Hello fellow perfume lovers!
The advent of another new year has got me thinking about all the wonderful things that have happened to me over the past 12 months. Perfume-wise, it has been amazing, bringing me experiences that I would have never thought possible just a year ago. Not only did I meet the lovely Portia, start blogging and talking to all you wonderful people, but I bought my first vintage perfume (Chloe), acquired a Serge Lutens bell jar, added wondrous things to my collection, finally swooned over Mitsouko and also fell completely in love with a perfume that I had previously completely and utterly loathed.
Portrait Of A Lady by Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle 2010
Fragrantica gives these featured accords:
Top: Clove, cinnamon, rose, black current, raspberry
Heart: Incense, sandalwood, patchouli
Base: Musk, amber, benzoin
News of Portrait’s launch a couple of years ago sent the perfume blogosphere into a spin but some were disappointed at first sniff and due to the fact that it was yet another oriental composition dominated by rose and patchouli. I was one of those people. Upon my first test, it did indeed fail to move me. Portrait was just OK, a bit ho-hum and I was deeply frustrated. I love Frederic Malle and especially Ropion’s creations, but Portrait seemed lacklustre against the rest of the treasures in the line. And why yet another rose when the line up already included Une Rose and Lipstick Rose?
Earlier this year, I got the temptation to revisit it. One evening, I tentatively dabbed some from a sample before heading out for dinner with Mr M. Mr M was in raptures and proclaimed his love instantly, but Portrait was so overwhelming I couldn’t concentrate on eating. It was practically screaming at me: “Rose, spices, oud, berries, patchouli!” in a discordant, off-key coloratura. It almost made me feel queasy.
How things change. Recently, I have been falling in love with darker scents and was tempted to sample Portrait again, both on skin and on a card. It was magic. Portrait’s screechiness was now a beautiful aria on my skin; the scent strip lying in my living room sending me into raptures each time I walked in. I was smitten.
The real beauty of this creation for me is that it is a perfect union of seemingly opposites: voluptuous Middle Eastern opulence and poised elegance.
Photo Stolen Guardian
Luscious raspberries and blackcurrant open the composition with a tart but slightly bruised quality as if they have been macerated, dripping viscous red and purple juices. Then there’s the rose, but it’s not a fresh dewy rose, but deep and rich. Its black petals thick and warm against the skin; the plushest black velvet enveloping the skin in a warm embrace. The composition then begins its journey into its Arabian Nights movement with oud and cinnamon the perfect support act for the rose; the scent of a souk in the early twilight of a summer’s evening. The rose, spices, oud and patchouli are seamless here in their harmony, no one note dominating the overall chorus.
The drydown for me is why Portrait of a Lady is called thus: the rose become gentler, the patchouli and oud soften their volume and the presence of musk gives the perfume a dusky elegance.
Since discovering this newfound love, I have been testing many dark roses for a comparison as one of the initial complaints about Portrait was that the dark rose oud patchouli thing had been done so many times before. But I’d have to argue that Portrait is special amongst these compositions: it weaves its intricate harmony so beautifully and stoically that it stands alone.
Photo Stolen oddballfilms
For other reviews, please see NowSmellThis and for another equally enthusiastic take KatiePuckrikSmells
Portrait of a Lady is available at Mecca Cosmetica, Barneys and Les Senteurs.
SurrenderToChance start at $9/ml
Have you tried Portrait of a Lady? What are your favourite dark rose perfumes? Are there any perfumes that have gone from hate to love for you?
With much love till next time,