Dior Patchouli Imperial (La Collection Privée)

Patchouli Imperial is a crisp, aromatic, desiccated, very woody men’s cologne that is far from the patchouli soliflore that its name would imply. It starts off as a men’s fougère, before turning into a scent with faint ties to Guerlain‘s L’Instant Pour Homme and, to a much lesser extent, Habit Rouge. Eventually, it ends up as a dry woody fragrance with an ambered touch, but little character.

Source: Dior

Source: Dior

Patchouli Imperial is part of Dior’s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The eau de parfum was released in 2011, the creation of François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Dior describes the scent as follows:

Potent and sensual, Patchouli is an essential House of Dior ingredient that took up its place at the beginning of the New Look revolution in 1947.

Full of elegance, François Demachy’s composition, Patchouli Impérial, is a celebration of this legendary oriental ingredient with notes as sultry as they are sophisticated. “Patchouli is a major note, the most animal of all the plant notes. It is refined, revealing unprecedented elegance.”

Dior’s very limited — and I would argue, very incomplete — list of notes only mentions:

Russian Coriander, Indonesian Patchouli, Indian and New Caledonian sandalwood.

Source: Dior

Source: Dior

Fragrantica voters add in cedar, Sicilian mandarin, and Calabrian bergamot. I agree with them, but would also include some other things. What I smell is:

Lavender, Bergamot, Lime, Virginia Cedar, Russian Coriander, Indonesian Patchouli, Cocoa, Indian and New Caledonian/Australian sandalwood, and something ambered.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Patchouli Imperial opens on my skin with cologne and fougère traits of lavender, bitter lime, bitter dried orange peel, bergamot, lemony peppered coriander, and dust. It is followed by a sour wood note that is simultaneously green, unripe, and desiccated. Dustiness infuses everything, especially the coriander which smells old, stale, and sharp. It’s not the dustiness of patchouli, but rather, of a dirt road or a crypt.

The wood note isn’t appealing either, as it is slightly off, almost like rancid “sandalwood.” A few months ago, I received a concentrated Australian sandalwood oil, and it smells extremely close to the aroma in Patchouli Imperial. The oil had an oddly medicinal, mentholated edge which isn’t apparent here, but it had the same “off,” green tonality that eventually turned a bit creamy like sour buttermilk.

Photo: D&M Canon. dmcanon.blogspot.com

Photo: D&M Canon. dmcanon.blogspot.com

The dustiness is quite something. It leaves an itchiness at the back of my throat, but more than that, it creates a staleness around the notes that robs the citric elements of all their brightness and zestiness. It also amplifies the definite herbaceous quality in Patchouli Imperial, especially the lavender which has all the dried, pungent, sharp characteristics that I loathe so much. The overall effect is to a create a fragrance that is as much a dry woody scent as it is an aromatic, fougère cologne.

Source: vfxdude.com

Source: vfxdude.com

Other notes soon arrive to join the bitter citruses, pungent lavender, sour green woods, and dried tonalities. At first, it is cedar which is equally dry and musty. Then, there is a hint of creamy sweetness that cuts through the stale, bitter, and arid accords, but it is very muted. More noticeable is a sour medicinal element that appears after about five minutes. It is sharp and pungent, but it doesn’t smell like the camphorated, leafy darkness of patchouli. Instead, it has an almost leathered greenness that feels like a distant cousin to galbanum. 

Patchouli Imperial is such an odd mix of sourness, greenness, dark brown desiccation and aridity, dust, staleness, and pungency. Dried lavender, dried bitter orange peel, bitter lemon, heaping amounts of peppered coriander, dust, dry cedar, unripe sour buttermilk “sandalwood,” and more dust — it’s really unpleasant to my nose. I’ve tried Patchouli Imperial a few times over the last 6 months, and most recently again in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport in October, and each time, I’ve recoiled at its opening. People sometimes use the term “old lady” as a derogatory way to describe fragrances; I dislike the term as something that is both sexist and not particularly useful as a descriptor, but I’ve often wondered why no-one describes fragrances as being “old man” in nature.

Well, let me use it here. Patchouli Imperial has a sour, stale, musty “old man” aroma. It reminds me distinctly of an old Greek man I once knew whose old-fashioned fougère cologne mixed with a definite dustiness from his old books, as well as a subtle whisper of sour staleness from his unshaven face and his ancient, brown cardigan. He was a very sweet chap, but I wouldn’t want to smell like him.   

Light, natural, cocoa powder.

Light, natural, cocoa powder.

Fifteen minutes in, a creamy cocoa powder pops up in the sidelines, adding to the discordant jangle. The stale coriander powder grows sharper, as do the lemon and lime. The sour green sandalwood darts in and out, toying with the musty woodiness of the cedar. Thankfully, the pungency of the lavender softens a little, and that brief flicker of leathered greenness vanishes. The desiccated woodiness in the base remains, however, and my throat feels scratchier than ever. It has to be something synthetic, especially as there is something distinctly sharp in Patchouli Imperial when smelled up close. 

"Dusty Woods" by Brenejohn on DeviantArt. brenejohn.deviantart.com

“Dusty Woods” by Brenejohn on DeviantArt. brenejohn.deviantart.com

It takes about 25 minutes for Patchouli Imperial to soften, and for those sharp, pungent edges to get smoothed out. The fragrance’s sillage drops to a few inches above the skin, and turns mellower. It’s still incredibly dry, however, with a bouquet that is primarily woody lavender cologne with various dusty bits, an abstract patchouli, lemon, peppered coriander, and cedar. The patchouli that is starting to appear isn’t spicy, sweet, ambered, or mellow. It’s merely another form of dry woods with a dusty, herbal facet. The subtle whispers of cocoa and that green, unripe “sandalwood” in the base give Patchouli Imperial a very distant kinship with Guerlain‘s L’Instant Pour Homme Eau de Toilette (“LIDG”). Yet, the Dior has none of the latter’s black tea, its floral tonalities, or its creamy sweetness. At times, the dry citric and fougère elements remind me of Habit Rouge’s opening, but that fragrance was never sour, stale, or musty either.

Patchouli Imperial eventually loses its unpleasant start. The citric aromatics and lavender recede to the sidelines at the end of the first hour, but it takes a while longer for the creamy undertone and cocoa to fully emerge and to turn the fragrance into something less stale. The notes blur into each other, and Patchouli Imperial becomes a soft, gauzy, sheer haze of citric aromatics, dry woods, dry patchouli, dry cocoa powder, and some abstract creaminess. Tiny whispers of lavender and peppered coriander lurk underneath, but they’re muffled. Patchouli Imperial is a skin scent after 90 minutes, though the fragrance is still strong when sniffed up close.

"Golden Brown" by Emily Faulkner. Source: redbubble.com

“Golden Brown” by Emily Faulkner. Source: redbubble.com

Around 2.25 hours into Patchouli Imperial’s development, the fragrance takes on the characteristic that will remain for a while: a blurry soft, citrus, patchouli, woody scent. The amount of cocoa powder waxes and wanes, but the note feels increasingly nebulous and abstract as the hours pass. The best way I can describe it is as something that smells like dry sweetness, instead of actual chocolate. The patchouli also feels abstract, verging more an a generalized dry woodiness that has a hint of some sweetness than any actual, distinct “patchouli” in its own right. The citrus element finally fades away around the middle of the fourth hour, and an abstract “ambery” quality takes its place. In its final drydown, Patchouli Imperial is a nebulous, gauzy whisper of dry woods just lightly flecked with some ambered sweetness and a hint of powder.

Source: wallsave.com

Source: wallsave.com

Like all its Dior Privé siblings, Patchouli Imperial has moderate sillage and good longevity. At first, the fragrance is quite potent and strong, but the projection drops after 90 minutes, and Patchouli Imperial wears close to the skin for the rest of its duration. Dior intentionally wants its fragrances to be refined, unobtrusive, discreet, but strong and long-lasting, and Patchouli Imperial is no exception. All in all, it lasted a little over 9 hours on me. On people with normal skin, the more oriental or ambered Privé fragrances can last much longer.

I’m not at all enthusiastic about Patchouli Imperial. I’m not judging it as a patchouli fragrance, because, by and large, it isn’t one in my opinion. I’m judging it as a men’s cologne, and I think there are better takes on this particular profile than Patchouli Imperial. Its opening is horrid and incredibly unpleasant. While the fragrance subsequently improves and loses that discordant, jangling, dry, sour staleness, it merely devolves into a generic citric, dry woody scent before ending up as a slightly less dry, ambered, woody blur. I should probably repeat the word “dry” a few more times, but I think you’ve gotten the point by now.

You might argue that Patchouli Imperial is a refined take on patchouli, but it wasn’t on my skin. It felt uninteresting, average, and unoriginal more than anything else. For patchouli-mixed scents, I think you’d do far better with Guerlain’s L’Instant Pour Homme in either concentration (as there are olfactory differences between the two) or Chanel‘s Coromandel. For fragrances that primarily focused on patchouli, there are a host of options that I would recommend before this one, starting with Profumum‘s Patchouly. On the other hand, I think men who hate patchouli may enjoy Patchouli Imperial. By their standards, the note may seem very clean, fresh, and refined.

On Fragrantica, reviewers are more enthusiastic than I am about Patchouli Imperial. Some seem to have experienced much more actual patchouli than I did. Others compare the scent to Givenchy Gentleman or Nasomatto’s Absinth. I haven’t tried either to be able to compare. A number of people mention both amber and powder in the drydown, while a few bring up mentholated notes in the start. The comment that amused me the most came from a poster who said he got the most bizarre unsolicited comments whenever he wore Patchouli Imperial from friends who “associate it with along the lines of Caveman, Mummy’s Tomb, DOM, Closet filled of mothballs etc.” I suspect that is the crypt-like dust that dominates Patchouli Imperial’s start. 

I generally really like the Dior Privée line, but Patchouli Imperial is a complete pass for me. I don’t enjoy it as a cologne, and it’s definitely not my idea of a beautiful patchouli.   

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Patchouli Imperial is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and a few select, high-end department stores. Dior Privée perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $170 with the new Dior price increase, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $250. (There is a third option which is so enormous, I can’t imagine anyone buying it.)
In the U.S.: Patchouli Imperial is found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. Ordering from the store is best as they will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax. U.S. Department Stores: New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus, and the Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes.
Outside of the US: The Dior International page offers all their Privée fragrances for you to order online. This is the listing for Patchouli Imperial, but there doesn’t seem to be an e-store from which to purchase it. In addition, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have the perfume available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Patchouli Imperial a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line (minus the discontinued Vetiver), Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.
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Dior Eau Noire (La Collection Privée): Licorice Immortelle

Source: fr.123rf.com

Source: fr.123rf.com

Chilled iciness and warmth, silvered light and black darkness, thickness and airiness, herbal crispness with gourmand chewiness, all swirled together in one. That is Eau Noire, a surprisingly gourmand fragrance from Dior with almost a fractal juxtaposition of textures, notes, and sensations.

