The Plum




A Tale of Beginner’s Mind

by Musette

Every now and then I’ll meet someone who admits to lurking on the Posse but won’t comment, afraid that they don’t know enough, thinking I , The Great Musette, am so knowledgeable about perfume.  (wait.  the Earth just shifted off its axis from the Posse’s collective stop/drop/roll of hilarity). I know next to nothing – but I delight in having a Beginner’s Mind, always open to new information and experience.


And so it is thus with Parfum de Therese.  When I first was introduced to the Malle line, I began with weird scent beauty Fleur de Cassie.  I  then got seduced by Angeliques and Carnal Flower and somehow Parfum de Therese just floated on past my consciousness.  Recently, though, March and I had a conversation about Dior and in the way those conversations go, she mentioned PdTherese – “I would think you would really like that one, as you are such a fan of the vintage Diors”.  Huh?  Oh, yeah.  That Roudnitska feller.  Dior?  Oh, yeah.  That’s right:  only the creator of  two or three of my Holy Grails.  Yeah, that guy.

Sampled it once.  “Hmmmm….I see what she means…wonder why this smells  so ‘different’ from the other Malles (stop snickering – yeah, I knew the story, I know Edmond Roudnitska…I know, I know….I just didn’t ‘know’).   I sampled again – and the little dominoes that comprise my rattly mind slowly clicked into place.  Sampled a third time, this time at Barneys…and this shimmering veil of Holy Cow! How did I miss this one??” descended over me, along with the  gobsmacking beauty of the perfume, of course.  The ever-patient Lydia.  le sigh.  How she keeps from just slapping me is a mystery.

This Is Perfume.   Old School Perfume.  Nicknamed ‘The Plum” by Roudnistka’s circle of perfume pros, it is comprised of many notes, including Mandarin orange, melon, jasmine, plum, cedar, vetiver, leather, rose, nutmeg  – and like all Roudnitska perfumes it smells to me like all of its notes and none of its notes.  It’s almost impossible to pick any one of the notes out, so seamlessly is this constructed – don’t let the plum fool you – this couldn’t be further from a fuity-floral if you put it on the moon.  There’s an obvious connection between this and vintage Diorella and Diorama, both Roudnitska masterpieces, but even more striking is, to my nose, the parallel between this and  the vaunted, vintage Femme ( an early Roudnitska), with its plush, plummy, sexual self.  Both are the Old School intimate perfume versions of ‘skin scents’ (plums smell like sex to me.  Not ‘having sex’ – just  but with serious heft and structure.  One really needs to rise to the occasion with these  (I can’t imagine throwing on a pair of shorts and wearing either of these scents – then again, I can’t imagine throwing on a pair of shorts! The mind boggles)  Angela has a gorgeous review of vintage Femme here.  M. Roudnitska took the sexbombaliciouness of Femme and dialed it back a little, creating a bespoke scent for his lady wife that hints at womanly sensuality – but in a very private manner.

Parfum de Therese is a ladylike scent.  But not some rarified spun-sugar doll.  A real woman, who probably washed the dinner dishes every evening and then sat down to work through complex chemical formulas – or to help her son with his math homework or just enjoy a cognac with her husband – an effortlessly chic woman, comfortable in her own lovely skin (I see her making an incredible French Potato Salad, then sitting down to enjoy it, on the terrace, with a glass of Chablis).  Looking at pictures of Mme Roudnitska I suspect her husband, in creating Parfum de Therese, did not create an homage to her.  It is an homage of her.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to wear this and will try to be worthy.  Thanks, March, for giving me a reason to stand up straight and do my hair!  I need no reason to drink the Chablis. Or the cognac.


image:  detail from Delisa Summer, all rights reserved

  • Winifrieda says:

    I first smelled this in Mecca, Sydney, several years ago when my reawakening was occurring…I said to the lovely young and very knowledgeable young man doing the Malle thing with the blotters and booths…
    ‘this man adored his wife, thought of her forever beautiful and desirable and immortal’…then went to buy it and it had all sold out!
    Since then I’ve done all the study, learnt about Edmund, found the vintage Femme, Diorama (GAAAASP thunk), Diorella. I can only hope that we can’t blame the genius Edmund for our modern fruity florals…I think he did for melon what Mitsouko did for peach; just made it the symbol of lush tempting femininity.

    • Winifrieda says:

      P.S. I think ‘Poison’ is in fact something of an outcome of Roudniska’s legacy of incredible almost confronting perfumes….especially Diorama…yes OK!!@!kill me now!!!

