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Dioressence – It makes me happy to wear it

I was saddened to learn that Guy Robert died last week. Blogs are full of obituaries, condolences and reminiscences, and rightfully so. The nose behind many great fragrances, Madame Rochas, Amouage Gold, and Dioressence among them, he was a titan in the perfume world and he was also, by all accounts, a gifted and generous teacher, willing to share his knowledge and his time with those who requested it.

I never M. Robert. I only know the man through his scent creations, Amouage Gold and Dioressence, both of which I own and are on my desert island list – and from Chandler Burr’s excellent book “The Emperor of Scent” published in 2002. This is one of the most interesting, educational and entertaining books about perfume and perfumers out there, and one of my favourite books. In it Luca Turin talks about the making of Dioressence. You can read it online, but to save site hopping, I have put some of it here:

"The best Guy Robert story is this. Dior approached Guy Robert-they invite him to dinner, they're talking over the cheese course, no sterile meeting rooms, this is a brief among gentlemen-and they said, 'We're doing a new perfume we want to call Dioressence, for women, but we want it very animalic. The slogan will be le parfum barbare, so-propose something to us.' Oh boy. Guy can hardly wait. Of course he wants a Dior commission. And the challenge of mixing the florals of the traditional Dior fragrances into an animal scent (because this isn't just any animalic, this is a Dior animalic, if you can imagine such a bizarre thing) is just a bewitching challenge, who else would have the guts to attempt joining those two. So he gets right to work, plunges in, and he tries all sorts of things. And he's getting nowhere. Nothing's working. He's frustrated, he doesn't like anything he's doing.

"In the middle of this, someone in the industry calls him, and they say, 'There's a guy with a huge lump of ambergris for sale in London-get up here and check it out for us.' So Guy gets on a plane and flies up to see the dealer, and they bring out the chunk of ambergris. It looks like black butter. This chunk was about two feet square, thirty kilos or something. Huge. A brick like that can power Chanel's ambergris needs for twenty years. This chunk is worth a half million pounds.

"The way you test ambergris is to rub it with both hands and then rub your hands together and smell them. It's a very peculiar smell, marine, sealike, slightly sweet, and ultrasmooth. So there he is, he rubs his hands in this black oily mess and smells them, and it's terrific ambergris. He says, Great, sold. He goes to the bathroom to wash his hands 'cause he's got to get on an airplane. He picks up some little sliver of dirty soap that's lying around there and washes his hands. He leaves. He gets on the plane, and he's sitting there, and that's when he happens to smell his hands. The combination of the soap and ambergris has somehow created exactly the animalic Dior he's been desperately looking for. But what the hell does that soap smell like? He's got to have that goddamn piece of soap. The second he lands in France, he sprints to a phone, his heart pounding, and calls the dealer in England and says, 'Do exactly as I say: go to your bathroom, take the piece of soap that's in there, put it in an envelope, and mail it to me.' And the guy says, 'No problem.' And then he adds, 'By the way, that soap? You know, it was perfumed with some Miss Dior knockoff.'

"So Guy put them together, and got the commission, and made, literally, an animalic Dior. Dioressence was created from a cheap Miss Dior soap knockoff base, chypric, fruity aldehydic, plus a giant cube of rancid whale vomit. And it is one of the greatest perfumes ever made."

When I read that I had to try Dioressence, and I’ve been a fan ever since. And, while this masterwork has been reformulated over the years, the current version is, for me, still so worth wearing.

Nose-tickling aldehydes, with orange and rose are at the opening, along with patchouli, just for drama, giving the first whiff of Dioressence real impact. A true chypre, it moves to a floral heart based on lush rose and geranium warmed with spicy cinnamon. All of this rests on an amber/patchouli base that gives it a warm, mellow, sensuous drydown.

It makes me happy to wear it and when I do I get lots of compliments - that’s quite a legacy to leave behind.

Now, whenever I wear it I will smile and think of M. Robert

Dioressence is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.