Eau Noir is part of Dior’s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The eau de parfum was one of the very first Dior Privée perfumes, and was released in 2004. Unlike most of its siblings, it was not the creation of François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Instead, it was created by the then-young perfume prodigy, Francis Kurkdjian, who went on to found his own perfume house, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, to great acclaim. 

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

Dior categorizes Eau Noire as an “oriental aromatic,” and provides the following description:

An elegant gala spirit in an intense evening fragrance, swathed in mystery. This interpretation of Lavender in chiaroscuro reflects the atmosphere of the Château de la Colle Noire, an estate owned by the Designer, which is located in the Provence region.

Dior’s very limited — and I would argue, very incomplete — list of notes include:

White Thyme, Lavender, Liquorice, Vanilla Bourbon, and Virginia Cedar.

Fragrantica adds coffee, leather, spiced sage, and violets as well. And everyone includes immortelle, that tricky note that can smell of maple syrup, curry, and several other things as well. I definitely agree with a lot of those additions. So, in my opinion, the full note list looks more like this:

White Thyme, Lavender, Liquorice, Coffee, Immortelle, Vanilla Bourbon, Leather, and Virginia Cedar.

Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Source: Dylanscandybar.com

Eau Noire opens on my skin with the blackness of its name. It is a potent blast of licorice that is chewy and thick, almost resinously meaty in its depths, and, surprisingly, very chilled in feel. It’s followed by hints of thyme, coffee, vanilla, and a brief, transient pop of thick, yellow, spiced curry. It’s such an odd combination of iced, herbal, spiced and sweet notes that you have to blink. To be honest, the forcefulness of the licorice — so concentrated and thick that it feels like the distillation of every black anisic candy on the planet — is a bit alarming for someone like myself. Until just ten years ago, the mere smell of licorice would make my stomach heave and, though I now enjoy eating fennel/anise, I still won’t go near black licorice. 

Source: blog.diginn.com

Source: blog.diginn.com

Nonethelesss, Eau Noire is oddly mesmerizing. I feel almost paralyzed and transfixed by the scent which becomes increasingly more nuanced and complicated. An unexpected floral note darts about, though it’s not immediately identifiable, at this point, as anything in specific. Then comes the immortelle, coffee, and caramel. The coffee is lovely, potent, and black, just like a freshly brewed cup combined with the scent of freshly ground expresso beans, and it works beautifully with the licorice. 

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

Immortelle, or Helichrysum in Corsica. Source: Wikicommons.

The real key to Eau Noire, however, is the Immortelle (or Helichrysum) which must be in Eau Noire by the bucketfuls. Francis Kurkdjian has created a multi-faceted note, because the fragrance reflects almost all of immortelle’s various characteristics: dryly herbal floralacy; maple syrup; dry woodiness; and the curry that popped up that for a brief moment at the beginning. (No fenugreek, thank God.) I think that Eau Noire’s strong caramel note must stem from the combination of the immortelle’s maple syrup aspect with the Vanilla Bourbon. By the same token, if the coffee is not an actual, separate note, then I suppose it may be the result of the licorice mixed with the vanilla. Either way, Eau Noire is a fascinating blend of chewy, dense black licorice, sweet caramel, maple syrup, strong coffee, with flickers of herbs and a subtle undercurrent of rich vanilla. 

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

Ten minutes in, Eau Noire feels warmer, sweeter, and more gourmand. The lavender keeps trying to brush his way onto the stage, only to get elbowed back to the sidelines by the other notes. Still, he tries valiantly, his little purple head darting up and down every five minutes above the big, blokey shapes of the licorice and maple syrup. The name “Eau Noire” feels almost misleading for a scent that is so much like a rich, unctuous, almost cloying dessert. It certainly wasn’t what I had expected.

By the end of the first hour, Eau Noire changes. The lavender is very prominent now, and there are hints of something woody in the base. The fragrance, as a whole, is a more modulated, balanced, and smoother blend that is equal parts licorice, coffee, and lavender. The dominant trio is trailed lightly by caramel, vanilla, occasional hints of maple syrup, and the lingering, muted traces of an intangible, abstract floral. The licorice fascinates me in its dense potency. Sometimes, it has a distinctly icy feel. At other times, there is a very subtle but unmistakable leatheriness to the note. At all times, however, it is chewy and almost resinous in feel, conjuring up images of something like a thick, black brownie, only made of pure licorice.

For the next few hours, Eau Noire remains largely unaltered in its core essence. The only differences are one of degree, not of kind, as there are subtle changes in the order, priority and strength of the various notes. The lavender waxes and wanes in strength, as does the power of the licorice, coffee, and caramel. Each one takes its turn leading the brigade, and sometimes, they all share equal time on stage in a well-blended swirl.

Source: free-3d-textures.com

Source: free-3d-textures.com

Dior’s description for the fragrance references the term “chiaroscuro,” an interplay of contrasts, and Francis Kurkdjian certainly succeeded here. For the first six hours, Eau Noire is a constant play on opposites: chilly iciness; silvery lightness; warm blackness; airiness and dense chewiness. The texture or depth of Eau Noire follows suit, because the visual feel of black, unctuous denseness is juxtaposed with the fragrance’s surprisingly airy weight. Don’t mistake me, Eau Noire is not weak in sillage — quite the opposite, actually — but the fragrance doesn’t feel opaque or heavy. Instead, it billows around you like a very forceful cloud with at least half a foot in projection from just 2 large smears. This is not a fragrance to overspray with reckless abandon if you work in a conservative office environment.

One thing I found interesting was how Eau Noire appeared from afar. Around the third hour, as the fragrance wafted all around me, I would catch little trails of it in the air. I’ll be honest, my mouth watered a little at the aroma, despite not generally being a fan of gourmand fragrances. There is something about Eau Noire that is utterly entrancing from a distance where it smells almost like a chocolate-coffee-caramel mix, and I found it much prettier than up close where you can separate out the notes into chewy, black licorice with lavender, coffee, and vanilla.

Another point is the impact of different temperatures on the scent. I tested Eau Noire this summer, and found it both cloyingly sweet and largely dominated from the start by the maple syrup aspect of immortelle. Though my tests always take place indoors under extremely cool air-conditioning, as well as outdoors, it was hot enough this summer that even short periods outside made Eau Noire’s sweetness really explode. I don’t generally believe in seasonality when it comes to wearing fragrances, but I think Eau Noire is much prettier in cooler conditions where its various accords blend in better harmony and it’s not quite so sweet.

Maple Syrup. Source: iccoin.com

Maple Syrup. Source: iccoin.com

Around the start of the fourth hour, Eau Noire starts to change again. At first, it’s merely a subtle difference in the base where flickers of a smoky woodiness start to stir, as the cedar attempts to make itself heard. More importantly, however, the immortelle reverts back to its maple syrup character instead of the primarily caramel facet it had shown up to now. It also starts to become increasingly more prominent in the fragrance’s composition. At the same time, the lavender starts to weaken, and the licorice loses some of its shape. The latter feels as though it has infused or melted into every other element in the fragrance. It also starts to feel extremely leathery in undertone, instead of just plain licorice.

Increasingly, Eau Noire becomes primarily an immortelle fragrance in nature. Maple syrup dominates, followed by leathery licorice. The lavender pops up and down like a Jack in the Box, but it’s no longer an equal partner with the other notes. The coffee has vanished, along with the vanilla bourbon. The cedar is barely noticeable, even in the background. At times, Eau Noire feels mostly like maple syrup with caramel, though it’s somewhat drier than those terms would suggest. Actually, I’m surprised that the fragrance has as much dryness as it does. On my skin, Eau Noire isn’t a fragrance that is oozing sugary syrup, though it is sweet. I suspect the cedar may be working indirectly from the base, along with the leathery undertones of the licorice, to keep some of the sweetness in check.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Eau Noire’s sillage also starts to change. At the start of the sixth hour, the fragrance loses some of its powerful projection, and hovers only an inch or two above the skin. It is still quite potent when smelled up close, but it no longer sends little trails out into the air around you. At the end of the eighth hour (!), Eau Noire finally becomes a skin scent, radiating primarily maple syrup with a faint hint of black licorice. In its final hours, the fragrance is merely a blur of sweetness. All in all, Eau Noire lasted an astounding 14.5 hours on my perfume consuming skin. Most of Dior’s Privée line has exceptional longevity, but Eau Noire exceeded all the ones that I’ve tried thus far.

I think Eau Noire is a very well-made, intriguing, and rather mesmerizing scent on some levels, but I have mixed feelings about it personally. As a whole, its dark sweetness was much more attractive than I had expected from its opening moments, especially once I got over the shock of that much licorice. Yet, despite how entrancing Eau Noire can smell from afar, I’m not hugely tempted to get a bottle. For one thing, I struggle with gourmands. In light of that fact, even if I had a bottle, I’m not sure how often I could wear such a fragrance. Eau Noire is lovely as a “once in a blue moon” sort of fragrance, but, with Dior’s increased prices and out-sized bottles, do I really want to spend $170 for the “small” 4.5 oz bottle just for occasional wear? For me, it doesn’t seem worth it, but I’m sure that a gourmand lover would find Eau Noire to be worth every penny.

Of course, that assumes that the notes wouldn’t go terribly south on your skin. Eau Noire doesn’t seem to be the easiest fragrance for some people, due to the immortelle. In fact, Fragrantica is littered with comments about some of Eau Noire’s odder manifestations: curried lavender; “curried creme brulée” mixed with cedar; “curry meets caramel;” a “sinister affair of spices and herbs… that reminds me of cough syrup;” and more. One woman thinks Eau Noire is best on a man, while a male commentator thinks it’s a woman’s fragrance.

