Do you ever have those fragrances that you want to love, but just don’t? They often appear entirely suited to your desires and tastes, and often come lauded with high praise, but for some reason they just don’t click with you. For me, Dior’s Diorissimo was one such scent. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve picked up a tester, spritzed some on and waited for sparks to fly. They never did and I couldn’t understand it. I love white florals. I love Dior. Why didn’t Diorissimo and I run off into the sunset together to a symphonic burst of Hollywood music? Sigh.
Don’t lose hope, Dear Reader because, as with all true love stories in movies, the boy gets the girl, or alternatively the boy gets the boy (and the girl gets the girl), OR in my case, the boy (of the Candy Perfume variety) ‘gets’ the perfume. So what finally ignited the spark between that elusive Diorissimo and me? I have one word for you: vintage. It is widely known that the current version of Diorissimo is a pale interpretation of its former self, due mainly to restrictions of key ingredients used to create that unmistakeable lily of the valley effect. With this in mind I headed straight to eBay to seek out some vintage Dior to see what all of the fuss is about.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw it: 50ml of 1980’s Diorissimo Eau de Toilette, almost full for £25 with no bids. I didn’t bid on it at first, thinking that it would go and I stupidly allowed this gem to go unsold. Never mind, fate was on my side and I managed to win the bottle on its second listing. I honestly have never been so excited to receive a perfume package in my life. Could this vintage be the Diorissimo for me? Would it finally click into place, and would Diorissimo and I have that Hollywood ending I was looking for? Seeing as we’re talking in movie analogies, let me drop a spoiler: the boy gets the perfume.
Top: Muguet and Ylang Ylang
Heart: Amaryllis and Boronia
How Does it Smell?
Diorissimo was created in 1956 by perfumer Edmond Roudnistka, the genius nose behind classics such as Eau Sauvage, Le Parfum de Thérèse and Rochas Femme. According to Luca Turin in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, Roudnitska planted lily of the valley in his garden for reference when creating the perfume. It stands to reason then, that the fragrance does in fact, smell much like the real thing, capturing the green, sweet and fleshy floral scent of muguet in its intense glory. This is a remarkable achievement seeing as lily of the valley yields no fragrant oil therefore meaning that the smell must be recreated using other materials, mainly Hyroxycitronellal, which is now restricted, hence the shape of Diorissimo’s current formulation.
For a spring flower, I am struck at just how icy lily of the valley smells and in Diorissimo, the flower is at its coldest, especially within the top notes. It opens sharp and pungent with heady stripes of fleshy white blooms. The sharpness is bracing, but not astringent and harsh like the current formulation, and it has a beautifully angular quality to it that is symmetrical as opposed to abrasive. Sniffing it, one gets the impression of snow-white flowers growing rebelliously in the rocky cracks of a snowy mountain. The edges round off with a touch of sparkling bergamot as the top notes settle, allowing the beauty of the painstakingly constructed flowers to sing.
The chilly start doesn’t last for long and Diorissimo warms up significantly, fleshing out with warmer florals, specifically jasmine and ylang ylang, which bring both sweetness and heat. In the base, the fragrance feels softly animalic with a sour warmth that is carnal and sexy, evoking the idea of a demure house wife who rocks sexy underwear discreetly underneath her floral patterned dress. Diorissimo may be polite and pretty, but it also offers up a hint at its performance under the sheets and the signs point to something entirely sensual and unreserved.
Diorissimo in its current formulation is pleasant and pretty, but somewhat unmoving. Vintage Diorissimo however, well that’s another story. Vintage Diorissimo is utterly mind-blowing. It is full-bodied but it also manages to have an ethereal, aldehydic edge that allows it to be frosty, silvery and lightweight, all at the same time. The subtly animalic elements of the base add weight, density and contrast, helping to make Diorissimo a fully worked-out fragrance that is a tightrope walk of photorealism and abstraction. It is easy to see why Diorissimo is a classic and I promise to use my vintage bottle utterly unwisely, because things as beautiful as this are made to be enjoyed.
Diorissimo, in its current formula is available in 50ml & 100ml Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum, and 15ml Extrait.
Sample and images are my own. Notes via Basenotes.