The Charm of the Unfamiliar: Diptyque “Exotic” Scents

As an English teacher and literature expert, I’ve always been obsessed by the Gothic romance and the Victorian Gothic (being the first the works of Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe and Charles Brockden Brown, and the second the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, just to name a few). What fascinates me most is not only the general atmosphere of these novels, but also the fact that most of them (this can be said especially for the Gothic romance) are permeated by the concept of the “exotic”, something distant in time (a touch of Medievalism is always there) and place (most of the novels are set in Italy – think of The Castle of Otranto, in Spain or in the Middle East). Exotic, with this meaning, is the ultimate escape from reality, from a time and a place we don’t feel comfortable in.

As a Diptyque fan [1], I think the adjective “exotic” can perfectly describe the scents of the French maison, because they are so peculiar that they always refer to faraway places and suggestions. Founded in 1961 by three friends (painter Desmond Knox-Leet, set designer Yves Coueslant and Christiane Gautrot, who was working in an architecture firm), Diptyque range includes several scents, home scents, candles and a body care line. All the products are distinguished by a pure white packaging and sleek bottles; all the stickers have the same shape and are printed in black.

I think Diptyque scents are the best out there. Though never been a die-hard fan of perfumes, I’ve turned into one when I first smelled L’Ombre dans l’Eau (that is The Shadow in the Water, in English; it was created by Serge Kalouguine and introduced in 1983). A friend of mine, who has been using Diptyque scents for a long time, told me this was the *perfect* perfume for me [2] and he was right indeed! It is described [3] as the scent of a green riverside garden, with blackcurrant leaves and Bulgarian rose. Since it has become my favourite perfume, I’ve also bought the body lotion.

ombre

Isn’t the sticker romantic, with the white swan swimming amidst water lilies?


ombre label

L’Ombre dans l’Eau is built on an important flower base note, but it is also based on top citrus-green notes.  For this reason, I started looking for a more floral scent, to wear in spring. Olene (created by Serge Kalouguine and released in 1988) came to the rescue. It is described as a deep, mysterious blend of fragrant white flowers. The water evokes a deep and mysterious twilight of white, slender and starry flowers (wisteria, jasmine and narcissus). I am a jasmin lover, and wearing this perfume is like walking through a jasmin garden, sublime!

olene

The bottle of Olene has the traditional squared shape, the sticker has two cornucopias full of flowers, which is a correct symbol for the scent.

olene label

The third Diptyque scent I own is not an ordinary perfume, some do not consider a perfume at all. Vinaigre de Toilette (released in 1975) is intended to be a skin tonic and a multipurpose product. It is based on a 19th century recipe: it opens with a neroli note, followed by a herbal note clearly dominated by thyme and spices. It can be used as an after shave, bath oil, air freshener (some drops into a bowl of hot water), as  a facial toner and hair brightener. I personally use it as a perfume as well, because the vinegar/herbal/spicy mix is so appealing.

vinaigre

The beautiful sticker of Vinaigre de Toilette has a pitcher and a bowl, a clear reference to the multiple uses of the product.

label

The boxes of these perfumes are all white, the labels have the same decorations as the ones on the stickers.

boxes

Diptyque is known for its fragrances but for its candles, too. The range of natural and hand-poured candles is incredibly complex – floral (Violette, Freesia and Gardenia, for example), fruity (Oranger, Oyedo, Figuier), herbal (Menthe Verte, Verveine and Mousses, for example), woody and spicy (Maquis, Opopanax and Pomander, for example). Diptyque candles, in their elegant glass jars, have become a glamourous object – designers Alexander Wang and Peter Som use them as pencil holders. A Diptyque candle (Baies) even appeared in Sex and the City, on the shelves in Carrie’s bedroom. I’m sure candles are the best-seller items in Diptyque stores, but I’d love to visit one of them just to enjoy the experience. The most famous shop is in 34 boulevard Saint Germain in Paris (the address is printed on all the boxes and stickers), but the shop in 8 rue de Francs Bourgeois is truly amazing.

paris store

The shop is very simple and modern, and exhudes French glamour.

paris store 1

In New York Diptyque has a store in Bleecker Street: in this case, the store is very different from the ones in Paris. There are more decorations (look at the ancient panel on the left, with some masked dancers on it) and more pieces of furniture, but the atmosphere is refined.

ny store

Most of the shop is based on the iconic contrast of black and white, one of the symbols of Diptyque.

ny store 1

At the moment I do not own a Diptyque candle, because my daughter is so young and I do not want to force her to smell such complex fragrances, but sooner or later I will surely want to try Baies (which is L’Ombre dans l’Eau in candle form), Violette, Roses, The and Pomander.

Are you a frequent user of perfumes and scented candles? Which are your favourites? Any Diptyque fan among my readers?

