Shower products are rarely something I get excited about. Although I have a couple of favourites I’ll splurge on occasionally, I’m not brand loyal. I tend to buy whatever’s on offer most of the time. So when I was sent this Portrait of a Lady shower cream, featuring perfumier Dominique Ropion’s 2010 fragrance for Frédéric Malle, I scheduled a shower to see if it was worth the extra spend.
On first sniff, I wasn’t sure this would be my thing. It’s a very heady, opulent, intoxicating and dramatic fragrance that reminds me of traditional, middle-Eastern perfumes. It has classic Oriental notes of sandalwood, amber, patchouli and dark wood, with rose at its heart. It conjures up images of dark, bustling souks, sticks of smoky incense, racks of mysterious spices and street sellers with bottles of oud. It seemed quite masculine too; not at all what I was expecting from its name. The Lady it describes is not your sweet, soft Jane Austen heroine – she is feisty and fierce (think Cleopatra).
The first time I used this shower cream I was generous with the amount. I’m used to drugstore products which give very little pay-off in terms of scent, and it rarely makes a difference whether you squirt a small blob onto your shower puff or half a bottle. A large blob of this was a mistake because I hopped on a long-haul flight that afternoon and by the time I reached my destination I was quite overwhelmed by the scent and a teeny bit scared.
It lingers on the skin long after it’s been used, and the heaviness and richness rather wore me out. Next time though I used about half the amount and found it much gentler.
Once I got used to the scent, although it still wasn’t what I’d usually go for, I quite enjoyed a little break from the norm, pretending I was the exotic, ‘living, breathing Scheherezade’ described on the bottle. It still lingered all day, but it was softer, more well-rounded, and didn’t whack me round the face every time I moved. It was more suited to a cooler climate: humid weather seems to amplify it. It also had the added bonus of scenting my bathroom until the next day. I think that’s definitely worth paying a bit extra for.
A bottle of this fragrance would set you back around £200. If you like the sound of the scent, the Portrait of a Lady shower cream would be an ideal introduction. It has an RRP of around £50 for 200ml.
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