Frederic Malle: 18 posts

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.

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Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia : Perfume Review

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Intended or not, Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia is an answer to two challenges: creating a novel cologne and capturing the elusive aroma of magnolia. The first is complicated, because cologne is one of the most popular genres, and recasting it in a new way requires some creativity. The second is due to the magnolia’s character. The scent blends citrus, rose and soft leather, but the main impression you get from smelling the waxy white petals is not of heady, lush perfume, but of exhilarating freshness and fizz. You can almost feel the champagne bubbles bursting before you notice all other facets.

magnolia

Translating this sparkling effect into fragrance is more complicated than it seems in our age of high-tech tools. I smelled through a fair share of magnolia accords at one point to conclude that 90% of them smell either like furniture polish or bear no relation at all to magnolia. Which is why Eau de Magnolia comes as a surprise. It captures the nuances of magnolia, while setting them into a frame of citrus and moss. It makes for a beautiful arrangement.

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Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle : Fragrance Review

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Diamond  heists and Gérard Depardieu’s tax evasion tactics aside, Belgium doesn’t make the front page news often, but the Antwerp fashion scene never fails to be noteworthy. Dries Van Noten is one of the top Belgian designers, and his colorful clothes emphasizing textures and  prints are unusual and eclectic. After walking around his store in Antwerp this summer, I felt as if I had just visited an art exhibit. I then spotted a neat row of Frédéric Malle bottles on one of the shelves and learned that Van Noten is a big fan of Editions de Parfums.

Belgium WinterBelgium Winter1

So here we have Dries Van Noten par Frédéric Malle, part of a new initiative to create a series of olfactory portraits of artists and other creative personalities. Such projects are only as  interesting as the people who inspire them, and in this case, we have an exciting collaboration. The perfumer interpreting Van Noten’s portrait is Bruno Jovanovic, and the main theme of the composition is warmth.

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Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire : Perfume Review

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Frédéric Malle Vétiver Extraordinaire by perfumer Dominique Ropion is said to contain 25% vetiver—the most on the market where this herbal, grassy note is a frequently the principal note in men’s fragrances. Depending on which facets the perfumer has illuminated, vetiver can be sweet, dry, smoky, bitter, fruity, peppery, and woody. In Vétiver Extraordinaire, the note is freed like a balloon by ozone, which gives it a fresh airiness in opposition to more earthbound vetivers (like Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s earthy Route du Vétiver or Serge Lutens’ root-y Vétiver Oriental).

green-leaves

Vetiver is a grass that is native to India but is also grown in Haiti, Indonesia, China, Java, and Reunion.  For perfumery purposes, oil is extracted from the roots. The damp, woody scent of vetiver is so complex that it can be a perfume on its own. The note is used as a drydown accent or it can be treated as a main theme.  It’s traditionally associated with masculine fragrances like Guerlain Vetiver, but it also appears with regularity in the bases of feminine perfumes like Chanel No 19 or Guerlain Chamade.

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Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras : Fragrance Review

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Chagall

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Sometimes I read a fragrance description, and even though I know not to attach too much importance to the notes, the idea of a perfume is conjured nevertheless. Would a fragrance called “in your arms” evoke anything but the warmth of a hug? When I first read about Frédéric Malle Dans Tes Bras created by perfumer Maurice Roucel, I imagined sweet violets folded into creamy layers of musk and vanilla—soft, tender and comforting.

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