Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady : Perfume Review

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The news of Frédéric Malle selling his Editions de Parfums house to Estée Lauder reminded me that I haven’t gotten around to writing about one of the most intriguing fragrances from his collection, Portrait of a Lady. Why intriguing? Well, consider the name. If it brings to your mind the cool elegance of Henry James’s heroines, then you’re not alone. I also expected something along these lines–ultra refined, sophisticated and feminine. Except that it is all wrong. Portrait of a Lady is interesting precisely because the scent is not at all what you expect. It’s a twist on a Middle Eastern theme, and it’s not all that lady-like.

Picasso-Boy-with-Pipe

If you’ve already smelled traditional Middle Eastern perfumes or western blends inspired by them (Amouage, Kilian’s oudsArmani Privé Rose d’Arabie), then you might recognize similar elements in Portrait of a Lady. It has a generous dose of classical “oriental” notes–sandalwood, amber, patchouli, dark woods smoked over incense, and of course, rose. It has a similar dramatic and mysterious character that makes this perfume genre so distinctive.

The difference is in the details. The creator of Portrait of a Lady, perfumer Dominique Ropion, is renowned for his ability to engineer powerful fragrances, the kind that leave a mile long sillage and yet still don’t push into the realm of “need to be banned from restaurants.” This comes from adjusting the elements of the composition in such a way that the heavy, rich effects are interspersed with the lighter, brighter ones. Portrait of a Lady is a good example of his technique and his ability to add nuance even to the heaviest and richest scents.

Opulent is an understatement when it comes to Portrait of a Lady. The first impression is of spices so hot that they feel chilly–pepper, clove, cinnamon. The honeyed sweetness of natural rose rises up like champagne bubbles, and soon you’re wrapped in a warm, velvety cocoon. (The rose and name aside, the perfume would be appropriate for men who like woods and ambery blends.)

But wait, the story is just beginning. Soon, you’ll notice the earthy, chocolate-like patchouli, and then the crisp amber with a layer of creamy, dark sandalwood. The incense starts softly, with a few smoky whispers, but after a couple of hours, the curtain of smoke thickens. The interplay between smoke, wet earth, milky woods and rose is one of the most fascinating sensations.

This doesn’t mean that Portrait of a Lady is easy (or even that it’s my favorite from the collection). It’s heavy, dramatic and has a tendency to wear you out. Forget about being inconspicuous with its dark trail around you. It’s a perfume to wear if you want attention. It’s the only perfume my husband asked me not to wear around him, saying that “it’s too strong”. And it is, but I still admire Portrait of a Lady for its big personality and intricate story.

The price tag on this perfume is high, but Portrait of a Lady is one of the most expensive perfumes I’ve smelled. Expensive to make, that is. Because ingredients of this kind of quality cost their weight in gold, if not more. It also goes a long way, because you only need one small spray to perfume yourself from morning to night. And I don’t exaggerate when I say that it lasts for days on fabric.

poal

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady includes notes of Turkish rose, raspberry, black currant, cinnamon, clove, patchouli, sandalwood, incense, ambroxan, benzoin and white musk. 50ml and 100ml.

Painting: Pablo Picasso. Boy with a Pipe (a fragment), 1905. Oil on canvas. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney, New York, NY.

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165 Comments

  • Karen: I just bought Portrait of a Lady while we were in Budapest (mentioned in another post). The late afternoon sky was heavy with grey clouds, the streets still wet from rain as we walked back from a gorgeous coffee house from the 1800’s. Passed by a perfume shop, Madison, went inside and had a wonderful time trying this and that but fell head over heels for Portrait.

    It is stunning on me, and although the price is steep (!!!), this is one I want to stock up on for fear of reformulation by EL.

    Fragrances tend to fade fast on me, and I wish it lasted as long as it does on you Victoria, but I do use more than one spray. Such a beautiful perfume that brings back very happy memories of a beautiful city. November 13, 2014 at 7:18am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember you mentioning this story, and what a great scent to capture the memory of Budapest. All of that old world elegance…

      Yes, everyone’s sensitivities for these rich woody notes varies (and there is a lot of musk here too, another ingredients people might be anosmic to), but while I was ok with one smell spray and could smell it without feeling overwhelmed, but my husband asked me to wash it off because it was too strong. November 13, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

      • Ariane: I wonder if the difference in longevity and spillage has to do with reformulation?When it first came out,It lasted for days on me,whereas the current version has been toned down almost to skin scent level,and it does not last all that long on me now-but I have just fallen for it,and next week I will be in Paris for a day,and although I will have very little time between arrival and rehearsal,I will rather skip lunch than miss the opportunity to rush to Rue Grenelle and get myself a bottle!
        Love the little story about Budapest,one of my favourite cities,how great to have The Lady to remind you of your time there! November 13, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

        • Ariane: Oops,that was meant to be silage-no level of spillage would be acceptable! November 13, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

          • Karen: Interesting that you have experienced the reduction in longevity! (And definitely would be very sad to spill a drop!) Can I ask what is the rehearsal? It’s fun reading what people are doing – another wonderful aspect of BdeJ! November 13, 2014 at 10:25am Reply

        • Karen: And it is really nice having a perfume to remind me of a trip. Last year in Milan (there for Aida!!), I bought La Fille de Berlin after also trying Tuberose Criminelle – the very extravagent sales lady gave me quite a few sprays of TC, and at first I was mortified riding the subway thinking oh my, but later on I thought I should have gotten TC. However, La Fille has gotten me more compliments than any perfume I’ve worn. PoaL may give it a run for its money. November 13, 2014 at 10:42am Reply

          • Ariane: Now you’ve made me eager to try La Fille once more,I was intrigued but so obsessed already with PoaL,that I didn’t give it more attention!Aida in Milan sounds amazing,tell me more!I will be rehearsing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio for that one day before taking the train to Lausanne for the concert,so if all goes well with the purchase-please no plane delays!!!-then I will link in my memory Paris,Portrait and my beloved Bach oratorio!
            So,maybe I was wrong about the reformulation conspiracy and it is just me that has changed,but I love it very much regardless-and feel better thinking they haven’t fiddled with it-not yet,anyway! November 13, 2014 at 4:52pm Reply

            • Karen: How wonderful the concert will be! Fingers crossed for you that all goes smoothly with rehearsal, show and schedule! Aida was wonderful, was the Zeffirelli production so cast of thousands and even my husband (who accompanies his adoring wife but is not *quite* an opera fan) enjoyed the spectacle, oops I mean show! We saw Tosca in Budapest – that opera house was like sitting in the middle of a jewel. Simply spectacular. Good show and I really appreciated that the cast was all Hungarians. Happy travels! November 13, 2014 at 6:38pm Reply

