Eau Duelle is Diptyque's new unisex fragrance. The description — a fragrance that follows vanilla on its journey along the spice route — and the notes1 both sounded perfect. I'm fond of Diptyque, anyway: I love the vintage-look black and white packaging, and they happen to make two of my favorite reading-in-bed perfumes of all time: Philosykos and Tam Dao.
When I reviewed their last fragrance, Vetyverio, I noted that it started "out bright and fresh and energetic", and that the dry down was "an exercise in subtlety". The trajectory here is quite similar. Eau Duelle's opening is vibrant: it smells just like a vanilla gin martini with a twist of citrus peel. Then the spices come on fast, with a lovely overload of cardamom, and shortly after that there is a nice whiff of black tea and a whoosh of incense.
Then it all sort of quiets down. Eau Duelle lasts a long time, but the later stages smell mostly like a clean, dry vanilla musk, more transparent than not. Even applied heavily, you have to lean in and inhale deeply to catch the earthy and resinous notes.
As I said above, I like Diptyque. And not just for Philosykos and Tam Dao, mind you: I also love L’Ombre dans L’Eau (1983), Olene (1988) and Oyedo (2000). But in all truth Tam Dao, which came out in 2003, was the last one I was absolutely wild about. Since Tam Dao, Diptyque has become a kind of go-to house for muted fragrances on familiar themes. They're well done, in fact some of them are fantastically well done, but they aren't often surprising, and with the current glut of niche fragrances — it's hard to think of a single theme, vanilla included, that hasn't been explored to the heavens and back again in the last year or two — a little surprise is a welcome thing.
So Eau Duelle is nice, even darned nice. I like it much better than Vetyverio, which to borrow March's phrase (that's March of Perfume Posse), was likewise nice but just didn't seem to add anything new to the (vetiver) conversation. I wore Eau Duelle quite happily for several days, and if I had a bottle I'd wear it again quite happily. But I'm not absolutely wild about it, and I wish it were a little less well-behaved: an Eau Duelle Intense, perhaps? Amp up the black tea and the cypriol, make it all a little smokier? Of course, if you haven't become jaded by smelling umpteen thousand other new releases, it might be perfect for you, and as a side note, it layers quite nicely with Tam Dao.
Diptyque Eau Duelle was developed by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin. It is available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette and in solid perfume. For buying information, see the listing for Diptyque under Perfume Houses.
1. The notes, other than two kinds of vanilla, include bergamot, cardamom, pink pepper, elemi, juniper, saffron, calamus, frankincense, cypriol, black tea, musk and amber.