Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady Perfume Review

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady Perfume Review
Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady Perfume Review

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!

Available Sizes

  • 100ml for $395
  • 50ml for $270
  • 30ml for $200
  • 10ml (travel spray) for $79

Where to Buy


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Denise S. Avatar

This is a very popular unisex perfume. Lots of men enjoy it for their rose fix. I enjoy the complex rose and other well blended notes in this fragrance I like it but not a love. I actually prefer long longevity and a least moderate sillage or perfume trail. Especially since we’re all wearing masks now. If someone gave me a bottle of this I’d be happy. My favorite Frederic Malle fragrances are “Carnal Flower” and “Musc Ravageur “. They both are bangers and last a long time.

Janice Avatar

I absolutely love Carnal Flower, went through 3 bottles, and I really like Musc Ravageur, went through 1 bottle. I don’t care for any rose scents much, but POAL is kinda nice.

Rina Avatar

I love this scent, it’s one of my signatures and the one I’m most known for. It is the only one I ever get compliments on every, single, time. Try the hair mist or the oil, it’s not nearly as potent but just as lovely. For a more wallet-friendly option, Lauder Evening Rose is a near perfect dupe…

Nina Avatar

I know a few who love this. I just don’t get it. Then again rose and patchouli spell nightmare to me. And it’s expensive! It reminds me of a Montana perfume that was the rage ages ago. That one was lost on me too.

Genevieve Avatar

Actually I think I would like this one…I like roses with other scents and strong perfumes at that. Although in spraying this one in a house you would have to be careful of anyone who get asthma….
But I think I will try this one in a shop. I’ve been writing down all the perfumes you have tested to give a go when I am out.

donna Avatar

Portrait Of A Lady is a massive seller for Frederic Malle. We have a counter here in my local House Of Fraser, and they could never keep it in stock, waiting lists as well. I have been given samples, but it just never made me want to buy a full bottle. I preferred Lipstick Rose, which does smell like old fashion lipsticks that my mum wore.

Own a number of Malle

jchristine Avatar

You might really enjoy the relatively new Radical Rose by Matiere Premiere. It has the highest concentration of rosa centifolia, grown on the perfumers own organic farm in Grasse, of any perfume on the market. It smells nothing like an “old-fashioned” rose, but it’s not trying super hard to NOT be a rose (Le Labo Rose 31). I don’t consider myself a rose person, but I absolutely love this.

Cherie Avatar

Oh, this is right up my alley. I like rose scents, but not traditional rose scents (which smell too synthetic and strong for me) — I love rose and oud (JM is a fave of mine), rose and coffee (TF Cafe Rose). Any rose that you mix with leather, pepper (TF Rpse Prick), or other notes – something to give it a modern twist, I’m in. It works well on my skin chemistry. I also love how rose plays with other notes in Tom Ford’s Lost Cherry.

Rhonda Avatar

I LOVE Portrait of a Lady and have been wearing it for years. I went through a rose/oud phase several years ago and love it so much I bought the big bottle and haven’t regretted it. Some of my other faves on rotation:
Rose de Mai by Diptyque (I think it was limited edition, and the bottle is gorgeous in my bathroom)
Dior Rose Ispahan
La Labo Rose 31
If you don’t want to invest in a big bottle, I’ve used and recommend The Perfumed Court & Surrender to Chance.

Alexandra Avatar

This is the sex bomb of the perfumes; it will give you compliments, people will want to know what you are wearing- such a head turner. It is one of my favourite perfumes, very expensive but so damn sexy! Enormous quantities of roses balanced with patchouli and incense, with a hint of blackcurrant and berries. It makes me more confident and it was what I was wearing in my PhD viva!

miss.mercurial Avatar

Is it gauche of me to admit that knowing “celebrities” I like (you and a Kpop star) wear this is a positive influence in my decision to try this? Lol. I would try it, but I’m always hesitant about big bucks perfumes because of the price tag – I love perfume but because my dad hates it I grew up in the habit of not wearing it daily. So I would probably only buy a travel size of this, at most.

Christine Avatar

One of the nice things about perfume is that there are a lot of sites that sell samples, so you could at least try it for $4-10 (depending on how expensive the actual full-size bottle is) and decide! I definitely appreciate that Frederic Malle often sells travel sprays (~10ml) – so many perfumes are extremely expensive and don’t have smaller sizes at all!

My dad also hates fragrances (or else is sensitive, not sure how much it is dislike vs. sensitivity, lol), so I did not grow up with perfume in my household as nobody wore it or cologne etc.

janine Avatar

I was really against paying big bucks for perfume. I could see $100. But that was it. I did buy some discovery sets, samples and some of the most popular I really didn’t like like house of sillage and delina.

I recently found some whole sale places that sell perfume at around half price and offer a lot of travel sprays. But you must do your homework and find reputable places. I never buy something I might not like I’d rather return to a store like Neimann,Saks or Bloomy’s. You can get recs from YouTube Reddit places like that. I can share if allowed. There are a lot of scammers in perfumes.

There are a lot of decanters also you can buy a sample of a perfume. It’s a great way to find your signature scent. Something light and fresh would be palatable to your dad. Shampoo smells like that!!

Astra Avatar

I like rose scents, but PoaL started fine on me and then grew and grew and grew until I had to wash it off. It would not stop.

My favorite rose scents are Taif from Ormonde Jayne (rose plus saffron) and Lyric Woman from Amouage (dark, jammy rose).

janine Avatar

I wanted to buy this but it always seems sold out everywhere. Prolly one small spray in the decclotage enough for sure. I do have a hate,love affair with rose. It’s in one of my favs Sisley Izia la Nuit. But when it’s sickenly sweet I can’t stand it.

Ellie Avatar

This is the perfume that has two sides – it gives me such a confidence that I could conquer the world but at the same time it binds me to an obligation that I shall do it in a black dress, black high heels, and red lipstick, never in my usual comfy jeans and sneakers. When I first put it on, it smells like men’s cologne but as time passes, it smells like what an epitome of femininity should smell like. It is such a complicated perfume that people either hate it or love it. I only put two spritzes on me – on my hair after a shower and on my body. That lasts till next day. I have a traveler sized bottle and will not buy a full size one ever. This is not a perfume to be mixed with other perfumes (That would be toxic!) and even a traveler sized one will last me a long time.

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