Monday, July 4, 2011

Frederic Malle Portrait of A Lady and Heeley Hippy Rose

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.

Hippy Rose

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.

The rose in Hippy Rose is a fresh, velvety petaled pink blossom, as apposed to the dark red of Portrait. Hippy Rose smells like a just-picked rose; it's soft and dewy. The opening is a little peppery and tart. The patchouli and incense give it a nice dry-woody base and the amber and musk make it a little softer and warmer, smoothing out any edges.

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.

House: Heeley
Nose: James Heeley
Notes: Bergamot, green moss, Bulgarian rose, patchouli, incense, Haitian vetiver, amber, musk

House: Frederic Malle
Nose: Dominique Ropion
Notes: turkish rose, red berries, spice, patchouli, benzoin, cinnamon white musk, sandalwood, frankincense

Photo dark rose: mrgarris0n
Photo Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, Rome: mine
Photo pink rose: ~Dezz~


  1. A nice review and interesting comparison between the two perfumes. I can't wait to sample both of them. Rose and patchouli, what could be finer.

  2. I'm wearing Une Rose right now and, oddly to me, falling in love with it. I never thought i'd see the day, but here I am. At any rate, I'm really wondering how it compares to Portrait of a Lady. I'm a total patchouli lover, too, so I'm extra curious!

  3. I love PoaL. Got a sample from Les Senteurs and was captivated. At first I thought, ah this smells not that special, but it's in the development that it really pulled me in. Nice comparison of it to baroque as well!

  4. I haven't tried either of those. But PoaL comes from a house that has never moved me enough to buy anything (except En Passant which I bought as a present for my mother who loves lilacs) and HR comes from a house that everything I have smelled is so good I ended up not being able to choose. I am looking forward to sample both.

  5. Hippie Rose (which I've tried a couple of times) also lasts forever...and ever, which is a huge plus for me!

  6. Thanks all for the comments.

    To Liam: The development is the key isn't it! One aspect I didn't mention was that the top notes seem to have some minty aspects, reflecting Geranium Pour Monsieur, but the notes for PoAL have no mint. I think it's actually an aspect of the patchouli.

    To Kym: if you think HR lasts, you have to try PoAL. It lasts days on skin and longer on clothes. I wore it once on a 2 week trip, but when I got back every piece of clothing I packed smelled like PoAL, because they had been packed together.

  7. Portrait of a Lady is to me that perfume that somehow manages to portray a woman who is as the height of sophistication in terms of beauty and style, while at the same time being free-spirited enough that she can enjoy such beauty and opulence without being a prisoner to it.

    I really like how you frame that feeling, too, when you compare PoaL to a Baroque church "full of movement, and life and grandeur." Exactly!

  8. (PoaL does indeed last for everrrrrrr. One spritz on my wool coat stayed for three weeks, no kidding.)

  9. PoaL is one of my favorite perfumes. A FB favorite I mean. Of course now I'm very curious to try HR.

  10. Will purchase POAL as soon as I can! Thanks for this!


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