Diptyque’s Eau Des Sens (2016)

Diptyque's Eau de Sens (2016)
Diptyque’s Eau de Sens (2016) © Victor Wong


I have always been excited about Diptyque’s new perfume release, particularly the artwork on the packaging. This time the label art of Eau des Sens shows an orange in the middle (for it is an orange blossom-themed perfume), and placed around the orange is the title of the perfume in the form of a swirling vortex, supposedly giving you a “Twilight Zone” opening credit mysterious feeling.

I thought, maybe the oranges used in this perfume had some hypnotic properties that made you suck lemons, but upon first spray, it didn’t, but it did create some sort of a confusion…

To me, Eau des Sens is a very straightforward orange blossom perfume, released just in time for springtime wearing. Why did they pick orange blossom for the “perfume of senses”? Why not musks? Or spices, or some complex flower accords? The marketing copy of Eau des Sens (Senses) goes like this: “A confusion of the senses – Some perceive the scent in terms of colors while others hear whispering voices, taste ambrosia or feel as if they are burrowing their noses into soft skin. Presenting Eau des Sens, an awakening of the senses.”

Just when I thought everything was just a marketing ploy, the scent progression of Eau des Sens fascinated me after I had given it a full day’s wearing, and it went like this: opening – orange blossoms + bitter orange citrus + some green accords, lasted for half an hour or so; the middle – something mildly sweet and soft that lasted for an hour or so, and finally, and suddenly, it smelled like orange blossoms again, but it’s not! It’s actually a very long lasting angelica/patchouli/juniper berries accord + the remaining of the orange blossoms in the opening that had fooled me into thinking it’s a big orange blossom perfume with hours of longevity. My conclusion: If you want an orange blossom perfume that lasts, this is it.
With this perfume, Diptyque has returned to fine form – natural smelling, easy-to-love, quite simple, with a little hippy twist.

Diptyque’s Oyedo (2000) and L’eau de L’eau (2008)

Diptqyue's Oyedo and L'eau de L'eau © Victor Wong
Diptqyue’s Oyedo and L’eau de L’eau © Victor Wong


I have never eaten or seen a real yuzu orange, but its smell is never a stranger to me, for I had eaten a lot of Japanese hard candies when I was kid, (I wish I didn’t, but it’s too late, I am obese) and yuzu flavored ones were always in the assorted mix. It’s hard to describe what it smells like if you have never smelled one before; the frustration is almost like telling you a grapefruit smells like an orange but not exactly.

Smelling Diptyque’s yuzu-based Oyedo is a pure joy for me, for it’s refreshing, tart, candy-like, minty, citrusy, my childhood, and has even a little hint of petroleum. The quick evaporation of the scent and the citrus oils burn my skin like no other perfumes, but strangely that makes it a great unisex chilly summer perfume if you don’t mind a little moaning after the application. If you have Japanese kids, they will like you more when you wear it.

L’eau de L’eau

L’eau de L’eau is Water of Water and water of water is no super water but a pomander perfume. A pomander is the corpse of an orange after torturing it to death by pushing a lot of cloves in its body and hanging it high and dry. It is supposed to smell amazing if you manage to keep it from growing molds. (I will try that unsaintly thing this Christmas.)

I wasn’t interested in this perfume because 1) It has two L’eaus in the title and l’eau means cologne to me and cologne has a secret name, Eau de Yawn; 2) It has a lot of oranges in the box art and I have some orange perfumes already. But, I didn’t see the cinnamon bark hiding in the illustration before and I am glad that I gave it another try in the department store – it’s powdery, spicy with cloves and cinnamon, rich with lavender, geranium and ginger, and finally a lot of citruses to make this fall and winter scent suitable for a summer wear. It smells quite amazing, I must say.

