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Le Parfum de Thérèse – carnal and elegant and iconic

La Prune (Plum)

If there is one fragrance we get asked about more than any other, it's Le Parfum de Thérèse by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.  People are fascinated by the love story behind its creation.

Love inspires musicians to write love songs, painters to paint portraits and perfumers to make fragrances for the woman they love. Well, romantic ones like, Edmond Roudnitska do.

Roudnitska is a titan in the world of modern perfumery. Born in 1905 in Nice, he began to study perfumery at Roure Bertrand Dupont, when he was 21 years old. Hid job was to work on the creation of new bases. It was an exciting time for perfumery. Companies like Roure were producing synthetic materials like ionones and alpha amyl cinnamic aldehyde that would give perfumers the ability to create new complex and vibrant fragrances that were impossible to make with raw ingredients alone.

During World War II, Roudnitska left Roure and moved over to De Laire, where he continued to work on creating bases. The De Laire factory was near Paris, and in 1942 Roudnitska met Thérèse Delveaux, a bright, young chemical engineer who also worked at the factory. They fell in love, and Thérèse became Roudnitska's wife, muse, and collaborator.

By this time Roudnitska was creating fragrances for Elizabeth Arden, Rochas (Femme), Hermès and Dior (Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage and Diorella). Like many creative geniuses, Roudnitska had an idea noodling around at the back of his mind: a fragrance with plum as a base. He gave it a working title, 'La Prune' or 'plum' in English, and worked on it for years, refining and modifying it until the mid-fifties when he was satisfied with it. La Prune was original and bold. Thérèse was taken by it and began to wear it. People noticed it whenever she wore it. La Prune became so associated with Thérèse that Roudnitska decided that it would be her perfume alone. He kept the formula a secret so that she would be the only one ever to wear it. People in the perfume industry who had smelled it on Thérèse asked after it, but Roudnitska, but only a very few got to smell or sample it. Over time, the fragrance became the stuff of legend – who were the ones who got a sample of it? Did anyone else ever wear it? Does it even exist anymore? Did it ever exist?

In his book, ‘On Perfume Making’ Frédéric Malle writes:
"Of course, I knew that the fragrance existed….So when I was starting Editions de Parfums, I dared to call Ms. Roudnitska, told her about my project and asked her to publish the masterpiece as a tribute to her late husband…..she gave me her blessing and allowed me to publish it" He goes on, "Then I had to find a name for it….So I called it Le Parfum de Thérèse as an homage to the extraordinary Ms. Roudnitska, who wore this perfume for 50 years".

Great story and a great perfume.

Le Parfum de Thérèse opens with a soft note of sweet tangerine, flanked by melon and cucumber notes. Together they create a fruity aquatic accord that gives the opening a watery-airy freshness and ushers in a floral-fruity heart of jasmine, rose and plum. I get the jasmine first, erotic and fleshy as it wafts up to my nose. The jasmine is joined by rich, voluptuous rose in such a proportion I don't think I've ever smelled before. The jasmine then deepens, drawing out a note of lush, sensuous plum. The base is woody from cedar and vetiver, which also contributes a gentle greenness to the scent. A note of soft leather smooths it all out so that the drydown is carnal yet elegant.  On me, Le Parfum de Thérèse is like a languorous cat, sitting on my wrist, purring, and purring.

Malle writes, "When smelling it today, one believes that Le Parfum de Thérèse is a vintage perfume encapsulating the delicate and ladylike Parisian chic of the 1950's, a sharp contrast to the futuristic impression it generated back then." After all this time, Le Parfum de Thérèse still generates interest.

Le Parfum de Thérèse is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikipedia - Plum Cultivars by Alois Lunzer, January 21, 2012