Ferderic Malle Portrait of a Lady begins with roses just before they bloom with hints of greenery and woody stems in the cool, early morning air. For the majority of its development, rose remains the star and driving force, but the scent becomes earthier, smokier, and woodier over time as the notes of patchouli, sandalwood, and incense become more and more dominant over time until the drydown where the rose finally recedes into the background, though still distinct enough to know it’s there.
Secondary to the scent, it would be extremely necessary to know that this is a bombastic cloud of scent–it has intense sillage and projection and will fill a room with the scent into the next day once sprayed (even just one or two sprays). It was one of the most potent fragrances I’ve ever come across with respect to sillage!
The brand’s list of notes is below, though retailers also listed benzoin and castoreum as notes.
- top notes: rose
- heart notes: blackcurrant, raspberry, clove
- base notes: patchouli, sandalwood, frankincense
It opened not just a rose just before it bloomed, as that came a few minutes later, but the stem and the leaves–a sense of greenery and woodiness. The rose was sweetened with ripened fruits–a subtle discernment of raspberry, perhaps. There was a coolness to the scent, like dawn on an early spring morning. It didn’t take long before the sweetness to move to the background, while spiced earthiness moved into the foreground with the rose.
The fruity sweetness returned after a half hour, overwhelming the earthiness and woodiness, to surround what became spiced rose, and a tendril of smoke wafted in the background. As Portrait of a Lady developed, it became earthier, smokier, and woodier with rose at the center of everything. The drydown took about four hours to really emerge as the rose was mixed more heavily with patchouli, sandalwood, and incense smoke to the point where the rose was in the background.
For testing, I used two sprays from 2 ml sample vial, which were applied to the underside and topside of my wrist area on my left arm. I used an unscented moisturizer prior to applying the scent as this is also my swatching arm (aka, incredibly parched at any given moment) as I found scent did not hold well here otherwise. It was an incredibly long-wearing scent that was still discernible on skin the next day and had a fair amount of projection for the first four hours and a long trail of sillage for several hours into its wear.
Subjectively, I’m glad I tried it, but it’s too early in my exploration of rose as a note to make any real determination on where I’d put it in terms of overall enjoyment. This was a scent I bought to try because it had rose with several other notes that I know I like, and I love the smell of roses blooming… though uncertain if I like the smell on me for a prolonged period of times (as opposed to in a bouquet or in the garden).
This particular fragrance was also exceptionally long-wearing with a massive trail, and I prefer perfumes that live in my personal space but don’t persist once I walk out of a room. About half-way through testing it, my husband came down the hallway–not even entering my office–and remarked, “Wow, it smells like perfume in your office.” The next morning, I still got faint whiffs of it in my office as well. For me, that’s too much intensity beyond my personal space to wear comfortably!
- 100ml for $395
- 50ml for $270
- 30ml for $200
- 10ml (travel spray) for $79