              • Ariane: Oh my,Tosca in Budapest-you are quite something,and your husband must be so nice too for coming along and appreciating a Zeffirelli production!What perfume would you associate with Tosca-Portrait maybe or more of a chypre beast?Anyway,this conversation could go on for a long time,I also really love to find out more about the lovely people who comment on BdJ,and this has been so nice!All the best! November 14, 2014 at 6:52pm Reply

                • Karen: Hmmmm, what perfume associated with Tosca – a good question might be which (contemporary) would she wear! I’m so limited in my knowledge, so I’d go with either Carnal Flower or Tuberuese Criminelle – primarily because I remember Victoria commenting once that when her mother got pulled over by a policeman, when she rolled down the window he asked what perfume she was wearing (TC)! Even though neither are dark and fiery, they certainly are memorable and remarkable! And yes, hubby is so so sweet to humor me! November 16, 2014 at 7:44pm Reply

            • Victoria: Best of luck for your concert and have safe travels! Sounds so exciting. November 13, 2014 at 7:01pm Reply

              • Ariane: Thank you,Victoria,can’t tell you enough how much I love your blog,and what a lovely coincidence your re view of Portrait is for me right now,where I am excited about it and so sad about the news of the takeover at the same time,whatever Mr.Malle’s reasons are,it does leave a bitter taste for me…thank you for this review and for letting people ‘vent’ a little! November 14, 2014 at 6:58pm Reply

                • Victoria: Same here! But I will remain optimistic, because Estee Lauder is known to keep the quality of its perfumes. Perhaps, if Malle had to sell for one reason or another, it was the best buyer he could find. November 24, 2014 at 12:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: I tried the more recent version not long ago, and it smelled very strong. On me, it’s definitely not skin scent! But anyway, everyone perceives scents differently and is sensitive to different notes, so it’s normal that we don’t see it the same way.

          Enjoy your Paris trip! November 13, 2014 at 11:56am Reply

      • Hera: It lasts all day long on me too and I only use one spray and I find it a little too strong sometimes but I love it. November 13, 2014 at 3:17pm Reply

        • Victoria: I rarely like non-spray bottles, but in this case, I think that a dab vial would be best. November 13, 2014 at 6:42pm Reply

          • Michaela: I was wondering why they don’t offer splash bottles, a drop could be better. November 14, 2014 at 4:44am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, that would be ideal! November 24, 2014 at 12:36pm Reply

      • Courant: I remember when you reviewed La Fille Berlin. If my memory serves me your husband bought it for you. How do they compare? November 24, 2014 at 4:48pm Reply

        • Victoria: Good that you asked, because I wore them side by side. La Fille is sweeter, more of a rose, and it’s softer. PoaL is much more woody, less floral, darker and denser. They share some character, but they smell very different. November 25, 2014 at 3:07am Reply

          • Surbhi: La Fille is the only floral (out of 100s) that I have tried that my partner’s nose approves. I love Rose and Jasmine so he tries really hard but no luck so far. December 4, 2015 at 1:49am Reply

  • George: Hurrah! You got around to reviewing it. And all the reasons that you temper your enthusiasm for it slightly are the reasons I love it. And the point about the cost is the reason why everyone should smell this and Carnal Flower; because they are what expensive actually smells like in a niche market where the cost often justifies only exclusivity and the brand creator’s ego. And you don’t exaggerate when you say it lasts for days on fabrics, but rather understate, because it’s weeks at least. The fear I have with Malle joining Lauder is that some one will look at one of their other brands and say we make this x and sell it for y and that’s a lower end or just luxury line, but with Malle, we make this for u and sell it for v, and it’s our “ultra luxury” (their words) line, yet v divided by u is less that y divided x, when because of the ultra luxury nature- if anything- it should be significantly more, but that’s not a problem because Malle is now sidelined as head of creation, so pricing is up to us…..blah blah blah. I only hope that if this happens, some sort of disney film voodoo brings a bottle to life and she does a full Joan Crawford as depicted in Mommy Dearest in the Lauder boardroom. November 13, 2014 at 7:26am Reply

    • George: Hahhaha! You tagged this “nothing to do with Henry James”. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a negative tag like that before. That’s hilarious. November 13, 2014 at 7:31am Reply

      • Victoria: Just being facetious! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

        • George: Yes- with both that and illustrating the article with a portrait of a man! November 13, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

          • Victoria: I was reading the story of the scandal at the Picasso Museum in Paris, so Picasso was on my mind. I also really like this painting. November 13, 2014 at 12:13pm Reply

            • George: Plus your cropping of it makes it convey a sense of what wearing POAL can be like- being surrounded by a huge sculpture made of roses and maybe feeling comparatively pale and therefore anxious. November 13, 2014 at 12:26pm Reply

              • Victoria: This was inadvertent, but I’m glad it worked! November 13, 2014 at 12:47pm Reply

                • George: It ends up similar to a photo of Frida Kahlo with Roses in her hair, on a green background. (I’d put in an image address but it would be too long). Which is I would say a similarly apposite image for POAL. November 20, 2014 at 5:46am Reply

                  • Victoria: Yes! I see what you mean. I just googled the image. November 24, 2014 at 1:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s true, and it’s exactly what makes me frustrated about the niche lines that sell mediocre creations at luxury prices. And even Lutens followed the “ultra-luxury” (ultra-luxurious price) trend with his recent launch, L’Incendiaire.

      I don’t know how the brand is going to be treated once it’s part of Lauder, but while I doubt that they will do something to decrease the quality, the prices are bound to increase. November 13, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

  • Sandra: I love Killians ouds- is Potrait of a Lady something I should sneak out to smell?

    I just used up the last bit of my cruel intentions and it was a sad day November 13, 2014 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: If you like Kilian’s ouds, you’re a good candidate to try Portrait of a Lady. I prefer it by far, even though I also really like Rose Oud as well. But Portrait of a Lady has a stronger character and a more dramatic development. November 13, 2014 at 9:44am Reply

  • rosarita: I had a mini of PoL and I swapped it. While it’s gorgeous and in some ways right up my street, it did, as you said, wear me out. For a big bossy rose I prefer Tauer Rose Chypree; to me, they share a bit of the same feel. Great review! November 13, 2014 at 7:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Rose Chypree had a harsh note that bothered me, but I know that Elisa adores it and I got many compliments on it too. These kind of perfumes require a special mood, since they’re so rich and have a big presence. November 13, 2014 at 9:46am Reply

      • Elisa: That’s funny because POAL had a harsh note on me! I think it’s too much ambroxan for my nose, though I like it when I smell it at a distance. November 13, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

        • Victoria: It does have a great trail, which is what you’d expect from Dominique Ropion, the master of sillage. 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 12:11pm Reply

  • limegreen: Wait, Malle is being bought up by EL?! Did not see this coming. Will it allow Malle to keep creating (like Tom Ford) or will it go more mass appeal (like Jo Malone)? Does this mean that Malle will soon be available outside of their boutiques and Barneys here in the US? Hmm, wonder if the decision to sell 10 ml sizes individually is tied up with all this.
    Thanks for the review, Victoria. Your review captures it so beautifully that I want to give it another try, wish POAL and my skin would agree. (I’m afraid to wear it around my husband, too. I think it’s the patchouli.)

