Thursday, April 21, 2011

Diptyque Opopanax: fragrance (for home & beyond) review

The practice of wearing room fragrance as personal scent isn't totally revolutionary on my part (everyone raves, me included, about incense-y Essence of John Galliano by -recently controversial- designer Galliano) but Opopanax by Diptyque is my very own personal "discovery" down that path of delightful addiction that plagues at least some of the aficionados of scent. Basically a room spray (with its fine fragrance counterpart being Eau Lente by the same brand, which I also like a lot), Opopanax is more complex and nuanced than its simplistic name would suggest; which is exactly what prompted me to experiment with it in the first place.

Opopanax (also spelled "opoponax") is a secretion from the stems of the plant Opopanax chironium, or "sweet myrrh", which is then dried out in the sun. Coming from a sunny climate where the yellow flowers of this "noblest ofincense gums", to quote king Solomon himself, are a common enough sight, I have somewhat of an affinity with this sweet smelling essence. It might also have to do with the delightful etymology: ὀποπάναξ comes from the Greek words ὀπός and πανάκεια, literally "total healing through plant essence".

In Diptyque's Opopanax apart from the fluffy, powdery woody, exotically sensuous and all around cozy haze of the eponymous Middle-Eastern resin I can detect shades of orange blossom, orange confit cake, balsamic vanilla and even Eastern Bread, the confit qualities and the mahlep spice being facets of the resin itself. And yet it also has a certain freshness about it: Not exactly the lemon-facets of frankincence which peter out to smokiness cooling the air as they leave, but nonetheless it does not smell opressing at all. Its voluptuous unfolding on air, linen, skin or clothes is like an arc of graceful awakening: you feel it making your nostrils quiver and then settle into a prolonged inhalation and another prolonged exhalation of utter pleasure. The dark, powdery backdrop of Opopanax is reminiscent of how vintage Shalimar used to dry down, the powder never too sweet, the leathery quinolines never too harsh, all coppery clouds setting on some eastern temple scenery when nary the tremble of a leaf would cut the awed silence of the moment.

Among room fragrances which can be borrowed for fine fragrance needs (the opposite is also valid practice, as some in the Guerlain Aqua Allegoria line have proved in my experience), Diptyque's Opopanax is truly stellar, achingly gorgeous, right up there with the very best and lovers of Misuki, Or des Indes, Bal a Versailles and indeed Shalimar are urged to check it out.

Diptyque Opopanax comes in a room spray of 200ml and a 6.5oz candle. Obviously the room spray is easier to manipulate towards perfuming what strikes your fancy, but the candle is also terrific.
Available on the Diptyque site.(and on their UK page)

photo of candles in Orthodox church via

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