On the other side are those who are ardent admirers. One commentator thinks it’s the most “sublime” lavender fragrance ever, with spices and a touch of leather, calling it a “real masterpiece of subtlety and spice.” A number of people had the same experience I did with the interplay of contrasting notes. To give you just one out of many similar accounts:

EN is an olfactory maze of ying-yang scents. It is warm and cold, sweet/spicy and woody/leathery, bright and obscure, simple and complex. Indeed, its name says it all: black water. You don’t know what you might get or what to make of it when you wade in it. The key here is to relax and take it in. Just breath in every punch that is thrown at you with your eyes closed and take in each aroma and you may start valuing the grand bal of scents that dance together here. It is a mary-go-round composition where each note underneath the core licorice and lavender combo decides to jump in randomly, show up for a moment, and then suddenly be replaced by another. You will not get bored with this polytonal composition.

Ultimately, I think that you will like Eau Noire only if you adore immortelle in all of its various characteristics (including the potential curry note), along with gourmand scents in general. If so, then Eau Noire will probably be true love for you. Take, for example, the Candy Perfume Boy, a blogger known for enjoying a number of gourmand perfumes, and who has said flat-out that, for him, Eau Noire is “a holy grail fragrance.” In his review, entitled “Eau My God!“, he writes, in part:

The first blast of Eau Noire is somewhat of a baptism of fire […] I find it to be a totally joyful experience, and unlike anything else that has come into contact with my nostrils.

Things fall into place pretty quickly and the top notes are very much about lavender and liquorice, two aromas that are very much intertwined. Each brings out the dark anisic, herbal, and sugary qualities of the other and the overall vibe is neither floral nor gourmand, it sits somewhere comfortably between.

Possibly the most striking aspect of Eau Noire is the HUGE amount of imortelle within the heart. […] Personally I love imortelle, it is perhaps one of the most complex and pleasing smells around, it smells like sweet maple syrup, burned sugar and curry. Much to my pleasure, Eau Noire seems to showcase each and every one of the imortelle flower’s wonderful facets in perfect proportion. […][¶]

I keep trying to think whether I have smelled a fragrance as damn good as this recently, and I really don’t think I have! Eau Noire is everything that a good fragrance should be; distinct, unusual, well proportioned and exceptionally blended, beautiful and of obscenely high quality. Bravo Dior!

It is the ultimate accolade from a man who knows (and loves) his gourmands. And he’s not alone in his passion for Eau Noire. A number of its fans talk about its beauty in this Basenotes thread discussing a possible Eau Noire clone, J’S Extè Man, from an Italian company. On the official Basenotes review post for Eau Noire, the fragrance has a total of Four Stars, with 67% of the 57 reviews giving it a full five stars and making such comments as: “Pure perfection. Completely flawless creation.”

On the other hand, 23% or 13 commentators give Eau Noire just one star, and the main reason almost each time can be summed up as “maple syrup and curry.” I cannot emphasize enough that you have to love immortelle in ALL its potential aspects to love Eau Noire. There may have been just a single, momentary pop of curry on me, but then, my skin has almost never brought out that side of immortelle. (Thank God!) Clearly, I’m one of the lucky ones, but you may not fare so well.

Source: atyabtabkha.3a2ilati.com

Source: atyabtabkha.3a2ilati.com

As a side note, a number of people have compared Eau Noire to Annick Goutal‘s Sables, perhaps the ultimate benchmark for immortelle fragrances. I haven’t tried it to know how it measures up, but one commentator in that Basenotes thread, “alfarom,” has a useful comparison. He states that Sables “pushes to the very limit the boldness of Helichrysum by introducing a massive dose of amber, [while] Eau Noir focuses on its gourmandic/syrupy aspect adding a liqorice effect and a strong vanilla base[.]”

As you can see, again and again, the issue comes back to immortelle and gourmands. If you share the gourmand sensibilities of The Candy Perfume Boy, and if you love both immortelle and licorice, then I strongly encourage you to give Eau Noire a sniff. If you love gourmands but immortelle doesn’t always work on your skin, then you should hesitate and perhaps consider a test. But if you loathe immortelle, licorice and/or gourmands, then run very, very far away. Eau Noire may make you utterly miserable.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Eau Noire is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and a few select, high-end department stores. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $170 with the new Dior price increase, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $250. (There is a third option which is so enormous, I can’t imagine anyone buying it.)
In the U.S.: Ambre Nuit found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. (I get nothing for the recommendation, by the way.) U.S. Department Stores: New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus, and the Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes.
Outside of the US: The Dior International page offers all their Privée fragrances for you to order online. This is the listing for Eau Noire. In addition, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have the perfume available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Eau Noire a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line (minus the new Gris Montaigne), Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review – Dior Ambre Nuit (La Collection Privée)

The sensuous slither of limbs. The expanse of a man’s chest, heated and lightly musky. The slow seduction of a dance that is always completely refined, just hinting at the passion below. The heated languor of the tango is what comes to mind when I wear Ambre Nuit, an incredibly sensuous but highly refined fragrance from Dior‘s prestige line of fragrances called La Collection Privée. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) For me, everything about Ambre Nuit calls to mind the Latin tango — from the rhythm of its developing notes, to its mood, to the sensuality that almost borders on the overt but which, ultimately, is too refined and elegant to really cross the line.

La Vida es Un Tango. Movie still or advert. Source: Facebook.

La Vida es Un Tango. Movie still or advert. Source: Facebook.

Ambre Nuit was released in 2009, the creation of François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior. Dior categorizes the fragrance as an “amber woody floral,” and provides the following description:

Source: Basenotes.

Source: Basenotes.

A mysterious fragrance, inspired by the baroque atmosphere and balls of the 18th century, which left their marks on Christian Dior. The tale of a Rose seduced by carnal Amber, which together unveil an unexpected profound, intense and elusive scent.

Describing Ambre Nuit as a “rose” fragrance might be little misleading, in my personal opinion. It is most definitely not that on my skin for the majority of its development, nor for many others. In fact, I would say that “rose” is almost the least of things I experienced with this smoky, woody, amber fragrance. Dior’s list of notes include:

Bergamot di Calabria, Turkish Damascus Rose Essence, New Zealand Ambergris, Gaiac Wood, Cedar Wood and Patchouli.

Fragrantica adds pink peppercorns; Ozmoz adds spices and balsam notes; and I would toss in both frankincense and myrrh. The real key, however, is the ambergris which is a whole other olfactory animal than the regular amber used in the majority of perfumery. A very rare, astronomically expensive ingredient, ambergris has a strong, salty-sweet character that is always sensual, often slightly musky, occasionally a little animalic, and usually so creamily rich that it can border on ambered caramel.

"Tango and Cobblestones",  painting by Aldo Luongo. Source: ipaintingsforsale.com

“Tango and Cobblestones”, painting by Aldo Luongo. Source: ipaintingsforsale.com

Ambre Nuit opens on my skin with sweet, refined patchouli, followed by sun-warmed bergamot and pink peppercorns. Unlike the patchouli note in many commercial fragrances, nothing here smells like the sharp, plastic-y, highly synthetic ingredient that is always painfully loaded with purple fruitness. Though the patchouli smells a little grape-y at first, it is a very refined, subtle aroma that is actually a little black in nature. It has a smokiness that would imply incense as a hidden note, something that is borne out later by the rest of Ambre Nuit’s development. From the start, though, something about the patchouli and smoke accord in Ambre Nuit reminds me of Chanel‘s gorgeous, glorious Coromandel from its Exclusifs collection. 

Source: YouTube.com

Source: YouTube.com

The pink peppercorns in Ambre Nuit differ slightly in aroma from that used in commercial, mainstream perfumery. They have a fiery, spicy edge that evokes red, chili or pimento peppers, instead of something wholly fruity in nature. (The excessive, pink peppercorn and patchouli combination in Marc JacobsLola comes to mind when thinking of things that Ambre Nuit does not resemble!) Here, the pepper infuses the subtle, muted rose note, along with the patchouli, turning the flower into something red, rich, and darkened. Yet, the rose is never so syrupy or sweet as to feel jammy and fruited; it’s too smoky and dry for that. 

All the main top notes sit upon a base of beautifully dry, rich, nuanced woods with amber. The accord is smoky from the gaiac; peppered and aromatic from the cedar; and burnished to a soft, rich edge from the ambergris. The latter feels very much like the real stuff with its salty, musky facets. Here, however, the ambergris also has a subtle undertone of something that is simultaneously honeyed and almost boozy. I suspect the combination of the patchouli, peppercorns, and ambergris is responsible for the almost cognac-like, liqueured undercurrents running through Ambre Nuit.

Ambre Nuit’s nuances in the early stage really show themselves best when a large quantity is applied, but there are dangers with that, as well. I tried the perfume twice, with the first test consisting of one, medium-ish smear, and the second entailing about 2.5 very large ones. With the smaller quantity, it’s harder to detect the full range of the perfume’s layers; Ambre Nuit is so well-blended that it ends up becoming just a single, very smooth, almost abstract, smoky, woody, ambery bouquet after the first thirty to forty minutes. With a larger dose, you can see more of the nuances in the fragrance, but then the pink peppercorns can verge a little on the over-bearing. For me, at least, it was a little sharp, unbalanced, and just tipping towards the screechy category. It wasn’t a problem at all with the smaller dose, so I suspect one has to go the Goldilocks’ route and try for a dose in the middle. Regardless of quantity, in its opening half hour, Ambre Nuit is a beautiful, very potent blend of smoky, liqueured, salty-sweet amber, with dry woods and a quiet touch of delicate roses that have been rendered a little fiery from the peppers and a little sweet from the patchouli.

"Dancers" photograph by Erwin Olaf. Source: KontraPLAN magazine.

“Dancers” photograph by Erwin Olaf. Source: KontraPLAN magazine.

What fascinates me, however, is the patchouli and incense combination in Ambre Nuit. I am convinced that there is incense in the perfume. It is as though Dior decided to do a variation of the note in its divine Mitzah, another smoky, oriental, rose-based perfume, but Dior opted to combine incense with ambergris in lieu of Mitzah’s labdanum. Ambre Nuit has the exact same sort of subtle smokiness in the base. The patchouli is a perfect accompaniment to both elements: it’s a little 1970s, hippie-ish, except it’s so refined in Ambre Nuit that it lacks any skanky, musty, musky, pothead-type of dirtiness. Underlying the smoky, salty, sweet notes is an unexpected honey tone that must come from the ambergris. It has subtle beeswax nuance to it as well, which just adds to the richness and depth of the base.

Thirty minutes into Ambre Nuit’s development, the woody notes start to rise to the surface. Gaiac can sometimes have a slightly tarry, asphalt-like character, while at other times, it can smell like burning leaves. Here, both aspects lurk under the creamy, soft, smooth wood. When combined with the incense notes in Ambre Nuit, it serves to create a wonderfully dry accord that counterbalances any sweetness from the patchouli and offsets any heaviness from the ambergris.

