Tag Archives: Frederic Malle

Of all the gardens in all the world… Une Rose by Frederic Malle The Perfumed Dandy’s Rose Scented Letter


Today the flower bed is Flanders Fields.

The few fool hard February roses are poppies made.

Protruding on precarious stalks from sodden earth turned clay with endless winter’s rain.

One, though, remains almost the same.


Identical in raw silk swirls to last summer, when, dressed in fatigues, he tapped your left shoulder, made you turn, scurried round to steal a kiss upon a your right cheek.

Then behind his back, with hidden hands, lest you chastise him for his horticultural crime he removed a whole corolla from its stem. Bringing forward and together cupped palms, offered you a bowl of crimson petals.

Holy roses.

You lean in to smell the bloom before you now, its perfume pathetically diminished.

All season-sapped strength has been coraled into this fine display, leaving nothing behind for scent.

“Of all the rose gardens in all the towns in all the world, he walks into mine.”

You’d said it as soon as you saw her name.

He, predictably, replied:

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Or the end, you thought, as his hand, calloused by army drills linked with yours, hardened with pruning and hoeing and weeding.

His khaki, your park keeper’s green, merging into camouflage you wished could hide you from the world and his call back to Helmand.

The aroma from half a year ago returns.

Inside, but not in approximation, no: hi definition news channel fidelity.

That same smell. Precisely.

Glace fruit, green at once wooden stem, the taste of red wine on his blistered lips as they search to find your mouth, the buzz of bumble bees, the musk of his armpits.


That one rose.


Your six foot frame, normally so composed, as athletic as his soldier’s, still as supple as the dancer you dreamt of being, is about to give way.

The flourish from “Gone With The Wind” bursts forth from your mobile phone.

You redden. An elderly Japanese woman in an immaculate Macintosh of the type the British themselves never wear anymore looks across bemused from a nearby bench.

His face a few inches square on your screen.

New message.

“Here’s looking at you, kid!”

The roses in the mud look all the more like opium poppies now, and Wilfred Owen’s lines run through your mind.

Une Rose by Edouard Flechier for Frederic Malle is a narcotically, deceptively simple floral.


A truth serum scent that remembers in hyper-reality an exact fragrance belonging to a certain flower at a determined time.

This is, as the name suggests, the smell unique to a strain of rose, perhaps even a specific plant, possibly just in one season, week, hour or moment.


It is the memory of how a flower seemed, smelt, just ‘then’, rendered chemical, bottled, shipped and sold.

That said, it is not straightforward, for roses aren’t.

If other flowers contain olfactory kingdoms, roses are continents.

Here we have an opening that is full with fruit, sweet, too sweet perhaps for some, leaning a little to a bath oil and attars.

Then nature intrudes, a wood that is more green stalk than tree, a hint of honey and other flowers and something that adds depth, frivolity and flirtation.

Red wine: Beaujolais rather than Bordeaux, playful, young, mischievous.

Yet, all said, just as wine, for all the allusions it contains, still invariably tastes of wine, so this perfume is pervasively, inescapably, all about rose.

A sculpted, complex, personal, sexual, recollection of a rose.

Play it again, Frederic.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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The Piano Teacher… Iris Poudre by Frederic Malle The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

He looked up with wide, wide open dark brown eyes.

“Eyes as deep and dark as coal mine shafts” his grandfather said.

Surrounded by childish lashes so long it seemed as though he had been made up in kohl.

So the Indian doctor in the village, immaculate in his pink turban, told him.

Her hair was grey, and white and black, like the ash from the hearth at home.

The room smelt clinical, almost chemical at first.

He knew she doused the keys with an anti-sceptic solution before each tutee.

She still feared the flu that took her husband forty years before, just after he had survived the first war.

And now there had been another one and a winter so cold it carried off almost as many.

“I’m sprinkling the talcum powder on the piano now.”

She spoke in her serious staccato way, understanding the need to rouse him from his reveries as she must do every time if anything were to be achieved.

From a height as high as her elegant slender arms were long she sprang a cascade of white flecks, drew an opalescent curtain across the air between the dark wood panelled walls and them.

“To think…” she reflected out loud and not for the first time, “…this room was once a public house, a cheap piano on this very spot rang out with even cheaper tunes.”

Through the temporary drapes of dust he saw irises on a side table made almost pale and indistinct, their deep rich purple turned a dusky pink.

“Powder on the fingers only. I shall be checking that there are no white marks on your palms or wrists.”

“Elevation. Remember to keep everything aloft.”

“Let’s begin.”

First scales, certain and assertive, then arpeggios, chords and familiar sequences.

Fifteen minutes or so passed, his fingers should be warm by now, but in the cold and amidst the soot and lint and ash he still felt frigid.

She took his frosty hands in hers and turned them over to examine for traces of powder.

She was colder even than him and up close smelt of the same ethereal cleanliness as the piano keys.

Some of the talc had come to rest on the black shawl that shrouded her tiny shoulders, he smelt it now and knew it was a desiccated version of the flowers in the vase by the table against the wall.

“Very good. Nothing on the palms or wrists at all.”

“Even for an eleven year old your hands are small, but your extension is wonderful.”

She thought, but did not say, “Perhaps it is because you have to fight for every note that you play so beautifully.”

Now she spoke, “Brahms today. The waltzes.”

“How to make happy dances sound sad”, he thought.

“Oh but they’re not sad,” she said “…they are wistful, which as you will discover is something altogether different.”

“The waltzes.” He repeated in a whisper.

Composed for four hands originally then rearranged for two.

The single pianist’s pieces came in difficult and simplified versions.

He, of course, would play the harder solo part.

As did she.

Iris Poudre by Pierre Bourdon for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is perhaps the greatest contemporary interpretation of an Iris perfume in the grand mid-Century manner.

Stern and stylish, neo-classical and well-informed it is an intellectual as well as sensual event.

None of which cleverness takes anything away from its angular, fine-boned beauty, which, with age fleshes out to a softer more approachable attractiveness.

Despite what official notes may claim, the opening, in line with convention is aldehydic.

A spry, strict accord that continues structurally well into the perfume, providing an olfactory cantilever for what is to come.

It holds the less concrete notes aloft, a firm adult wrist attached to a juvenile pianist’s malleable young hands.

And what is to come is exactly as the name suggests: iris and powder.

The former less vegetal, less abundantly floral than we may all have become accustomed too. More reserved, modest perhaps, seeking to form part of a composition rather than to stand alone as a singular star.

The powder, supplied by musk, is pure best grade talcum, not so rich nor sweet as makeup.

As such it will divide opinion and have some squeamishly protest ‘old lady’.


Grande Dame’ captures it much better.

This is unapologetically not a modern perfume, it is an older style of great, but restrained, yet utterly romantic scent.

It is a love affair conducted by lengthy letter not a series of speed dates set up on anonymous websites.

In time those letters smell will be transmuted by age and fondness into the same dry down of soft hay-toned paper and light vanilla as the perfume, then a moment later demi-sec dust again, then hay once more.

Like memories of a grand amour twinkling across a universe of time.

Iris Poudre is, in the truest sense, a fine fragrance.

I have heard it remarked that this scent is about as ungentlemanly as one can get.

No doubt that is on account of the associations of aldehydes and musk with the great ‘feminines’ of the past.

For any man unable to break these bounds it will be impossible to wear.

I have no trouble with any of the great irises of olfactory history and quite loved this.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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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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