Diptyque’s L’Autre (1973)

Diptyque L'Autre © Victor Wong
Diptyque L’Autre © Victor Wong

The opening of Diptyque’s L’Autre (1973) is so absurd that it makes me laugh. Almost like watching a hippie missing a front tooth in a tie-dye shirt walk onto the stage on a talent show, it’s quite hilarious – the mean judge immediately frowns and shakes his head, the teenage girls in the audience make an “eww” and the women start whispering to their girl friends’ ears. To me, the opening is so un-perfume like it smells of muscle ache rubbing cream, or may be Tiger Balm (my mom used it many years ago and I vaguely what it smells like.) Some people say it smells like armpit, or a hairy man after a round of boxing, but all I smell is the combination of spices (cardamon, nutmeg, pepper, and caraway seeds) and fresh coriander. It doesn’t smell B.O. to me at all (contrary to Serge Lutens’ Arabie).

The audience calms down and Mr. L’Auture starts singing the Song of Dry Down. The voice is sweet, exotic, a bit mellow, a bit fresh and carries a Thai accent (coriander). It’s quite beautiful but half of the judge panel decides to push the “Not For Me” button. I keep on listening. Suddenly a revelation comes… it resembles a Serge Lutens perfume, only that L’Autre was released much earlier than any SLs. The sweetness of L’Autre reminds me of Fille en Aiguilles (dried fruits/spice/vetiver/pine) except it is not as sweet, and of course, without the pine. I can’t say I love L’Autre 100%, but this is definitely a bottle to keep for show and tell.

Finding an occasion to wear this perfume is tricky; oh I know, I should take a hike.

Diptyque’s L’Eau Trois (1975)

Diptyque L'Eau Trois © Victor Wong
Diptyque L’Eau Trois © Victor Wong

I’ve observed that there are many kinds of perfume enthusiasts – some focus on new niche releases only, some like to collect vintage perfumes, and some are loyal to only one brand, and of course, those busy hummingbirds that need to sample every flower in the garden or they will die of boredom.

At one point I had focused only on niche perfumes; then I became interested in well-known perfume houses with a prestigous history in perfume making. Take Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar for example, they were created in 1920s. It’s cool and important to know what famous perfumes of the early 20th century smell like, but currently my interest in them is only skin deep.

As I smell more and more perfumes, I have developed some sensibility to tell approximately what decade a particular perfume is from. (Hmm, I should back track… may be not, but most likely I can tell if it is vintage, from the 80s or contemporary. I guess most people can do that too. Waahh wahh.)

Now what’s holding in my hand is a bottle of L’Eau Trois by Diptyque. It was first released in France in 1975. I was a toddler in Hong Kong back then. 1975 is really not that long ago, but I have very little memory of what things were like during the first 10 years of my childhood. Is L’Eau Trois an indicative perfume of the 70s? It makes me think… Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage was released in 1966. Ralph Polo was released in 1978. In between we have L’Eau Trois, a frankincense perfume that smells like an Orthodox church? If I show you this scent and ask you what decade it’s from, can you guess it correctly? I myself can’t. So here’s my theory…L’Eau Trois is actually a timeless niche perfume from the 70s! (Dramatic lightning.)

L’Eau Trois smells particularly interesting to me because it’s all about frankincense and myrrh. I’ve played with frankincense and myrrh essential oil for aromatherapy, burnt frankincense and myrrh resins on a piece of hot coal – slightly different flavor, I’d compare it to poaching something vs roasting. But wearing a perfume that’s all about these two famous resins is another experience; it makes me feel like I am a hippie or someone very spritual who sells snake oil. (It also has rosemary and spices in it, but that seems almost irrelevant.) A must try, in my opinion.

Diptyque’s Essences Insensées (2014)

Diptyque  Essences Insensees © Victor Wong
Diptyque Essences Insensees © Victor Wong

I have been doing some research on mimosa perfumes lately. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Mimosa pour Moi and Annick Goutal’s Mimosa were two of the more popular perfumes that came up at the top of the Google search result page. Hmm, I wondered if I had a sample of Mimosa pour Moi from the many L’Artisan Parfumeur samples that I ordered two years ago? I dug around my drawer, yes, I did, only I had completely forgotten about it, as it wasn’t a very memorable scent to me. It actually smelled very nice but also very light; and the supporting notes such as vanilla and violet leaf receded to the background to let mimosa shine, as mimosa is a very soft and light honeyed smelling flower.