"Tango": Freja Beha Erichsen and Baptiste Giabiconi by Karl Lagerfeld for German Vogue.

“Tango”: Freja Beha Erichsen and Baptiste Giabiconi by Karl Lagerfeld for German Vogue.

There is something extremely sensuous about the combination of notes in Ambre Nuit that consistently make me think of an Argentinian tango between heated dancers in some smoky, dark room — except they are dressed in the most refined, elegant, couture outfits. The ambergris’ special, unique features evoke the warmth of heated, slightly musky skin that has been rendered just the faintest bit salty from sweat. The incense conjures up the smoky, dark feel of those dance rooms, while the gaiac and cedar replicate the incredibly smooth, wooden floors that the dancers glide across. The rose note is nothing more than a mere accessory, as inconsequential as the flower in a dancer’s hair, and hardly a significant part of the scent on my skin, especially as Ambre Nuit continues. All the notes, however, are very smooth and refined, thereby ensuring that Ambre Nuit stays a level above the many, mainstream, commercial scents that have similar elements. I must confess, though, I worry a little about those pink peppercorns which could have been handled with a slightly softer touch. They are the only thing that tarnish Ambre Nuit’s more sophisticated balance.

At the end of the first hour, Ambre Nuit is a gorgeous, smoky ambergris perfume. There is a sweet-salty creaminess which is infused by incense, a light flicker of warm musk, a dash of honey, and a tinge of beeswax — all atop very dry, smoky woods. The patchouli has melted into the ambergris, adding to its rich sweetness. And the rose has completely vanished. As a whole, Ambre Nuit  is a little too potent in its sillage in the early hours to be called “airy,” but it has a very plush feel that is as rich as velvet. And, yet, it is not opaque, heavy, or unctuous in any way.

Ambre Nuit never changes in its core essence, but some of its notes fluctuate in prominence. Around the middle of the second hour, the peppery gaiac wood takes the lead, followed by the ambergris, then the smoke, and trailed much further behind by the patchouli. The end of the third hour, however, sees the patchouli join the smoky woods and ambergris in a three-way tie. The whole thing is sweet, salty, smoky, a little bit musky, and absolutely beautiful. Again, the subtle similarities to Chanel‘s Coromandel raise their head for me. Ambre Nuit is significantly woodier and drier, and lacks the delicate, white cocoa powder, benzoin, and vanilla undertones of Coromandel. Yet, oddly enough, the patchouli in Ambre Nuit has taken on a distinctly chocolate-like nuance at its base, though it’s more akin to a gooey, dark chocolate ganache than the airy, white cocoa powder of Coromandel. Still, the way both fragrances are so infused with smoky incense and patchouli, that they feel like very distant cousins.

Ambre Nuit slowly grows closer to the skin, turning softer and more ambered in focus. Around the end of sixth hour, there is an odd quirk which occurred during both tests: the smoke takes on a soapy, white character that reminds me of myrrh. It only lasts about forty minutes, but it was noticeable enough to make me sit up on both occasions and think that the incense had become very churchy. It quickly fades, leaving Ambre Nuit’s remaining and final notes in the drydown phase as an abstract amber that is simultaneously a little dry, a little sweet from the final flickers of patchouli, and a little musky.

Like all of Dior’s Privée fragrances, Ambre Nuit has excellent longevity on my perfume-consuming skin and generally moderate sillage. Ambre Nuit lasted just under 8.5 hours on me with a single, medium-ish smear, and over 11.75 hours with 2.5 large ones. The sillage is significantly greater than some of the other Dior Privée fragrances, no doubt due to the impact of the patchouli which is always a more projecting ingredient. With the larger dose, Ambre Nuit wafted a good 4 inches above my skin for the first hour, thereafter dropping and becoming slightly less. But it took a whole 8 hours before it became a skin scent. If you work in a conservative office environment, I would suggest not spraying with abandon, especially as aerosolisation can increase a perfume’s potency. (Plus, there is that whole issue of needing to create a delicate balance with the pink peppercorns.)

Ambre Nuit is extremely well-liked, with raves on Fragrantica and elsewhere about its sophisticated, refined, opulent and very versatile nature. Interestingly, for some, like the Candy Perfume Boy, Ambre Nuit is much more of an oriental rose fragrance, calling to mind Le Labo‘s woody Rose 31, only with a slightly powdery undertone to the floral note. He adores it, and calls it “utterly fabulous.” For me, Rose 31 was mostly peppery cedar, with massive amounts of ISO E Super and a very muted rose, while Ambre Nuit had no powder at all — clearly, skin chemistry makes a difference. On Fragrantica, the talk isn’t about the powder, but about differing experiences with the rose. For some, it only appears midway during the perfume’s development, while others find it noticeable as a rich, aromatic rose from the start. There is also quite a bit of talk about the incense in the fragrance, too, with one commentator reaching the same conclusion that I did: both incense and myrrh must be part of Ambre Nuit. Others find the opening of Ambre Nuit to be both bright and significantly more citrus-like in focus than it was for me, with zesty grapefruit and bright bergamot.

Regardless of the variations, almost everyone adores Ambre Nuit and, for some, it is the best of the Dior Privée line. I don’t love Ambre Nuit as much as I adore its sibling — the labdanum-incense beauty that is Mitzah — but then, there aren’t a ton of things I like as much as Mitzah. Still, I definitely think it is worth checking out if you are a fan of easy, accessible amber fragrances. It’s not a revolutionary, edgy, unique amber fragrance; and it’s not a heavily spiced or very unctuous, opaque, fully baroque one, either. But it’s not meant to be any of those things.

Dior’s signature perfume style is to create incredibly smooth, refined, well-blended, generally unisex fragrances that take a slightly typical combination of notes, and raise it to a higher, almost couture-like level through the best ingredients and superior crafting. Dior is intentionally trying to create very accessible fragrances, but it wants them to be the height of refinement, sophistication, and discreet elegance. Ambre Nuit is no exception, though the fragrance is significantly more powerful than its softer, more unobtrusive, but equally elegant, siblings. (With great caution in spraying, Ambre Nuit might be appropriate for some conservative office environments.) For some who seek a more revolutionary, perhaps more unique bent to their amber fragrances, Ambre Nuit will probably be a little safe and little uninteresting. But I doubt they’d argue with its silky smooth nature, or with its luxurious undertones. As an added bonus, Ambre Nuit is almost cheap per ounce, relatively speaking, given the quality and the enormous size that Dior provides for its “small” version. The perfume costs $155 for a whopping 4.25 oz/125 ml — almost a full ounce more than the normal “large” version of most perfumes. (You should see the truly large Dior size at a behemoth 15.2 oz or 450 ml! You could use it as a cudgel or weapon!)   

For me, what distinguishes Ambre Nuit from some other ambers on the market is the glorious sensuality of its rare ambergris. When combined with the incense, the smoky, sweet-salty result is damn sexy. Watch the video below, listen to the music and how it undulates in different tempos, and see the lithe, swaying, connected bodies move. That’s Ambre Nuit for me.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Ambre Nuit is an eau de parfum that is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, at Dior online, and a few select, high-end department stores. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. (There is a third option which is so enormous, I can’t imagine anyone buying it.) In the U.S.: Ambre Nuit found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and at the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. Elsewhere, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have the perfume available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Ambre Nuit a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line (minus the new Gris Montaigne), Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Reviews – Dior Leather Oud & Granville (La Collection Privée)

John Wayne riding through the arid desert canyons of New Mexico. Gary Cooper in a suit in the bracing, brisk air of Normandie. Two very different images of two very different men stemming from two very different fragrances in Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The fragrances are Leather Oud and Granville, and both were created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, to reflect different aspects of the life of Christian Dior.

LEATHER OUD:

Dior Leather OudDior describes the scent as follows:

Christian Dior searched the world, looking for the most beautiful fabrics that exist. Like the Designer, the Perfumer chooses the most beautiful raw materials, one of which is Oud Wood from Indonesia. Highly powerful, vibrant and deep, Oud Wood is rare and particularly recognizable by the leather scents that it diffuses when burned. Using this unique wood, François Demachy created an intensely masculine fragrance, with strong character in which Leather notes intertwine with those of Gaiac Wood, Cedar and Sandalwood.

The notes for the fragrance, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

Cardamom, Clove, Leather, Indonesian Oud wood, Gaiac Wood, Civet, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Birch, Cedar, Vetiver, Amyris, Beeswax, Amber and Labdanum.

According to Wikipedia, Amyris is a type of flowering plant or tree that is sometimes called torchwood, and whose trunk emits a type of balsam resin that is often also called elemi. Civet, as many perfumistas know, can have a very musky, animalic aroma that can border on the fecal if used in excess, but which can also lend plush warmth to the depths of a perfume if handled right. 

Leather Oud is sometimes described as an intensely animalistic fragrance, redolent of civet, but the Dior Privé line is not known for extreme, sharp, forceful, or loud notes of any kind — and Leather Oud is no exception. On my skin, it is almost entirely a dry, dusty, woody fragrance with nuances of dry leather and the subtlest inflections of oud, all barely sweetened with a dusty, dusky cardamom. Animalic? Not by a long shot.

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Gaiac Wood via Ozmoz.com

Leather Oud opens on my skin with a sour note like lemons, followed immediately thereafter by varying degrees of dry oud, bitter cloves, dusty cardamom, peppered and dry cypress, and slightly smoked gaiac wood. The top notes in the initial minutes smell a little rancid, though never fecal or wholly civet-like. There is a subtle, feline urinous edge, but it doesn’t last very long, either. Instead, Leather Oud starts pulsating out different layers of dry, smoky, peppered woods. There are subtle tinges of a rooty, dark vetiver, along with an equally dark, almost sour-smelling patchouli, and the merest suggestion of a herbal, floral element. The latter makes me think strongly of clary sage whose dry, lavendery veneer has a leathery undertone. The thing I find unpleasant in Leather Oud is the sour citric note that remains throughout much of the perfume’s development, and which impacts most of the remaining notes.

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

Dry, antique leather. Source: buffaloleatherstore.com

As for the leather, well, it’s there, but it is incredibly subtle. It’s not soft, warm, supple, sweetly aged and rich, but it’s also not black, raw, fecal or pungent, either. It verges on rawhide at times, feeling slightly phenolic and tarry due to the birch wood, but it’s a lot milder than I had expected. It’s also incredibly muted on my skin, overpowered in large part by the cornucopia of dry woods. In fact, the woods impact the feel of the leather to a large extent, turning it into something that feels dry, cracked and antique, instead of anything supple and rich.     

