Portrait of a Lady (2010)
by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

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Portrait of a Lady information

Year of Launch2010
GenderFeminine
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 356 votes)

People and companies

HouseEditions de Parfums Frederic Malle
PerfumerDominique Ropion
Parent CompanyEstee Lauder Companies

About Portrait of a Lady

Portrait of a Lady is a feminine perfume by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. The scent was launched in 2010 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Dominique Ropion

Reviews of Portrait of a Lady

Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle sits somewhere between Creed and L'Artisan Parfumeur in terms of prestige and creative freedom. On one hand, Frédéric Malle fancies himself a creative director and "ghost writer" alongside the perfumers he chooses to work with him, guiding them to something that fits both his vision and theirs, but on the other, he also plays up the exclusivity of his label and cost of materials to rake in the cash from naive nouveau-riche. For this reason, scents like Portrait of a Lady (2010) receive both fervent praise from perfumistas enamored with the label's showcasing of perfumer's talent with an uncapped budget, and also derision from hardcore hobbyists that know the same relative quality can be had even within niche realms for half the cost. I could easily name a half dozen rose scents in the same heady, dark, rich vein as this, but there's no point in cutting this off at the kneecaps for being a more expensive alternative to them, since it's all relative to the budget of the onlooker anyway, and who's to say the same person can't both enjoy a $10 bottle of Tea Rose (1972) and a $340 bottle of Portrait of a Lady? What is in effect presented here is a Turkish rose wrapped in spice and incense. The stuff is sold as a feminine perfume but draws parallels to male-oriented rose scents thus is worn by quite a few guys too. The name comes from the Henry James novel of 1881, and focuses on creating the scent worn by the Victorian-era heroine Isabel Archer, which is said to be of dark roses.

Portrait of a Lady opens with plenty of Turkish rose, and fans of Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose (2013) or Amouage Lyric Man (2008) already know where this is headed. This isn't a sweet damask rose nor a leafy tea rose like many of it's ilk, but shrouds a deep red rose head note in black currant and raspberry, both darker fruits. The middle notes of cinnamon, clove, and patchouli, give this a spicy and earthy rounding of the rose's edges, before the woodsy aromachemical base of sandal, benzoin, ambroxan, and incense finish it off. The weakest link here, especially for a scent so expensive, is the reliance on the "Kmart Blue Light Special" aspects of ambroxan, which link this back to trendy high-end designer scents that folks who love Frédéric Malle will likely scoff at, raising monocle to eye and turning up nose past their hairline uttering "how so very dare you" in a nasal transatlantic "lockjaw" accent. Well screw those folks, I don't mind the drydown at all, and anyone who enjoys anything from the larger niche houses these days should likely expect a few popular aromachems here or there anyway, and if it matters that much, there are plenty of one-person operations and tiny artisinal perfumers making scents purely from raw materials that can hand you a comparable rose to this without the ambroxan scratch in the finish. After the scent finishes developing, what is left behind is that Turkish rose, some patchouli, clove, incense, and nondescript woods with musky underpinnings. Longevity is good, but like most rose scents, this will dominate whatever shirt you're wearing while it's on your skin, lingering hours after, so definitely wash said garment afterwards. I like Portrait of a Lady but for me, I don't think it's nearly $400 good, and with what is effectively a sample sprayer costing as much as a 50ml of Chanel, even smaller sizes are not much of a value. I must note that this is one of the more expensive Frédéric Malle scents, and not all of them are the same price, so don't dismiss the house based on this one review, please.

Portrait of a Lady is a success in what it sets out to be: an olfactory representation of a fictional perfume from a character pulled out of a novel made in a bygone era. As wearable perfume in the modern day, Portrait of a Lady does feel a tad more masculine than feminine with it's portrayal of rose, even if that portrayal is pretty in line with what passed for rose fragrances in the late 19th century, sans the ambroxan of course, because they'd have real ambergris in that 'mutha if it was made then. I'd recommend better dark roses before this one, but Dominique Ropion does a noble job of the task at hand, it's just this kind of thing has already existed for a while before it came around, so in the very large world of rose scents, it had a lot of stiff competition, like Tom Ford's Noir de Noir (2007) for example. Portrait of a Lady is best in mid-climates like spring, fall, or indoors just about any time, with a spicy romantic flair that makes it unsuitable for the office to me, but your opinion may be different. I think a dry leather note or maybe something green might have added enough austerity to sober this up for the professional environment, but as it stands, this is just a tad closer to the smell of the "fallen women" or male "fops" of the Victorian era than anyone trying to be presentable. Thumbs up for quality and performance, but with trepidation do I suggest this one, since it isn't even the best of it's lot and the cost makes it a bit prohibitive to explore without sampling for yourself. Luckily, this one is pretty common at most upscale department stores, so that shouldn't be too tricky! A nice and spicy unisex rose scent, just not for the unwashed masses, to be sure.
19th August, 2018
Lasts for about 14 hours, the last of which as skin scent, pretty powerful rose and incense combo, very unisex and not just for ladies, it has a kinky and very dark vibe, one of the best outings fro Malle for some serious sillage it takes some serious spraying!


29th July, 2018
jcw122 Show all reviews
United States
More like "Portrait of an Old Lady". I can't believe this is so well rated. It smells to me a lot like an elderly woman mixed with the gourmand scent of a male club fragrance.
07th April, 2018
A lady indeed. I got a musty, smoldering spice of a rose in the beginning. If I inhaled deeply I smelled a teeny tiny bit of raspberry. Settling down, it became a dry tinder pile of incense and patchouli. A musky amber finishes this off with nary a nod to benzoin.
11th December, 2017
Really pleasant fragrance. Just too feminine for me. On a lady this would be great!!
07th December, 2017
Every time I tried it on I get different ideas. This perfume is a Rubik's cube, my dumb brain can only work out one face at a time.

The most current version I got is: vivid rose blast at opening, accompanied by something strongly reminiscent of oud(incense?), with some sort of spicy animalistic undertone. A panther hide in rose bushes. If I get close enough, there is a soothing aspect of aldehyde.

The rose, thankfully, doesn't have the indolic feel as in Une Rose, possibly due to some fruity softener that I couldn't tell. My skin stays a battlefield between army of red rose and slightly pungent musk. After an hour or so, rose is utterly defeated and the musk decimated, a vast land of patchouli finally reveal itself.

If it really is a portrait of a certain lady, then it's the portrait of Rebecca, the devious and charming mistress of Manderley.
18th October, 2017

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