  • Dante's Bra says:

    I’ve been sniffin’ and loving this one for the past month, and I always find something new in it, even though I don’t have the vocab to describe it. Today it’s very aldehyde’ey on the open; i’m really coming to love fruit notes that teeter on the edge of rotten, like in the vintage Diors (I always get them mixed up). Wistful, fleeting beauty.

    I also love that it has the richness and tapestry of old school perfume, but has a lightness or flexibility or something so that I don’t feel like it’s wearing me.

    My only reservation with Therese is that it is really fleeting– like, two hours, tops. All gone. I wonder if the lotion lasts any longer, and would it have the same glorious complexity?

    • Musette says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head – and I also think all the Diors are fleeting (at least the ones I wear. I suspect a couple (Poison) have the half-life of plutonium but the Roudnitskas are a touch fleeting. I haven’t gone anywhere near the lotion – I just got to the perfume! :”> Next time I’m at Barn’s I’ll ask Lydia! I’m due for a good smacking anyway! ;))

      xxoxo >-)

  • yvree says:

    An ongoing lurker steps out to post;) Musette, Thanks for reviewing. God I really needed to break the PdT out for summer! …I read another blog/review that mentioned a “cilantro” vibe..I love cilantro, so this hits that spot.which I get with “lime” in the opening .It is an unusual frag, especially in this day.

    *sharing funny newbie story here*
    PdT was my first niche/boutique purchase! and I sought it out based on reviews when I was researching Sophia Grossman and heard it mentioned. and well, for “namesake” vanity reasons too;) I was like “what the hay”. I deserve something luxurious. And Therese sounded luxurious! (I was not a complete fume hound at this point and just coming to accept my weird, then nameless, “hobby”)

    When my friends asked me to describe my new “expensive” bottle: I said “good, it smells like any perfume. no idea why I spent so much” …(I hear the collective gasping here any many levels, oh and I no longer tell what anything costs anymore;) So glad I never posted this before! The Perfume goddess did not revoke my “newbie perfumnista card” but issued a new one instead (with one then unknown stipulation)!

    OF course collected and I cherished my PdT,kept in my fridge..almost afraid to even use a 250ml (I no longer have this problem), so I got obsessed and I took up the cause to find another scent that smelled like it!….(laughter TOTALLY is appropriate here). So after saying that that PdT smells like “perfume”, 2 years and TONS more sniffing, I have found the ONLY thing (IMO) close to what I like about PdT is vintage Diorama…Now, with respect, I am overjoyed that Malle offers such a classic scent, *almost* regardless price point. Because it saves the tears of (not) finding a bottle of vintage Diorama!…or femme etc.

    Newbie Lesson learned: Respect the fume! And a newbie must laugh at herself and has enjoyed her quest, as it has opened so many new experiences. PdT is not an HG but it is irreplaceable in my collection! Will always have beginner mind (can only pray to acquire tact)

    • Musette says:

      This is a GREAT story! And of course, you know that Diorama is Roudnitska, right?

      We all have gone through that “:o I cannot BELIEVE I just spent ___ on a bottle of perfume!!” moments – some of us more often than others…:”> I always remind myself that it’s not that Life is Short – it’s that Life is Unpredictable. Spray that perfume, honey. Love it!!

      And you can share ANY perfume story here – we don’t judge. If I started telling my “real” perfume tales (like when I was offered the opp to meet with Guerlain/Dior/etc Houses when on a trip to Paris – AND I TURNED IT DOWN because I was 25 and stupid…….:”>

      xo >-)

  • Catherine says:

    Great Musette! I’m so glad you have Parfum de Therese another try. She’s one of my favorite, favorite beauties, and the reason I’m so in love with Roudnitska!

    Beautiful painting! xoxo

    • Musette says:

      Isn’t this a lucky find for me? (I am probably the last dog over the Roudnitska hill, which is sort of embarrassing :”>

      xcoxoxo >-)

  • mals86 says:

    I’ve still not tried Ms Therese’s perfume… still trying to concentrate on what I think would appeal to me personally, since I don’t get the chance for free sniffies very often.

    And, okay, it still doesn’t sound like my kind of thing, not even after this very evocative review. A chypre with fruit? Prolly gonna kill me, I’ll give it a miss.