Forty minutes into Leather Oud’s development, there are subtle changes, though never to the perfume’s primary core. The agarwood (oud) which initially felt a little sharp now softens and takes on a slightly creamy feel, almost like cheese, before it eventually turns into something that is simply dry in feel. It is completely overshadowed by the dry gaiac wood with its smoky edges and which evokes images of burning leaves. Accompanying it is a peppered cedar. In the background, the cloves add a touch of bitterness around to the wood notes, and the cardamom brings in an extra layer of dustiness. 

Soon after the one-hour mark, Leather Oud turns softer, creamier, and smoother. It’s very much as though someone had buffed and polished all the rough edges out of the wood. The thread of sour lemon remains, but all the other notes, right down to the bitter cloves, seem more refined. The leather and the oud are mere flickering touches — so much so that I’d never consider Leather Oud to be either a true agarwood fragrance or a leather one. Their muted nature reminds me strongly of By Kilian‘s oud fragrances where the element is a mere background suggestion; if you’re expecting an oud like those offered by Montale, or a serious leather fragrance, then I think you’ll be sorely disappointed. As always Dior offers an extremely refined, smooth interpretation of notes in a well-blended fragrance that is meant to be rather discreet, unobtrusive, and the epitome of moderation. Leather Oud is no exception, right down to its sillage which becomes moderate-to-low around the 90-minute mark.

"Dry Lake Bed" by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

“Dry Lake Bed” by *VickyM72 on Deviantart.com http://vickym72.deviantart.com/art/Dry-Lake-Bed-184992067

Though parts of Leather Oud, like the cardamom become slightly sweeter, the perfume’s essence remains unchanged for the remainder of its lifespan. It is a dusty, arid, woody fragrance infused with dry smoke and sprinkled with barely sweetened cardamom. Around the sixth hour, the bouquet of woods is joined by warm beeswax, but it does little to enrichen the fragrance. Leather Oud evokes, in part, the scent of a dusty bookstore with reams of old, dry paper and, visually, a desert in the old Wild West. For some reason, I keep seeing John Wayne in my mind’s eye. And he stays there for the next 12 hours, until the perfume starts to slowly fade away. In its final moments, Leather Oud is a simple cardamom muskiness, and nothing more. All in all, the fragrance lasted just under 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin, with soft sillage throughout.

John Wayne in "Hondo" via cinemaforever.com

John Wayne in “Hondo” via cinemaforever.com

Leather Oud is far, far too dry for my personal tastes, but I think it’s a beautifully crafted, well-blended fragrance that is a highly refined take on dry, smoky woods. It seems to be one of the more beloved Dior fragrances, and men go crazy for it, though some on Fragrantica bemoan its dusty nature. A few commentators talk about intense civet notes, but most seem to find it quite manageable and muted. One commentator who is well used to civet, can “sniff it out a mile away,” and loves it wrote that he couldn’t detect any at all; in contrast, another noted a “creamy, fecal” undertone to the fragrance, while a third who despises civet says it is done so beautifully in Leather Oud that it is the first civet fragrance he loved. Obviously, this is a fragrance that you have to try for yourself in order to assess how the note will work out for you. I will say this, however: my skin tends to amplify base notes, especially the more animalistic ones, and I don’t think the animalic dirtiness was strong by any means!

Plus, it simply isn’t the Dior style or signature. None of the Dior Privé line of fragrances are meant to be extreme in any way; they’re meant to be the epitome of refinement and smoothness. And that certainly seems to the majority consensus on Leather Oud on Fragrantica. Their raves are simply too effusively long and gushing for me to quote in any coherent way, so I’ll just say that men who enjoy super dry fragrances (think Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain levels of dryness) with the subtlest tinge of oud, leather, and musk should definitely try out Leather Oud. I don’t think this would really work for most women, however, as the fragrance definitely veers towards the deep end of the masculine spectrum.

GRANVILLE:

Granville is technically supposed to be a women’s fragrance, but its deeply aromatic, invigorating, herbal, woody nature makes it much more suitable for a man, in my opinion.

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Granville, Normandie. Source: normandie-tourisme.fr

Dior describes the perfume and its inspiration as follows:

The House where Christian Dior spent his childhood is located in Granville, in the Normandy region. Built overlooking the cliffs, it is surrounded by pine trees and has a view of the sea. Inspired by this site that is so dear to the Creator, François Demachy chose to create a fresh, invigorating and aromatic fragrance. “I not only wanted an aromatic fragrance, as the estate has an abundance of pine trees, but also one that is exceptionally invigorating and extremely fresh. The gusts of wind, the waves that are constantly breaking against the rocks… Nature, in Granville, is anything but serene. This fragrance is like the wind that blows through Granville.”

Dior GranvilleThe notes in Granville, as compiled from both Dior and Fragrantica, include:

mandarin, Sicilian lemon, White thyme, rosemary, pine needles, black pepper, sandalwood and gorse.

I’m used to “gorse” being another name for a Scottish bush or brushwood, but Fragrantica tells me that it’s also called Dyer’s Greenwood which has a dry, bracken-like aroma similar to “broom” (which, in itself, has a dry, hay-like scent). Either way, I don’t think it’s a prominent part of Granville which is dominated primarily by a strong eucalyptus-like, mentholated note infused with lemon and herbal touches. 

Granville opens on my skin with beautifully sweetened lemon. It has a sunny, bright, fresh warmth to it that is simply lovely. Within seconds, it is infused by strongly aromatic, herbal notes from the thyme, to a subtle glimmer of rosemary, and something quietly floral which feels very much like dry lavender. Granville has a strong resemblance at first to Dior‘s Eau Sauvage, but that quickly dissipates under an onslaught of fresh, camphorous pine with a decidedly eucalyptus-like character. It feels extremely sharp in comparison to the smoothness and richness of the lemon aromatics. Dry, slightly honeyed, hay-like elements from the broom/gorse and cracked black pepper are the final elements to round out the invigorating bouquet. 

Eucalyptus leaves.

Eucalyptus leaves.

Granville’s primary essence remains the same throughout most of the perfume’s lifespan. The only difference is the degree to which certain notes can compete with each other, though they have no chance to overcome the piney, mentholated, eucalyptus top note at all. Around the forty minute mark, there is the introduction of ISO E Super which eventually fades away after a few hours. Later, there is a much stronger impression of a faintly floral tinge to the herbs lurking in the background. In fact, I can’t help but think that herbaceous lavender is a hidden note, and its combination with the slightly tarry, mentholated pine note strongly calls to mind Santa Maria Novella‘s cologne, Ambra, which is dominated by an extremely similar, tarry, mentholated birch note atop lavender and citrus.

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

Source: permanentstyle.co.uk

At the start of the second hour, Granville becomes smoother, softer, better rounded. It loses its sharp edges, but it retains a certain fresh briskness. It feels rather old-fashioned, conjuring up images of a very refined, classical, suave, debonair gentleman — like Gary Cooper — in a bracing, outdoors environment like the coastal cliffs of Normandie. At the same time, however, it also evokes a very old-fashioned European pharmacy, which is a distinctly less appealing impression. As a whole, Granville is a very linear fragrance that never changes much from start to finish. In its final hours, it’s nothing more than an abstract, woody muskiness with faint flickers of pine. All in all, Granville lasted just over 11 hours, and the sillage after the first forty minutes was moderate-to-low.

Granville doesn’t seem to have a very enthusiastic reception on Fragrantica — and I don’t blame them. I do think it’s better than some of the extremely negative comparisons to scrubbers, hospitals, bathroom cleaners, medicine, chemical astringents, and Ayurvedic Tooth powder that are listed, but it’s not a fantastic, super-duper fragrance nonetheless. It’s not terrible, but it’s far from great, either. I think the fairest (and, certainly, the most positive) description for Granville comes from the commentator, “alfarom,” who writes:

An high-end version of Pino Silvestre aimed to the ladies (well, sort of).

I’ve to admit the above sentence may sound disencouraging to someone but let me say Granville is terrific. It’s a classy herbal/citrus with resinous undertones that opens with a sparkling lemon joined by leafy green citruses. In this phase it may somehow bring to mind of classic Eau De Cologne type of stuff but when you’re just about to dismiss it because of this, pine and some culinary herbs (thyme and rosemary) join the party leading the fragrance to other territories. Slightly minty (menthol), bitter, dark green and much closer to Pino Silvestre than to an EDC.

That being said, Granville is not exactly up my alley, but if you’re into bright piney fragrances this is an extremely solid option. Originally aimed to the ladies but definitely more masculine.

I’ve never tried Pino Silvestre, and I smell eucalyptus far more than mint, but his description is pretty spot-on as a whole.  And Granville isn’t up my alley, either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend that you rush out and try it unless you are really obsessed with mentholated pine or eucalyptus notes. In all honesty, I think Granville is a rather mediocre showing in the Privé line.

 

DETAILS:
Leather Oud is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. So is Granville. Dior Privé perfumes come in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. In the U.S.: both fragrances can be found at Dior’s NYC boutique, and the main Las Vegas store [call (702) 369-6072]. If you’re really interested, however, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will also give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles, to go with your purchase. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. Elsewhere, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus also carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, though I don’t know if the SF Neiman Marcus carries all of them.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have Leather Oud available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Leather Oud a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. Granville is also available for the same price. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review- Dior Gris Montaigne (La Collection Privée)

Source: Fashionfave.com

30, Avenue Montaigne. Home of Dior. Source: Fashionfave.com

It’s not often that a perfume’s inspiration parallels memories in your own life. Dior’s flagship headquarters at 30, Avenue Montaigne, and the famous “Dior Grey” were big parts of my childhood and teenage years. As a small child, I spent endless hours in the beautiful, grey-white mansion: I often sat on one of the large, grey, stuffed and studded, round banquettes in the vast, rectangular room on the second or third floor with its wall of tall French windows as I waited for my mother to try on clothes. I would sit and stare at the floor, looking for dropped pins in the light grey carpet as one of the elegant seamstresses would flit around my mother, making alterations. I became a little pet to a few of them who were always amused by my efforts at “helping,” and by my unsolicited opinions on the outfits in question. And Dior Grey — that special, elegant twist on dove grey that is the signature colour of the house — became a favorite of mine, to the point that I often wanted to have a room in that colour. And, eventually, I did.

