Happy Birthday, Diptyque! (50 is the new 40, and you still look and smell “fresh”!) How many Diptyque fragrances (not to mention soaps and candles and room sprays) have I bought in my perfume-addict years? Let’s see: L’Eau, L’Ombre dans l’Eau, Eau Lente, Olène, Ofrésia, Philosykos, Oyédo, Tam Dao, and the discontinued — why, Diptyque, WHY? —Virgilio and L’Eau Trois.
Amateur perfume detectives among you will notice I have not bought a new Diptyque fragrance since 2003’s Tam Dao. That’s a lot of years, eight, and fragrances, ditto, that have gone by without interesting me. It seems Diptyque’s current aesthetic is modern-mainstream; its perfume offerings of the last eight years stress smooth, rather linear, conservative (trying to appeal to the largest audience possible) aromas. The older Diptyque fragrances I love are bolder, weirder, niche affairs, and even when they were inspired by old-fashioned ideas or “antiquity” (L’Eau: 16th c. potpourri, Eau Lente and L’Eau Trois: ancient Greece), they are supremely wearable. I’m all for fragrance companies making money, especially companies like Diptyque with a wonderful collection of perfumes for sale, but really, can’t we get ONE daring, off-center, “wild” perfume from Diptyque once every, say, three years or so? (I’d even settle for a limited edition scent.)
To celebrate 50 years in business, Diptyque has just released 34 Boulevard Saint Germain (the address of its first boutique in Paris). The perfume was created to “encapsulate the scent” of Diptyque’s boutique and some of its most famous offerings: Philosykos, L’Eau, L’Ombre dans L’Eau, and Do Son; and it contains “around 40 raw materials,” including fragrance notes of blackcurrant, green leaves, fig leaf, pepper, rose, citrus, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, geranium, tuberose, iris, violet, eucalyptus and woods and balms. I approached 34 Boulevard Saint Germain thinking it would probably, at worst, bore me (since I honestly don’t dislike any Diptyque scents).
34 Boulevard Saint Germain opens with sweet berries, “greens” and some pepper. These are the first stand-out notes, but if you spray lavishly or sniff closely you will detect a dry tuberose aroma, a spicy red rose misted with turpentine, a hint of iris and clove (all on the sheer side) and a strong and sweet patchouli note (patchouli-haters, beware). Each time I wear the fragrance, a different facet comes to the fore, I especially enjoy a mid-development citrus “candy” note that reminds me of Oyédo. As 34 Boulevard Saint Germain develops, it truly “dries down” — I smell a bowl of spicy potpourri, with a few wood chips and a sprig of eucalyptus added to the dried flowers and citrus peels. 34 Boulevard Saint Germain's extreme dry down presents a lovely, powdery, fruit-tinged amber accord.
I like 34 Boulevard Saint Germain, but it’s not the eccentric, birthday-bash fragrance I was hoping for; all the striking elements of “vintage” Diptyque fragrances that are referenced in 34 Boulevard Saint Germain have been toned down or lost and confused in an overabundance of ingredients and "styles." Still, I would happily wear 34 Boulevard Saint Germain if a bottle found its way to me, but I won’t buy it. I’d rather restock my perfume cabinet with a few older, more scintillating, Diptyque fragrances.
34 Boulevard Saint Germain is unisex but, to me, veers slightly more towards masculine territory; it has great lasting power and good sillage. I hope Diptyque survives and thrives another 50 years, and, at least occasionally, reverts to days of old when adventurous, risky business was the norm at 34 boulevard Saint-Germain.
Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain was developed by perfumer Olivier Pescheux. It is available in 50 ml/100 ml Eau de Toilette, $100/$135; soap, $30; candle, $80; room spray, $60; and “scented oval” for perfuming small spaces, $50.