    Thing is, if I keep avoiding stuff that sounds like stuff that nearly killed me before, how will I know if I missed out on Twoo Wuv, the kind that sneaks up on you out of nowhere, the funny just-friends friend that suddenly lays a big old romancy-schmancy kiss on you, and your knees go, and your heart turns over, and you think, “How’d I almost miss this?” Aargh.

    Okay, new plan: Anything I pursue has to be something I think I’ll like, but I’ll be open to surprises, a perpetual newbie wonder-and-awe machine…

    • Musette says:

      Honeypie –

      Why not just go for broke on ALL of them? I have spritzed some stuff that has made me JUMP BACK in alarm! and that’s half the fun, at least in my rattly little world. Throw some Clinique #4 toner n a little travel bottle – it’s guaranteed to kill off anything you can spritz.

      Carry on, my little newbie wonder-and-awe machine! ^:)^ Live long, prosper and sniff!

      xoxo >-)

  • Lavanya says:

    I smelled Therese very recently too and was very impressed- It was the olfactory equivalent of a yellow spot of light (At dusk). My mom tried it on her skin and it smelt gorgeous on her. However, I am not sure if it is the heat, but the next couple of times I smelled it on her, it seemed more ‘difficult’ (and the opening started to smell (to her) of ‘cockroach powder’ that is used in India to kill cockroaches..LOL. Once she made that connection/association- I couldn’t get it out of my head either).

    I am going to wait for a cool breezy night and try it again. The perfume isn’t very me (as in, I can’t see myself wearing it often)- but I do like yellow light..

    • Musette says:

      That roach powder thing – b-( funny how that happens, innit? Mine was Pierre Cardin (for men) – it smells persackly like Raid! Once you get that smell in your nose it’s hard to sever the olfactory connection. I hope Therese recovers its beauty for you!

      xo >-)

  • minette says:

    i do like and respect this one, but it is so definitely HERS, and not mine, i can’t see myself ever wearing it. love his work, though, with femme de rochas being one of my holy grails, maybe THE holy grail.

    • Musette says:

      I think I like it most because she offered it up for us and in doing so, made it ours (whoa! I just made her sound like Jesus. The words of the Transubstantiation ….okay, I’m back from being a 12 yr old altar girl. Sorry)……

      anyway, you and your femme come sit by me. Especially if you are wearing the vintage!

      xo >-)

  • March says:

    You painted that painting, right? Cool.

    I knew you’d like Therese! It’s not really my thang (neither are those Diors) – to melon-herbal or whatever, but they’re pretty darn special.

    • Musette says:

      It’s funny how much we coverge – until we diverge – in our scent loves! You would kill all melons with an axe if you could whilst I am okay with them (as long as they are not All Melon, All The Time).

      But like ’em or loathe ’em, they are particularly wellcrafted, ain’t they!

      xo >-)

  • maggiecat says:

    Lovely post – and you’ve made me want to sample this!

    • Musette says:

      Let me know what you think! If it doesn’t grab you at first sniff, don’t despair – give it a couple of tries. Nothing Roudnitska did is ‘in your face’ – they come sliding around, slightly off to the left, and the next thing you know…….;)

      xo >-)

  • Teri says:

    I feel honored to share a name with this lovely scent. I’d been prepared not to like it, as I’d heard it contained melon notes, which usually make me run screaming. But as with so many things, in the hands of a master, it works.

    At times I’m so sad to have been born in this era of perfumery. I don’t want to smell like laundry, or fake strawberries, or bubble gum. I want to smell interesting, enigmatic, and slightly dangerous. One just doesn’t get that with tutti fruiti scents.

    I so agree that PdT is one of the last of the perfumes of a different era. I know she’s lonely, though, and would like some ‘friends’. :d

    • HemlockSillage says:

      Sign me up for “interesting, enigmatic and slightly dangerous,” too! I love that. My SOTD is Vero Profumo’s Rubj. . .and I think it may be in that ballpark.

      I tried L’Agent by Agent Provocateur yesterday, and had that vibe, too, in a much more obvious femme fatale way. (Rose, patch, amber, musk–dark and *huge* sillage in 100 degree heat)

    • Musette says:

      There are some out there – you just have to sniff for them..;)

      xo >-)

    • KirstenMarie says:

      Ooooh – yes, that’s it exactly! The other classic I mourn is the REAL Apres L’Ondee. I visit the picture of the full bottle on TPC. A perfume that’s a real perfume – not, and I quote with full-hearted agreement – “laundry, fake strawberries, or bubble gum.” Gah, how can perfume grist mills think that is what women want…oh, right, they’re corrupting the next generation that doesn’t know the sheer feminity of Diorissimo or the exotic Shalimar or Coty’s Chypre, before Coty went to Walgreen’s.

