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Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady
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A Conversation on Arabie

A Package from Ines

A Package from Lavanya

A More Affordable Olfactionary

A Week of Wearing What I Like

Amouage Dia (pour femme)

Amouage Dia (pour homme)

Amouage Epic Woman

Amouage Gold

Amouage Interlude Man

Amouage Jubilation 25 

Amouage Lyric Woman

Amouage Memoir Woman

Amouage Opus I

Amouage Opus III

Amouage Opus IV

Amouage Opus V

Amouage Opus VI

Amouage Tribute

Amouage Ubar

Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche

Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

Annick Goutal Sables

April Aromatics Calling All Angels

April Aromatics Bohemian Spice

April Aromatics Jasmina 

April Aromatics Nectar of Love

April Aromatics Rose L'Orange

Aroma M Geisha Green

Aroma M Geisha Rouge

Arquiste Boutonniere no. 7

At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)

At the Moment (Contemplating Change & Habit Rouge)

At the Moment (Marron Chic & Paris)

At the Moment (More Midsummer Delights/Epic/Geisha Noire)

At the Moment (Saki & Lubin Idole edt)

At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante)

At the Moment (Spring Pretties/Un Air de Samsara)

At the Moment (Summery Things...Love Coconut)

At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)

Ava Luxe Café Noir

Beatnik Emptiness Incense

Best of 2009

Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory

Bond No. 9 Brooklyn

Bond No. 9 Little Italy

Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

Bottega Veneta eau de parfum

Breath of God

Byredo Green

By Kilian Amber Oud

Calyx by Prescriptives

Canturi by Stefano Canturi

Capote, Truman & Evening in Paris

Carner Barcelona D600

Caron Aimez-Moi

Caron French Cancan

Caron Parfum Sacre

Caron Tabac Blond

Caron Tubereuse

Caron Yatagan

Cartier II L'Heure Convoitee

Cartier IV L'Heure Fougueuse

Chanel 31 Rue Cambon

Chanel Bel Respiro

Chanel Chance

Chanel Coco

Chanel Coromandel

Chanel Cuir de Russie

Chanel Egoiste

Chanel No. 5 (vintage)

Chanel No. 22

Chantecaille Petales

Chantilly Dusting Powder

Clive Christian C for Women

Comme des Garcons Daphne

Comme des Garcons LUXE Champaca

Comme des Garcons Series 7 Sweet Nomad Tea

Costes by Costes

Coty Ambre Antique

Coty Chypre

Coty Paris

Creature by Kerosene

Creed Acqua Fiorentina

Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed Virgin Island Water

DSH Perfumes Bancha Extreme

DSH Perfumes Quinacridone Violet 

DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame

Deneuve

Devilscent Project

Dior Diorissimo (vintage)

Donna Karan Black Cashmere

EnVoyage Vents Ardents

EnVoyage Zelda

Estee Lauder Private Collection

Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss

Etat Libre d'Orange Rien, Rossy de Palma & Noel au Balcon

Faberge Woodhue Cologne

Favorite Fall Fragrances

Fendi Uomo

Fragrances for Sweden

Frapin 1697 Absolu Parfum

Frederic Malle Angeliques Sous La Pluie

Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentrée

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Frederic Malle Noir Epices

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady

Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Frederic Malle Une Rose

Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel

Ghosts of Perfumes Past, Present & Future

Gone Fishin'

Gucci Eau de Parfum

Gucci L'Arte di Gucci

Gucci Pour Homme

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia

Guerlain Aroma Allegoria Exaltant

Guerlain Attrape Coeur

Guerlain Chamade

Guerlain Jicky

Guerlain Mayotte

Guerlain Parure

Guerlain Samsara Parfum

Guerlain Un Air de Samsara

Guerlain Vega

Guerlain Vetiver (vintage)

Guy Laroche J'ai Ose (vintage)

Happy Solstice

Hermes 24, Faubourg

Hermes Caleche (vintage)

Hermes Eau des Merveilles

Hermes Hiris

Hermes Iris Ukiyoe

Hermes L'Ambre des Merveilles

Histoires de Parfums 1740

Histoires de Parfums 1828

Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette

Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine

Hometown Portrait, State College, PA

Honore des Pres Vamp a NY

House of Matriarch Carmine

How I Store Decants

Il Profumo Cannabis

In Memory (w/mention of Lanvin Arpege)