    Malle has a great interview where he was asked about how POAL came about. It “started in the shower” when he was using Geranium Pour Monsieur shower gel and he loved the drydown so he gave the shower gel to Ropion: “I gave one to Dominique and said, “Wash yourself and see how nice it is. Maybe we should go back to the formula and isolate that part and jump back from it, and try to create a new type of oriental.”
    Hope it’s okay to link to another blog for the interesting and humorous interview:
    http://persolaise.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/you-have-to-be-modest-sometimes.html November 13, 2014 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t think that they would make it into Jo Malone, which doesn’t really make sense from a marketing standpoint. Frederic Malle has always presented himself as a luxury brand, more than niche or anything else. So, I think that they will continue in that direction. Tom Ford is already their high-end luxury line, so I expect that they might position Malle similarly or even higher.

      I think you’re right about patchouli! I didn’t think about it before, but he might be reacting to that strong, earthy notes. I’m still asking for a travel set for Christmas, though. 🙂

      Of course, it’s ok to link! Thank you for reminding me of that interview. November 13, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

      • Nikki: Oh no, I didn’t know about that merger! Good that I bought as many of the old formulation of Une Fleur de Cassie when I could. I do like A Portrait of a Lady, too, but it is not great on me. I prefer Fate by Amouage which is also a little bit of an oriental chypre with great sillage.

        I love Dominique Ropion’s creations, though, and have tried many of his creations. Most of them are exceptionally good.

        Well, I feel this is sad news. Do you suggest stocking up if one can afford to? November 13, 2014 at 10:20am Reply

        • Victoria: I’d stock up, mostly because I think that the prices might increase. I can’t imagine them staying the same. Look at Jo Malone. November 13, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

      • limegreen: I hope you’re right, Victoria. If Malle goes higher than TF — eek. (I did notice in Paris that the pricing of the travel sets was lower than here in the US, even with what was a high euro-dollar exchange rate. The exchange rate has changed dramatically since the summer, favor of the dollar.)

        I always remember this particular interview because the image of Malle telling Ropion to ‘wash yourself with this” is a precious one! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 10:26am Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t remember the prices in euros, but someone mentioned in the comments the other day that they’re better in euros. And not sure if you tried his travel sets, but they are excellent. The case itself is so good, I use it with some other sprayers (like Kilian’s). November 13, 2014 at 12:06pm Reply

          • limegreen: I love the travel sets especially for the ones that need respraying during the day — En Passant and L’eau d”Hiver. November 13, 2014 at 4:18pm Reply

            • Victoria: I had L’Eau d’Hiver in a travel spray too, and I agree, it was a perfect way to have it. You can keep a vial in your purse without fearing that it will leak or break. November 13, 2014 at 6:44pm Reply

    • Nikki: Thank you for the link to the interview! Very informative. November 13, 2014 at 10:24am Reply

    • flowergirlbee!: just wondering where you have seen 10ml sizes sold individually….my store only sells them in packs of 3… November 14, 2014 at 2:49am Reply

      • limegreen: A Malle SA told that they will start selling the 10 ml individually, maybe around the holidays maybe a little afterwards. I’m waiting for this to happen as I have a “list” of perfumes that I want but do not want a FB. 🙂 November 14, 2014 at 10:30am Reply

  • Alicia: I have been wearing POL since last year. Not too often, and mostly in the evening. This is a rose I throughly love, and I love plenty of roses (Lyric, Nahema, Parfum Sacré, Paris, Rive Gauche, and Andy Tauer’s). All are wonderful and so very different, and so is this one: unique. I hope nothing happens to it, and for that matter to Carnal Flower, or Iris Poudré. I am very fond of F. Malle’s fragrances, as you can see. We are in agreement that the name has nothing to do with the novel, which I also love. Last year Malle complained that the new EU restrictions affected all of his perfumes. If they are produced in the USA then there might be a glimmer of hope. November 13, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, POL stands out from the rest, and your list of roses is so diverse!

      I don’t really know if it won’t matter where they’re produced. The new EU regulations essentially follow the IFRA standards which already apply to everyone, regardless of where they are located. And if Lauder wants to sell Malle’s perfumes in Europe, they have to follow the guidelines. The truth is that the fragrance industry is very globalized and creating different blends for different countries just doesn’t make sense financially, unless you’re Chanel and can afford to have your own plants in different countries. And even so, they don’t make all of their perfumes locally, just the ones that sell the most (No 5 EDT, for instance). November 13, 2014 at 9:58am Reply

      • Alicia: Thank you for the information, Victoria. My glimmer of hope is gone. November 13, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

        • Victoria: But we still don’t know how the EU regulations will affect anything. What’s currently under discussion doesn’t differ that dramatically from the IFRA standards already in place. That’s the best case scenario, but if you’re dealing with the organizations as complex and non-transparent as the IFRA and the EU, surprises may await. November 13, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

  • Patricia: I have a small sample of POAL, and your review makes me want to give it a second try. I found it a bit overpowering when I first sampled it, though appreciated its quality and beauty.

    The only perfume my husband asked me to scrub off was Chinatown. 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 10:02am Reply

    • limegreen: We should have a separate thread titled “the perfumes loved ones have asked us to scrub off”! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 10:33am Reply

      • Elisa: Sounds like a good poll for NST! My husband has never asked me to scrub anything off, but he has made a point of telling me he doesn’t like it whenever I wear a really old-fashioned rose scent. November 13, 2014 at 11:23am Reply

        • limegreen: Elisa — Can you indulge my curiosity, what would these old-fashioned rose scents be? November 13, 2014 at 4:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you dose it carefully, it’s really one of the most beautiful dark woody scents. But if you spray generously, then you have a wall of scent around you, and it’s not a light, transparent wall either. 🙂

      Chinatown can be both sweet and sharp, and this is a bit too much sometimes. November 13, 2014 at 11:54am Reply

      • Patricia: I love it, but I guess I made a mistake wearing it to bed! 😉 November 13, 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re a vixen! The perfumes I wear to bed are in the category of comfy nightgowns. Chinatown is anything but! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 12:49pm Reply

          • Notturno7: Victoria, I love reading these old threads, I’m just discovering them 😍. So cool finding out other readers wear perfume to bed,too !! I love it.
            I wore Shanghai Lily to bed last night, just few dabs on my wrists. I guess I’m a vixen too, just like Patricia,lol.
            I feel so at home here 💜reading your blog and comments about traveling and connecting scents to different trips and towns. I do the same and I love it. Makes for great scent connected memories. May 20, 2016 at 9:01pm Reply

            • Victoria: I love finding comments on these older articles. 🙂 May 21, 2016 at 2:41pm Reply

        • limegreen: ha ha ha! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

    • Ann: Mine wouldn’t dare ask me to wash something off… but he’s damned Wrappings with faint praise on a few occasions. This includes cracking the window in the car and sniffing with a sour look on his face. 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 2:45pm Reply

  • Janet Metzger: I am fairly new to the perfume scene so I have much yet to experience. At this point, PoaL is tied with PdN’s Odalisque as my 2 absolute favorite perfumes. I have been living off of a sample for a while and will need to invest soon before I have to live w/o it. Thank you for making me feel like it’s worth the investment.