      Thanks for a lovely post, Musette! I’ll dedicate a glass of Chablis to it tonight apres work.

  • donanicola says:

    What a coincidence. I bought a bottle of Carnal Flower this weekend (the joy!) and asked for a sample of PdT as I had been thinking that I needed to understand it better. When I first started reading the blogs back in 2005/6 I realised my tastes ran to the chypres so ordered a sample of PdT from Les Scenteurs. Unfortunately all I could smell back then was melon and I didn’t like it. But gradually all the other Roudnitskas claimed a part of my heart (though I’d always loved Diorella) so I felt it was time to try again. So yesterday (yes! yesterday!) I tried again and it’s love. LT mentions a crude quality which he is not keen on and I think I can see what he means though I wouldn’t use the word crude but bold. Like a bold streak of ochre daubed through an otherwise green toned oil painting. Anyway, it’s just gorgeous and your review does it justice whilst being such fun to read – thanks!

    • Musette says:

      This is a gorgeous description – and way better than Luca’s. I don’t think there’s one ounce of crudity (crudeness?) in this perfume. I DO think it has a bold streak running through it. That’s what distinguishes it from a typical ‘ladylike’ perfume. That’s why I mentioned washing the dishes,the chemical compositions, etc. This was created for a dynamic, interestingwoman who knew who she was, was very comfortable being that woman – and very chic about the whole thing. Apparently M. Roudnitska was a very lucky man and was smart enough to realize it.

      xo >-)

  • hilary says:

    Oh, Thèrése, it’s wonderful. I went through more samples of this than of anything else – four, I think – and still haven’t bought a bottle, although I sprang for a 10ml decant which is doing very nicely. I took it on a romantic trip to Paris this spring but was surprised to hear it specially complimented, since it’s so classic and chyprish. (But then, the other favourite seems to be Parfum Sacre, so he obviously has good taste.) Anyway, this was a wonderful tribute, thanks!
    Musette, is that a painting of yours?

    • Musette says:

      As soon as my simoleans allow, I am buying a FB. I could wear this often! I can’t imagine anything more perfect than classic + chypre!

      Yes, it’s one of mine – a detail from a rather huge painting of a buncho people at a summer formal event. I wish I knew who this woman is (my mother is the only person in the group I know – you can see the whole painting at but I make up all these stories about who they are/the dynamics, etc – then I try to find out if I’m right. Alas, since most of the folks who know are now gone or in Alz’s grip, it’s become more difficult.

      xo >-)

      • Hilary says:

        Hey, I love classic chypres too! But they don’t necessarily appeal to 20-something boys with no particular interest in perfume. Or, so I thought…

        It’s a lovely painting and a lovely detail. The woman looks very alive, very well-lived.

      • mals86 says:

        Exactly what I thought when I saw the image: “I bet that’s one of Miss M’s paintings. And I’d like to have coffee with that lady – I bet she could tell some stories.”

  • HemlockSillage says:

    Exactly! This post is a fantastic summary of why I love this fragrance.

    Thèrése is one of those perfumes I had to grow to love. When I first sniffed it, the fruit, the complexity was too much. I hated it! I’d still consider myself a relative newbie, loving fragrance lifelong, but only reading about it, studying it since 2005. People write about how their tastes change in perfume, and I’d agree. I smile when I read about people saying never say never about a scent note. My world has opened up wildly. Now Thèrése is perfect to me.

    Austenfan is right; sensual without becoming vulgar sums it up well. There is a thickness to this, a richness without heaviness that is difficult to describe. I’m so glad M. Roudnitska shared this with us. I want to be the person this perfume embodies. I makes me want to dress up a bit, and see where it takes me. Be well.

    P.S. Love the image you chose, Musette!

    • Musette says:

      The beauty of a Beginner’s Mind is you can be a perfumista for 20 years or more…and still consider yourself a relative newbie. In fact, I would encourage it! The beginner’s mind is elastic, which allows for many more experiences. I hope to hold onto my Beginner status forever!

