Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Frederic Malle- Portrait Of A Lady

I don't get it, I really don't. It's not that Portrait of a Lady, the latest release from Frederic Malle's Editions de Parfums line, is bad or not well-crafted. That's not the problem. But let's look at the three main threads holding Dominic Ropion's composition together: sweet berries, rose and patchouli. Where have we seen this before? Oh, right. Everywhere.

One can blame the accumulating expectations for this Frederic Malle release. We were promised a true feminine ambery and rich perfume. I was eager to try it and I know many who pre-ordered a bottle without sampling first. I hope they're enjoying it, because the first couple of times I tried Portrait of a Lady it was a borderline scrubber. The fruits from the opening notes refused to go away no matter what, and the very red roses didn't help any (I'm not much of a rose person). The whole thing grew into a big fruitchouli thing with barely a whiff of the promised amber and incense. It was too red in feel and almost vulgar, but not in a good way.

I still don't like Portrait of a Lady very much. Further sampling revealed it's easier on my nose when dabbed and not sprayed. The rose somehow smells richer and prettier and the berries are less soul-sucking. I still feel an urge to wash the whole thing off after a few hours because the perfume is aggressive and not very interesting. It's actually distracting- I kept smelling this big rose/patchouli thing the other day as I tried to take a nap and it kept me awake. It's only after about 6 hours or so that the Lady calms down and becomes his fairly sweet and ambery that is surprisingly soft after all  the mayhem. This part I enjoy and really appreciate, it's just that I'm sure there should have been a different path to get there, preferably not one that reminds me of Calvin Klein's Euphoria and other mishaps.

Bottom Line: Can you believe this stuff costs $300?

Portrait Of A Lady by Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums ($300, 100ml EDP) is available from Frederic Malle boutiques, Barneys and Aedes. The latter sells samples.

Photo of Sophia Loren in 1964 from


  1. Gaia I much prefer Une Rose myself, which while rosy, is so mulit-faceted and deep, with earthy truffle accords. It's gorgeous. I also find Portrait a very tenacious perfume that overstays its welcome, but there are a lot of folk out there that dig it.

  2. I'm testing it today.I don't get any berries (unfortunately, I have to say). I get loads of patch (again unfortunately) and quite a lot of overly smelly roses. I have neither the incense, nor the cinnamon, not even the sandalwood. They probably can't get through the heaps of patchouli&roses...
    I liked it on the test-strip, but not on my skin.

  3. Wamp womp. :-\

    This still hasn't hit the shelves here (we have a Malle-exclusive counter, what's the hold-up??), but I'm less than excited about it.

  4. I vacillate between, I've smelled this before, and, is that it? Not a scrubber but kind of, "so what?", to me.

  5. I have been avoiding trying PoaL because I am afraid to be disappointed...although most of the FM perfumes I have tried *suck* on me, personally :( but I want them to love me.

    previous lurker :)

  6. A sample would work to tell me what I feel when smelling Portrait of a Lady. 300$ seems too expensive. But I don´t know what can happen when I will smell it for the first time! Maybe it´s better not to smell it then not to fall into a great longing? this sounds to me like a child who wants the best basket ball and yet... it will never happen

  7. When we tried this at Barney's I was really underwhelmed with its derivative qualities and have not had the desire to give it a retry.

    So, my feelings about POAL remain similar to yours, but the good news is that I'm not tempted to spend a mini-fortune on it!

  8. Didn't much care for this and certainly didn't want to spend $300 on it.

  9. I'm where Dane is, it's not in town yet, but I'm not over-excited about it. You put into words exactly what I was afraid it would be: just another patch-rose. I was really hoping the cinnamon/sandalwood/frankincense would be dominant. I think I'll be happy to stick with my favourite rose Nicolai's Maharanih.

  10. I got a decant of this in order to give it a thorough test. So far, I am not enthralled. I've also been testing Une Fleur de Cassie, which seems a lot more interesting. I wonder if you've tried that one and what you think of it, Gaia? ~~nozknoz

  11. I'm late here but I am so grateful for your post. Last December I drove 400 km and lost a day only to try this. And I was dissapointed. Thought it is something wrong with me, you read everywhere excited reviews. I didn't like it, I didn't dislike it, it was just nothing special. Nothing to love or hate, nothing new and I was happy I didn't try it on my skin, how I somethimes do when I heard about terific perfumes. So I am so happy you wrote this down in a honest way. But let's not blame it on the price, people can pay as much as they want for what they like. If they do like it.

  12. I I love it and always get compliments whenever I wear it. It's very similar to Oud Isphahan by Dior, but the Dior has a gasoline or some other fuel scent in it that I do not like at all. Portrait of a Lady is just lovely.


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