    I love your description of how the lightness and richness are always present together in PoaL. I find it changes so slowly, like the fresh, cool daylight of morning into a hot overhead sun and then into the smokey, earthy evening. But it all feels like part of the same day. When I wear this, I feel like I am wearing a perfume that was made just for me and I had no idea whatsoever others might find it difficult to be around!

    I have another experience with this perfume. The top notes bring me back to my childhood in the early 1970’s, making Creepy Crawlers in our basement. There was a sweet, powerful, toxic, braincell-destroying odor from mixing and heating the goo in the metal trays. Maybe it’s the ambrosian or benzoin in the composition, which I have no idea what they smell like on their own. But I am transported.

    Thanks for your website, Victoria. It is inspirational. November 13, 2014 at 10:18am Reply

    • Karen: Yes to Creepy Crawlers! Not sure I have the scent connection, but I’ve often said can you imagine a toy that heated up to who-knows-what being sold today! I remember getting burns on my arms while extracting the goodies. But loved making and eating them. November 13, 2014 at 10:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for your nice words, Janet! And welcome! Your description of PoaL is just enchanting. If you don’t overdose it (I think, it’s harder to do from a sample vial than from a spray bottle; Frederic Malle’s bottles do spray very generously), then nobody should find it difficult to be around. And if it makes you feel so good, then the effect on others might be very positive too. 🙂

      P.S. I’m now curious about Creepy Crawlers! November 13, 2014 at 12:03pm Reply

      • Qwendy: Hey Victoria et al, another great conversation! I have a sample of PoaL I got at Bon Marché last Fall and at the time I wasn’t in live with it, but kept the scent stick tucked in my little handbag notebook and LOVED it every time I opened it. This year, craving ever bigger scents, with the caveat of “rich yet bright” — I have a bunch of Amouage samples but none has really stuck out as “the one” — I have become addicted to my sample of PoiL and am contemplating a full bottle. Do you think it has been reformulated? Maybe that’s why I can wear it every day? Of course I just answered my own question — it must be the contemporary version that I love, so be it! Thanks for an illuminating blog, and commentary, as ever! April 26, 2017 at 5:25am Reply

        • Qwendy: PS I totally forgot to say how delighted I was to remember Creepy Crawlers!!! Just Google Vintage Creepy Crawlers to get the idea! April 26, 2017 at 5:28am Reply

    • Andy: Not related to Portrait of a Lady, but I want to thank you, Janet, for mentioning Creepy Crawlers! I too have such fond memories of squeezing out the goo, and baking it into little rubber insects. And now that I’m thinking about it, I can remember those toxic smelling fumes almost exactly–which is remarkable given this is a memory that hasn’t surfaced for years. 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 3:22pm Reply

      • Karen: And there were also Incredible Edibles! November 13, 2014 at 5:02pm Reply

        • Katrin: I had Fun Flowers. I can still remember that smell. November 13, 2014 at 7:21pm Reply

    • Ariadne: ROFLH! The other day I was also thinking about how my brand new Tiny Tears doll smelled….sooo weird but she provoked repeated sniffing! November 13, 2014 at 6:05pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I love heady roses (Knowing, Nahema, Une Rose) and I can wear dramatic perfumes Amouage, Poison, La Panthère,etc.).
    But when I was exploring Malle perfumes with a friend, and he sprayed Portrait on his wrist, I took a step backwards. I agree with your husband. I liked the drydown (after an hour or so) better, but still: too strong. Exaggerated.

    As for Carnal Flower, I went through several samples, bought it (being a big tuberose lover). For a while it was the star of my collection, but suddenly I can’t stand it anymore: headache. November 13, 2014 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: I had a huge love affair with Carnal Flower and even wore it to my wedding, but I cooled off a bit. I still love it, but I wear Une Fleur de Cassie, Iris Poudre and Lipstick Rose much more frequently. Or En Passant, which is a very easy-to-wear, versatile perfume. November 13, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

      • Patricia: En Passant is one of my favorites of the Malles. I don’t own any full bottles, but have EP, Une Rose, Lipstick Rose, and L’Eau d’Hiver in the travel sizes. If I ever finish up any of these, I might consider a FB, but they are lasting a surprisingly long time. November 13, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

        • Victoria: A few years ago, I won a big lot of his perfumes on Ebay from someone who was moving and was selling them off for next to nothing. So, I have full bottles of many of them. The one perfume I wish I had is Iris Poudre. I have a decant, and I’m going through it quickly. November 13, 2014 at 1:10pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: I have a sample of En Passant and fell in love with it. I suppose I have to buy quickly (but I had to pay the surgery of my cat Oscar ). When will Malle to be sold?
            The SA. said Iris poudre reminded her of No.5, and I think she was right. I like No.5 better, more depth (imo.). November 13, 2014 at 2:22pm Reply

            • Victoria: January 2015, from what I read.

              Hope that Oscar the cat is ok! November 13, 2014 at 6:36pm Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Thank you!
                Oscar had 6 teeth extracted, he is Okay! November 14, 2014 at 4:10am Reply

                • Michaela: Oh poor cat… glad he is OK. November 14, 2014 at 4:18am Reply

                • Victoria: Poor thing! Best wishes for his recovery. November 24, 2014 at 12:33pm Reply

                  • Cornelia Blimber: Thank you! Oscar is doing well again, brave cat. November 25, 2014 at 7:13am Reply

                    • Annette Reynolds: Oh, oh, oh! Am just now reading this post and the comments and want to add my good wishes for Oscar’s complete recovery. How is he doing? That’s a lot of teeth to lose. Does he like canned food?
                      Even though my kitty (Hemi) has all his teeth right now (he’s only 11), I’ve always blended his canned food with a little water. He just seems to eat it all that way…licks the bowl clean.
                      Best of everything in the new year, Cornelia! December 28, 2014 at 12:15pm

          • Patricia: Proof that bargains can be found on eBay!

            I just swapped for a factory 5 ml. of Iris Poudre, which added to a small sample I already had should last me for awhile. Such a beautiful fragrance. I have between 1ml and 3mls of most of the others. (But sadly just a spray or two left of POal!). November 13, 2014 at 4:13pm Reply

            • Victoria: Nice! Iris Poudre goes a long way for me too, and right now all I have is a 5ml vial. It’s plenty. November 13, 2014 at 6:43pm Reply

  • key change: Ah, see I sniffed this immediately after finishing the novel by the same name, and was thoroughly expecting to smell the way I imagined IsabelArcher would, and alas, as you said, it was not to be so. My husband (I can call him that now!) really liked it, but I found its sillage to be a bit too overbaring, even for me (I generally don’t mind leaving a trail). I also didn’t know about EL taking over, either…it’ll be interesting to see where that goes. Perhaps it’ll make FM a bit easier to find? November 13, 2014 at 10:33am Reply

    • limegreen: Congratulations on your marriage. How was your perfume shopping in London (aka honeymoon)?! November 13, 2014 at 10:35am Reply

    • Victoria: I wonder how they will do the distribution. If they follow the Tom Ford Private Blend example, then it won’t be any easier to find than it is now (or maybe, slightly easier depending where you’re). In Brussels, the only place carrying Private Blends is the same one carrying Frederic Malle. November 13, 2014 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Carolina: A woman came into the shop where I work wearing a heady, delicious trail of woody patchouli. It reminded me of the drydown of Coromandel, which I adore. I asked the name of her perfume– it was Portrait of a Lady.

    I immediately ordered a sample, but alas, on me it is roses, roses, roses all the time. I still wonder if the woman in the shop had mixed her POL with something! November 13, 2014 at 12:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also get lots of patchouli and woods out of it, and rose plays a relatively minor role after the first hour. But it could be either that your skin pushes that element. November 13, 2014 at 12:33pm Reply

  • spe: I wonder if your review would have been more enthusiastic had your husband had a different reaction? My bottle of POAL is from when it was first available – I was on a waiting list because it was from my favorite brand and perfumer albeit I am not a fan of rose. Right out of the gate, there were compliments. A grocery clerk literally pivoted with eyes popping while telling me how good I smelled. Personally I like dry woodsy florals and the patch IS a little much – but a tiny bit of this fragrance is heavenly, just like Carnal Flower. A very small spray – not a full spray! You want people to catch the faintest whiff. Victoria, would you be willing to try this again around your husband wearing the merest dab of this fragrance?

    Regard EL- I’ll pay whatever they ask for a Malle, as long as the formulations remain true. It’s the fragrance line that works best for me. November 13, 2014 at 12:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: I very much like this perfume, and I admire it very much. Of course, I care about my husband’s opinion, but frankly, not enough to change my own. My husband has to deal with much worse smells thanks to my work, so he’s the hardy sort. I mean, he had to stand smelling Drakkar Noir on me (3 sprays per arm) when I was studying it. So, he can live with PoaL.
      I only bring up the story as a caveat. This perfume is beautiful, but it also can be challenging. November 13, 2014 at 12:42pm Reply

      • spe: Oh, yes, challenging it is – as you write – with regard to both composition and dosage! Many of my favorite Malle’s are indeed that (e.g. Fleur de Cassie). The responses in this thread reminds me also of how unique the Geranium pour Monsieur fragrance is – a love at first sniff for me. Thank you for the comments! November 13, 2014 at 1:05pm Reply

        • Victoria: Geranium Pour Monsieur also stands out, and the drydown of Geranium is my favorite part. November 13, 2014 at 1:21pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I have a sample of this, somewhere…..

    I remember liking it when I tried it but also that it didn’t quite blow my socks off. Do you find it lasts longer than Rien? November 13, 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: I admit that I didn’t compare, but I’d say, it’s up there. Rien is one of the longer lasting perfumes I have. I don’t count the original Poison, which I keep just for research. 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 1:09pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I think that, purely for scientific purposes, you ought to layer them and then report back! 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 1:47pm Reply

        • Victoria: Then the Dutch news sources will report on a crazy American expat who overdosed on perfume and passed out. 🙂 November 13, 2014 at 2:02pm Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: Ha, ha. Well, Poison is one of my favourites. My balsamic tuberose. November 13, 2014 at 2:26pm Reply

            • Victoria: It’s one of the perfume legends for sure. November 13, 2014 at 6:36pm Reply

          • Austenfan: It would be nuclear, better save it for when the Belgian government will start up the Doel power plant again. November 13, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: I think Portrait of a Lady will do a better job when it comes to that.

              We all have different perceptions. After all, Poison is by Edouard Flécihier, one of my heroes (Poison, Une Rose, Gomma..).
              And Lys Mediterranee. November 13, 2014 at 2:51pm Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: Fléchier, of course. November 13, 2014 at 3:36pm Reply

            • Victoria: Oh gosh! Given the competence of the Belgian government, we might fuel our home with a mixture of Rien and PoaL this winter as the only recourse. The irony is that my grandmother’s household in Ukraine is a much better shape and is much less likely to face electricity shortages than we’re here in the heart of the EU. November 13, 2014 at 6:39pm Reply

              • Cornelia Blimber: In the Netherlands we have a tradition of Belgenmoppen (jokes about Belgians), the electricity problems could be the source of many of them. I hope you will have no shortage this winter.
                And thank you for letting Poison out! I love that perfume and will wear it today. November 14, 2014 at 4:17am Reply

                • Victoria: Enjoy it! It’s good to revisit old favorites and remember what you loved about them in the first place. November 24, 2014 at 12:36pm Reply

          • Michaela: 🙂 November 14, 2014 at 5:00am Reply

  • Aurora: Your review is so evocative ‘spices so hot they are chilly (love this expression) honeyed sweetness of natural rose smokescreen of incense’: a la bonne heure, that’s what I crave for in a perfume, to be surprised (but not overwhelmed, mind).

    What a great choice of illustration – I find the mix of blue and pink in this painting captivating; also very apt as it smashed price records when it was last sold.

    Now POAL joins Fleur de Chine on my special list too expensive to consider at the moment but highly worth trying according to Bois de Jasmin list.

    Meanwhile wearing Fidji and loving its heady mix. It’s a bit lacking in the drydown probably IFRA but it could easily be tweaked to be made perfect again, and who knows it may happen.

    You know, call me stupid, but I’m not too worried about EL takeover. They’ve always treated their acquisitions with respect, and more importantly, they’ve kept their own collection in good shape through the reformulations. As for price changes, for such very high end perfumes I feel it doesn’t signify so much. November 13, 2014 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: PoaL is beautiful and I recommend trying just to have a reference, but yes, it’s very expensive. Even if the price is justified, it’s expensive.

      Fidji is a gem, and even the reformulation didn’t diminish its radiance.