Then I came across Diptyque’s Essences Insensées in a department store. I used to think the French word insensées meant incense in English, but (somebody please help me here) Google Translate said it meant “foolish” or “excessive”? Foolish Essence? Excessive Essence? Well, the salesman told me that this limited edition perfume only used flowers that blossom during the December to March period. (To be honest, I don’t remember exactly which months.) Impressive, I guess? Well, to me the most important aspect of this perfume is that it’s a mimosa-centred perfume, and it smells very… strange.

Compared to the naive girl Mimosa pour Moi, Essences Insensées smells grown up and fallen, a middle age woman who has seen better days too early. Why is life so messy? What a soft clash of innocence and decadence. She can still see her beautiful mimosa former self in the mirror, but the smell of heavy beeswax, darker tone of violet, rose and pink pepper weigh her down. Sob a little bit in your bed while wearing your elegant Art Deco ball gown, don’t get up. Tomorrow will be better.

Diptyque’s Ofrésia (1999)

Diptyque Ofresia © Victor Wong
Diptyque Ofresia © Victor Wong

Diptyque’s Ofresia freaked me out.

First of all, the perfumer of this minimalistic floral scent is Olivia Giacometti, a talented perfumer who has created many great scents for different perfume houses such as L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzing, Frederic Malle’s En Passant and Lubin’s Idole. While she is not the type of perfumer who likes to use a lot of notes in her creations, Ofresia has only three notes: freesia, pepper and wood. Yes, if you can buy perfumery ingredients in a supermarket, you don’t even need to bring a grocery list to make Ofresia a la King.

Ok, Ofresia only has three notes, so what? Does it smell good? Well, a big no at first then a big yes. But let me clarify first. It doesn’t smell cheap and it doesn’t smell overly simple. When I first smelled Ofresia, I “woah?” a little bit because all I could smell was a light fresh floral mixed with rubber. I know what pepper and wood smell like, so by deduction I guess freesia smells a little bit rubbery in nature? I know that the scents of a lot of flowers are actually quite complex (e.g jasmine smells redolent and fecal), maybe freesia smells fresh, redolent, green and rubbery in nature? Once I’ve overcome that “some flowers smell a bit weird” mental hurdle, Ofresia becomes an one-of-a-kind scent that I enjoy very much. Now if I want a perfume with a floral scent that is not rose, jasmine, tuberose or iris, I know which bottle to reach for.

Diptyque’s Noisetier Candle

Diptyque Noisetier Hazel © Victor Wong
Diptyque Noisetier Hazel © Victor Wong

Burning my first Diptyque candle. I love uncommon scents and this one is Noisetier, or Hazel. At first I thought it was roasted chestnuts, but the sales told me it’s hazelnuts, and we were both wrong – it’s hazel. (Leaves? Flowers? Raw nuts?) The scent is woody green and a bit raw! I wonder what other essential oils are in this formula or is it purely hazel? I have never smelled anything like it, although it’s not completely in a strange territory.

Diptyque’s Vetyverio (2010)

Diptyque Vetyverio © Victor Wong
Diptyque Vetyverio © Victor Wong

A fragrance blog reviewer gave one of my favourite perfumes a 1-star rating and I yelled out loud, “No way!” She thought the perfume was good but it didn’t last long on her skin. I wrote a paragraph in the comment section defending the perfume and just left it like that.

The next day before I went to work, I browsed through my perfume collection and skipped all the ones that wouldn’t last on me for more than a few hours. It’s a standard routine. Suddenly I remembered yesterday’s review… did she have a point? A lot of perfumes didn’t get my love because they have poor longevity. People suggest re-applying at work and if I do so I am afraid the light box above my cubicle would light up and reads “Here Sits the High Maintenance Man Victor Wrong”.

I stood in front of my perfumes thinking like an idiot for 5 minutes, and said, “f*k it,” and grabbed my bottle of Vetyverio and sprayed. I’d come to realization that perfumes that perform well eventually get boring too. It’s like drinking many cups of tea with no change of tea bag.

The opening of Vetyverio has the smell of an opened can of concentrated orange juice infused with some vetiver. You are just smelling the juice, not tasting it, so there is little sweetness and no stickiness. It’s fresh, hesperidic (I just learned this word, I have to use it) and the faintly smell of spices and florals in the background make this vetiver perfume quite uncommon and lovely.