Jacomo #02

Jacomo #09 (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles

Jean Patou Joy

Jean Patou 1000

Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense

Jo Malone Sweet Milk Cologne 

Juliet by Juliet Stewart

Kai Eau de Parfum

Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant

Kenzo Summer

Lancome Magie Noire (vintage) 

Lanvin Via Lanvin (vintage) 

L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubereuse

L'Artisan Parfumeur Orchidee Blanche 

L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer

L'Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l'Aube

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two

La Via del Profumo Balsamo Della Mecca

La Via del Profumo Hindu Kush

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe

La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project

La Via del Profumo Sharif

La Via del Profumo Tawaf

Le Labo Gaiac 10

Le Labo Iris 39

Le Labo Patchouli 24

Le Labo Poivre 23

Little Lists

Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate

M. Micallef Vanille Orient

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir

Maison Martin Margiela (untitled) eau de parfum

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Eau des Iles

Message In A Bottle 

Michael Storer Winter Star

Miller Harris L'Air de Rien

Miscellany

Missoni (original) by Missoni

Molinard Habanita

Mona Di Orio Nuit Noire

Mona Di Orio Oud

Mona Di Orio Vanille

Montale Black Aoud

Montale Boise Vanille

Montale Intense Tiare

Montale Patchouli Leaves

Montale Red Aoud

More Roses (rose cookie recipe)

My Heart Has Skipped a Beat (summer smells)

My Perfumes Have Theme Songs

Nasomatto China White

Neila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps

Nez a Nez Ambre a Sade

Northern Exposure "A Dash of Chanel No. 5"

Odin 04 Petrana (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline

Omar Sharif Pour Femme

Oriscent Pure Oud Oils

Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman

Oscar de la Renta Oscar for Men

O Tannenbaum Joint Blog Project

Parfum d'Empire Azemour

Parfum d'Empire Cuir Ottoman

Parfum d'Empire Equistrius

Parfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs

Parfumerie Generale Bois de Copaiba

Parfumerie Generale Indochine

Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique

Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse

Parfums Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars

Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin

Parfums Retro Grand Cuir

Paris, je t'aime

Pascal Morabito Or Black 

Perfume Quotes - The English Patient

Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue

Pretty Perfume Bottles 

Prince Matchabelli Aviance Cologne (vintage) 

Profumum Roma Acqua Viva

Profumum Roma D'Ambrosia

Puredistance I

Puredistance Antonia

Puredistance BLACK

Puredistance M

Puredistance Opardu

Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk

Recipe for Socca

Regina Harris Amber Vanilla Perfume Oil

Regina Harris Frankincense-Myrrh-Rose Maroc Perfume Oil

Robert Piguet Fracas

Robert Piguet Visa

Rochas Mystere 

Rome Vacation Photos

San Francisco Holiday

Sarah Horowitz Parfums' Joy Comes From Within & Beauty Comes From Within

Scented Reading

Scents of the Mediterranean

Scentuous Reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Serge Lutens Arabie

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

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Slumberhouse Rume

Snow Days

Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure

Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

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Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)

SoOud Ouris Parfum Nectar

S-Perfume 100% Love {More}

Stone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)

Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric Rain

Sweden Is For Lovers

T is for Taxes

Tauer Perfumes: Incense Extrême, Incense Rosé, Lonestar Memories, & Reverie au Jardin

Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Diary of a Nose, Book Review

The Different Company Jasmin de Nuit

The Intimacy of Scent

Thoughts of a Perfume Collector

Tightly

Tokyo Milk Ex Libris

Unlocking an Unknown: Webber Parfum 6T

Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery Bed of Roses

Venimus Vidimus Vicimus, or How 3 Perfume Bloggers and a Husband Took Rome

Vero Profumo Kiki, Onda, and Rubj

Vero Profumo Mito

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Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb

What I’m Lovin’ Now

Xerjoff Mamluk

YOSH Perfumes Ginger Ciao

Yves Saint Laurent Nu

Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady: Essence of a Dream

Every season or two, there seems to be one big fragrance launch that divides online perfumistas between the love-it and hate-it camps. In late fall of 2010, that fragrance was Portrait of a Lady, the rose-and-patchouli oriental created by perfumer Dominique Ropion for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. From first whiff, I’ve been in the love-it camp: this is my kind of rose perfume—intense and so unabashedly beautiful that it has a wild and free character to it, yet with enough dark notes enveloping it that it still retains an air of the mysterious too. Wearing it, I find this old Dire Straits song from 1980—“Expresso Love”—pulsing through my head:

