A version of the rose-violet bouquet, which first appeared a century ago and attained its apogee with Sophia Grojsman’s Paris (1983).
POAL replaced her musk & aroma chemicals with spiced patchouli & amber, giving it a chypre base: where Paris is a pretty punkette in a pink fluffy jumper, POAL is her mother in a tailored suit.
This is not a loud perfume as such, but you can hardy fail to notice when you’re wearing it. This is mainly due to the desiccated violet - iris - raspberry, which overtops the liquid rose and gives a dry impression throughout.
Personally, I find POAL is too much to wear;
it’s the type of thing that’d Wear You given half the chance.
This is truly impactful as a fragrance experience for me, which I realize sounds melodramatic. I've never had a fragrance display this kind of behavior. It wafted unexpectedly, even as I was sedentary, as a breezy scent of a garden. It rotated and flowed showing different facets as it did so: rose, incense, raspberry, subtle wood like church pew. I can only describe it as...sentient.
It didn't really project after the first few hours, but those four notes settled down and married. The staying power was about 9 hours even after it clung close to the skin.
I'm not sure if this behavior is something Ropion could have knowingly composed, but if this was how the plan was executed he's a genius. Regardless of intention this is a true masterpiece.
Portrait of a Lady is like Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson. Voluminous body in a tight fit. It's easy to like, that's for sure. The jammy rose bounces off the patchouli in a sort of discordant yet pleasant way, like a Russian assassin with an inexplicably American accent, a formerly bad woman on a path to redemption. This analogy falls apart quickly, though. Black Widow is a fine but unfairly maligned film that was released at absolutely the wrong time, while POAL is a masterpiece, a timeless classic.
I suspected this wouldn't be for me, but I was surprised to find, behind all the hype, that it wasn't more distinctive. (I'd been away from the fragrance world for about eight years, and Portrait of a Lady is the perfume I've seen mentioned most often in recent fashion articles.) Overwhelmingly, it recalled the generic floral-alcohol scent of 'mum perfume' in the 80s and 90s; perhaps a bit stronger, and probably more complex if you're into florals, which I'm generally not. It's also the type of floral that sets off some mild allergy for me, a scent that means slight stinging of the eyes & nose.
So if this is redolent of perfumes worn 25-40 years ago by middle-class British women who are now in their sixties to eighties, on one level it weirds me out that younger millenials/older Gen Z love it - but then it won't necessarily smell to them like *their* mums. Besides, millenials and Z seem to be closer to their families than my lot was, so maybe smelling like mum's or grandma's perfume is more welcome to them. And, on the evidence of this, fragrance fashions may go in cycles, just like clothing and kids' names.
Was really looking forward to trying this one. And... Really disappointed. Don't get it twisted, it is a nice perfume. A very eastern musk heavy scent. Basically go to any Islamic bookstore and grab a bottle of the same thing for a fiver.