Diptyque was as much of a niche pioneer in its time as L’Artisan Parfumeur – it was founded even earlier, in the 1960s – with many innovations setting it apart from the dominant model of the time. An integrated fine and home fragrance collection, for one; but also storylines for the fine fragrances that sprung not from the extension of a male or female persona, but from the owners’ personal memories, from times and places rather than Paris style.
L’Ombre dans l’eau came from Dido Merwin, the house’s English pot-pourri maker, who smelled her hands after picking blackcurrant for jam and roses for bouquets in her garden. Philosykos reminded co-founders Desmond Knox-Leet and Yves Coueslant of a summer holiday on a Greek island. Do Son was the latter’s tribute to the flowers in the pagodas of Ha Long Bay he remembered from his childhood in Indochina.
Though no longer owned by the founding trio, Diptyque has drawn once more from their wealth of stories with Volutes, inspired by Yves Coueslant’s memories of crossing from Marseille to Saigon and smelling the Egyptian cigarettes smoked by glamorous female passengers. The project originated a decade ago, explains Fabrice Pellegrin of Firmenich, a frequent collaborator of Diptyque (Do Son, Eau de Lierre, Eau Duelle; Eau Rose…), and was revived a couple of years back, both because the house had no oriental fragrance and because tobacco is still quite a rare note in perfumery. One may suspect linking a new product with the Diptyque saga can’t hurt either: there seems to be an undercurrent of nostalgia in niche right now with several new fragrances referencing bygone eras (Frapin Speakeasy, Arquiste Boutonnière, etc..), and with its 85-year-old co-founder’s exotic past, Diptyque is more legitimate than most in that respect: he lived to smell the era.
The name Volutes refers to the curled tendrils of tobacco smoke. Two types of tobacco were used for the accord: a Nature Print (headspace) capture of Le Khédive Egyptian cigarettes, based around a tobacco absolute which Pellegrin describes as “black, bitter, acrid, smoky, almost leathery”, and an Amsterdamer pipe tobacco accord, “honeyed, floral, dried fruit and floral”. To tone down the masculine aspect of the tobacco since Diptyque fragrances are never gendered, the perfumer added a note not present in the story, iris, “which brings unctuousness”.
Volutes, like Do Son, Philosykos and L’Ombre dans l’eau, is presented in both eau de toilette and eau de parfum: along with concentrations (10 and 16% in this case), the formulas are slightly different. The eau de parfum, again according to its author, has stronger iris, spices, styrax, balsamic, immortelle and musk facets. I honestly don’t find a considerable difference between them: the eau de toilette is perhaps more luminous and veil-like, with a cooler iris feel to it contrasting with the warm, almost fatty honeyed tobacco accord that stars in both versions. The iris is neither rooty nor metallic; a hefty cocktail of five different musks draw it into the honeyed tobacco, while both the suede facet of iris and the leathery side of tobacco bond it with an underlying tarriness, more pronounced in the eau de parfum.
Neither is a high-volume fragrance – though it may be that, as is the case with certain iris scents like Cartier’s L’Heure Promise, that I become “desensitized” to the smell over the hours. But I fell in love with Volutes from the outset: the balance between the two main accords is exquisite, unfurling a low-key, confident sensuousness that just feels utterly right. The kind of fragrance you reach for without over-thinking, not because it’s a simple “smell-good-feel-good” – it’s far too sophisticated for that – but because its elegant non-gendered aura wears so smoothly.
Volutes will be available in October. Meanwhile, since I did a draw of a preview sample in my previous post, here is the winner:
Please contact me at graindemusc at gmail dot com to give me your address.
The upper illustration was produced for Volutes and provided by Diptyque. Please open it for a better view!