If Diorella is a sonata for over ripe melon, this is a symphony; a mobile, subtle masterpiece.
There's no point trying to name the chords in Parfum de Thérèse, it's a kaleidoscope of merging colours. What you can say about it is : it's not pretty. It's fascinating, strange, beautiful even, but not a bauble to garner compliments of the 'smell good' variety.
Perhaps more likely, it would draw comments like "What's that weird smell? I've never smelled anything like that before."
And you could tell them "It's a love song by an olfactive philosopher."
Le Parfum de Thérèse is the most similar to FM - Superstitious from their offer, but again they are different enough that you need them both in your collection. Le Parfum de Thérèse is a juicy, fruity and retro creation.
The gentleman who made this perfume for his wife (Therese) was rejected by Dior and some other companies at the time in the 1950s because the scent was too futuristic and different from the existing offer back then. For the next 40+ years, the perfume was worn exclusively by his wife - Therese. After Edmond's death, Therese gave Frederic a "secret recipe" so that the scent would be remembered forever. Since Frederic is not afraid of innovative and different scents - Le Parfum de Thérèse was gladly accepted for the initial FM line-up!
Melon, plum, vetiver, a little rose and leather and a lot of cucumber in the opening.
Although the name states that it is exclusively for women - it is not.
Sillage: around you, near to skin
Longevity: on the skin 8+ hours, on clothes 24+ hours
The tale of Le Parfum de Thérèse (2000) is quite fascinating. The legendary Edmond Roudnitska composed this on his own, and originally offered it to Dior in the 1950's, where it was rejected for being too different from current market concepts, then Edmond continued working on it through to the 1960's where it was submitted to Guy LaRoche for release as Fidji (1966). The creative director for Guy Laroche felt it was also too futuristic and not in tune with the island theme of the scent, and the idea submitted by Josephine Catapano (later to work for Estée Lauder) was chosen. Thereafter, the composition which would later be named Le Parfum de Thérèse would be used exclusively by (you guessed it), Edmond's wife Thérèse Roudnitska. It was she who released the formula into Frédéric Malle's hands for a launch perfume in his then-new Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, and so here we are. Smelling Le Parfum de Thérèse now is like smelling what could have been, knowing this was offered to not one but two houses and rejected both times for being too different. As a member of the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle collection, it is the only perfume the existence of which predates the collection and wasn't specifically made for the collection or with Malle's direct involvement. Frédéric merely curates this creation, albeit admittedly also profiting off of fans longing for a piece of former Roudnitska unobtanium.
You can see aspects of Le Parfum de Thérèse cannibalized by Roudnitska for releases, but most notably the jasmine hedione later used in Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) and the molecule calone 1951, which has a melon-like scent on its own that was abused by perfumers in the 90's, but was used extensively by Roudnitska way back in the 1950's with Le Parfum de Thérèse. In fact, he reworked much of the top and heart of this perfume for the masculine market Mario Valentino Ocean Rain (1990), which would be his final composition. Calone and hedione open Le Parfum de Thérèse, smelling almost like a mix between Ocean Rain and Sauvage, with none of the green aspects of the latter and added pepper. Some mandarin orange sweetness moves into violet and rose with the novel plum accord he fashioned for Dior. From there, the dry down gets much more period-correct with oakmoss, vetiver, cedar, and isobutyl quinoline leather in typical chypre fashion for the time. This is a beautiful window into an alternate reality where modern aromachemicals merge with traditional bases and unconventional thinking, but for hardcore long-in-the-tooth vintage purists, Le Parfum de Thérèse won't do, which is ironic because it is not a new design, just one several decades ahead of its time. Le Parfum de Thérèse is relatively light considering its ingredients, but long-lasting, and unisex enough by accident due to the fresh fruity top, floral heart, and woody base, that anyone open-minded can pull it off. Some may call this the ultimate quintessential Roudnitska kept hidden from us all, but I don't see it that way because it also lacks his penchant for sensual, fleshy, virile animalic accords.