Source: Dualshow.com

Source: Dualshow.com

The original room upstairs in a photo that must be from the '50s. Source: fashionnation1on1.wordpress.com

The original room upstairs in a photo that must be from the ’50s. Source: fashionnation1on1.wordpress.com

Later, the third or fourth time I lived in Paris, I was a teenager and our flat was two blocks away from the flagship store. Monday through Friday, I would wait for the school bus to take me to my high-school in St. Cloud, and the pick-up location was exactly catty-corner or on a diagonal line across from the store. I spent countless mornings, staring at that beautiful, elegant facade from afar and trying to see inside the windows. As an adult, Dior Grey remained one of my favorite colours. And, right now, my bedroom is done to approximate the interiors that I remembered from childhood: the walls are painted Dior Grey, the furniture is silver, mirrored or white, and the room is filled with silver and black touches.

Having been imprinted with Dior from childhood, much like one of Konrad Lorenz’s ducklings, it was virtually impossible not to have high expectations for a perfume that is meant to evoke both Dior’s flagship headquarters and its trademark colour. In fact, I knew that nothing could possibly live up to that weighted mental baggage, so I intentionally and explicitly tried to wipe them all from my mind when I tested Gris Montaigne.

Dior Gris Montaigne

It is brand new, just released, and the latest member of Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. (The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier, but I go by the name used by Dior itself on its website.) The Privée line consists of thirteen perfumes that are exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. (It would have been fourteen, but Gris Montaigne has come in to replace the glorious Mitzah which has essentially been discontinued — to justified howls of horror from perfumistas across the world.) Like the rest of its siblings, Gris Montaigne was intended to illustrate and celebrate key moments in the life of its founder, Christian Dior, and was created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior.

Dior describes Gris Montaigne in a way that brings back a flood of childhood memories:

And if grey were a perfume?

The olfactory signature of the Couture House’s legendary location, 30, Avenue Montaigne, has become a reality. The perfumer’s response to couture, this sophisticated chypre fragrance is a bold interpretation of the Dior Grey. The Couture Grey featured in the collections since 1947, the Grey Emotion of Christian Dior’s family home in Granville, Pearl Grey like the facade of the boutique on Avenue Montaigne.

Colour becomes a perfume: a burst of citrus, a floral heart of Turkish Rose and Jasmine Sambac from the Indian region of Tamil Nadu, followed by a woody note heightened with Indonesian Patchouli set against an ambery backdrop of moss.

The notes for the fragrance, according to Dior, are simple:

Essence of Calabrian Bergamot, Turkish Damask rose, Indian Jasmine Sambac, Indonesian Patchouli, and Absolute of Macedonian moss.

Source: g-1.com

Source: g-1.com

Gris Montaigne opens on my skin with a light citrus note, followed immediately thereafter with florals headed by rose. The bouquet sits atop a patchouli base that is, initially at least, beautifully flecked by soft amber, creamy sandalwood and the lightest sprinkling of powder. The rose is infused with quiet inflections of bergamot, while the patchouli adds a subtle warm and fleshiness to the very delicate note. There are also subtle touches of oakmoss in the base; it doesn’t feel like pungent, dry, arid, almost mineralized oakmoss, but it doesn’t feel completely bright green and fresh, either. The prettiest part of the perfume in those early minutes is the sandalwood. It’s nothing like real Mysore sandalwood with its distinctive spiciness, richness and depth, but the synthetic version used here has a lovely softness, creaminess and smoothness.

A room in the re-vamped Montaigne store. Source: ru.fashionmag.com

A room in the revamped Montaigne store. Source: ru.fashionmag.com

In its very earliest moments, Gris Montaigne is lovely. The light sprinkles of powder — combined with the very subtle oakmoss — make the perfume feel both classique in inspiration and a modern, neo-chypre in type. It’s a delicate, feminine, refined scent and, call me crazy, but it actually does evoke both the colour grey and the Dior rooms at Avenue Montaigne. For all that I tried to ignore the name and its associations, for all that I went into testing this perfume with the express plan of considering this an unnamed scent (“Just consider it Perfume ‘ABC’ from House XYZ,”), somehow, I can smell those rooms. The reason is the clean, floral, feminine, restrained, gauzy aroma. It’s almost a little sterile in its grey softness. But that word seems unfair because of all the negative connotations, so let’s say instead that Gris Montaigne has a touch of the restrained, aloof, professional, endlessly feminine, floral and slightly powdered feel of those coolly muted, elegant rooms.

purple smokeTen minutes later, the perfume starts to change. Cedar starts to rise to the surface, adding a quiet dryness to the floral notes. Unfortunately, the patchouli also starts to become more dominant, turning Gris Montaigne into a distinctly fruity-patchouli rose atop that base of dry, peppered cedar. Purple patchouli is not only my least favorite kind, but it’s also a common note in a lot of commercial, inexpensive, fruity-floral fragrances today — and big reason why I can’t stand many of them. There is something about its character in Gris Montaigne which reminds me of Chanel‘s Coco Noir, except the Dior is drier thanks to that cedar note and isn’t so clobbered by the fruity-patchouli (which I thought verged on the bullying in Coco Noir). Despite that, from the 30-minute mark to the 90-minute one, the purple patchouli and the dry cedar battle for the rosy heart of Gris Montaigne. The trio always rests above that light oakmoss base flecked with the smallest touches of amber and sandalwood. I wish the sandalwood were as noticeable as it had been initially but, alas, there isn’t much of it.

Inside the re-designed Dior headquarters. Source: Glamshops.ro

Inside the re-designed Dior headquarters. Source: Glamshops.ro

Gris Montaigne, like the rest of its siblings in the elegant Privée Line, is a beautifully blended perfume. Like the newly redesigned, revamped Paris headquarters, it’s light, airy and filled with bright touches from that fruity-patchouli whose almost syrupy sweetness seems to dominate for a good portion of the second hour. God, there is so much of it! At other times, however, especially right after the end of the first hour, it feels as though cedar has almost taken over. Increasingly, Gris Montaigne has an abstract element to it as well. One sometimes has the impression that it’s nothing more than an ordinary, common, generalized, nebulous, fruity-floral patchouli perfume. Even when jasmine joins the party, around the 90 minute mark, it doesn’t do much to transform the scent or to give it greater nuance.

And Gris Montaigne goes further downhill from there becoming softer and hazier with every passing hour, with only the purple note really standing out as something distinctive. (Oh so much purple patchouli!) By the start of the fifth hour, Gris Montaigne is a sheer, bland, floral-patchouli scent infused with some spicy dryness atop some light amber. There is a small modicum of relief in the eighth hour when the sandalwood re-appears. It actually works well with the patchouli, creating a spicier, richer version of the note than what flickered at the start. But the sandalwood is just a small touch, and it really doesn’t change what is the sole note left in Gris Montaigne at this point: fruity patchouli. The rose is a whisper, there is no jasmine, the powder vanished after the first 10 minutes, and the cedar threw in the towel a while back. In its final moments, Gris Montaigne is a simple note of abstract, sheer, general sweetness, and nothing more.

All in all, Gris Montaigne lasted just under 10.75 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. It became closer to the skin about 90 minutes in and had minimal projection, but the forcefulness of that patchouli made it definitely noticeable if you brought your arm anywhere near to your nose. Gris Montaigne didn’t become a skin scent until the fifth hour and, like all the Privée perfumes that I’ve tried, it has surprisingly enormous longevity given the moderate-to-low sillage.

I hate to say it, but Gris Montaigne feels extremely generic for most of its lifespan. It’s a refined take on a thousand similar fruity-floral scents, but not much more than that. You may be wondering how much of my assessment is due to my personal baggage involving that name and the perfume’s inspiration. It’s a fair question and the answer is: my assessment is absolutely tainted by it. Because, without those strong personal associations, I would rip this perfume to shreds, especially over the patchouli. The sole reason I’ve being half as kind as I am is because of the beautiful opening minutes and because of my nostalgia. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, Gris Montaigne is far from being a worthy successor to Mitzah, even though the planning and development of Gris Montaigne meant it had to be in the works long, long before the decision to discontinue the other fragrance.

In placing Gris Montaigne in the context of its siblings, I realised two things. First, Gris Montaigne seems to reflect a desire to take advantage of the modern, mass-market hunger for and profitability of fruity-floral scents. Second, it also symbolizes a shift in the colour spectrum of Dior’s Privée Line away from the darker, richer, orange-brown labdanum glory of Mitzah, or the amber-coloured hues of similarly spicy, deep fragrances like Ambre Nuit and Leather Oud. With the discontinuation of Mitzah and Vetiver, the arrival of Gris Montaigne seems to turn the hues of Dior’s Privée Line into something much more floral, pastel, and light in colour. It may be an unfair assessment, and it’s probably wholly off. Yet, I can’t help feel that Gris Montaigne marks a move towards something more pale, more bland, and more commercially… er… fruitful. (Pun intended.) Bottom line, Gris Montaigne is pretty, but in a way that makes it like any number of commercial scents out there, from Chanel’s Coco Noir to…. well, take your pick.

All my criticisms notwithstanding, I do think there are a lot of people who will like Gris Montaigne, especially if they keep their expectations low. For one thing, it is a very easy fragrance to wear, the sort of thing one could just spray on and go. Everyone needs a versatile perfume that is uncomplicated and could fit a variety of situations, from the office to a child’s playdate to a dinner date. Gris Montaigne would absolutely work for that. It is also a scent whose very feminine nature and restrained sillage will make it practical for those who prefer more unobtrusive scents while still keeping an elegant and refined edge. I think it will generally be a little too feminine for the average guy — but I also don’t believe in gender lines in perfumery, so if you can rock it, wonderful!

