Salty Melons and Married Love: Le Parfum de Therese

Cantaloups

Cantaloups

People remember the late Edmond Roudnitska for different reasons. Myself I remember his book about perfume, the first serious one I ever read on the subject. In it he made a plea for perfume to be considered an art form, maybe not a major art, but an art all the same. I’m not sure what I made of that at the time I read the book in the nineties, but I am sure that a number of Roudnitska compositions struck me as being quite artful.

There was Diorissimo, the most perfect lily of the valley then and now as well, there was the lemony and slightly indolic Diorella; which half of Italy seemed to have worn back in the late seventies. Diorella complimented their summertime lunches of white wine and prosciutto con melone, and there was Eau Sauvage, the fragrance that was nearly as omnipresent then as Coco Mademoiselle is now, a glass fluted bottle slotted into practically every other gentleman’s bathroom cabinet.

Femme Rochas

Femme
Rochas

I never actually wore any of the Roudnitska perfumes. The closest I ever came was a mini of Femme de Rochas (the old un- bowderlerized version which speaks very frankly of sex in olfactory terms). The scent was too overt for me, I can’t wear my private life on my wrist so to speak. But I read Roudnitska’s account of his creation of this scent with its new prune note, and its adoption by Rochas somewhat against the odds. And make no mistake about this, old Femme is odd by contemporary standards. No one would release something so obvious and so overt now. Not even Tom Ford, Professor Emeritus of Sex that he claims to be.

All of this leads up to today when I stopped in at Aedes de Venustas and walked out wearing Dries van Noten and Le Parfum de Therese, and dear reader, they were both about as peculiar as any fragrances in that vast collection. My daughter was absorbed by the owner’s two Shih Tzus, an affable but slightly jaded pair who knew they were cute as muppets, but she agreed about the perfumes and their singularity.

Musk Melon

Musk Melon

This is the third time I’ve worn Le Parfum de Therese and it’s always been just as peculiar as any scent could be, but this time in a humid and warm New York, worn for eight hours straight the perfume revealed itself as a truly idiosyncratic mélange of melons, salt, wood and lazy sexuality. I can’t say I’m surprised that Roudnitska composed this for his wife. This was a truly married couple and M. Roudnitska evidently loved his wife.

But I don’t think I can wear this. I feel as if I were intruding on some very private territory indeed. I wouldn’t read private love letters, and for the same reasons I can’t wear Le Parfum de Therese. M. Roudnitska wrote a love letter to his wife on the air, but it’s still private- still their own romance- still too much of a singular perfume for a plurality of wearers.

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12 thoughts on “Salty Melons and Married Love: Le Parfum de Therese

  1. There is something monumentally wrong with me-

    I get no skank from Femme. I think it’s beautiful and I wear it all the time! Maybe I am killing everyone around me.

    I totally take your point about PdeT. It is definately a love letter to Madame Roudnitska. I like Grandiflora-Michel. It has some of the unique aspects of Roudnitska’s work-and how could it not, since Michel grew up in that home! But it is far enough removed from his Dad’s scents that it is its own animal, and familiar enough so that of you love the salt and the melons you can find an interpretation of it.

  2. Just out of curiosity is it vintage Femme you wear or new Femme?

    I actually love old Femme, but on me it does smell… of knickers…if that’s the correct term. My suspicion is that on other wearers the fruit and leather notes read as ripe plums and high quality leather, and not as unmentionables.

    Michel Roudnitska’s Magnolia has gotten quite a lot of good word of mouth, and I’m going to have to find some to try. I do like his Debut, and his Amoureuse :-)

  3. “truly idiosyncratic mélange of melons, salt, wood and lazy sexuality” = one of the best bits of perfume writing I have had the pleasure to read!

    Oh, I have a parfum bottle of vintage Femme and pretty skanky it is on me.

    • Ooh thank, you but I think the inspiration was responsible for the phraseology, because even though I could not wear Le Parfum de Therese, I knew this was something rather extraordinary.
      Once again, wearability may be a matter of skin and how the perfume reads on it. Darn! I find that these days I wear flowers and fruit but not musk or leather very well. So unfair.

  4. I am pretty sure mine is vintage. it has a heavy gold cap, which i don’t usually see with Femme. And you are right-I do get fruit and leather, distinctly! Which to me is entirely different from knickers :)

    • So envious, have to say.

      Really wanted to be able to pull this one off, but not everybody does. My hub prefers Tabac Blond on me- which misses out all the lovely fruit of Femme. But you can wear it, so enjoy. Oh and I think you are probably in possession of a vintage bottle too!

  5. As you discovered this one only truly reveals all, most truly unfurls in sultry heat. Which is so apt for a perfume of such palpable intimacy.

    I wear it rarely but turn to it on such lazy hot humid days when I am at leisure. I keep it removed from the workaday world and it transports me and undoes me. The languor. The privilege of a glimpse, a gesture, an overheard endearment from within a great love.

    Vintage Femme is a little easier to wear for me mostly overripe plums and boozy tobacco amber depth.

    • You have certainly nailed the main point about Le Parfum. It is indeed, apparently a summer perfume and best on people who understand their own sensuality and enjoy it as an integrated part of their lives.

      Glad you can pull off old Femme, because as I just said to Carole, there are folks (me) who smell awful in it :-)

  6. Hey Buddy,
    I will happily read others love letters, and wear them. I had some vintage Femme but it was turning quite badly and in the end I couldn’t wear the top notes because they made me squeamish even though the baseline was still pretty marvelous. The modern Femme is more than OK too but a different animal.
    Used up a couple of decants of P d Therese and I really love it though not enough to own a FB.
    What I do love is your writing.
    Portia x

    • Thanks much for the kind comment, and what I wish is that something of Roudnitska father or son’s would work on me. So far no dice.

      Maybe that new Magnolia perfume would be the charm. I can’t remember did you all like it over at Perfume Junkies? I’ll have to go and look :-)

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