A garden fit for Isabel… Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter 


At the Regent’s Park in London, nestled below the Primrose Hill where flowers no longer grow.

Between the slight lake, ornamental bridge and ‘alpine’ blooms of a Japanese landscape, near the proper boxed-in beauty of Italian avenues there lies a rose garden.



Here, between late May and mid September, thirty thousand stems of four hundred different families compete each year in fragrant floral battle.

They are called ‘Song and Dance’, ‘Mountbatten’, ‘Radox Bouquet’, ‘Darcy Bussel’


…after Broadway shows, royal relatives, soap sud-ed relaxation and retired young ballerinas.

All summer they spread their scents and crowd each other out: corollas inevitably bigger, bolder and more carelessly beautiful than before.




Join me now at this first flowering’s end, after a downpour has broken the uncommon heat, and in an humidity that humbles.

The flowers have begun their sweet decay. And the thirty thousand’s innumerable thousands of petals are distilled by a climate we despair of into nature’s perfume.


So many notes in this massed choir and yet they reach a harmony, and sing, if not with one voice, then in a a single accord.



The emotions of the blooming months so quickly passing by pass through my mind: summer fruits and festivals. incense burnt against insects, harvests preserved with cloves and cinnamon and spices in jams, chutneys, pickles: all to warm cold winter.

This is water to ward off long dark nights.

A sketch of nature’s most seductive daughter: Summer.


Portrait of a Lady is as simple as a rose garden made scent.


It may carry the notes of various varieties and species, but ultimately they unite to form a fragrance that is pitch perfect.

There are summer fruits here too, crushed raspberries and blackcurrants, their juice released directly onto the prying fingers that try to pick them.

Incense comes and goes and is as much sweet benzoin, spice and sandalwood as it is smoke. It never shouts down the floral heart of the perfume that is so attractive and enduring.

If English Rose is a Lady, this scent is a Royal Duchess, or at least an accurate and charming picture of her.


But never forget the rose is also the symbol of England itself and no Englishman, indeed no man of any country, should be embarrassed to wear the bloom in his buttonhole and the scent next to his skin.


Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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23 responses to “A garden fit for Isabel… Portrait of a Lady by Frederic Malle The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter 

  1. rosestrang

    Amen, I’d like to see more men with roses in their button-holes! I agree absolutely this perfume is an absolute harvest of summer, I love it but could never wear it in the morning as it’s so powerful, but in a completely different way – it’s not synthetic or or aldehydeic at all is it? It just feels luxurious.

    We had Damson and Victoria plum trees in our back garden when I was growing up and Mum would make preserves from them – I’ve yet to try anything as good as those (even from those posh Farmer’s Markets!) and this perfume reminds me of those preserves. It’s an exuberant English garden of a scent! I’m sure it even has a touch of leather gardening gloves! Wonderful stuff Sir T.P.D. – in fact, therapy on this rainy day while I fill in my tax return form (arrgh!)

    • Dearest Rose
      Oh for the return of the flower in the gentleman’s buttonhole.
      I do wear one on occasion, and my the looks it gets me! Normally accompanied by questions as to whether I’m is off to a wedding!
      But in the absence of the real deal, I feel a good rose scent is ideal for summer.
      You’re so right about this perfume it is powerful and more than anything else luxurious, yet without a hint of artificial nastiness.
      Really, this is a remarkable achievement.
      As to jam, I’ve yet to find a match for the raspberry, blackcurrant and gooseberry that my dear departed grandmama used to make from fruit picked fresh from the garden.
      So many memories in this fragrance, so many happy thoughts.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. Lilybelle

    It sounds beautiful! I love roses and rose perfumes. I must try this one sometime soon. I love how each variety, each color of rose has its own rose scent, from faint and delicate to lush and voluptuous. Each is different. I’m with Rosestrang: more men should wear roses.

    • Dearest Lily
      Yes…! The diversity of roses and the range of their scents is quite remarkable.
      I can spend a happy hour or more wandering between the beds choosing favourites.
      In my experience older varieties – those that look least like what we think of as a rose – and yellow and orange blooms – the least valued for their appearance – are invariably the most fragrant.
      I must note down a few more names, but ‘Radox Bouquet’ gives of a resplendent aroma!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

    • rosestrang

      Lilybelle, I think you’d love it, it’s quite powerful though luxurious – a rose in a buttonhole wouldn’t express it, it would have to be an entire suit with embroidered roses, a bit like this maybe (from the Beatrix Potter stories!) -http://wildandwoolly.typepad.com/.a/6a00e5536783ed88330120a61da628970b-pi

  3. ojaddicte

    Dear Mr. Dandy,
    This is one of my favourite scents, and you have described it beautifully, as always. This is one rose that I would love to smell on a man, but have yet to do so!

  4. Mary E.

    Portrait of a Lady is every bit as stunning as your photos of these gorgeous roses.

  5. Rose is most certainly a scent perfect for both women and men and thank you Mr Perfumed Dandy to so beautifully describe this gorgeous fragrance, a fragrance that I dearly adore and enjoy.

    • Dearest Marco
      I would always defend men’s right to wear a wonderful rose perfume as much as to wear a rose in his buttonhole.
      Perhaps we could try to persuade Guerlain to bring forward a classic rose for gents everywhere one day?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. L O V E!

    sorry for shouting.

    just loved Everything about This Post.


  7. Nena

    It sounds lovely! I’ve always wanted to try this one, but I live in New Zealand, and have no idea how to get my hands on a bottle.

  8. batkitty

    I didn’t think I could love Portrait of a Lady even more, but this post has done it. And your photos!! Absolutely gorgeous, as is the description of this wonderful perfume. Thank you!

  9. I am entranced. I do love Portrait of a Lady in all its forms from the literary to the olfactory.

  10. Portrait of a Lady is one of my all-time favorites and it was great to read your tribute to this wonderful scent.

    In my opinion, if a man wears any real perfumes (as an opposit to sports/aqua/etc. atrocities) it’s not even a big push for wearing PoaL: this is the rose almost anybody can pull off.

    • Dearest Undina
      Hear, hear!
      I really don’t understand why this one would be considered by even the most unreconstructed of machismo worshipers as being anything other than absolutely suitable for everyone.
      After all our forefathers would have thought the rose highly suitable for a fragrant gent… see the old classic Penhaligon’s Hammam bouquet for evidence, and men all over the Middle East smell sweetly of this most princely plants much of the time.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

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