapplethorpe, Cartier-Bresson, Blossfeldt
Car: 1959 Alfa Romeo ‘Giulietta Spider Veloce’
Other artwork: Vintage Paris poster, and other stuff by me.


  1. Oh Diane,
    You always have the best and newest ideas. I have just been ready for a new perfume and here you are giving us the 411!

  2. Diane,
    Your article makes me want to wear perfume! How romantic and exciting this world is experienced through your senses.

    I also love the side article on DelRae's Pt. Reyes. A place to truly make us grateful to live in northern California.