September 3 2014

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Two If By Sea


The ability to trigger olfactory memory is one of fine perfumery’s greatest assets—and what often makes it a subjective love affair. What might smell to one person like the simple intermingling of white flowers with sparkling citrus and musky vanilla accents can lead others down a path of nostalgia to a specific time, place, or person. For perfumers—and those in the business of selecting them—personal olfactory associations often make their way into the bottle. So it goes with Diptyque’s new Volutes, which was formulated from Yves Coueslant’s memories of the transatlantic trip from Marseille to Saigon that he used to make as a child. At the core of the eau is a specific honeyed tobacco accord that the brand’s co-founder asked nose Fabrice Pellegrin to create as a means of simulating the scent of the Egyptian cigarettes well-dressed women puffed on the ship’s balconies between the spice-laden ports of the Suez Canal, Djibouti, Colombo, and Singapore. The smoky note is infused with hints of dried fruit, honey, and wax and tempered by pink and Madagascan pepper that’s been dosed with saffron and myrrh. Additional infusions of iris and immortelle flower add a soft freshness while an earthy, resinous base reinforces the warmth of the tobacco heart. Like all Diptyque offerings, this one is meant to be unisex, despite its resemblance to a classic male composition. And in a first for the company, a corresponding eau de parfum has been released simultaneously to offer a different concentration of the same precious ingredients.

Despite having never traveled this specific sea route—or spent much time on ocean liners at all save for a few ill-advised Caribbean cruise excursions in the eighties—we can attest that there is indeed something transportive about both variations of this fragrance, which is helped along at least in part by the adorable “adventures on the high seas” drawings that grace the back of the labels on the deliberately transparent flacons.

Photo: Courtesy of Diptyque

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