Portrait of a Lady: Take 2

Fragrance reformulation is a huge topic of conversation in perfumeland, and for good reason. Everything is eventually reformulated these days. Even if the original composition is both IFRA-compliant and a best-seller, brands are always looking for ways to produce their compositions in a less expensive way, and tweak the formula accordingly.

Reformulation came up when I was discussing Portrait of a Lady with Undina. PoaL is a dear favorite of hers, but I had only recently tried it (I wrote about it here last November). Undina kindly sent me a small sample from her PoaL bottle so that  I could test it against my own more recent sample and report back the results.

I was curious if the two versions would smell different immediately at first sniff. The answer is: they don’t. That beautifully spiced rose is there. It’s clearly still the same inherent DNA with both versions. I find the difference lies in the patchouli heart and in how the two develop on my skin. I originally thought the patchouli was rich and bold in my sample. In trying Undina’s PoaL, there’s even more of a richness to the patchouli. It’s not overpowering, but there is clearly a depth in the development that my sample just doesn’t achieve.

I also find my sample more powdery (something I mentioned in my original write-up) but there’s none of that in Undina’s PoaL. The rose is balanced in Undina’s. It’s fully developed, and has a softness to it at the same time. But it doesn’t come across as powdery to my nose. In fact, when wearing the two on each wrist, the powderiness of my more recent sample is really striking. I’m not sure what the FM team could have added (or subtracted) from older formulas to create that, or why they would want a more powdery effect? Of course, it could also be a strange fluke of my skin chemistry.

Reformulations can be a real frustration, and the bane of some perfume-lover’s existence. It raises some interesting questions though. If brands continue to reformulate their compositions on a regular basis, can there be a “definitive” version of a fragrance? Does that make the original batch the “truest” version of a fragrance?

One of the reasons I bought Gabrielle was to own a bottle from an early batch. In waiting years to test Portrait of a Lady, did I wait too long? I think my recent sample is lovely, but I’m really grateful I got to test an older composition as well. Like I said, it’s still recognizable as the same fragrance. It still has the same inherent DNA, but there are differences. Undina’s PoaL gives me a different experience with that truly full-bodied patchouli. It’s just a gorgeous perfume, and even more worthy of Isabel Archer.


A huge thank you to Undina for letting me test out her gorgeous PoaL!

Photo taken by me.


6 thoughts on “Portrait of a Lady: Take 2

    1. It sounds to me like you have the right idea! Reformulations and discontinuations will happen, but hopefully there’s always something new worth loving.

  1. And therein lies the problem of vintage….once you try the original chances are you love it more than the reformulation….I like this idea of buying Gabriella before it too becomes reformulated 🙂

    1. It makes me wistful thinking about all the gorgeous original fragrances I’ve missed out on!

      And I’m betting that future reformulations will make me more appreciative of the current Gabrielle!

  2. Caitlin, thank you for reporting back. Now I know.

    I’ve never thought about it before, but now I realize that when I try something, like it and consider a purchase, I should act faster, not waiting my usual 1+ year: there’s a good chance that by the time I decide to go for a bottle, it won’t be the same as the version that I’d tried and liked.

    I hate companies for changing the formulation without telling us. It is cheating, especially when it comes from niche companies. I oppose to IFRA’s stupid regulations, but I would applaud regulations of the other kind. I know that companies complain about having to put their ingredients in open, without having any type of IP protection for scents. I’m fine with them NOT telling the exact formula but putting on a “vintage” (a year when the bottle was produced) and the version of the juice.

    1. Thank you for letting me try your PoaL! Completely gorgeous. Now you know there are some definite differences to the more current formulation.

      You’re right about not waiting around to buy something you love. And it would actually be *really* helpful if fragrances were marked with the bottle’s “vintage” year like wines. What a brilliant idea! We’d all know to avoid the particularly bad vintages! 😉

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