      The image (thank you, btw) is from this series I paint called The Maggot Broth of Memory. I will be chatting about that (not the paintings) on another post down the line.

      xo >-)

  • Francesca says:

    What a great post. I have to find my sample and try this again. I remember liking it, but the melon got in my way just a bit.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, divine Miss M!! Lovely post (and art, too), as always. I am with Francesca above (waves to her) as well. Need to revisit as I seem to remember a bit of melon, too.
      And you all are so right about the Malles: No matter how you feel about them, they are a classic (and classy) collection. Carnal Flower, Musc Ravageur oil and En Passant are among my faves, although I am trying to find the love for Fleur de Cassie, despite that iffy opening.

      • Musette says:

        hey, sweets!

        I’m not a melonphobe as much as some of you, so a hint of it is okay (I just smelled something with Francine awhile back and we both decided that we do not want to smell like cantaloupes. [-( but a touch is okay)

        LOL! on the Fleur de Cassie. It’s that ‘iffy opening’ that snagged me in the first place!

        xo >-)

  • Austenfan says:

    Glad you have discovered the gloriousness that is Thérèse. It’s effortlessly classy, and sensual without ever becoming vulgar.
    I recently purchased a bottle of this at the lovely Senteurs d’Ailleurs in Brussels. It was a great experience as I sniffed quite a few of the Malles; Portrait of a Lady, Iris Poudre, Vetiver Extraordinaire, Noir Epices, Carnal Flower and L’Eau d’Hiver. I ended up leaving with Noir Epices on my left arm, L’Eau d’Hiver on my right and my hair sprayed with Carnal Flower. I must have had considerable sillage. I guess CF will be my next purchase from this line.

    • Musette says:


      “sensual without ever becoming vulgar” Yes! Thank you!

      Carnal Flower is a great favorite of mine – but I prefer the body butter to the perfume, especially in extreme heat. It seems to flower even more without becoming overpowering.

      xo >-)

  • Joe says:

    Mmmm. Nice.

    Yes, yes. Thèrése. My ladylike side embraces it fully. Heh.

    Seriously though, I rock the hell out of this and Femme both. Love them. Glad to hear it seduced you… finally.

  • nozknoz says:

    We really owe Cousin Freddie for bringing this to us, don’t we? With all the reformulation of the classics, this is the last true Roudnitska.

    I think it’s hard to process perfume intellectually because we don’t have adequate language for it. Sure, one can list the notes, but that’s like listing trees on a mountain, not descibing the shape of the mountain. The closest we get is a wonderful analogy like your description of Mme Roudnitska (OK, or calling it sex, LOL). There’s nothing wrong with your brain, Musette!

    • Musette says:

      I am not The Malle Apologist (no freebies,no connections) but I have to say that, from a true perfume perspective we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Love them or :-< - or even b-(, his dedication and respect for the art of perfumery (and perfumers) is a reason for perfumistas everywhere to rejoice. The sex thing: it's weird because it's not hubba-hubba sex I'm thinking of - more human sexuality (or the thing that makes us want to make more humans? - something like that) Maybe I should quit while I'm ahead.:">

      xo >-)

      • Austenfan says:

        It is an outstanding collection, I think. Remember Luca calling him the Diaghilev of fragrance, somewhere on his ( no longer functioning) blog. Smelling a whole lot of them as I did the other day, I was impressed by how good they are. What I also find interesting that even though they are, especially the earlier ones, all done by different perfumers they share this quality of purity, of clarity almost. Which must be due to the editing.

        • Musette says:

          I think he has developed a great concept, has an excellent nose and taste – and, at the end of the day, probably hasn’t got to deal with a lot of marketing/ROI drama that can suck the life out of the greatest creations! He said it himself (right to mah face, bless his hort) “it’s good to be rich”. Amen to that, brother. ^:)^

          xo >-)

          • nozknoz says:

            That’s so funny – and I’m so glad he decided to invest his wealth and talent in the 8th art!

      • nozknoz says:

        I think I know what you mean about the sex thing, Musette, the basic generative life force, the promise of fertility. And melon is so perfect for that – real fruit, not that synthetic stuff! I know, it’s probably all synthetic, but NOT that aquatic melon.

        Also totally agree with Austenfan – there IS a consistent feel across the collection, in spite of different noses and genres. That’s a good observation!

        • Musette says:

          I’ve only met the man once and even then it was a limited interaction but I got the distinct impression that while he absolutely respects and even reveres the perfumers’ craft and art, in the end they work to HIS vision. And it’s this, more than anything, that keeps the collection consistent, I think. Were someone to suggest a ‘focus group’ to M. Malle…..well …../:) ;))

          xo >-)