Patchouli roses for for bare feet or black tie
Patchouli and rose is a classic combination. Something about the rich perfume of roses compliments the dark, earthy-sweet, smell of patchouli.
Recently two excellent niche lines released patch-rose perfumes: Frederic Malle, Portrait of A Lady and Heeley, Hippy Rose. Both are beautiful and excellent quality. They share similar notes but they execute the classic combo in a different ways.
Portrait of A Lady
When I heard Frederic Malle speak in Toronto earlier this year, he reminisced about the creation of Portrait of A Lady. He told us that he worked quite closely with Dominique Ropion on this scent, which was born out of a shared love for their earlier perfume Geranium Pour Monsieur and a desire to re-use the base they loved from that perfume, but turn it into a perfume for women.
And so they took the oriental base of benzoin, musk, incense, sandalwood, clove and cinnamon, and changed it: making the musk more feminine, reducing the sandalwood and adding in some "heart" of patchouli. As M. Malle explained it, real patchouli has a complicated fragrance with many different facets. Before now, perfumers had often wished that they could isolate just the "heart" of patchouli, the part the smells the best, and leave out all the less attractive aspects. New technology available to modern perfumers has allowed them to do just that in Portrait of A Lady. Malle and Ropion loved it so much they put in as much of it as they could.
They balanced this overdose of patchouli, with a huge amount of turkish rose oil. Malle said he had the opportunity to question someone once on how the famous Guerlain rose perfume, Nahema achieved such beauty, and was told that it used an unusually high percentage of rose oil. Emboldened, Malle and Ropion decided to use what they call a "daring", even "excessive" amount of rose essence for Portrait of A Lady.
According to the Frederic Malle website,"Portrait of a Lady is undoubtedly the perfume containing the strongest dosage of rose essence and patchouli heart." They call it a "baroque perfume" and it certainly is. Like baroque art, it cannot be called conventionally pretty, but it's over-the-top usage of beautiful materials makes it like a Baroque church, full of movement, and life and grandeur.
Heeley's Hippy Rose has many of the same notes as Portrait of a Lady, and when I initially sprayed it on, it reminded me quite a bit of the Frederic Malle perfume, but after wearing them side by side for a while, I see how they are quite different.
So the question I was asked on Twitter was: which one do I prefer? That's a hard one. If you asked me which one I enjoyed wearing the most it would be Hippy Rose. It's a soft, pretty, mellow, patch-rose that feels really comfortable. Hippy Rose feels natural for day or evening or just hanging out in bare feet in the backyard.
But, ask me which perfume I think is the most important. As a perfume fanatic, I am always looking for the best, the most beautiful, and sometimes the most shocking. Many times I have moaned about how a classic perfume has been reformulated into banal nothingness. I believe that fifty years from now, perfumistas will be hoarding original bottles of Portrait of A Lady. I may find it a little intimidating to wear, like when I was twenty and my aunt offered me a loan of her mink coat. I don't always feel like I can pull off Portrait of A Lady; it's an evening gown scent. But the next day, traces of it linger on my clothes and on my pillow and they smell divine. Portrait of A Lady is going to be a classic; if you care about that sort of thing, buy a bottle now.
Nose: James Heeley
Notes: Bergamot, green moss, Bulgarian rose, patchouli, incense, Haitian vetiver, amber, musk
Nose: Dominique Ropion
Notes: turkish rose, red berries, spice, patchouli, benzoin, cinnamon white musk, sandalwood, frankincense
Photo dark rose:
Photo Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, Rome: mine
Photo pink rose: ~Dezz~