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 394 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

ION-ONE Show all reviews
United Kingdom
Opening blast is a volumtuous rich rose with a hint of sandalwood. The smell is very high-end and I've been surounded with this kind of scent cloud in posh areas of London with a rich Middle Eastern clientele.

The rose becomes jammy and fruity (raspberry/cranberry) and then quite soapy. There is also a green element.

This is clearly the mother of any number of illegitimate fruittychoulli scents. It brought Lancome LA vie est belle to my mind and (surprise suprise) it's the same nose.

Unlike many males on BN I don't find POAL easy for a man to pull off, it's decidedly feminine in scent and theme and has inspired too many other common feminines. It does have the quality rose smell of so many expensive rose-Oud combos and perhaps that is why many males feel comfortable with it. For me there is no counterpoint to the dominant rose to bring it back to a unisex center-ground.

Performance is really good which may make one feel a little self conscious if not 100% comfortable with the theme.
Overall 80/100 as a feminine perfume but not necessarily safe for to use as a unisex. A viable male alternative might be Diptyque Oud Palaou
02nd October, 2019
What is there to say about this fragrance that hasn't already been said? This a stunning masterpiece of a fragrance that you owe it to yourself as a fraghead to try. Deep, rich, smoky, sensual, fruity, dry, sweet, creamy, soft - PoaL covers almost all the bases. The combination of rose and patchouli - tried and true - is enriched by glowing incense, creamy sandalwood, autumnal spices, and a photorealistic raspberry note (so real that you can smell the tannins in the seeds). It is intoxicating, it is full-bodied, it is exotic, it is powerful, it is perfume with a capital P. This is what you wear when you want to make a statement, when you want to impress, when you want to stand out from the crowd and make everyone smell you. Simply put, one of the best rose fragrances ever made.
23rd June, 2019
Portrait of a Lady? Okay, sure, whatever you say, Mr. Ropion. Maybe if that lady was a former headshop hippie from 1975 who goes on to become a rock star, part Stevie Nicks, part Steven Tyler, while regularly atoning for her sins at Catholic Mass every Sunday.

Dark but never heavy, fruity but also funky, with a luminous, clove-y rose that holds it all together. Probably one of my top-ten favorite scents of all time.
15th May, 2019
Beautiful. Easily distinguishing rose, patchouli, clove, and incense. I was worried about this one, because I generally am not a big fan of incense forward frags. This has a proper amount in it as to not overpower the rest of the composition. The patchouli gives it an earthy greenness, while the berries prop up the jammy-ness of the rose in the opening. Its performance is big all around. The cloves here bring the rose down to a more masculine place, though I'm not sure its quite there for me. I get something that makes me think aldehydes, but I see it nowhere. Really well blended, there are no hard edges.

I'm going thumbs up here for quality, and because it is labeled as a feminine fragrance to start with. The biggest detractor is the unwieldy cost, which is not enough to drop its rating.
28th March, 2019
Editions 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 (last edited: 17th November, 2019)
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

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