I did my best to be fair to this scent, but if you think I failed in that endeavour, I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of the past, and it makes the nature of a review even more subjective. But I’m convinced that — if I were given Gris Montaigne to smell blindly — I still wouldn’t like it and my bottom line would still be the same: it’s nothing special.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Gris Montaigne is an Eau de Parfum that comes in 3 different sizes: a “small” size at 4.25 fl oz/125 ml which costs $155, and a very large 8.5 fl oz/250 ml bottle which costs $230. (There is also a simply ginormous, giant
15.2 oz/450 ml bottle that is available, but who could possibly go through that?) The perfume is available exclusively at Dior boutiques, Dior online, and in a handful of upscale department stores that have a large Dior section. In the U.S.: you can find the entire Privée Line at New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, and a good portion are also at San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus. Outside of those two cities, your best bet is to call your local Neiman Marcus to see if they carry any of the Privée line. In terms of the Dior boutique in Las Vegas, Gris Montaigne arrived this week (8/12/13), and you can call the store [(702) 369-6072] to buy it directly. I would try to call this Dior number — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. (I get nothing from the recommendation, by the way.)
Outside of the US: I believe the Dior Privée line is carried at London’s Selfridges and at Paris’ Galleries Lafayette. It is obviously available at any concrete, brick-and-mortar Dior store in your country as well. You can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior boutique near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country.
Samples: You can order samples of Gris Montaigne from Surrender to Chance, where prices start at $3 for a 1 ml vial. They also sell a 13-piece sampler set of the Privée Line (minus the new Gris Montaigne) for $35.99. I obtained my sample from The Perfumed Court which is not my favorite place to shop and which is also generally more expensive than Surrender to Chance. They sell vials of Gris Montaigne starting at $4.99 for 1 ml.

Perfume Review- Dior Vetiver (La Collection Privée)

There are few things more terrifying to a perfumista than the word “discontinuation.” The threat of a perfume being discontinued is bad enough, but the actual thing? Ghastly. So, yesterday, when I heard that Dior was discontinuing Vetiver, I hurriedly dug up my sample to test it out. I found parts of it to be very elegant, but some of it to be less than my personal cup of tea.

Dior Vetiver via FragranticaVetiver is (or was) part of Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes (which is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance). I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website. The Privée line consists of fourteen perfumes that are exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. Vetiver was added to the line in 2010 and, from what I’ve heard, is one of the biggest sellers in the Privée line. Like the rest of its siblings, Vetiver was intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior, and was created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior.

Dior describes Vetiver in the context of its founder’s personal style:

Mr. Dior had a particular sense of elegance and dandyism. Inspired by this sophisticated and timelessly chic style, François Demachy has created a powerful, intense and raw Vetiver fragrance. A masculine raw material par excellence, Vetiver makes up more than one third of the fragrance and is combined with Coffee, a round, slightly bitter, roasted note, creating an unusual aromatic blend.” The woody aromatic features notes of grapefruit, coffee and vetiver.

The notes for the fragrance, according to Dior, are simple:

Top: Sicilian Grapefruit.

Middle: South American Robusta Coffee.

Base: Haitian Vetiver.

Vetiver opens on my skin with sweet, slightly smoky, peppered vetiver and big wallops of ISO E Super. For those unfamiliar with the aroma-chemical, you can read my full description of its pros and cons here. In a nutshell, though, it is used most frequently for two reasons: 1) as a super-floralizer which is added to expand and magnify many floral notes, along with their longevity; and 2) to amplify woody notes and add a velvety touch to the base. It seems to be particularly used in fragrances that have vetiver, with Lalique‘s L’Encre Noire being just one of the many examples. ISO E Super always smells extremely peppery and, in large doses, has an undertone that is like that of rubbing alcohol, is medicinal, and/or astringent. Some people are completely anosmic to the synthetic, while a handful of people get extreme headaches from it. I’m not one of the latter, but I cannot stand the note in large quantities and I can detect that peppered element with its rubbing alcohol base a mile away.

GrapefruitIn the case of Vetiver, it’s hard to miss the ISO E Super because the synthetic is pronounced from the start and continues for much of the perfume’s lifespan. Hidden behind its solid wall are flickers of the grapefruit which feels zesty, fresh and light, but also yellow and sweet. Subtle whiffs of dark, wet coffee grinds underscore some of the vetiver’s earthy qualities. As a whole, however, this is not a smoky, dark, rooty vetiver fragrance. Instead, it feels much brighter, crisper and lighter than many of its compatriots out there.

Five minutes in, the rubbing alcohol base of the ISO E Super softens a little, leaving more peppery notes at the top. The coffee note fades almost completely, along with much of that initial dark twist to the notes. The perfume is sweet, lightly smoky, lightly citric, and sprinkled with huge amounts of that aromachemical’s pepper. At the base is a “woody hum” — as Luca Turin once characterized the synthetic and its constant presence in Ormonde Jayne perfumes — which continues for hours. To my surprise, Vetiver gave me a headache — and that rarely happens, even from ISO E Super.

The dapper Dior on the cover of the biography by Marie-France Pochna

The dapper Dior on the cover of the biography by Marie-France Pochna

There really isn’t much more to say about Vetiver’s evolution. It is primarily sweet, crisp vetiver with pepperiness and a lightly smoky touch that eventually turns woodier. About four hours in, the ISO E Super adds a velvety feel to the woody notes and Vetiver takes on a creamy smoothness that feels quite luxurious, despite its lightness. And, thanks to its mild sweetness, the perfume actually does evoke a little of Christian Dior’s dandyism, while always remaining sophisticated, assured, and elegant. It’s not a dark, earthy, rooty scent but more of a dapper, suave one, if that makes sense. It also feels more bright and green-yellow, than something dark and smoldering. In its final hours, Vetiver turns into a simple woody fragrance with a subtle touch of musk.

Throughout the perfume’s development, the sillage was generally moderate and the longevity excellent. Vetiver’s projection isn’t huge and loud, but rather, more discreet and well-mannered. The longevity is, however, surprised me. To my disbelief, this airy, seemingly light Vetiver lasted almost 10.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin.

I am not hugely familiar with all the vetiver fragrances out there, so it won’t be easy for me to do a comparison. Based upon my memory of Guerlain‘s (vintage) Vetiver, the benchmark classic is significantly more complex, nuanced, spicy and … well, fabulous. It’s rich, layered, and deeper. Dior’s take seems intended to be a minimalistic treatment of the note, so one can hardly fault it for a job well done. It is also much lighter, in every way possible, especially in texture and feel. If it helps, you can read Bois de Jasmin‘s comparison of the two scent here. Her bottom line summation, however, is this:

If Vétiver de Guerlain did not exist, Dior Vétiver would have been close to my ideal vetiver fragrance. It is a very good quality vetiver, and I enjoy wearing it. However, there is no surprise in it, no novelty, especially when we have so many interesting and unusual woody fragrances available, both in the prestige and the niche lines. It is pleasant, but to me, nonessential. By contrast, I cannot imagine my perfume wardrobe without Vétiver de Guerlain.

christian bale as bruce wayneIn terms of comparisons to Chanel‘s Sycomore, the two fragrances are nothing alike. Sycomore is a truly mighty, intense vetiver: all darkness with mysterious smoke, earthiness and serious woods that turn into creamy sandalwood. Complete polar opposites. Where Dior’s Vetiver evokes bright greens with a dapper touch, Sycomore evokes mysterious dark woods, earthy loamy soil, rootiness, and smoke. Dior feels like a scent that Roger Sterling from Mad Men would wear. Actually, no, Christian Bale’s “Bruce Wayne” would wear it with one of his perfect suits to a social luncheon. In contrast, the Dark Knight would wear Sycomore.

There is an enormous amount of love for Dior’s Vetiver out there. On Fragrantica, people rave about how it’s a minimalistic classic that is an essential staple for their perfume collection. One actually confesses, with some reluctance, that it may actually be superior to his beloved Guerlain Vetiver. The most interesting comment, to me, was from a commentator who said that the Dior was fantastic for layering under other scents. And, you know, I think he’s absolutely right. Dior’s Vetiver is sufficiently crisp, fresh, bright and green that it really would be the perfect vetiver base. I can’t see one using the super-complex Sycomore as a base layer, or the Guerlain, but Dior’s minimalism and purer vetiver essence would definitely work.

As a side note, I think Dior’s Vetiver could easily be worn by women who love the note. It is not a shriekingly masculine scent by any means, and seems quite unisex to me. I think it’s due to the subtle sweetness underlying the bright green vetiver. Thanks to the yellow grapefruit and the lack of spices or tobacco, the perfume also feels much brighter and fresher, less dry. In contrast, I think the Guerlain or Chanel fragrances are much more masculine in nature.

If you want to order Vetiver, there are still bottles available online and, for US readers, at the Dior boutique in Las Vegas. You can read about the exact number remaining at the Las Vegas boutique (as of 5/16/13) here. Generally, Dior’s bottles are super-sized, but the price is incredibly affordable per ounce. The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz/125 ml, and costs $155. Dior’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz/450 ml which costs $230, which comes to approximately $27 an ounce. It’s a fantastic price per ounce (though it’s also enough ounces to practically bathe in).

All in all, I thought Dior’s Vetiver was very pleasant. I will be honest and say that I would have been far more enthusiastic had it not been for my hatred for ISO E Super in large amounts. But since the majority of people only read the note as a general impression of sharp “pepperiness,” I wouldn’t worry about it at all if I were you. I think Vetiver is incredibly elegant, versatile, and, perhaps more importantly, wearable on a daily basis. It has fantastic longevity and, though it may be minimalistic in nature, you can turn that to your advantage by layering it with other fragrances. If you’re a vetiver lover, I would definitely try to get your hands on it before it’s completely gone and the prices on eBay skyrocket through the roof.

DETAILS:
For a brief while, until it runs out, Vetiver is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. However, since it is soon being discontinued, those who want to get the few bottles that may remain should call any Dior boutique directly and buy it over the phone. In the US, it is sold only at Dior’s Las Vegas store [(702) 369-6072]. I would also try to call this Dior number — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She will be in special Dior training sessions until 5/20/13 but, if you can get a hold of her before then, she is an amazingly sweet lady who will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. As noted above, the perfume comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry some of the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, they don’t carry all of them because I think they rotate 6 at a time. I highly doubt they have Vetiver, given the discontinuation issue.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The Dior boutique closest to you should have some Vetiver bottles still available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give Vetiver a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances (minus the new Gris Montaigne) in a sampler set for $35.99.

Perfume Review – Dior New Look 1947 (La Collection Privée)

Dior New Look dressNames have weight and, in perfumery, can lead to certain expectations. In fashion, perhaps few names carry more of an instant iconography than Dior’s “New Look.” You see it right away: that famous silhouette, the exquisite clothes, and the spectacular black-and-white photography that often rose to the level of art. You see “New Look” and you associate it with the greatness that it reflects.

All of this may explain the lofty expectations for New Look 1947 and, perhaps, some of the subsequent disappointment. Critics claimed it was too insubstantial a floral, too abstract and sheer, and not worthy of such a great name.

Dior vintage 1950s ball gown.

Dior vintage 1950s ball gown.

