The Scented Hound

Abbreviated perfume & fragrance reviews from one man's perspective

Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle

32 Comments

If it had not been for the wonderful Undina, I would have probably never have thought about sampling this fragrance.  Thankfully, she sent me a vial of this wonderful jewel.

WHAT I SMELL:  Portrait of a Lady opens with an herbal and minty full-bodied musky rush.  With the name, I would have thought that this was going to be an over the top big floral.  What a surprise.   It start off very masculine and medicinal.  I had no idea where this was going.  After a while, out comes a very dusty and understated rose with black current along with a tempered cedar woody note.   There are many notes at play here, fruity and somewhat jammy mixed with wood in a way that’s all very subtle and really lovely.  I find that it’s proper and refined and seems like something from another era.

From the Frederic Malle website:

Portrait of a Lady is a new breed of oriental rose, a baroque perfume. It is based on an accord of benzoin, cinnamon, sandalwood and, above all patchouli, musk and frankincense. It takes off with an excessive dosage of the best Turkish rose essence that Dominique Ropion linked to the rest of the formula, thanks to a red berries and spice accord.

After hundreds of trials needed to balance such an excessive formula (Portrait of a Lady is undoubtedly the perfume containing the strongest dosage of rose essence and patchouli heart), a rare symphonic perfume appeared:  a new oriental rose, a sensuous beauty that attracts people like a magnet, a modern classic:  Portrait of a Lady. 

WHAT IT SMELLS LIKE TO ME: Gillian Anderson in “The House of Mirth.”  Yes, I know this is fragrance is based on a Henry James novel, but The House of Mirth is what popped up in my mind!

THREE ADJECTIVES THAT DESCRIBE PORTRAIT OF A LADY: subdued, discreet, controlled

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING ABOUT PORTRAIT OF A LADY: Scentsate, Katie Puckrik Smells, 1000 Fragrances

BOTTOM LINE:  This is definitely full bottle worthy.  I just wish Frederic Malle’s perfumes weren’t so on the high-end of cost.  And don’t let the name fool you, this can easily be worn by men or women.  Thank you Undina for this wonderful discovery.

  • Bone Rating: 4.5 out of 5 possible bones
  • Scent: Oriental Floral
  • Classification: For women, but I believe this is easily unisex
  • Nose:  Dominique Ropion
  • Expense: $225 for 50ml EdP

Author: The Scented Hound

Just a normal guy with the nose of a beagle!

32 thoughts on “Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle

  1. Lovely write up Houndy, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the patchouli yourself. I have only gave this a passing sniff, is there oud in this? I think I remember their being oud… anyway! Yes the price is killer for these ey, that’s what constantly throws me off the Malle line despite there being numerous ones I’d love to own – own day I shall shell out 🙂
    Can’t believe you hadn’t tried this already you seem to be quite the rose fan!

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    • Yes, I am starting to love patchouli. Done right that is. In fact, I finally have a sample of your favorite Intrigant Patchouli coming my way. Will let you know what I think. As for oud, I did not see any oud cited in the notes, nor do I detect any. Yes, spending $225 on 50ml just is a bit hard for me too.

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      • Ahhh may have been my imagination.
        Ooooh yayyyyy I can’t wait for you to try it. I sent a sample to someone recently (along with other things) and she sent me a load of vintage samples back. Intrigant Patchouli reminds me of some of the great 60’s Dior feminines, but definitely given a more modern edge. It’s fab. I need to update my review, it’s worded very badly now.
        It’s soooo much isn’t it 😦 And POAL is probably the most expensive in the line. Let us know what you do 😛

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  2. Beautiful review for a stunning perfume – love this one!

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  3. 2 things I adore. Undina and Portrait of a Lady. I don’t know why there’s not a FB of PoaL in my library yet.
    Portia xx

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  4. You got me curious my “furry” friend 😉 I still have a lot to explore at Frederic Malle but I adore Iris Poudre and L’Eau d’Hiver, they’re stunning.

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  5. That price is a killer. I’ll be sticking with my sample for now. It is a beautiful scent.

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  6. This is such a *pretty* fragrance. I don’t think I would like it as much if the spices and sparkle didn’t make it a little cheeky. I think it was a smart choice not to let it become too refined and perfect.

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  7. I got a bit more rose out of this, it sounds like. The patchouli in this was what made me warm up to patchouli a bit more. Plus, I really like saying this fragrance’s name.

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  8. The next best thing after finding a perfume to love is when your friends agree with you. I’m so glad that you liked it! For me it was FBW hands down.
    Thank you for this nice review for one of my all-time favorit perfumes.

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  9. Thanks for the link! I like this one a lot, even though it isn’t jasmine or tuberose. There’s something about the huge, floral mustiness that makes me feel a whole lot older, wiser, and no less fun. Maybe I’ll grow into wearing it often.

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  10. Oh goodie. I got the remains of a spray sample and will certainly try it! There are travel spray sets (3 x .34 oz) for many of the FM Editions de Parfum but alas, this one was not one of them (per the Aedes website).

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  11. Now I have to check this one again as I was not impressed first time I tried it and I think this was two years ago.

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  12. Pingback: Laughs, Lemmings, Loves – Episode 24 « Undina's Looking Glass

  13. Hello, I love POAL but too many of my friends wear it. What would you recommend thats similar?

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    • Greetings Deborah…thanks for stopping by. POAL is a powerhouse if there ever was one and it’s so unique, but here’s a couple of possible alternatives: for the patchouli, possibly Dior’s Gris Montaigne… a beautiful floral beefed up by a base of patchouli…big and pretty and lightly sweet. If it’s the rose that you’re after, I recommend By Kilian Rose Oud…not too big, but just an absolutely an incredible rounded rose that’s full, deep and exquisite as it sits on a refined oud. I hope these help…good luck with your search!

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