Recently I was on the hunt: the hunt for a winter fragrance. While I will always wear Burberry London year-round, I wanted something slightly deeper, spicier, and almost more seductive for winter. Something that wraps around you like a great scarf and is soft like cashmere. My quest clearly led me directly to Holts, and into the fragrance department for what I had pre-determined was going to be a bit of a pinball process around the room going back and forth between fragrances and coffee beans for at least an hour if not more. I was prepared. Fragrance free and in the mood to be decisive. Ready for that, and yet I got swept up in a rather unique experience and landed myself with a gorgeously indulgent scent that I just cannot get enough of: Portrait of a Lady, by Dominique Ropion – from the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.
Before I launch into a discussion of the fragrance, I wanted to give you a description from the Frederic Malle website about the author of this fragrance:
“Dominique Ropion trained at the legendary Roure Bertrand Dupont laboratory before going to work with Jean-Louis Sieuzac, one of the perfumery world’s great technicians. Today he’s a star perfumer at IFF. An adventurer who abandons himself to instinct, Ropion is on a quest to create new, harmonious accords by pairing ingredients which are extreme opposites. His work is special because of the tension between precision and freedom.”
…even if I knew nothing about fragrances, this is who I would want designing one…
Deep breath in, and sigh…ah the scent of deep stunning Turkish roses. Ladies (…and gents) if you ever receive a bouquet of roses that smells like this perfume, be advised that your significant other has spent a small fortune on the bouquet and you should sincerely appreciate them. With Portrait of a Lady “a rare symphonic perfume appeared: a new oriental rose, a sensuous beauty that attracts people like a magnet, a modern classic…”
The primary note in this perfume is rose. Not a grandmotherly rosewater, but a deep mildly sensual swoon worthy rose – the scent you get when you bury your nose into a bouquet. It’s crisp and spicy, like you’ve just taken the lid of a can of potpourri, but develops on this skin into a mix of turkish roses, musk, and frankincense. It’s described on the website as a baroque fragrance, and I can sincerely appreciate how this is the vibe and attitude of the scent.
These fragrances (the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle), are the result of what happens when you give the world’s top noses free reign to create. Malle describes the process that he “was determined to liberate perfumers from the kinds of restraints often imposed by marketers and focus groups. I work as an editor works with writers. I give these ‘fragrance authors’ complete freedom to explore and express their ideas. Each perfumer is free to use the most innovative technologies and the rarest raw materials the industry offers. This freedom drives the artist to construct a scent without conventional boundaries and to refine his or her idea and formula to the most precise detail.”
I apologize for the advocacy of such an indulgent purchase, but I promise it’s worth every penny. A splurge on this will last you (it’s concentrated to the point where I spray one on the back of my neck, and blot one between my wrists and I’m done for the day), and the experience of working through the fragrances to find your ideal is absolutely worth it. Even if you don’t opt to purchase an Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle fragrance, I sincerely hope that you take a few minutes the next time you pass by one of their counters (with the iconic red atomizer booth) and just get swept up in the experience.
Portrait of a Lady can be purchased online @ shop.fredericmalle.com, as well as at the counters at their various retailers. In Canada, it can be purchased at Holt Renfrew, where the 100mL size retails for $330.