Sarah Vine has found her new signature scent in Diptyque's latest genderless EDP, named after the Parisian bar where the founders met
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.
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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.
Diptyque has launched this as part of its 60th-anniversary celebrations. Already the brand has an arsenal of iconic scents in its portfolio; but for me, Diptyque has always been about ambient scent, candles and so on and less about fragrance for the flesh. With this, I think, Diptyque has created something truly standout, a scent to rival the classiest creations by the likes of Frédéric Malle or Creed – and one that deserves to become a classic.
It has all the shimmering fizz of a good chypre, but with dark, aromatic undertones. Tobacco, a hint of soap, juniper berries – all add to the animal embrace of this perfume, its heart the irresistible warmth of tonka bean. There’s feminine jasmine and powder there too. It’s the ladies’ boudoir at Claridge's on a wild summer’s night, it’s the Cipriani hotel in Venice on a hot evening somewhen in the Seventies, it’s an Yves Saint Laurent trouser suit on a balcony in Paris. The scent of freedom, fun and fabulousness - and the perfect antidote to this dreary, depressing year.