I have accepted Diptyques’ perfumes because It doesn’t matter if you love their edt, or capital E-D-P, they are born that way – horrible horrible longevity. After leaving the house and in less than two hours, she’s dead, face down on the street. But I’d enjoyed the short walk with her.

Inspiring Perfumes Series Pt. 3: Diptyque’s Philosykos (1996)

Diptyque Philosykos EDP © Victor
Diptyque Philosykos EDP © Victor

[I want to write about some of the perfumes that have influenced and led me to the creation of my perfume brand, Zoologist Perfumes. They have sparked ideas and given me new understanding about niche fragrances and the marketing of them.]

Pt. III. Unwavered Olfactive and Art Direction – Diptyque’s Philosykos

I remember taking a test strip sprayed with some Philosykos and walked out of a department store, people looking at me sniffing that white strip of paper as I passed them by, as if there was some kind of new fun drug that just got legalized and they were missing out, and 15 minutes later I turned around and bought a full bottle.

Philosykos smells like one part my childhood in Hong Kong, and one part my adulthood in Canada – when I was a kid, my favourite snack drink was semi-sweet coconut milk in a little carton box; when I was living by myself in a condo unit in Toronto 15 years ago, I had a mini potted fig tree and I could smell the green yet milky fig leaves every time I touched it. Philosykos smells fresh, comforting, edible, because it’s a little sweet and coconutty, not-so-edible because it smells botanical and raw. It’s awesome.

Strangely, out of that many Diptyque fragrances, I only love one or two bottles, but it has never crossed my mind that I would hate any of the scents that I don’t love. If one day Diptyque releases an oud fragrance, I will be a little bit disappointed, because to me, Diptyque is all about fresh or woody botanical scents, and it has an abstract and yet consistent olfactive style. They are a little bit like Hayao Miyazaki’s anime, one look and you can tell it’s his movie because of the art direction, yet each one has its own story to tell.

What also drew me to their scents was their label artwork. Imperfect black and white ink pen artwork and chaotic pre-letterset typography that channel you to an unfamiliar yet lovely location or mood, such as the pagoda or the Indian palace depicted on the Do Son and Eau Lente label artwork, or a Mediterranean garden full of lavender from the label of Eau de Lavande.

I remember asking my coworker Caro which perfume brand she likes more and she says, “umm… they don’t smell strong but nice, they have one that smells of tomato stem (L’Ombre Dans L’eau)… which one is it?” “Diptyque?” “Yes.”

Diptyque fragrances don’t get a lot of Scent of the Day mention in Facebook fragrance groups, probably because they are not really exciting scents, but I want to make a wild guess that 3 out of 5 women in the fragrance community has a bottle of Diptyque in their collection. If this is true, Diptyque is a very successful brand, in my eyes.

If I can’t make my perfumes all share the same olfactive style, I want my packaging to at least have a consistent and distinct art direction like Diptyque’s.

Diptyque’s Geranium Odorata (2014)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Geranium is one of my favourite flowers. Every spring I buy a hanging basket full of geraniums, put it on my porch, and they don’t stop blooming till the end of summer. If I want to nitpick, it is that geraniums have no floral scent. But I know that geranium is used in perfumery, so I guess they use its leaves instead? I later stumbled upon a forum post on this topic, and someone said that there was a special kind of geranium called rose geranium, and its scent is heavenly.

When I found out Diptyque’s latest EDT, Geranium Odorata was geranium based, I was very curious. One smell, and I immediately fell in love with it. I actually didn’t not know if I was smelling rose geranium at all, but the overall effect hit all my buttons right – powdery, gingery (not listed, but I think this could be rose geranium?), tonka beans – it’s sweet, powdery but fresh. It reminds me a traditional a Chinese dessert, tongyuan, which is just doughy rice flour dumpling filled with ground sesame/peanuts and sugar cooked in boiling hot water infused with a few slices of ginger and some rock-sugar. The soup becomes slightly starchy because of the dumplings, but the ginger cuts through the gooeyness and brings great aroma to this simple dessert. How funny I have found my childhood favourite dessert in a perfume.

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong