Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Dior Chypres series ~Diorella: fragrance review

Everyone has an aunt that used to bathe in cold water regardless of it being winter or summer, slip on her bathing suit first thing in the morning and go for an invogorating swim on the first sign of warm weather in mid-spring. She wore long masculine white shirts for summer errands and shopping for gigantic prawns for lunch; often without anything else beneath them but her already salty swimsuit and with matching white plimsolls on her slim feet. She left the salt from the sea on her skin all day long till the evening bath to tone it, make it firmer and washed her hair with rain water ~when she could get it. Those tips were divulged to you in passing: laughter and joyous munching on summery peaches, juice dribbling down her jaw while she was solving crosswords at the veranda; long legs sprawled over another chair, her metallic-frame reading glasses on her long nose. And “what is the word that is both a machine and a mystery? Has 6 letters”. You scratched your little head for it, for it was your favourite aunt. She had never married and people wondered if she had any boyfriends. Did she? You never got to know until it was too late. Her cold bathing didn’t help along with her illness, of which she got alerted rather too late. All the joyfull memorabilia of those summers long ago came into your mind with a frenzying velocity to overwhelm you. And what tears you wept… She could have been wearing Diorella all those summers ago. It wasn’t important; she never showed any signs of self-indulgence and perfume might seem like one.

But her scent could be Diorella. It was in 1972 when this chypre came out. Composed from a rather short formula by Edmond Roudnitska, it came as a female counterpart to his extremely successful Eau Sauvage: the masculine cologne that proved to be the most shared scent between the sexes in the 20th century. The heads at Dior soon saw that women who grabbed this magnificent, vivacious specimen from their boyfriends’ bathrooms would want a comparable fragrance to claim their own. And so Diorella was born exactly 6 years later, smelling as fresh as tomorrow. Roudnitska said about Diorella that it was his proudest creation and that it was the perfect compliment to the environment around his house and garden; he interestingly also said that it derived from Roudnitska's previous 1953 Eau Fraîche, not Eau Sauvage. In Diorella he summarised all the good refined things about spartan style he had come to master in his box of tricks. Rather, he had dispensed with the tricks by now and focused on pure, unadulterated essence.

Despite the joyful character of Diorella’s herbal opening (echoing the aromatic top of basil and bergamot of Eau Sauvage) and the zing of snapped leaves from a lemon tree that might remind you of O de Lancome (1969), Diorella is more serious than that. I also smell a touch of galbanum, a strong green note that was mainly explored in Germaine Cellier’s Vent Vert for Balmain (much more evident in the vintage version than the reformulated one by Calice Becker) which gives another layer of verdancy. And there is a touch of mandarin it seems (or is it?) with a synthetic melon accord to further consolidate the idea that was fist explored in Le Parfum de Thèrese; an iconoclastic idea at the time, giving an aqueous feel.

There is again the familiar theme of peach that Roudnitska explored in both Rochas Femme and Diorella, but here it is done in such a ligh manner as to not blunt the axe into fruit confits. Its subtle warmth enrobs a fresh jasmine note (probably the same dihydrojasmonate/ hedione isolated from the absolute that he used in Eau Sauvage). There is a magical translucence to it like sipping cold tangy juice from a crystal glass on a hot day. A very subtle sweetness reminds one of honeysuckle vines climbing on a metal fence, as if smelled from a distance. Later on there is a little powdery mossy ambience that slowly suggests a more autumnal mood, a secret that contrasts with the dazzling hesperides and fruits of the beginning. To every dawn there is twilight and those notes provide the backdrop to it. Maybe that was what prompted Susan Irvine to proclaim of it:
“Mysterious, it’s a Mona Lisa among scents”.

It might be interesting to compare notes with Eau Sauvage and Eau Fraiche de Dior:
Notes for Diorella:
Lemon, basil, bergamot, melon, green note
Peach, honeysuckle, jasmine, rose, cyclamen
Oakmoss, vetiver, patchouli, musk

Notes for Eau Sauvage:
Lemon, basil, bergamot, petitgrain, cumin
Hedione, lavender, patchouli, carnation, coriander, orris, sandalwood
Oakmoss, vetiver, amber

Notes for Eau Fraîche de Dior (vintage):
Bergamot, lemon, mandarin, orange, green notes
Oakmoss, vanilla

And “what is the word that is both a machine and a mystery? Has 6 letters”. You scratched your little head for it, for it was your favourite aunt. She had never married and people wondered if she had any boyfriends. Did she? The word, dear aunt, was enigma. You.

