Friday, November 12, 2010

Frederic Malle- Le Parfum de Thérèse

Yes, I know everyone is waiting for reviews of the new Frederic Malle, Portrait Of A Lady, but until I get my hands and nose on that one let's talk about one of the greatest beauties of perfumery, a fragrance that in many ways had shaped the Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums line.

Le Parfum de Thérèse was launched by Malle in 2000, but it was conceived decades before as one of the most romantic perfumes of all times. Master-perfumer Edmond Roudnitska created Therese for his wife. How awesome is that? (I'm still fantasizing about Le Parfum de Gaia, the most perfect amber to ever be created. Sadly, it won't be made by the Husband).  It's wonderfully clear that Roudnitska has put all of his creativity and love into Le Parfum de Thérèse. He composed a perfume that feels as though it could have been the crown jewel of his classic Dior perfumes: the haute couture version, perhaps.

On paper or in theory, I never expected to love Le Parfum de Thérèse. Fruit notes (plum and the dreaded melon), an aquatic accord, assorted flowers--- mostly jasmine and rose and a wood/leather base underneath it all. It sounds like a recipe for a spectacular hot mess, but then again, so does Roudnitska's Diorella, which I love (at least in its original pre-reformulation form). In reality, the beauty of the composition reaches me from the very beginning. The fruit is a lot more plum than anything else and the melon is not all that melony:  it's about the impression of sweet ripeness along with every sexual connotation of which you may think. The fruit alone could have made the perfume heavy and cloying, and combining it with big flower notes is one risky move. But the rose is quiet and thin and the jasmine is among the most gorgeous of its kind. Indolic? maybe, but it is also fleshy and sensual. Now, what is referred as the aquatic accord is woven carefully into the silky fabric of Therese. I don't get any of the stomach turning notes that usually accompany such a thing (hello, Un Jardin Apres la Mousson). It's light and cool air more than water- there's movement somewhere in there, which balances the other notes and opens them up.

The beauty of the top and heart notes is built on an exquisite base- it feels like a chypre but a modern one in the sense it doesn't poke you in the ribs with an oakmoss-patchouli stick. Don't get me wrong: I love the grand chypres of yore and few things irk me as labeling anything with patchouli as a modern chypre. But here in Therese, a 1950s composition, I've found the true meaning of that term. It's smooth, rich and obviously leans heavily on classic perfumery traditions, but the way the fragrance moves, breaths and develops doesn't suggest "vintage" at all.

Le Parfum de Thérèse is a glorious summer day but also wears amazingly well with tailored coats and knee-high stiletto boots. This Malle/Roudnitska marvel is always right. It's a celebration of optimism and love, and in my mind would make a wonderful wedding perfume for any gender.

Le Parfum de Thérèse ($95 3x10ml travel refills) is available at Barneys and Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums boutiques around the world.

Model wearing a Dior cocktail dress by F.C. Gundlach, Paris, 1962


  1. You make me get out my sample once more and view in in the new light of your excellent review.

  2. Lovely review. I tried this a couple of years ago as I was traveling but did not give it the attention it deserves. I, too, am enamored by the thought of a perfume formulated just for me. Very romantic.

  3. Wonderful review! I wore this a lot one summer, and it was almost too beautiful. I could really feel the love that went into it.

  4. I went back and found your post on La Jardin Apres La Mousson, and since the comments weren't working there, I'll post here (so this is about La Jardin Apres la Mousson that you mentioned in this post, not about the post itself):
    I know this post is 2 years old, but due to your mention today of Le Jardin Apres La Mousson I had to look it up. If you don't mind my asking, why do you hate it so much? I had a small bottle I had swapped for, and liked it very much until...I wore it on a day that I got food poisoning, car sick, and a terrible headach all at once. How much La jardin apres la mousson had to do with my car sickness and headache (we were on a long road trip) I don't know, but it contributed something. After that, I knew I couldn't wear it again and swapped it away. The thing is: I never found the perfume itself offensive, and in fact (you'll love this one, Gaia) it was the first high end perfume I smelled, and the first thing that convinced me perfume could be art. Let me explain: I grew up thinking I hated perfume because all I had ever smelled was my mom's Red Door, Tresor, or clinique happy (gag) which she sprayed to much of, and it always made me feel sick. thus, I never wore perfume myself (and in small town Louisiana, there wasn't too much option to ever smell anything else- we didn't even have a Macys let alone somewhere that sells really niche perfumes!) When I was 22 and traveling back from an internship in India, I noticed an advert for Le Jardin Apres la mousson in the airplaine magazine. I was intrigued because it linked my 2 interests - French, which was my minor (and biggest love) in college, and India (I had just come back from monsoon season in India). When I reached my layover (I don't remember where, London or Paris or Amsterdam), I saw Le Jardin Aprea la Mousson in the duty free store. I smelled it and was amazed - it really DID smell like fresh rain in the garden! I've always loved the smell just ater it rained, so I fell in love - mostly with the concept - how could someone reacreate that in a bottle?! (you see I'd never smelled anything other than my mom's perfumes before). For a few years, I sampled it every time I found it (which was usually only in airports as I didn't live in a city that had access to Hermes perfumes). I generally liked it very much. Then, about a year ago, I started really getting interested in niche perfumes, and found many other loves,so LJALM got pushed to the back shelf, but still had a soft spot in my heart for it...unti it contributed to making me sick. What notes btw do you think made me sick?? Anyway, so that is my LJALM story!

  5. This sounds wonderful - I will make a special treat to Barneys to get a whiff of this. Then again, it doesn't take a whole lot to get me to go to Barneys.

    Thanks - I've been learning about a lot of fabulous scents because of these reviews. I have a new appreciation for fragrances. It's an extremely personal thing and very moving. I just wish I got on board sooner.

  6. It's very beautiful, my signature scent for several years. Time to move the bottle from the back of the cabinet and start over, I think.

  7. I just tried this at the Malle counter @ Holt Renfrew (Toronto) which just opened and was blown away. A rush right to my toes.

    I am 62, so I've tested a lot of fragrance. This one is fabulous.


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