I was a bit apprehensive when I thought about trying Portrait of a Lady, the latest issue by Frederic Malle. I have an exceptional track record with this line, and I didn’t particularly long to encounter a Malle fragrance I didn’t like.
Dominique Ropion’s 2010 creation is described as an oriental rose. Reviews have been mixed. All in all, I was feeling a bit underwhelmed and not extremely interested in Portrait, so I put testing it off for a while.
Aside from my starting difficulties with Musc Ravageur, I only ever loved everything Malle has offered until now. I didn’t want to change that.
But after my dear husband procured a sample for me (he has an uncanny ability to separate unwilling SA’s from their scarce samples, without his charm, I would have a lot less to talk about on this blog), I had to face the truth: Another winner from Malle, or the first scrubber for me?
Portrait of a Lady starts with a fruity note, closely followed by a flood of rose. You really have to like rose, because there is no going around it here. Rose is there right from the start and in your face all the time until the extreme drydown, where it fades out slooooooooowly.
The omnipresent rose’s best friend is patchouli. The two make up the majority of this rich composition. The latter propping up the dew-heavy rose petals like an earthy and dry scaffolding. Musc and sandalwood complete the oriental accord of the drydown. The promised benzoin and incense I do not smell every time, to my disappointment. I could have used a bit more sweetness and darkness to counterpoint the magnified rose. After several wearings though, the deeper, smokier layer of the base was more noticeable to me, maybe I got used to the BIG rose, or I learned to see more than this one facet to Portrait. It is definitely a perfume that needs time. Time to be appreciated in its entirety, not one of those you fall for at first sniff. At least for me.
The wear time is excellent, Portrait accompanies me for at least seven or eight hours. Sillage is stronger than average in the beginning, although it calms down considerably about twenty minutes into wearing.
When I close my eyes and breathe deeply I see the eponymous Lady before me, clad in the finest fur, wearing an adventurous hat, preferably with a veil attached, her lips are crimson, her beauty considerable, but stern. She is funny, but a little cruel, she is endlessly sophisticated, but she is the first to fling her high heels into the corner when coming home. She is restrained in public, and lets loose under circumstances, where she feels safe, which is not often. She loves red roses and always has a big bouquet at home, but she forgets to change the water, or expects someone to do it for her who forgets, so the water is murky and stale, and the roses are still holding on, but on the brink of giving it to neglect and letting their petals droop – but not quite yet.
After the first day of wearing, I thought it nice, I would gladly take it if I got it as a gift, but felt no need to own it.
After the second day of wearing I felt the first pangs at the dropping level of my tester vial.
After the third wearing, I started to be cross when life forced me to separate my nose from my wrist in order to function.
On the fourth day of wearing it gave me a bit of a headache – setback!
On the fifth day, my nose was back at the wrist, all was well with the world.
I let you draw your own conclusions.