      I don’t think the sale is good news, but less to do with Lauder than with the idea of Frederic Malle being sold. As for Lauder, they’re probably the best custodian out of any big house around. And Lauder does spend on its perfumes in contrast to some others. November 13, 2014 at 1:16pm Reply

      • Aurora: Ah yes I understand you, it’s never good news that an innovative and creative entity is swallowed up like this and, all things being equal, this is why I am very protective of Hermes and buy as well as love their perfumes in the fear that one day LVMH will take over.

        So glad you appreciate Fidji, I like very much your calling it ,radiant’, that’s its beauty exactly and the drydown is a detail. November 13, 2014 at 1:36pm Reply

        • Victoria: I like that Fidji has a big floral note, but it doesn’t smell like a typical floral. And it really creates an ambiance, a mood. You’ve reminded me that I really need to write about it one of these days.

          I feel the same way about Hermes. I followed the news closely, always worrying that the LVMH might take them over completely. You know, I can’t persuade myself to visit the new LVMH museum. November 13, 2014 at 2:04pm Reply

          • Aurora: I shall look forward to reading one of your beautiful posts on Fidji then. You have such a gift of transmitting your knowledge in a poetic way, very rare IMO.

            We feel alike about LVMH. November 13, 2014 at 3:07pm Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you, Aurora! It’s fun to think of associations when describing scents. November 13, 2014 at 6:41pm Reply

  • lila: This is one of the perfumes that my husband specifically said he did not care for either – the other was Clive Christian C for W. I think I may have over sprayed (C) at the time b/c he doesn’t recoil when I wear it now. Also in his defense regarding PoaL, I had worn it to breakfast and it is not a morning perfume! Timing is everything with this one. I am intrigued by PoaL and how it constantly has my attention. You’re right, it can be tiresome although I’m never bored with it like I get with Carnal Flower. I (and maybe even my husband) can be happy with just a decant of PoaL if I can learn how to apply it judiciously. November 13, 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hmmm, now you mention it, I also might have worn it in the morning, which can be a bit much. Anyway, I still enjoy PoaL and I keep some on hand. It’s just such a terrific, well-crafted fragrance. November 13, 2014 at 6:34pm Reply

  • Joy: Victoria,

    I so enjoyed your description today of this exotic, complex sounding perfume. I was so interested that I ordered a sample. It was interesting that the opinions of this perfume are so strong and so mixed. At least with a sample, I can test it for myself without too much of a financial investment.
    I also enjoyed reading all of the comparisons to other perfumes.
    Many of the perfumes that I really like do not last long on me, some only moments. So, it is especially interesting that it has staying power.
    Today I am wearing Serge Lutens Borneo 1834. It too seems to be a controversial fragrance. I am actually enjoying it very much.A small amount has stayed with me for hours. I love the dry oak moss and patchouli that is not gaggingly sweet.
    I loved the photo of the painting also! November 13, 2014 at 3:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that you will enjoy it, or at least, enjoying following its story and development. It’s such a complex, layered perfume that it’s worth trying for this reason alone. And it’s also a good benchmark for quality.

      Borneo 1834 is one of my favorites, and like you, I find that a little is all you need to create a lingering trail. And of course, it also has such a great character! November 13, 2014 at 6:59pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Victoria,

    Coincidentally, I just learned yesterday that L’Oreal Paris bought Editions however F. Malle will remain autonomous to the line. And here you are reviewing Portrait of a Lady which I received a sample (thank you very much, Miguel at the Barney’s UW side store. I was also told L’Oreal purchased Le Labo, Clinique (formerly E. Lauder), Rodin an upscale treatment line. Whoever the new owner is has no bearing on my finances but it seems that L’Oreal is cornering the market on luxury goods. He also recommended Bois d’Orage and since we both like Byredo’s Bal D’Afrique I sampled as well. He informed me that all of the Byredo line carries a note of Gardenia. Who knew, well you would, of course. I guess like Guerlain with the underpinnings of Bergamot is most of the classics. The newest of the line: Magnolia does nothing for me. But Portrait is reserved for the oncoming cold weather blast expected in the Northeast tonight. Warm up with fragrance testing. November 13, 2014 at 5:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: PoaL is perfect for the colder weather, which must be why I’m reaching for it more and more these days.

      It’s not L’Oreal but Lauder. Here is an article from Vogue:
      http://www.vogue.co.uk/beauty/2014/11/07/estee-lauder-buys-frederic-malle-le-labo-rodin

      “Why then, is the company seeking out these niche brands to join its already busy stable?

      “To maintain our steady annual growth, we are driving our portfolio on two main fronts. We are strengthening and expanding our existing brands to keep them relevant in all our regions, and at the same time, we are actively seeking and nurturing the next generation with an eye to creating the next big brands of the future,” WWD reports president and chief executive officer Fabrizio Freda as saying. “We definitely are always scanning the market for future high-potential brands. We look at every single category. [When there is a] significant brand with meaningful ideas, we are interested.” ” November 13, 2014 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Leah: Hi Victoria! I have been largely absent from the blog-o-sphere these many (many) months but when I saw the headline for this post I could not resist. First of all let me say how much I have missed commenting on your blog, but work has been all-consuming, causing me to give up my own blog and leaving little time for fragrant musings, though not for fragrance wearing 🙂

    I love PoaL but the love affair was not immediate – the opening was intriguing, but it was the drydown that got me. I had absent-mindedly left the tester in my bathroom and kept walking in for days to find the softest patchouli cloud lingering in there. It took me a few days to put 2 and 2 together but after that I purchased it immediately.

    I am panicked about Lauder purchasing Malle, since I have a few bottles on my to-buy list and the prices are steep (I am looking at you, Noir Epices). I recently tested several of the home scents and loved 1er Mai (obviously a lily) and Marius and Jeanette, a delicious anise scent. Okay, truth be told I pretty much loved them all. Thankfully Lauder’s fragrances are generally good quality.

    Best wishes!!
    Leah November 13, 2014 at 7:56pm Reply

    • Victoria: Nice to see you here, Leah! Your experience with PoaL is similar to mine. I had a blotter on my desk and I kept smelling something really wonderful for weeks (!) as I walked into my office. Generally, I try not to keep anything too strongly scented in the room itself since it can making working and smelling difficult, but I couldn’t throw it away. It just smelled so good. November 14, 2014 at 1:40am Reply

  • Michael: Thank you for the informative and timely review of Potrait of a Lady, Victoria! I now have three items from the Malle range on my To Buy list: Une Fleur de Cassie, Iris Poudre and this one. And possibly Une Rose too. If you had to select one, which would you choose? I tested PoaL sometime ago and the two most prominent notes on my skin were rose and patchouli. The SA at Liberty thinks that PoaL is the best fragrance of the Malle range, but I am not sure that I concur with her. I will have to re-test it again to see if it smells any different on me now. November 13, 2014 at 8:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: They are so different and it’s hard to compare them. It really depends what perfume you need in your wardrobe. I’d wear them on different days and see how they make me feel. November 14, 2014 at 3:11am Reply

      • Michael: I finally chose Iris Poudre as I think it’s a more wearable scent and both my friend and the SA thought it smelled much better on my skin. The SA gave me samples of the Iris Poudre body butter and PoaL EDP to try, and I have a feeling that the latter will be my next purchase as I do not have a rose perfume in my collection. For those who are wondering about the longevity of the current batch, PoaL lasts much longer on me than any other Malle fragrance, except maybe Carnal Flower.

