Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Review - Frederic Malle "Portrait of a Lady"

Fragrance reviews are tricky. I'm sure I've said this before. To tell you about something you can't see, using limited vocabulary and with only my own very subjective experience to draw from, is tough. But fragrances are an endless source of fascination for me and I can't resist the temptation to talk about them, however clumsily.

Portrait of a Lady isn't a name that filled me with inspiration, and when I opened my little sample vial I wasn't expecting to like it. ("Lady" is a word I hate - it reminds me of public conveniences and frilly toilet-roll holders.) However, the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle fragrance house is highly regarded and I knew I'd be experiencing something well-crafted and interesting even if it wasn't to my taste.

The main note of POAL is rose, which again is usually not a favourite of mine. Roses, if done wrong, can be horribly cloying and powdery. However POAL's rose is a dark and subversive one, emerging from a locked casket of patchouli and surrounded by wispy tendrils of incense and musk. It's earthy, yet delicate. The rose mingles with the mossy green patchouli, and they overlap and interplay together. The depth and context of the other notes give the impression of peering at this mysterious dance through a lattice of ironwork or a thicket of dark branches. It's not all flowers and woods though - there's a fruity warmth somewhere in there too, inviting and bright.

I feel a powerful sense of nostalgia when I smell it. It conjures up visions of ancient folklore and fairytales, and I'm reminded of mysterious and powerful women in them - witches, queens and warriors. Morgan le Fey could have worn this, Anne Boleyn might have kept it in her dresser drawer, or the Lady Ligeia could have dabbed it on her wrists before burning the midnight oil over her books.

I find this fragrance both inspiring and comforting. It transports the imagination to strange places, but there's something very familiar and "right" about it too.

Portrait of a Lady is available from Les Senteurs, starting at £115 for 50ml. Les Senteurs also offer a sample service, so you can try before you take the plunge (a sample of Portrait is £3). The perfumer is Dominique Ropion.


  1. I am absolutely LUSTING after "Lipstick Rose". It is the most seductive fragrance which I spritz every time I am in Liberty ;)

  2. I agree that perfume reviews are so hard, but this is very helpful. I am not a fan of rose either, I find that it just seems to be too faint, or too strong, but this sounds intriguing so thankyou. Jan x


Related Posts with Thumbnails