Dior : Diorella

Created by : Edmond Roudnitska

Date : 1972

Genre : Floral (jasmine) wood

Concentration : eau de toilette

I often refer to Diorella as the feminine Eau Sauvage because in the literature that is how it is presented.  But when recently rereading Michael Edwards’ Perfume Legends : French Feminine Fragrances, I was surprised to read the following passage :

Diorella has been called a feminine Eau Sauvage, but Roudnitska disagrees.  “Diorella was not inspired by Eau Sauvage,” he claims.  “I worked with a different formula.  Like Eau Sauvage, Diorella has a touch of chypre, but apart from that, it has absolutely nothing to do with Eau Sauvage.  Of course I had made use of the experience I had gained from my earlier work, but if Eau Sauvage was the daughter of Diorissimo (1956), the formal structure of Diorella makes it the granddaughter of Diorissimo, without really being the daughter of Eau Sauvage.  Diorella was the transformation of quite another formula.”

I’m not sure I understand the convoluted geneaology, but having tested the latest formulation of Diorella recently I can attest that it is NOT the feminine Eau Sauvage, it is the masculine Eau Sauvage (and consequently, Eau Sauvage is the feminine Diorella).  Both start quite similarly but Diorella doesn’t have the citrus flourishes of Eau Sauvage.  One could confuse Eau Sauvage with an eau de cologne but never Diorella.  More importantly, Diorella’s  jasmine heart is denser and although there is the occasional soapy note its voice is in the masculine range.

As for classification, I’m going to disagree with Michael Edwards on this one who puts Diorella in his Citrus family, although I suspect he was working from a preformulated Diorella.  For me, it’s more of a floral wood, the floral part supplied by Hedione or jasmine.  Both men and women could wear Diorella but I think most women would prefer the lighter, citrusy Eau Sauvage as would most men.  It doesn’t surprise me that Eau Sauvage is available everywhere as opposed to Diorella which is a treasure hunt find… still beautiful but after wearing it for a few days, I prefer Eau Sauvage.

Serge Lutens : À La Nuit

Created by : Christopher Sheldrake

Date : 2000

Genre : Jasmine soliflore

Concentration : Eau de parfum

“This is not perfume,” I said to a friend about À La Nuit.  It was an off-handed comment made for effect but as I said those words I had a flashback to 1979… way back to a lecture on Modern Art and Concepts by the late Professor W. Judkins at McGill University.  Professor Judkins was a Harvard-trained art historian who had taught at Harvard and Radcliffe and who almost single-handedly started up the Art History Department at the University.

“Next slide please,” Professor Judkins said with a gravelly voice to his assistant in the projection room.  A Canaletto painting of Venice flashed up on the screen.  I leaned over to whisper to a classmate, “So beautiful… this is great art.”

“THIS IS NOT ART,” Professor Judkins emphasized word by word.  “It’s nothing but a lovely postcard meant to be purchased by the rich during their Grand Tour of Europe.  Where is the interpretation?  Where is the abstraction?  The art part of painting lies in its abstraction.”  I was horrified.  But more than 30 years later while testing À La Nuit, I understood what he was saying.

À La Nuit is a soliflore which means it attempts to reproduce the scent of one flower… jasmine, in this case.  It doesn’t develop much over time and, in that sense, it is not unlike an essential oil.  It smells flat and uninspired but for what it’s meant to do, it does it well.  If you absolutely love the smell of jasmine and you don’t want to go to a headshop to pick up some jasmine essential oil (at a fraction of the cost), well then you’ll love it.  I’m not a fan because I prefer my perfumes to be more complex and to evolve over time.  All this reminds me of Edmond Roudnitska and what he did with Diorissimo.  He did not give us a straight up lily of the valley.  He interpreted and embellished it.  And that is why Diorissimo is infinitely more interesting than say, Yardley’s Lily of the Valley.  But for those on a limited budget who like the smell of muguet… well, the latter is still pretty good.

So if À La Nuit is so boring why is it part of my collection?  I wanted it as a reference scent to calibrate my nose when I’m looking for jasmine notes in other perfumes… but I’ll never wear it.

And so my flippant comment was exactly that… not very well thought out and a little unfair.  Of course À La Nuit is a perfume.  But, is it art?  I don’t know.  Probably not.

By the way, if anyone out there has any Canaletto “postcards” cluttering up your walls, please feel free to send them my way.  I’ll gladly pay for the shipping.

Have a nice week everyone!

Image : The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute (1730) by Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto)

Hermès : 24 Faubourg

Created by : Maurice Roucel

Date : 1995

Genre : White floral

Concentration : eau de toilette

24 Faubourg was not of its time when it was created by Maurice Roucel.  It speaks directly to mid-century symphonic forals like Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps (1948) and Diorissimo (1956).   When I wear it, I just get this Grace Kelly image that is unshakable.  Although it came out in the 90s, 24 Faubourg has a pre-sexual revolution, “ladies who lunch”  feel to it.

Now, if you like orange-blossom-jasmine accords, you might like this one.  Its opening is beautiful and although it’s not an amber, it has an ambery feel to it… some sweet note that helps fill in its angular composition.  I have the eau de toilette but I noticed at the perfume counter that the eau de parfum with its iris note is much superior and in fact, almost smells like a different perfume.  If you like this genre, do yourself a favour and test the eau de parfum… it will be worth the extra dollars.

Luca Turin blames 24 Faubourg’s shortcomings on its overly-synthetic make-up and I’m inclined to agree.  It just feels like it’s missing flesh.  Again, if you want to try it, go for the edp with its iris note which makes it feel richer.  The eau de toilette smells thin and sometimes sounds shrill.

While testing 24 Faubourg, I put it up against Serge Lutens Fleurs d’oranger and it started out twice as beautiful but at times during the test, I actually preferred Fleurs d’oranger… and I’m not a fan of FdO.  But the ending belongs to 24 Faubourg because of a clean soapy note, which I loved.

I have a feeling that 24 Faubourg might have been tampered with… you know when you see something that you just KNOW must have been spectacular during its time but now is neglected and sad.  Havana comes to mind.  That’s the impression I get with this one.

24 Faubourg comes close… but no Cohiba.

DISCLAIMER : I’m not an orange blossom kind of guy.  And so… I don’t want to be overly critical and I would encourage anyone looking for a white floral to give 24 Faubourg a chance.  It might appeal to you.



Top image : Grace Kelly wedding photo (1956)

Bottom image : Havana staircase

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