Mint, geranium, clove, rose – it all comes racing out in the opening of Portrait Of A Lady. A vegetal greenery quickly gives way to a potpourri style dusty rose and a huge incense. It’s extravagant and opulent, constantly morphing on my skin with each note desperately trying to lead.
A medicinal oud sits quietly underneath but for some reason my nose runs straight to it – and for a second, the clove/vegetal/oud combination reminds me of a much more floral, and wearable version of Shiso by Aftelier. This association disappears quickly though as Portrait Of A Lady continues to find a comfortable arrangement to settle in.
The rose/geranium duo dominate, the geranium constantly providing an unexpectedly masculine, herbal edge to the rose. Little specks of sour berries come to the surface that I mistake simply for the geranium, but their tart, red colour are unmistakable. The berries however are not strong enough to stay around for long.
As the geranium settles a touch, the rose reminds me a little of the drydown of Une Rose, heavily fragrant and bone dry. Some culinary spices of bay, clove, cinnamon, pepper – add texture and heat to contrast with the cooling effect of the herbal notes atop the rose.
A patchouli creeps in underneath the incense, going unnoticed for a little while until it all falls into place that Portrait Of A Lady is going to lead to a rose/patchouli drydown – I’d say predictable, but that would be unfair – it’s incense and herbal inclusions took me down an unexpected little route for a second.
As it finally settles into it’s relatively linear drydown - I unfortunately grow a bit tired of it Not because it’s loud or cloying or whatever, it is none of that. Instead it falls flat on my skin – not completely, I still get the tickle of pepper like it’s just been sprayed (the incense?), and a bit of dust from the rose flying off my skin in a high pitch. What I don’t like however is the cedar/amber/musky drydown - maybe it’s because this tiring accord has been so desperately overused these last few years and now that I’ve finally got around to this review I’m tired of it. Whatever it is – I find it almost a let down to what came before, and have always wondered what it was in this drydown that annoyed me… well, after a few good wearings I discovered this was it (ambroxan? norlimbanol?). It dehydrates the rose and the cool herbal accords so quickly that I feel like I need to crack out a chapstick just to get through the drydown.
Now, I’m not saying it isn’t nice – it’s still a harmonious balance of gorgeous, classical notes – the rose, patchouli and incense still leading. The oud and culinary spices give a traditional Arabic undercurrent without smelling soiled or overly intense – a beautiful oriental inclusion. But this annoying woody/amber grinds on me, in a synthetic translucency that feels like a complete waste of space. The clean musk further bulks out the base, making it throw itself off my skin in a laundry-esque fuzz. A subtle, sweet vanilla/wood underneath turns my frown upside-down for a few minutes, before the aromachemical overload comes in and fingerbangs my nostrils into submission.
I give in – you were never for me Portrait Of A Lady, but I know on the right person you smell absolutely beautiful.
Portrait Of A Lady 50ml Frederic Malle – £135 http://shop.lessenteurs.com