She gets the sun in the daytime
Perfume in the dusk
And she comes out in the night time
With the honeysuckle musk
Because she smells just like a rose
And she tastes just like a peach
She got me walking where the wildlife goes
I’d do anything to reach her

Portrait of a Lady is described on the Malle website as a baroque perfume, which it is; but there’s something about the way this rose exhales its fruity breath before stealing into the shadows—the way it later takes cover under a vapor of musk that renders it as translucent and, yet, omnipresent as a dream—that leads me to classify it as Modern Baroque. Remember that Old-School-Rock-n-Roll notion of what a lady once was? The kind of looker who made her guy look good just by appearing cool and stylish on his arm in public, but whose eyes spoke of the secret attractions of the night they would be running headlong into—and where most of the rest of the world couldn’t follow. I’m not saying this kind of lady didn’t court celebrity, only that she managed to give the favorable impression that the actual celebrity she was courting was indeed the rocker boyfriend around whose arm (and lifestyle) she was entwined, and not the ogling paparazzi waiting in the wings. At any rate, that’s precisely the kind of lady Portrait of a Lady embodies for me: a lady who manages to be classy and elegant but has a wild-child streak to her, like one of those famous-rocker girlfriends from the 1960s and ’70s. Think bohemian English-rose Pattie Boyd meets sultry, club-hopping Bianca Jagger, and you get an idea of what this fragrance is like in terms of its sensibility.

Notes for Portrait of a Lady include: Turkish rose essence, black currant (cassis), raspberry, cinnamon, clove, rose absolute, patchouli, sandalwood, ambroxan, and white-musk cocktail.

Rose made intoxicatingly fruity by the addition of raspberry and black currant is how this fragrance gets off to its juicy start. (There’s a ruby-red-grapefruit juiciness to it that gets my heart racing in the same manner as Mark Knopfler’s driving guitar riffs in Expresso Love.) As deeper notes move in—a caress of warm spice and patchouli bearing its tinge of camphor—the berried-rose intensifies and becomes jam-like in a way that conveys the utter depth of the rose, drawing your attention to the full dimensions of this flower’s beauty. Though one must acknowledge that there is gourmand-like quality to the fragrance in its earlier stages, it doesn’t make me think of food so much as it does the kind of woman who is so beautiful that it’s hard to form a thought that doesn’t detour immediately to her lips, to the sensual, edible quality of her mouth.

Portrait of a Lady draws the olfactory viewer to these berry-stained lips and then offers the scent of her cheek, too, lightly dusted with expensive face powder. There is nothing in the list of fragrance notes that is suggestive of this smell of delicate powder, and yet I smell it plainly and am not alone in thinking it’s there: some other reviewers have noted it too. I might as well mention here that Portrait of a Lady’s formula was arrived at by expanding upon another fragrance in the Malle lineup—Geranium Pour Monsieur—but to my mind, Portrait of a Lady smells like it encompasses important facets of all three of its rosy predecessors in the Malle lineup: Lipstick Rose, with its vintage cosmetics smell; Une Rose, with its deep honeyed-rose-meets-the-dark-underworld aroma; and Geranium Pour Monsieur, with its zingy rose-geranium suspended in a cloud of white musks.

Keeping Portrait of a Lady from smelling too sweet and too lady-like is its ambery and woody base accord that’s much like a dusky shadow—the olfactory setting in which this portrait takes place. Patchouli and ambroxan combine to add elegant gravity and a nighttime feel to the scent. They allude to twilight and the night still being young; their opaque character not so dense as to suggest anything pitch black.

The white-musk cocktail that gathers this olfactory picture into its fold lends, to what would otherwise be a thick and weighty fragrance, a sense of the diaphanous. This is not to say that the musk diffuses it into a sheer misty veil; au contraire, this fragrance is as baroque as it is modern. (It would have benefitted by being bottled like a parfum, in a dab- rather than a spray-bottle.) But the musk certainly adds fluidity to this formula, making Portrait of a Lady bend and breathe and float into the night air, her wildly beating heart and potent beauty swirling in a fog that surrounds you, not as in a still and quiet picture, but like a vivid, rock-n-roll dream.


Portrait of a Lady can be purchased from the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle website or from Barneys.com; $300 for 100 ml.


Lyrics from "Expresso Love" by Mark Knopfler from the 1980 Dire Straits album Making Movies, copyright Universal Music Publishing Group.

Image: Actress Naomi Watts photographed by Peter Lindbergh for David Yurman jewelry ad circa 2007-08.

Posted by Suzanne Keller, 3/09/2011.


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