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