Diptyque Volutes (2012): That Warmth {Perfume Review & Musings}


Diptyque Volutes is the most recent perfume composition by the French brand, about which we talked earlier on as a precursor in the field of what is commonly called today "niche perfumery" - the artier and more artisan-conscious branch of contemporary perfumery. Before Serge Lutens and even before L'Artisan Parfumeur, there was Diptyque which introduced discreetly head-turning sillages smelling decidedly "different" in the air of Paris from the 1960s...

These are the brands which, when sincere in their aims, spend more time imagining the perfume itself than envisioning their future perfume wearers' daily constraints and predictable dreams. What you find at Sephora on the other hand on their designer fragrance shelves is usually more obsessed by the desire to incarnate the next eternal feminine, or masculine. Theirs is a different approach. Anyone who is interested in perfume can relate to the fact that on some days all you need is a fragrance which underlines your aura or enhances your private space albeit none too ostentatiously.

In these smaller perfume houses however, some are emboldened enough to dream about smells first and people last, convinced that the abstract patrons of their dreams expect rarity and originality and are usually only too eager to wear a distinctive olfactive signature rather than an easy one (some scents offer both qualities). This, of course, is no apology of snobbery as we firmly believe that there is a moment and a time for each type of scent to live under the sun provided that they are good (you do not want to waste your time wearing approximate perfumes.)


Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin, who already created at least two smoky perfumes, Tabac Sport by Mäurer & Wirtz and Juozas Statkevicius EDP, signs the new fragrance which is offered as a tobacco composition inspired by the scented trails of Egyptian cigarettes, namely the Khedives, blending in this new olfactive story with sophisticated fragrances of "haute parfumerie" - as put by the brand - worn by the affluent set aboard a long-distance steamer headed towards (former) colonial possessions. You're invited by Dyptique, to imagine that you are travelling on a boat from Marseilles to Saigon making ports of call in Port Saïd, the Suez Canal, Djibouti, Colombo and Singapore. Indochina is your destination.

You can also turn for mental-visualization help to the tantalizing vignette offered by a turn of the century journalist looking forward to smoking a Khedive, whose writing is excerpted from the book Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarrelled, and Thomas Edison became a Count by Jill Jones (2009),

'All the enchanting possibilities were overwhelming. One reporter contemplated a day in which he would "breakfast at Siam, dine in Bucharest, have his tea served by real Indians, and wind up with a Khedive cigarette at an Egyptian concert, where the dance girl Aicha does not seem to be distant, to say the least.'

One of the three co-founders of the house, Yves Coueslant, used to travel as a child on those exotic maritime routes. Volutes attempts to recapture the atmosphere of leisure, luxury and sophisticated sensuality that was exuded aboard transcontinental steamers transporting travellers dressed to the nines, Oriental cigarettes affixed to their fingers and lips - as one of the ultimate, forgotten fashion accessories of the times.

Volutes contains an homage to a classic of the classics in the family of room-filled-with-smoke perfumes

Volutes can now admittedly betray a slight whiff of the forbidden as it recreates the guilt-free pleasure of a gesture from an era when cigarette-smoking was full-on, uncritically glamorous. Today, the new absinthe-drinking is cigarette-smoking in many parts of the free world. Fabrice Pellegrin however did not aim to create a transgressive perfume, but rather a harmonious composition which strikes you with its nostalgic, sweet accents of heliotrope, and its bituminous reference to not only the hold of a ship, but a classic of French perfumery. There is a central play on the sensation of warmth which is quite peculiar and makes the perfume stand out for the range of pyrogenic nuances it displays.

From the outset, you can smell the unfolding of a very honeyed tobacco accord which is enlivened by a sharp, both silky and raspy, a bit, iris followed by an underlying dark resinous accord. The iris is costly - both floral and elegantly rooty. The Eau de Parfum, we were told, brings out the iris even more as an interpretation of the Eau de Toilette.
Diptyque underline the fact that they did not want to give in to cliched Orientalist languor adding fresh spices in the top, namely pink peppercorn, pepper from Madagascar and saffron to counterbalance the velvet (of the iris). This slight asperity can be felt readily, however subtle it is.
The iris was reportedly worked upon to bring out its "skin facet" and in order to mimic sueded leather. If it does not feel like leather too obviously, it does feel elegant -- and you think spontaneously, like leather gloves.
As perfumery creation progresses even more so than other arts mostly by increment rather than by breaking the ground, Volutes contains an homage to a classic of the classics in the family of room-filled-with-smoke perfumes: Habanita by Molinard. Created during the Roaring Twenties to scent cigarettes and cover their smoke, it is here partly reprised to contribute to the coherence of this cigarette-inspired perfume, just like Fumerie Turque by Serge Lutens, which also uses this classic reference in its core. The lentisc and the vanilla, are there, but new accents have been included: the coquettish, cherry-tinged heliotrope lends reinforcement to the sweet range on which vanilla plays yet adds an air of quaintness, like a remembrance of an old, worn out leather suitcase stuffed with memories of travels to the Far East. While heliotrope has experienced a revival recently either directly or as part of the powdery perfumes trend it does not necessarily always feels nostalgic. But here, it does.
The cherried and honeyed tobacco is extraordinarily mellow and warm, as if that well-traveled leather suitcase had been filled with hay burning slowly like a brasero, still containing the animal heat of the ass and cow which sat by the infant Jesus. This sensation of everlasting heat is compelling, making you think of the effect a swig taken from a flask of whiskey in winter can have on mind, soul and body. As it turns out, immortelle or everlasting flower contributes to this sensation, together with myrrh, opoponax, styrax, benzoin which were reportedly extracted using a new process which respects the olfactive identities of these resins better. There is a wonderful warmth emanating from Volutes, which strikes you more in a way than the smoky effect itself although come to think of it, you can feel in your throat the very acridity of smoke.
The marzipan and cherry accents lend the scent a gourmand profile together with the honey of the Amsterdamer tobacco accord using a qualitative tobacco absolute. It calls to mind somewhat the mellowness and warmth of Luctor et Emergo People of the Labyrinths, a confidential, underground cult perfume with a sophisticated cherry note.
Volutes is both inventive and elegant, that is to say both distinctive and wearable, but not to the point of forming a second skin like some perfumes can. It retains its wish to tell a story on skin. But really what one retains in the end, is this sensation of uncommon warmth which turns this fragrance into a portable brasero. They say that humanity were able to tell their first stories when fire was "invented" and managed. It is nice to see this essential reminder in this heart-warming perfume which makes you feel comfortable enough to set your mind free.
Pictures: courtesy picture; Die Reklambox

Related Posts

Leave a Comment