I’m not immune to the expectations caused by symbolic names and, truth be told, New Look 1947 was not quite what I had expected. Then, I thought about it and I wondered: what did I expect? What really fits an iconic name and over-arching concept that encompasses so very much? The bottom line, to me, is that New Look 1947 is a very lovely, delicate, sometimes retro, airy, floral perfume and you may enjoy it a lot — especially if you just forget about the name and smell it.

Dior's famous "Junon" dress.

Dior’s famous “Junon” dress.

New Look 1947 is part of Dior‘s prestige La Collection Privée line of perfumes. The line is sometimes called La Collection Couturier on places like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance, but I will go with the name used by Dior itself on its website. The Privée line consists of fourteen perfumes that are exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. The collection began in 2003 with three perfumes but, starting in 2010, the company added more fragrances to the line, and one of those was New Look 1947. All of them were intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior, and were created by François Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior.

Dior New Look 1947Dior categorizes the perfume as a “spicy floral” and puts its description in the context of the Dior history:

February 12, 1947: A major event was held at 30, avenue Montaigne in Paris, where Christian Dior presented his first fashion show. With his flower women and bright colors, the Designer launched a fresh fashion trend. “It’s a New Look!” exclaimed Carmel Snow, Editor-in-Chief at Harper’s Bazaar, thus christening the Designer’s inimitable style. Today, the New Look has become an explosive, generous, ultra-feminine and floral fragrance.

The notes for the fragrance, as compiled from Dior and other sources, include:

Ylang-ylang, Peony, Indian tuberose, Turkish rose, Jasmine sambac, Tuscan Iris, Siam Benzoin, and Madagascar Vanilla.

The first time I tried New Look 1947, I jotted down that its opening was “candy sweet florals” which reminded me of gummy drop sugared sweets. The second time I tried the perfume, I was perhaps a little more immune to the enormous sweetness and noticed the florals much more, writing how they were stunningly beautiful and of “astounding delicacy.” Both descriptions and experiences are true. New Look 1947’s opening is both incredibly sweet and incredibly lovely. Airy brushstrokes of ylang-ylang and jasmine vie with peony, sweet rose and the merest touch of tuberose — all on a base of creamy, custardy, rich vanilla. It’s as feminine and dainty as a gaggle of laughing, willowy geishas, walking on air.

Despite the airy weight of the florals, they are rich, strong and heady in those opening minutes. However, they are never indolic, sour, plastic-y or reminiscent of some of the more worrisome aspects of such indolic flowers as ylang-ylang and tuberose. There is nothing to evoke over-ripe decay or cat litter boxes. I suspect the incredible sweetness of the perfume is responsible, in part, for that.

Dior NLMinutes later, the powdery iris pushes aside some of the creamier, heavier white flowers, undercutting their richness and adding a distinctly retro note to the perfume. New Look 1947 starts to take on slight lipstick undertones in its powdery, iris femininity. The perfume also starts to turn a little abstract which, in perfume terms, is a way to describe something of an amorphous nature. The florals all blend into one amorphous floral “whole” with few distinct parts that you can pick out and sitting atop a structure of iris powder and vanilla. The tuberose note was never as individually noticeable as the other flowers and, now, it is even less so. I hope that reassures those who are rather terrified of the note and its often indolic, over-ripe nature.

Forty minutes into the development of the perfume, I suddenly detect a quiet note of velvety peppered woods with a flickering aspect of rubbing alcohol. It is definitely, and without a doubt, ISO E Super, an aromachemical to which my nose has become particularly attuned in recent weeks. Here, it is far from over-powering and, thankfully, has nothing antiseptic, medicinal or shriekingly chemical about it. If you were to ignore that flickering, fleeting rubbing alcohol undertone that pops up every now and then, all you’d really feel is that the perfume has a velvety texture of soft woods underlying the creamy, powdery florals.

"Oval Motif in Grey and Ochre 1961" by Wendy Pasmore at the Tate Museum, London.

“Oval Motif in Grey and Ochre 1961” by Wendy Pasmore at the Tate Museum, London.

By the start of the second hour, New Look 1947 has softened to a sheer skin scent. The ISO E’s alcoholic, peppery note — light though it was — has vanished, leaving nothing but a delicate iris scent with amorphous florals, light powder, sweet vanilla, and a velvety feel. The powder is now light and subtle, which is my personal preference, and no longer redolent of old-fashioned lipsticks. There remains something that feels almost woody to the velvety undertones of the scent but it is light. The whole thing is incredibly sheer and gauzy, and, oddly, reminds me of some modernist paintings that entail abstract brush strokes or Jackson Pollack’s random splatterings of grey and white.

In its final hours, the perfume turns into a simple jasmine and iris floral with vanilla benzoin undertones. It’s nothing complicated and far from revolutionary — but I don’t think any of the Privée line were meant to be. They were meant to be well-crafted scents that evoke elegance and femininity in the classic tradition. New Look 1947 certainly succeeds in that endeavor.

The perfume’s sheerness and low sillage create the misleading impression that it is a vanishing scent. It is not, but it is a skin scent. I haven’t tried the full Privée line (yet), but I have the sense that they are all meant to be lightweight in feel, and elegantly unobtrusive in projection, while remaining for much longer than you’d expect. (The ambery-labdanum and incense Mitzah which I adore was the same way.) For something that is even lighter and gauzier than Mitzah, New Look 1947 was surprisingly persistent and lasted just short of 8 hours.

The sheerness of the scent seems to be one of the main reasons for the blogosphere’s disappointment with the perfume. Bois de Jasmin wrote:

Christian Dior New Look 1947 is one of my most disappointing and frustrating discoveries this year. I say it because I absolutely love the voluptuous idea of its tuberose and violet accord and the image of red lipstick glamor that it conveys. Yet on the skin, New Look 1947 feels far too soft spoken and sheer to fully deliver on its promise of bold elegance circa 1940s Paris.  [¶] …Unfortunately as time goes on, New Look 1947 does not build up to any crescendo and simply fades into a vague powdery floral. My hope is that Dior might consider releasing it as the extrait de parfum. Such a beautiful idea certainly deserves to make a grander statement.

A passionate defense of New Look 1947 was mounted by Octavian Coifan, the acclaimed blogger of 1000 Fragrances, who wrote that the perfume was actually the perfect, symbolic embodiment of the New Look:

New Look 1947, the new exclusive fragrance from “La Collection Couturier Parfumeur” is Dior’s parfum lingerie, the New Nude Look with a grège scent: the softness of “purple gray” orris and the creaminess of “apricot beige” white flowers. It is built on a similar idea with J’adore l’Or – an infinite smoothness of flowers melting into an abstract note,very distant from the figurative depiction of a flower or the representation of a specific bouquet. Like Chanel No5, this perfume is the abstraction of an imaginary feminine scent, it is that “je ne sais quoi”.

… [I]t is less the idea of a specific perfume type and more the concept of a presence, delicate and fragile. It is a skinscent, but not the musky type. It’s again a parfum lingerie that evokes the Dior 1947 backstage before the unique fashion show that changed the world of fashion for ever: soft shoulders, wasp waist, bosom padded for extra curve, hips that swelled and rustling skirts. We have here the scents of make up, lipstick, face powder, the scent of silk lingerie. [Emphasis in the original.]

"The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957" by Claire Wilcox. Available on Amazon.com

“The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957” by Claire Wilcox. Available on Amazon.com

I agree with him, for the most part. I think New Look 1947 is supposed to represent an abstraction, a compilation of femininity. I’m not sure about all the lingerie bits and, personally, I perceive the perfume representing the Dior ballgown as much as the silken slips, but I do think New Look 1947 represents the fundamental essence of the new fashion. Dior’s clothes in that Golden Age of haute design were all about an abstract idea of hyper-femininity in hues of dove grey, white, light iris-y blue and soft, dusty rose. People focus on the opulence, shape and size of the clothes with their yards of luxurious fabric, but the real key was the return to “fairytale” femininity after the bleakness of wartime and the government-imposed austerity of the postwar years. Abstract sheerness and amorphous tones of white, grey and lilac iris certainly make New Look 1947 part of the Dior tradition.

Ultimately, all of this is esoteric, unnecessary, intellectualism and wankery. The critics can argue about sheerness, symbolism and abstractism, but the bottom line is whether the perfume smells good, not whether it lives up to some marketing name. And it does smell good. If you like very sweet, airy, gauzy, florals with some powder and vanilla, then you really must try New Look 1947. Period.

It may be particularly ideal for those who like extremely unobtrusive perfumes. The soft sillage but good longevity makes it perfect for the office, but I think the perfume is extremely versatile as a whole. You must, however, like florals that are very sweet at first and, then, later, somewhat powdery. If you prefer more powerful fragrances, I think you may be disappointed. This is not a diva or statement perfume — not even remotely. Lastly, those with acute sensitivity to ISO E Super may want to skip this one; I have absolutely no doubt it’s there. The quantity of the aromachemical is extremely low, but anything may be too much for those who get headaches from it in any amount.

The general problem with New Look 1947 may be something else altogether: the size of the bottles. They are just enormous! The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz or 125 ml. Most perfumes start at 1.7 oz or 50 ml, going up to 3.4 oz or 100 ml in the large size. Dior’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz or 450 ml! More than four times as large! Per ounce, they are far, far cheaper than most niche or exclusive-line perfumes. The “small” bottle costs $155, so that is approximately $36 an ounce — the general price of mass-market perfumes. The gigantic “large” 8.5 oz size costs $230 for $27 an ounce — far less than any perfume at Sephora or Macy’s! But, tell me seriously, how many people will ever finish an 8.5 oz bottle?! Who? It’s completely insane.

On the other hand, if you opt for their … er…  “small” size, you are getting more bang for your buck than with any other haute perfume on the market! Even more so if you order directly from a Dior boutique where, in the U.S. at least, there won’t be tax, will be free shipping and you’ll get tons of wonderful, free goodies. (See below for details.) And, by the standards of niche or haute perfumery (which, I grant you, are quite screwy), $155 is not hugely expensive even if the bottle were a regular size.

Bottom line for lovers of light florals: forget the name, lose all your expectations, and give New Look 1947 a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

DETAILS:
New Look 1947 is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. In the US, it is sold only at Dior’s Las Vegas boutique [call (702) 369-6072]. However, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She is an amazingly sweet lady who will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! Tell her Kafka sent you. As noted above, the perfume comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, they don’t carry all of them because I think they rotate 6 at a time. I don’t know if New Look 1947 is one of the ones they carry.
Outside of the US: you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have New Look 1947 available for sale.
Samples: If you want to give New Look 1947 a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99.