Diptyque launched Tam Dao in 2003, and I assume the fragrance was named for the Vietnamese hill station north of Hanoi. Tam Dao was established as a resort town during French colonial rule; the town is now inside of Tam Dao National Park and is a popular weekend tourist destination. Diptyque's Tam Dao fragrance was created by perfumer Daniel Moliere, and the notes include rosewood, cypress, ambergris, and sandalwood.
Like many sandalwood-heavy fragrances, Tam Dao gets off to a bit of a rocky start. The top notes smell like a burst of cedar with an unpleasant, almost acrid undertone which I can’t quite pin down. It is close to gasoline, but not quite. It settles quickly to a creamy sandalwood with a distinctly resinous edge. The cypress lends an aromatic, slightly evergreen bite in the early stages, but it is still a very soft fragrance, with little to temper the dry woods.
Tam Dao smells like the rough, unfinished interior of a very old carved box made of precious wood. It is a restrained, almost serene fragrance, and its simplicity gives it a meditative cast; it is the perfect fragrance to wear when you want something soothing and uncomplicated. It is perfection by itself, but its simplicity also lends itself to layering, and it works nicely to intensify the wood notes in Philosykos or to add a woody base to simple florals. It is a unisex scent, and can be worn in any season.
Tam Dao is an Eau de Toilette, and the lasting power is admittedly less than spectacular. Still, nothing else quite replaces it, so why quibble? And I love Diptyque's simple art deco packaging, and I appreciate that the company does not, like some, discontinue half their product line every other year. To my knowledge, actually, they have never discontinued any of their personal fragrances — but please correct me if I am wrong.1
Last year Diptyque phased out their 100 ml splash bottles, and for a brief time you could purchase them directly from Diptyque at 50% off. Unfortunately, it is otherwise hard to find a discount price on their products. On the other hand, they are not as expensive as some other niche lines: a 50 ml bottle runs $58.
For purchasing information, see the listing for Diptyque under Perfume Houses.
1. Update: since this writing they've discontinued several fragrances; luckily Tam Dao is still in production.