This review is for the original, vintage formulation.
Top Notes: Aldehydes, Orange, Fruity Notes, Patchouli, Green Notes, Bergamot.
Heart Notes: Carnation, Tuberose, Cinnamon, Violet, Orris, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Geranium.
Base Notes: Musk, Patchouli, Benzoin, Vanilla, Oak Moss, Vetiver, Styrax.
Dioressence was launched in 1979. The nose behind this fragrance is Guy Robert.
To my nose, this is very much a classic chypre despite the fact that there is no labdanum listed in the notes pyramid. I detect a huge oak moss note that dominates the entire composition from top to bottom and from beginning to end. I do detect some florals, most notably rose, geranium, and a tiny hint of carnation, but the florals are dominated by the oak moss and green notes. I detect aldehydes, orange, and bergamot upon initial application, but they fade relatively quickly, albeit not as quickly as the top notes of many of today's fragrances. The one note that characterises Dioressence more than any other for me is the oak moss.
Dioressence smells trés chic, sophisticated, expensive and undeniably old school. It is very much a perfume of its era or even earlier than 1979. In fact, if I did not know better, I would have supposed it was launched in either the 1950s or 1960s. It is difficult to believe that this composition came at the end of the 1970s, just before the vogue for really big Orientals began in the early 1980s.
As it is so unmistakably wedded to its time period, I cannot imagine young women of today wearing Dioressence, but it is nonetheless an exemplar of the very high end chypre fragrances of its time. This is a fragrance for chypre worshippers more than anyone else, and it is a fragrance for those who love and tolerate oak moss very well in large doses. I like oak moss, but this is an oak moss bomb. Anyone who wants to know what real oak moss smells like should sample vintage Dioressence.
Longevity and sillage are good+. Projection is good. I applied it approximately eight hours ago and can still detect it on myself.
Poet Federico Garcia Lorca:
Green, how I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship out on the sea
and the horse on the mountain.
With the shade around her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, her hair green,
with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green.
Under the gypsy moon,
all things are watching her
and she cannot see them.
This review is for the reformulated version currently at Sak's and Neiman. I have never had the opportunity to try the vintage.
The harsh green opening is challenging for me and has a bit of an "old lady" feeling to it, which I think is the geranium and violet.
After 5-10 minutes, it is an unapologetically bitter chore/oriental with a green tinge. At this point it reminds my husband of bitters from the bar.
When the dry down hits, it is quiet, but gorgeous, with the cinnamon and patchouli so well-blended that they are not directly identifiable. It is gorgeous and lasts all day.
Dioressence used to be a lovely fragrance - especially in the Parfum strength. I would think it was definitely influenced by the trend started by Youth Dew and Opium, but it was greener and more delicate than other oriental fragrances of the same era. There were originally three strengths: Parfum, Espirit de Parfum and Eau de Toilette, and some lovely bath products too.
I recently tried the new formulation, and was very disappointed: the overall scent is similar to how it used to be, but after wearing it for a short time, it changes and becomes a rather sickly, sweet, spicy nothingness. (I have found that Eau Fraiche seems to have undergone similar reformulation, though Diorissimo seems the same as it always did. I am currently putting-off trying Diorella and Diorling in case they have suffered similar reformulation).
My thumbs up is for the original formula of this once-glorious perfume. I realise trends in perfume change, just like anything else, but I find it difficult to believe how so many houses (Dior, Givenchy, Guerlain, Patou, and even Caron, to name a few) are all but discontinuing some of their truly great perfumes, only to replace them with throwaway sweet nothings.
2013–I’ve seen some discussions online about the merits and pathologies of vintage perfume collecting. I’m live-and-let-live on this one. If it feels good, do it. But how far will you go for vintage? Me, not far. Of course my consolation prize is all of contemporary perfumery, so I’m not panicking.
But sometimes you can’t say no, yes? I’ve come across an old/new bottle of Dioressence edt from the ‘90s-‘00s. Dioressence the Tease, the Trap. Purported to have made the progression from old school, animalic grande dame to complete rubbish. To believe the stories, the vintage is the Grail, and the later reformulations weren’t worth pissing on.
So what vintage had I found? Fuck if I know, but it’s interesting. It’s not the monster that I suspect the original formulation was. But is it trash? Not at all. It’s a powdery, spicy oriental-chypre that’s built for human scale. Prim and upright but also tart and musky. More than a bit sweaty, actually. Dioressence has that come-hither yet stand-offish quality that old-school powdery perfumes conveyed so well.
2016— I’ve just found a wrapped and sealed bottle of pre-1980 Dioressence eau de toilette. This is the original version, composed by Guy Robert. It existed in its original formulation from 1969 to 1979 when it was reformulated by Max Gavarry. The bottle I found in 2013 was Gavarry’s.
Gavarry’s reformulation resembles the Robert original in that are both powdery, woody-floral chyprientals in a perfume-genre multi-culti sort of way. Gavarry’s started with a tart, funk-and-powder dynamic and spiciness in lieu of the animalic quality of the original but the drydown failed to keep up. It was tame in comparison to raspy balsamic drydowns found in other ‘70s-style oriental/chypre hybrids like Rochas Mystère and Lancome Magie Noire (both 1978) and Lancome’s Sikkim (1971.) Though both models of Dioressence cover a lot of the same territory, the evolution of the Robert version favors the classic oakmoss/amber drydown of a chypre and therefore seems more coherent. Its path is more logical than Gavarry’s which has its finger in a few too many pies.
From the perspective of 2016 both versions seem dated, but in 1979 I imagine the ‘new model’ read as more contemporary than the original Dioressence. As animal-sourced materials were fell out of favor, rich, spicy notes were used to give perfumes depth and richness. The Gavarry reboot fits in with the Cinnabar/Opium/Ispahan spiced-eggnog perfumes of the late ’70s. The original Dioressence was based at least to some extent on Miss Dior, a floral-animalic chypre from 1947, and would have seemed unstylish and outdated by 1979. Gavarry’s version made sense for its time, but from the angle of 2016, the original has the glamour of the coveted mid-century chypres. The Gavarry is like a ‘70s movie sequel by comparison. Less authenticky.
Dior continued to change Dioressence over the years, the name being the only continuity to the original. Quite unfortunately, Dioressence’s lasting contribution of perfume history is that it started Dior’s trend of continual, unacknowledged reformulation. Look no further than the bottomless pit of Dior Homme and Miss Dior Chérie reformulations. Actually, look further. The unambitious reformulations of Dior’s classics like Diorissimo, Diorling and Dorama—‘Les Créatures de Monsieur Dior’ I believe they’re called—are the logical and regrettable outcome of the repeated tinkering with Dioressence over the years.
19th June, 2014 (last edited: 21st June, 2016)
Darn it! Great perfume makes me feel glamorous no matter what I'm looking like. I'm wearing the same t-shirt and camouflage cargo pants I've been working in for the past three days, but I've just spritzed on vintage Dioressence EDT and with the lock of hair that keeps falling over my eye, I feel like some kind of 1950's femme fatale, smelling of dusty, rosey florals and spicy sweetness underlined with a subtle note of skank on this 90 degree + day in Washington, DC. It doesn't get any better than this.