The Only Perfume That Matters If You Want to Smell Sophisticated and Unbothered

No one asked, but here's a fun fact about me: I'm low-key fragrance-obsessed. Spritzing scents has been a steadfast component of my beauty routine since then-iconic body sprays from Victoria's Secret (two words: Love Spell) entered my world in the early 2000s. My goal back then? To smell as cool as Britney, Christina, and the members of Destiny's Child. My taste has changed a lot over the last couple of decades, but to this day, I'm still dedicated to cloaking myself in any of the dozens of perfumes in my collection. My fragrance end game now? To smell expensive and sophisticated at all times. Let me explain.

As a deeply imaginative person who regularly visualises future versions of myself, I often use moments of stillness to let my mind conjure images of every aspect of me down the line. What will I be wearing? Where will I be holidaying? What will my body language be like? (A rotation of Balmain blazers in the Greek Islands and relaxed, confident shoulders, in case you were wondering.) In summary, future me is rich as hell. Someone who suns herself on lido decks and spends her Saturday mornings toiling about in her expansive orchard. (Now do you understand the Oprah reference?) The fragrance that teleports me to that rich, unbothered version of myself in mere seconds? Frédéric Malle's Portrait of a Lady (£230).

To be clear, Oprah has said that she doesn't even wear perfume, so those rumours about her smelling like a bed of roses on a warm spring day must be in response to her natural pheromones. A goddess! But for us mere mortals who don't naturally smell like a bouquet and still want to capture that enviable vibe, this is a fragrance you need to know about.


(Image credit: GETTY)

Oprah is my idol in every sense.

The first time I smelled the spicy yet floral Turkish rose–based fluid, I sat on a velvet couch across from the legend Frédéric Malle himself, and we mused about all things fragrance and luxury inside his new eponymous flagship boutique on Melrose Place in Los Angeles. As I sat there, I couldn't help but think to myself, This is the chicest man I've ever encountered. And the exchange? Giggling and going back and forth with an impeccably dressed French gentleman about the art of crafting the perfect perfume. Well, that was simply one of the most cultured, bougiest experiences I'd had.

Aside from the fond memory, it's the fragrance itself that really hooked me. I was a staunch devotee of Le Labo's Santal 33 (£220) at the time and preferred woody, unisex fragrances, but this decidedly feminine aroma was good enough to make me reconsider. The second it hit my skin, I just knew I'd never tire of the way the delicate rose mingled with the hints of cinnamon, patchouli, and my beloved sandalwood. Something about this concoction just smells sophisticated and expensive, and I knew anyone who caught my scent would want to know what it was. It's impactful but not overpowering, just strong enough to make a statement without being too cloying. In fact, fellow Portrait of a Lady fan and Who What Wear contributor Shannon Lawlor recounts here how she once smelled it on a woman in a train station and proceeded to chase said woman down to inquire about her perfume. Yeah, it's that good!

All this to say, Portrait of a Lady is a treat. For me, it's personal, but I'm confident that the complex notes and pure sophistication will make anyone feel just as fancy. If you're in the mood to embody your best, richest self, a spritz of this will get you there. And if you're shopping for other scents that exude similarly opulent energy, keep scrolling for more rich-smelling perfumes to try.

Shop Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady Parfum:

Shop More Expensive-Smelling Perfumes:

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated. 

Up Next: A French Perfumer Just Told Me How to Smell Luxurious—And 9 Mistakes to Avoid

Opening image: @emmahoareau

Associate Beauty Editor

Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.