Hot from the perfume lab, I have no listed notes for this brand new and as yet unreleased perfume from the Editions De Parfums range, but from my immediate sampling and unfiltered reactions I would say that this rather unpromising latest fragrance from Frederic Malle is just another one of those familiarly intense, unnuanced, Byredo-ish urban scent blocks composed fiercely, and quite undilutedly, of the oudhy; the peppered; the patchouli and the wood-sweet.


Rakish and raffish at best (I can see it perhaps working with the right jacket or coat on a cold winter’s afternoon), but tarry and unaerated at its worst, I personally find this style of supranatural niche perfumery suffocating: headache inducing; and I am now going to wash it thoroughly from my arm.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Notes: it gets better as it goes on (the top notes are hideous – there is some kind of fresh cherry bubblegum varnish that lies like a sheeny new film over all the wood chemicals initially). As that dissipates though – and that is definitely the correct term for the way this kind of perfume is modified in its development – Promise gets a bit more red-cloaky and suave, almost reminiscent of the baroque men’s perfumes of the past like the inimitable Ungaro III.But there is still that polished, dark enamel, something dense and penetrating that to me just doesn’t quite seem suitable for human skin.

  2. How can this be? Malle spends a great deal of effort getting the anticipation going with interviews, press releases, etc; just think of Superstitious, which had me salivating for months and months before its release — which was very recent, another reason I’m wondering about it. Usually, the brand paces itself. I could find nothing at all on Promise. Where did it come from? Is it truly legit?

    Not that I’m getting too excited. Sigh. What you smelled doesn’t sound at all good . . .

    This is all very interesting!

    • My friend always very very kindly sends me samples that she has received – somehow she has circumvented the Japanese postal system as they always get here, so I am pretty soon this is legit. This morning when it came I saw the words ‘promise’ and quite liked the concept, but from one spray I just felt an enormous dollop of ugh. As I said, there are no notes listed, but I am wood-phobe in perfumes, particularly synthetic, and this is intensely woody. It will be interesting to compare other reviewers notes with mine – it might be the first up there I think.

    • (how is Superstitious by the way, I have never smelled it).

    • Robin and Neil, I’ve known about Frederic Malle mostly likely the first time the house was mentioned on-line. L’Artisan was the first niche house I ever knew of but Malle wasn’t far behind. But Malle was really innovative in that he was not exactly the perfumer but the finder of exquisite noses and creators of perfumes.

      • Definitely, except that the perfumes themselves are not everyone’s cup of tea. They are too strong, for a start – not something you will often see me write. L’Artisan, who I fear are going down the pan a bit, were truly exquisite in the early days; revolutionary even in the kinds of interesting perfumes they were making – Voleur de Roses, Premier Figurier, Mimosa Pour Moi, Navigateur, etc, all so much better in their reformulated versions because they were so suggestive, strange, deep, yet light. I find the Malles blinding in comparison – clinical.

  3. Just realised that there was in fact some official accompanying literature with the sample bottle: it’s by Dominique Ropion, and the notes are: Bulgarian rose essence, Turkish rose absolute, apple, pink pepper, clove, patchouli, cypriol, labdanum. Which sounds quite nice, doesn’t it? If I had read all that first I would have been imagining some lush, Eastern confection.

      • In recent times though, what you read and what you smell are getting SO SO far apart that my eyes are practically in a permanent roll as I take virtually nothing seriously. The bull that we have to read: the mediocrity we have to smell. Labdanum and rose, for instance, sounds soft and sensual – instead, you get creosote for painting the garden fence.

  4. Note two: My friend who is staying with us right now has just tried it too and she liked it more than Duncan or I did (though not excessively), so she is going to have the bottle. I can imagine it working in certain situations – we both agreed that it might create quite a good protective veil of ‘don’t mess with me’ worn in winter time perhaps, maybe just a spray here or there on clothes, but the rose doesn’t come through at all for me, neither do any of the other ingredients. I find it almost unbearably harsh.

    • Must be the cypriol, which I just can’t stand,essentially. It was ok ten years ago when I was going through my Montale Aoud Lime phase, but that particular note I simply can’t tolerate any more. Here it cleaves through what delicacy there might have been with the imperceptible labdanum, a note I really like, and the cloves (where?….) and the roses, which sound gorgeous and rich hypothetically, but which when combined with a very black patchouli note that is there even from the first initial spray,just drag everything down into an impenetrable and desiccated oil slick.To me there just isn’t a great deal of olfactory beauty here.

      • Final verdict (this is a few hours later): an incredibly banal, typical, high street ‘oudh’ base note that I am quite shocked by. Very much looking forward to reading other reviewers’ perceptions of this to see if I am missing something vital (but I know that I am not).

