Le Parfum de Therese for Frederic Malle

My quest for the objective in no way undermines the subjective experience.

I have always admired Le Parfum de Therese, capturing the fiercely strong style of Edmond Roudnitska and demonstrating it with the utmost amplification and clarity. Every other Roudnitska work in reference to Therese never quite captures the same degree of self-assured projection, or its spicy, filthy length rubbed with carnality.

I grew to really love, and not merely admire Therese as I reached for it in a time of deep difficulty. My dear friend Jo, who in only a brief matter of months had already given me deep lessons in selflessness and had become a replicable example of being an intelligent, slightly introverted bon viveur – was given grave news that her health was failing. Discussing this is beyond the scope of a fragrance blog like Olfactics, but I intend to get a clear point across.

Jo wore Therese with a deep, context charged connection that comes only from a large period of time spent living intimately with a scent. This gets right to the heart of my Polygonal Approach. To get better at scent is to continue to experience scent. It is as simple as that. Jo understood Therese at its absolute depth, whereas I knew of Therese in its breadth and its place in a perfumed network, built around style, history, and brand. Jo became Le Parfum de Therese, and Le Parfum de Therese had become Jo – they were inseparable to me, and Le Parfum de Therese represented an ideal that I was able to receive on command; to channel a representation through scent.

I sprayed Therese at the next moment I was given this news and purchased it as a device adhering to the same functionality as a picture or a video. Therese had then not only become objectively a perfume to be admired but also a symbol of absolute admiration. Jo is no longer with us, but in a way, I can close my eyes and inhale, and her reserved smile and her characteristic sardonicism fill my mind with a clarity and vivacity. Perfume is powerful, it is an experience, and in part it is subjective. It would be deeply egregious for me to dismiss that.

© 2017 Liam Sardea


This subjective experience represents the way the subjective offers a unique path towards the objective. They are not incompatible. And often the subjective, lived-in conscious experience of a scent makes uncovering the objective happen at an agreeable pace. One must be careful not to confuse the joy of a context with a joy of a perfume, but rigorousness and honesty ought to allay that dilemma.

And so, what is Le Parfum de Therese? As I’ve described before, it is a strange sort of tension without a murmur of banality. It is a sumptuously elegant perfume injected with a strong dosage of spice, fracturing the floral category, loosening strictness and introducing ripples of warm tones that both extend and deepen the internal fragrant pyramid; a disparity that converges into a tension-cum-harmony. Therese tickles the aquatic and the fruity aspects of the fragrance wheel, by moving a green floral into brown, to the point just before rot. It is a garnish of herbs and spice with a polite hand that mimics the smell of preservation, with the aquatic signature of Therese giving a slick of bodily, metallic disgust as a delightful counterpoint.

It is this ultra-ripe melon note, with its sickly tropical breath lengthened with tangerine and further strong citruses, then enriched with the umami-sweet aroma and texture of ripe plum that pings on opening, resolved with a healthy dosage of salty marine effects and following with an abstract, fluorescent-coloured florality (with a high-pitched rose) which rests on a classical base of vetiver and leather, hushed of their carnality. Therese moves in sharp turns: it is angular and charged with an intensity of energy, where all notes seem to move towards a unified center of gravity but never quite gets there. It isn’t exactly anticipation, because that often indicates something which then emerges, and Therese presents everything from the first spritz, like a liberated gasp.

While Le Parfum de Therese may read as a concoction, Roudnitska’s signature technical precision delivers asymmetrical balance and an array of notes that are altogether held as a cogent unit. It is spicy yet cool, crisp even; disgusting yet fresh; and preserved in character as it cleverly marries the idea of longevity and decay. It is the most exciting and intense a green motif will ever get.

Filthy Green.

Subjective rating: 5/5

Objective rating: 5/5

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