[1] If you are Facebook users, please check my “Diptyque Scents & Candles” gift application. If you are Flickr users, please check my “Diptyque Fragrances and Candles” group.

[2] He knew I love rose-scented perfumes, but with a twist.

[3] I think it’s quite useless trying to describe a perfume, because the sense of smell is absolutely subjective. Nonetheless, I’m giving you some general ideas about the actual smell of these perfumes and linking some good reviews.

Source and source.

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23 comments

  1. Oh Bleecker streets remind me that episode in Sex&theCity, when Carrie met the alcholist guy and she told him is going to Bleecker Street.
    I love Diptyque Candles, their perfect shape with the signature in the front, it’s so elegant and refined.

  2. Quell’amico li, secondo me, sapeva che quello era il suggerimento giusto! e si ricorda pure che quello era un bel periodo, di novità, di attese, ed è bello dare un tempo ad un profumo.

    Io continuno ad accendere Geranium Rosa prima di iniziare ogni nuovo lavoro che reputo importante, è un vero e proprio rito. è LA candela, le altre nemmeno le provo (anche se quella al Cipresso merita davvero)
    quest’estate per la prima volta non sto utilizzando Philosykos e ho provato L’eau de Tarocco.bello, ma con quella bottiglia li perde un poco di spirito diptyque.
    a presto
    -acido rivelatore, una volta blogger

  3. Eccome se lo sapeva! E’ verissimo, era un periodo pieno di attese in senso lato (io avevo B nel pancione ;)), ed è forse per quello che L’Ombre è subito diventato più che un semplice profumo per me.
    L’Eau de Tarocco deve essere una colonia favolosa (leggo che c’è pure la rosa bulgara, e ho detto tutto), ma hai ragione: quella bottiglia così snella e non squadrata non è tanto Diptyque, ma è la sostanza che conta, no?

  4. si!… poi questa estate per me è importantissima, grandi svolte, eventi decisivi, mi piaceva cambiare del tutto. è una colonia molto particolare, di solito agli agrumi si associa la freschezza e la semplicità, questa è molto calda. unico neo il bottiglione da shampo…ma va bene uguale.

    1. Hai fatto bene a lasciare il vecchio per il nuovo, perchè a volte c’è bisogno di sperimentare, di fare scelte nuove e – perchè no? – legarsi ad altro. Per quanto riguarda il bottiglione da shampoo, mi lascia piuttosto perplessa. Se proprio non volevano riproporre i flaconi squadrati dei profumi, perchè non usare le belle bottiglie – leggermente più strette e armoniche – che contengono i profumi per ambiente? Ma vabbè, se la fragranza vale la pena, lasciamo perdere il resto.

  5. Superqueen, I connect with this post in so many ways: the gothic literature (have you ever visited Strawberry Hill, Walpole’s residence in the suburbs of London? Sublime!), the neo-gothic (Le Fanu) and Dyptique, also my favourite perfume…

    I like it so much because it is more than a perfume. It smells of odours, herbs and fruit as well as flowers but never feels alcholic as many other mainstream perfumes. I have been trying several scents by Dyptique, but I always go back to the fig. It is not as sweet as the word “fig” may evoke. The opposite. It has got a *grassy* quality.

    A few days ago I discovered the refillers, which are perfect for travel. They come in a package of three, so you can take one in your handbag.

    Do you also know the Artisan Parfumeur and Jo Malone? I sometimes alternate my Dyptique with Malone, but I find Artisan too old fashion cologne… if you know what I mean… Although the Paris shop where I got a bottle was lovely and the package very charming.

    1. Hi!!! Welcome back 🙂
      No, I’ve never been to visit Strawberry Hill, but I’d love to, because I’m sure it’s an amazing place with a magic atmosphere.
      You totally hit the mark, as for the main quality of Diptyque perfumes: they never smell artificial or synthetic, like most of the “common” perfumes do, and this is what makes the difference, in my opinion. If you’re talking about fig, so you must be using Philosykos! I’m looking forward to give it a try. Which other Diptyque perfumes have you tried? I saw the refillers last time I went to my favourite perfume shop. They’re lovely but really expensive 😦 so I pretended not to want them so badly 😉
      I’ve already heard of the Artisan Parfumeur and Jo Malone, but I’ve never tried their fragrances. Apart from Diptyque, I’m in love with Creed perfumes too. I’ve tried Fleur de The Rose Bulgare (I received a decant in a swap) and I fell in love with it: it’s the most intense rose-smelling perfume I’ve ever tried (and – being a rose lover – I’ve tried a lot), sublime! The downside is that this fragrance is part of their Private Collection, so it comes in a 250 ml splash bottle and costs about 250 euros (my favourite perfume shop sells it and I asked them for the price).