        I have a question for you (and anyone else) regarding Une Fleur de Cassie. Is it just me, or does what I can only describe as the “vegetal scent” last much longer than most other top notes? My old bottle of UFdC smells much rounder and smoother than the testers I used today. I remember there was a time when the fragrance was out of stock because they had to reformulate the mimosa absolute to bring the fragrance in line with IFRA regulations and I’m wondering if somewhere along the line the perfume morphed into its current scent. The wet cardboard note seemed to linger much longer on my skin today and I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase a FB. November 14, 2014 at 6:45pm Reply

        • Victoria: I remember reading that other commenters thought the new version had less of the cardboard note, and I confess that I like the new version more than the original because it feels softer. But it might depend on how it plays on your skin.

          You can’t go wrong with Iris Poudre! Enjoy it, Michael. November 24, 2014 at 12:51pm Reply

          • Michael: I decided on a whim to wear PoaL today and I’ve been inundated with compliments on how nice I’ve smelled all day! One of my male friends even asked me for a sample of the fragrance so he could test it on himself. He even told me that he thought it smelled “masculine” even though I informed him that it was an oriental rose. I’m slowly but surely starting to understand the allure of this perfume. February 25, 2015 at 6:25pm Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, me too. When I first tried it, I dismissed it as a straightforward oriental, but the more I wear it, the more I’m enjoying it. February 26, 2015 at 6:43am Reply

  • kaori: For me, the most shocking part is strong clove and cinnamon mixed opening. My impression is burning hot! I am agreed with your husband 🙂

    Kaori November 13, 2014 at 9:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: It comes as such a shock, but I like it. I prefer the drydown, though.

      Ann Gerard’s newest rose is in the similar style, but with more rose and less woods. November 14, 2014 at 3:13am Reply

  • Nemo: Thank you for a lovely review! I tried POAL once at Barney’s, and I loved the first hour, but got a little bit tired of the drydown (well, bored enough that I was unlikely to buy a full bottle in that price range). The parts I did like in the drydown reminded me of Agent Provacateur, which I already owned but didn’t appreciate until I tried POAL 🙂 That said, I would love to have a decant of POAL just for the beautiful first hour! November 13, 2014 at 10:34pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, thank you for mentioning Agent Provocateur. It’s another perfume in a similar style (must be the rose-patchouli combination that gives them both that feel). But AP is light next to PoaL! 🙂 November 14, 2014 at 3:15am Reply

    • Michaela: I do appreciate Agent Provocateur and, for I don’t know what reason, I compared it to a traditional Middle Eastern attar I owe. These cover almost the same spot for me. I may try PoL but I doubt I can wear it, I don’t know if I can handle a stronger AP. November 14, 2014 at 4:53am Reply

  • Bea: So glad that you finally are reviewing POAL!

    I purchased a decant this summer and thought it was awful and couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about.
    But since everybody praised it, I continued to use it and now I think that it’s a masterpiece. Really shows that as a scent newbie you need to try a new scent many times to get it.

    Also, this works so much better in cold weather than in the summer heat, at least on my skin. I wore it yesterday and it was just what I needed to feel a bit glamorous on a very gray and boring November day. November 14, 2014 at 4:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, you said it. It feels so perfect during these grey, rainy days, like a burst of bright color or a gust of warm breeze. In the summer, it’s just overwhelming. November 24, 2014 at 12:34pm Reply

  • Figuier: Thanks for the review, Victoria – you’ve confirmed my (admittedly superficial) impression that PoaL is *immense*. Oddly enough, when I first got into perfume I was quite happy in full-on orientals like Parfumerie Generale’s L’Ombre Fauve, vintage Shalimar and Chanel Coromandel. Nowadays I simply can’t handle them, and am increasingly sensitive to patchouli.

    Kilian’s Rose Oud is my go-to rose; it’s very easy to dose, and easy to wear, despite being super-glamorous. My favourite Malle changes, and in the past I’ve owned & enjoyed Une Fleur de Cassie, and wishlisted Lys Med, but most recently I’ve fallen in love with Bigarade Concentree – I get lots of cardamom and barely notice the cumin, and wore my sample repeatedly in late summer. Maybe worth stocking up on if prices are likely to go high… November 14, 2014 at 6:38am Reply

    • Victoria: What’s really fascinating is how our tastes evolve. Which is why when I read the columns in beauty magazines titled “What’s your fragrance type,” it just makes me shake my head. As if you can pin someone’s personality down so easily! Or as if it’s even useful.

      I also oscillate when it comes to my favorite Malle perfume. It goes all the way from Carnal Flower to En Passant. But these days I’m newly in love Lipstick Rose. November 24, 2014 at 12:41pm Reply

  • Rowanhill: Portrait of a Lady has the half time of plutonium on my skin. It survives several says and showers. It is definitely a winter fragrance, so when the waether in Brussels got November nasty I reached for the big gun to fight the cold. My challenge is the strong cumin/armpit phase. Therefore I usually wear the perfume on a scarf which spends its first 24 hours in a cupboard. 🙂 En Passant on the other hand is spring and lilac blooms in a bottle for me. November 14, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m not as sensitive to cumin as many of you, so I need to smell for it distinctly. In Cologne Bigarade, on the other hand, it sticks out a lot! And yes, PoaL lasts well on fabric. I used to carry a decant in my purse and then stopped, because I was worried that a leak might mean that my purse and everything in it will smell of PoaL forever. 🙂 Plus, it’s not as if it’s a perfume one needs to reapply. November 24, 2014 at 12:43pm Reply

      • Rowanhill: You are right about the no need for reapplication. 😀 No need to worry with this one that it would suddenly disappear into thin air. November 24, 2014 at 2:28pm Reply

        • Victoria: At least, on me, it wears better than any other perfume I have, but I know that Karen and Ariane above mentioned the lasting power being somewhat more muted on their skin. November 24, 2014 at 3:11pm Reply

      • Surbhi: I had a card sprayed with POAL in the purse. Every time I opened my wallet, I got complements. So, I thought of giving the perfume a try. A guy friend said way too strong and heady. I am going to give it another try today before Lauder spoils all of them. June 6, 2015 at 2:09pm Reply

