All my life I’ve had an incredibly sensitive sense of smell. I’m as blind as a bat (massively short-sighted) but I have the nose of a bloodhound. Put it this way, without my specs I wouldn’t spot a sabre-tooth tiger until it was sinking its teeth into me; but that wouldn’t matter because I’d have smelled it a mile off.
This means that when it comes to scent I can be a very tricky customer. The slightest hint of a synthetic, or anything remotely cloying, drives me mad. In the days when we were still allowed to go to restaurants, another person’s choice of perfume could put me off my food. Certain smells make me feel sick. Other times they can conjure up memories, or snapshots of past people and places.
It’s because of this that I tend to favour very simple scents, often single-note or stripped-back blends; easier on the nose. And if something is missing or off, I can always sense it. So many of the classics have been reformulated for reasons of ethics or economy and they are olfactory shadows of their former selves. So-called ‘designer’ perfumes, meanwhile, lack artistry and character, mere sideshows to the brand or bottle and often made up of cheap, synthetic ingredients.
That’s why when a new scent does come along that really bucks this trend, it’s so exciting. The latest launch from Paris perfume powerhouse Diptyque is one such scent. Orphéon (the name is inspired by the bar at the intersection of 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Rue de Pontoiseis where Diptyque's founders used to meet) is my favourite type of fragrance family: a woody chypre.