  6. Tam Dao (very mystical), L’Ombre Dans de L’Eau (probably my second best) and Oyedo (lime and tangerine – very summery but a bit too acid after a while).

    Baies (rose garden and blackcurrant) is my favourite candle! If I am not mistaken it is the equivalent of L’Ombre Dans de L’Eau cologne.

    Next candle I want to try is Tubereuse…

    Even John Galliano is an aficionado and has designed one…

    Diptyque candles are unbeatable. I was recently persuaded to try Apothia LA candles and got Velvet Rope, which are lovely but not as poignant as Diptyque fragrances. I was explained that the beauty of Diptyque candles is that the scented oil is mixed with the wax and not just superficially added on top as many candles are.

    My friend introduced me to Creed Perfumes. He described them as the scent for rich people. Quite rightly. I still remember the tobacco scent. Very peculiar. But I wouldn’t swap them for Diptyque, maybe because they remind me too much of stuffy old colognes. Next time I am in Liberty I will look for Fleur de The Rose Bulgare and will let you know…

    xxx

    1. Uhm, I’ve never tried Tam Dao. I’ve read its notes include rosewood, cypress, ambergris and sandalwood. I don’t know if I like it, but I’ll give it a sniff 😉

      Yes, all the people I know who have bought Diptyque candles keep on telling me how marvellous they are, and they cannot help but admiring the high high quality of the wax.

      Please let me know if you try Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare, I’m so in love with it but I’d like to hear your impressions too.

  7. It’s just amazing to see you connect the theme of the exotic in literature with Dyptique! For the time being, I can only approach them when I’m in Liberty- last time I went I tried The (it reminded me of Chai) and Coriander (basically it smelt just like the fresh leaves, I couldn’t believe it!).
    I have been using an elderflower (sambuco) scented candle I got from Muji- way more affordable!
    Other ‘exotic’ (and in a sense, Orientalist) scents are Hermes’s Jardins line. Personally, I love Un Jardin sur le Nil, very fresh and light, and Un Jardin Apres la Mousson, quite spicy and strong.

    PS: does the Vinaigre de toilette actually smell like vinegar? sorry if this is a silly question!

    1. Eheheheh, I think cultural connections are everywhere, and I like finding new ones between topics which are apparently so different 😉

      Aren’t Diptyque candles amazing? I think I tried Coriander too, last time I went to my favourite perfume shop, because I still remember this strong and unbelievable smell of fresh leaves, stunning! If I could, I will buy many of them, there are so many interesting scents (I prefer florals).

      I know Hermes’ Jardins line, but I’ve never tried it. My mother has been using Caleche for many years and she loves it, so I guess Hermes perfumes’ quality is not bad at all.

      Ouch, I’m so bad at describing fragrances. Well, Vinaigre doesn’t really smell like vinegar, I think it’s more herbal and spicy more than acid like vinegar. It’s not an easy perfume, because it’s quite peculiar, but I love wearing it.

  8. Hm hmm… I definitely am a perfume addicted. Perfume is to me one thing it is truly worth living for. I bathe in Shalimar, have a shower with Hypnotic Poison, cry over (because of my excessive tenderness!) Songes of Annick Goutal, sleep with Cornubia by Penhaligon, flirt with Sultane of Jeanne Arthes, make a wink to some minor (from my weird point of wiew – my idea of a perfume is: something that, once smelled, strucks you blind…) essences like Tresor and Paris, and CRAVE Creed (that stuff made for the Empress Eugenie, most of all). Now, the point is: how in the world could it be that I was not informed about Dyptique? How could it happen? Oh my my! Please! I must, must, must have a sniff…

  9. I’m glad you was informed about Diptyque by reading my post. Please go to a perfume shop which sells Diptyque fragrances and take your time to discover the amazing scents in those supersimple glass bottles, I’m sure you’ll get hooked 😉

  10. Io adoro le candele di Diptyque! La mia preferita è Feu de Bois.
    E’ una profumazione incredibile, originalissima, delicata ma inconfondibilmente persistente.
    E il negozio di Boulevard Saint Germain è veramente delizioso!

    1. Bentrovata! La gamma di candele Diptyque è così ampia e complessa che davvero mi verrebbe voglia di provarle tutte. Non sono mai stata a Parigi (sigh sob) ma quando ci andrò, una capatina al numero civico 34 di Boulevard Saint Germain la farò di sicuro!

  11. I love Diptyque fragrances and so far I haven’t met one that I haven’t liked. However, I still haven’t tried a candle because I love to wear scent on myself and to have a pretty neutral home, but I am so tempted.
    I love your write up and all of the close-ups of the packaging and it wonderful “symbolism”.

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