  5. rosestrang

    I haven’t got on well with most of the Malles. I liked Lys Mediterranee the most, but agree the ingredients are often harsh feeling. It’s the reason I couldn’t love Portrait of a Lady, though it did have lots of personality in a way. Dans te Bras was like nails on chalkboard – something to do with the metallic musk which reminds me of the scent of oxidised coins. Carnal Flower made my eyes water because of eucalyptus and melon notes. Iris Poudre reminded me of bath time rituals for posh ladies in Edinburgh’s poshest area of Morningside, wearing fluffy mules and awaiting the return of their banker husbands. Maybe I’m just a heathen! Have you discovered any that really work for you? I’ve yet to try Angeliques Sous La Pluie or En Passant, had hoped they might be more poetic..

    • I don’t mind En Passant and Eau d’hiver in a pastel, ozonic kind of way; I like Lys, Carnal Flower and Lipstick Rose but none enough to buy. Oxidized coins, yes – I was quite horrified by Dans Tes Bras and Musc Ravageur too, though I have enjoyed that one on other people.

      • Also I have had two separate showers and can’t scrub off this horrifying fake oud base note. There ain’t no poetry here, I can tell you.

      • rosestrang

        Musks are funny that way, very few mention the weird metallic thing of Dans Tes Bras. Havne’t experienced it on someone else but definitely can’t have it on me! Ozonic sounds a bit horrible for me, so I’d probably not like En Passant or Eau d’hiver either, seems a shame – all that effort and expense in the making, but perfumes that aren’t comfortable to wear!

      • Many seem to love them though…

        I don’t know, I like things to be more effortless, if you know what I mean. And the spiel that surrounds these releases now is just getting more and more over the top.

        ‘I promise to never, ever, leave your skin for as long as I live….’

    • Renée Stout

      rosetrang, I feel exactly like you do about most of the Malle’s I’ve tried, with the exception of Parfum de Therese. I think that one is absolutely gorgeous!

      • I would love to smell that on a woman, actually. For my extremely limited melon appreciation in perfume I tend to prefer Diorella, but I know that Therese has a great deal of admirers.

  6. I am intrigued. I’m definitely with you in the woodphobe department, and my nose/soul recoils at those harsh, raspy and ultimately really cheap-smelling, bullshit notes. Ropion, who I worship, has made some of my favourite compositions, but we don’t always see eye to eye — or nose to nose, I guess. I’m sensitive to whatever alchemy persists in PoaL and Superstitious, for example, which is unfortunate, because in theory I ought to be all over them.

    Really like the evolution of your experience with Promise.

  7. Renée Stout

    Thanks for the heads up on “Promise”. Apple and pink pepper notes have never sounded appealing to me in any scent description.

    • You never know, you might like it. I am sure that some people will definitely like Promise. I suppose the oudh thing is still persisting throughout the perfume culture (unfortunately), and the Dries Van Noten – again, another blocky, dense, tense, woody number – was quite popular when all the reviews came in ( I thought that was better than this one, but I didn’t really like it that much either; I am drawn to the more mellifluous, I need some room to breathe within my perfumes. ). The strong ‘wood’ notes that I personally detest are definitely enjoyed by plenty of others, though, for that citified, ‘impenetrable armour’ kind of effect, when a fragrance kind of scythes its way throughout a room.

      It’s just that the blurb for this perfume is all about the promises that bind us, the human contract, to quote directly ‘ the strictest honour code’. It’s quite a nice idea theoreticaly but the perfume itself isn’t human enough when it comes to the crunch to convincingly make that concept come across.

      • Dries Van Noten. Yes, that’s another one, a disappointment along the same lines. And yet I’ve enjoyed another Bruno Jovanovic composition for FM, Monsieur. It doesn’t create that claustrophobia. I know you dislike that one, Neil, which just goes to show how much it’s all a matter of what our noses perceive and interpret. I think a lot of it is physiological. I remember a really cool insert in an old National Geographic, a scratch-and-sniff, to test both olfactory hyper-sensitivity and anosmia. I must have been a young teenager when I tried it out. I distinctly remember been totally anosmic to something — a musk, I believe. It fascinated me. I could not smell a thing. My brother, when I took the magazine page to him to try, got a wicked blast of scent. Another scratch-and-sniff patch could smell of either bananas or road tar, something like that. I got bananas; my brother got road tar. It was good for me, because ever since then I’ve understood that there is no “objectivity” with scent, and it doesn’t bug me if someone loves something I loathe and vice versa. (Of course, snobby as I am, I also think that sometimes people just have atrocious taste in perfume, but that’s just between you, me and your hundreds of followers.)

  8. But will you at least use it as an air-freshener?

  9. MrsDalloway

    Have you tried Puredistance Sheiduna? The first time I tried it I thought it was a nice, dry, well-behaved amber. The second time my nose had latched on to whatever aromachemical it contains and I had to wash all the clothes I was wearing. I love some of their others though – Antonia and Opardu.

  10. Tara C

    It sounds very dire, similar to my reaction to Dior Sauvage. I will give it a sniff on paper when I see it… thanks for the warning not to spray it on skin. 🙂

  11. Wow, I responded to this blog at least 5 times and nothing correct posted

    • What do you mean? It kept disappearing or something? You know me, I am not the logical/computer type and I have no explanation for any of that. Apologies for the frustration though.

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