Diorella is available at most department stores carrying Dior perfumes. It only comes in eau de toilette and there are no major differences between different vintages to my knowledge.

Next post will tackle a fun side of Dior!

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  1. Anonymous15:15

    Best post yet. Thank you!

  2. You're Dior series should be required reading. And I adore the old ads. One question per Eau Sauvage: does vintage matter?

  3. Thank you Z! :-))
    I appreciate your kindness in saying so.

  4. I am thrilled that you say so, dear C. Coming from someone so erudite it is highly complimentary.
    I too love the old ads, plan to blog about them.

    I haven't discerned major differences in the versions of Eau Sauvage circulating in the last 20 years. It smells wonderful. I suspect that there might be a tweaking re:dosage of oakmoss soon if it is above the required ratio, though. We'll see...

  5. Anonymous22:11

    Helg, I'm glad I finally got to catch up with your Dior chypre series. It's wonderful. I think a lot of your posts should be required reading for perfumistas.

    Dior fragrances are very fickle with me. My skin can't hold them. But my darling Diorling curls right up. I have her on right now. She's getting to that patchouli and vetiver stage.

  6. Thank you, dear Maria. It warms my heart to see such enthusiasm for something I was very excited to embark on myself.

    Really Dior frags don't last on you? Not even Hypnotic Poison or the original Poison?
    Of course Diorling is great and you're lucky that it suits you! She's a beauty. *dreamy smile*

  7. I think Diorama, Diorella and Eau Sauvage should be smelled in the same time, by contrast to understand the evolution of an idea. It's a wonderful experience to smell Diorama and then Diorella to see how a similar idea become airy and purified.
    In the top note there is methyl octine carbonate (a green violet note) and besides hedione you have cis jasmone and helional (a lily of the valey transparent). The chypre note is also new, with a novel ingredient - evernyl, also found in O (Lancome). Chanel Cristalle took Diorella one step further with 30% of Hedione.:)

  8. Thank you Octavian for your amazingly knowledgable comment!
    Indeed my point in this series was to track the common elements in the development of the Rouditska aesthetics: the paring down, the route to minimalism...I think Ellena drew on this for his own vision.
    Very interesting to find about evernyl!

    BTW What is your opinion on the difference between the two concentrations of Cristalle? I find the EDP more chypre, the EDT more citrus ~although there are floral elements in both. Is the hedione elevated as much in both?

  9. Forgot to say:
    glad to know that my instinct/nose about the resemblance with O de Lancome is based on actual facts! :-)

  10. EDP has much more body, EDT is close to an Eau idea.
    Cristalle is something like: 30% Hedione, 20% rose base, 20% lily of the valley base, 20% jasmin base and the rest is chypre + aditional elements. (well, it's not that simple, but that's the idea. :))
    The amount of Hedione is for the airy feeling. The same amount aprox is in Amarige ! (such a strong perfume).
    I find EDT playing with the lemony-sparkling idea and EDP with the round peach idea of the jasmin.
    In fact Evernyl (synthetic moss) brought chypre to a new dimension, the modern one.
    btway, i'll give you a trick: if you are not sure a fragrance contains or not oakmoss/tremoss, look on the small label with ingredients because it's listed as an alergen.
    You'll have at leaast one big surprise: check chanel No5, perfume, EDT and EDP. :))

  11. Thank you again Octavian for your comment: very interesting.
    I have always said on boards that Cristalle EDP is more of a chypre and thus unjustly underappreciated. For some reason the fact that it came long after the EDT seems not to impress people! LOL!
    The ratio of Hedione in Amarige is something I had not noticed, to tell you the truth. I always shyed away from such a typhoon of a scent...

    Re:oakmoss (evernia prunastri), yes, I had been aware of the allergenic properties and the hysteria about rationing it. In fact I had written an article some time ago:
    Article on oakmoss

  12. Anonymous07:59

    I think this is genius: you capture Diorella so very beautifully; it would be impossible to better it.

  13. Aw, so kind of you to say so, Black Narcissus! (what a beautiful alias)
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  14. Fantastic article. I learned so much about Dior's fragrances and especially Diorella.

  15. I reread this post at least once a year - one of my favourites.


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