This was and still is mostly an experiment in pushing creative boundaries, and was/is pretty extreme even compared to some of his other far out-there works (most of which are discontinued), and thus never really "had a home". Christian Dior let him more or less get away with whatever he wanted in that golden era, which is how something like this even happened, because outside that, Roudnitska was still beholden to making money no matter how irreverent to all that he may have seemed. In the hands of Malle, it exists as it probably should have in the 50's or 60's: as a limited niche perfume with a price tag which separates the serious from the casual fans. You've got to test, then save up, and make a point out of visiting a Malle counter to get this perfume, and somebody who has will likely cherish it all the more knowing how special it was to him, his wife, and the fans of his artistic legacy. I won't say this perfume is specifically "worth it" for the price performance-wise, and stylistically it's a strange retro-futurism piece that contains elements both popular in the 1950's and 1990's, but since we're decades removed from the latter, may just feel "old" now to some people. Whether owning this fresh, fruity, floral, aromatic blip in history is worth the luxury-tier price is up to you, but I still suggest giving it a sniff if only for the experience, as there's really little else like it in the world, which also holds true for many Roudnitska perfumes. Thumbs up.
According to legend, Le Parfum de Thérèse was proposed to Dior back in the 50's as a plum perfume and turned down. It's quite pretty and makes perfect sense in that context.
So what does it smell like? To me, mostly coriander, with its round fruitiness, topped with Chanel-esque aldehydes, supported by other fruit (melon, citrus, and perhaps blackberry), as well as rather pretty jasmine and rose. There's an animalic aspect in there as well, more that classic "dirty French panties" smell than anything poopy or leathery, which acts as a perfect foil to all the prettiness.
Of course it's beautiful - just about anything smells amazing in that very classic aldehydic floral chypre setting, and coriander and fruit works exceptionally well. Necessary sniffing if you're into classics like Joy or No 5.
The opening starts with a fruity blast, a melon - more watermelon than cantaloupe on my skin, quite freshish, with the latter being re-enforced by a gently orangey undercurrent. Soon a green side note develops, based on a fresh jasmine impression that balances out the fruitiness, which in any way is never really heavily sweet on me.
The drydown sees the development of a very restrained white-pepper background, which, together with the - at times ozonic - tangy aroma of unripe plums counteracts the fruitiness of the top notes beautifully. The further additions in the heart notes are florals: a somewhat unexciting rose and a pleasant violet with greenish flavours; the latter is followed on by a slightly earthy getter impression that leads into the later phases of the development of the olfactory story.
The base is full of further interesting twists, namely a soft leather with fresh, night minty aftertastes, as if the fruitiness is meeting touches of crispy white musk notes.
I get moderate sillage, very good projection and ten hours of longevity.
This spring composition is characterised by the skillful balancing of the fruity-floral spectrum, with the sweetness and the ozonic tanginess in perfect harmony. The main drawback is that at times the price paid is a bit of a loss of structure, leading to phases when the components are more blurred than interwoven with one another, but this does not detract form the very positive overall impression. 3.5/5.
Le Parfum de Thérèse is assembled from disparate elements (many of which, one feels, should clash hideously) that all synchronize from the start to reveal a thing of beauty not a mosaic, but an organic unified creation. The crucial factor of its success is that though it projects well, Le Parfum de Thérèse feels light so all the notes that could have shouted at each other instead gently sing.
Chief among the fruity notes is a delicate melon, just about to reach the point of ripeness rather than going over. We've all probably had our fill by now of the melon-aquatic pairing, but here the watery note is marine, briny, salty. Among the florals is the ozonic blur of violets but also abstract white flowers coming up behind, an impressionistic lily of the valley among them. There is a curious thyme-like accent that would be totally off-putting except that it marries so well with the worn leather in the base which would also be totally off-putting with the other elements already mentioned except that it is handled with kid gloves and is well aware of its manners.
The trace this perfume leaves in a room is of a diffuse, kindly, sweetness a fantasy meadow in full bloom just over the horizon, a kind of floral Enya (if that is not too great an insult).
I can easily imagine it's the kind of perfume that appeals as a signature scent (well, that's how it started life); it is confident and palpable, refined, but without any suggestion of severity. And it holds a surprise in its later stages a warm oriental base becomes just about perceptible as the notes blend into each other, speaking in the same civilized manner as the rest.
For all that, I must admit that I would rather admire it from a distance than wear it myself. The memory of the foghorn aquatics that came much later but which I encountered before I met Thérèse interferes too much with my enjoyment of this perfume.