  • Monsieur: I’m rose lover and POAL one of the most beautiful rose perfume I have ever tried. When I apply on me I fell like I’m dancing in the dark! 🙂 POAL is dramatic and enigmatic and baroque style rose perfume in the collection. I just love it! By the way, have ever tried Francis Kurkdjian Lumiére Noir Pour Femme? November 14, 2014 at 10:22am Reply

    • Victoria: I love your description and how passionate you are for this perfume.
      I have tried Lumiere Noir Pour Femme, and I think that it’s also in the same category as PoaL, dark and dramatic. November 24, 2014 at 12:45pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: This sounds divine- I will have to give it a sniff! November 14, 2014 at 7:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: I definitely recommend it if you want something with a big presence. November 24, 2014 at 12:53pm Reply

  • maja: I admire and love POAL but I have never repurchased a sample because I feel it’s wearing me and not the opposite. I wore it during one New Year’s Eve and have beautiful memories of it but in the end I prefer to repurchase Carnal Flower or Le Parfum de Therese. And I noticed that after a period of fascination with complex roses I am now always looking for a perfect soliflore, a true rose such as AG Rose Absolue. (AP and Stella are exceptions). Maybe I’ll get back to other rose combinations soon though.

    I have yet to try Une Fleur de Cassie and that is going on my January list of purchase. 🙂 November 15, 2014 at 12:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: I keep going back and forth on them too. Sometimes AG Rose Absolue or Crabtree & Evelyn are just perfect and there are days when nothing but Agent Provocateur would do. PoaL is a perfume I like to keep around, but I don’t really need more than a small decant. November 24, 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

  • Johanob: My favorite perfume,probably of all time!!Being a man,the name can definitely be misleading,but men can certainly wear this!My colleagues were very intrigued when I wore this to work once.And a huge compliment-getter too.I don’t mind the price tag,as you really only need max 4 sprays for 24-hour(!!!!) longevity on skin!!LoveLove! November 15, 2014 at 2:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t agree more! The name should put men off from trying it. It’s definitely suitable for anyone, men or women. November 24, 2014 at 12:57pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Thanks Victoria for the correction on the recent takeovers of these luxury goods. Not unlike Bernard Arnault (LVMH) this has become a trend. And I will read the article you provided. Happy time off! November 17, 2014 at 1:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: I know, I find it hard to keep it all straight… November 24, 2014 at 12:59pm Reply

  • Mary: POAL reminds me of my Middle Eastern Grandma and her mysterious closet. It wakes up something deep in me from childhood in Iran. reminds me of the Parisian love affair with Rose d’Espahan. It is hard to apply it in public here in Canada. People are super sensitive to strong perfumes up here. so I keep it to myself most of the time while writing and editing. It works like drugs, stimulates my confidence. November 19, 2014 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like a beautiful association, Mary. Do you remember the perfumes your grandmother wore? November 24, 2014 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Danica Radovanov: Has anyone noticed that this has been reformulated with less incense and eugenol in the top notes and it has a drier, greener, mossy patchouli character that it didn’t used to? I compared my new bottle to a bottle from a Malle set I got in 2012 and its quite a bit different fragrance, less feminine, scintillating and beautiful. Maybe there was oak moss in the original? I’m kind of sad beyond words because comparing both hands one smells more of a thin flat ambroxan rose and patchouli (2014) and the other of an opulent concoction of incense, pepper, camphor and a mysterious, very dark, rose (2012). The ambroxan concoction is more masculine and the incense rose more feminine. Anyone else notice this? December 1, 2014 at 12:01am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t compared side by side, but I always don’t want to, because I like the current version very much as it is. Unfortunately, the ever stringent raw material regulations in Europe and worldwide mean that there will be more reformulations to come. December 1, 2014 at 8:13am Reply

    • Sue: Danica,
      I totally agree that the recent bottles of PoaL do not smell the same as those of a couple of years ago. It seems to have lost depth and majesty to me, and wears a lot closer to the skin. Malle in Paris has assured me that there has been no change and that reformulations to fragrances containing oak moss were made prior to the making of PoaL, so it was not affected. I keep hoping that it will return to its earlier glory! I ADORE this perfume. November 14, 2015 at 10:57pm Reply

  • Keren: I am sampling this fragrance and can’t decide whether to purchase or not.
    The news of the sale of Editions to Estee Lauder is a disappointment since Frederick Malle’s line represents a great concept and consistent high quality.
    Perhaps his creative limits were met and he was ready to pursue something else.
    Whatever the reason I don’t think Editions will be the same December 26, 2014 at 7:07pm Reply

  • Surbhi: How do you compare it to Musc Ravageur ? I love Musc Ravageur and I am told that this is very similar. I am not so sure. So, I am seeking other point of views. June 6, 2015 at 2:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t find them at all identical. One is a vanilla musk, another is a woody rose. The only thing they have in common is a big, dramatic personality. June 8, 2015 at 2:04am Reply

  • Surbhi: Victoria,

    Have you tried the night by Malle. I would really like to know what you think. Can you write about it when you get a chance. thank You. December 4, 2015 at 1:55am Reply

    • Victoria: I haven’t! I’m behind on releases this fall. December 4, 2015 at 10:33am Reply

  • charles: I love Portrait of a Lady!
    Infant i loved it so much i bought two full 100ml bottles!
    Dominique Ropion is a Genius and this is one of his best work yet!
    Sadly, when i heard that Estee Lauder
    (TERRIBLE COMPANY) bought Frederic Malle i had to return both bottles ( thankfully they hadn’t been opened or used ) to Barneys and will never buy anything from FM going forward.
    But with that said Portrait of a Lady is still a Beautiful creation! January 11, 2016 at 7:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s really too bad about the sale. I suspected that Malle would sell his company sooner or later, but how it happened was unexpected. January 12, 2016 at 8:36am Reply

  • monsieur: Hello Victoria,

    I bought a bottle of Monsieur. from Frederic Malle and as a patchouli lover, I fell in love with this perfume. It is dark, captivating, majestic… I reall want to know what your thoughts about Monsieur, can’t wait to read your comment about it. June 16, 2017 at 1:06am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s excellent, and yes, a perfect perfume for a patchouli lover. June 19, 2017 at 2:53am Reply

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  • Ninon in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: Thank you! I tried Ormonde Woman many years ago, when I was new to niche. I will be sure to try it again. And thanks for the Coty rec–Ma Griffe… August 17, 2017 at 5:52pm

  • Ninon in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: Thank you so much! I actually just received a mini of vintage Niki Saint Phalle parfum this week and it is heavenly! I’ve been wondering about Zelda…I will be sure… August 17, 2017 at 5:50pm

  • rosarita in Recommend Me a Perfume : August 2017: Still relatively easy to find at discouters/eBay is Niki de St Phalle, a classic softer chypre. Estee Lauder Private Collection or Aliage also. For a more modern yet vintage feel,… August 17, 2017 at 4:23pm

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