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Diorella – And the mystery note is…

Diorella poster

Yesterday was bright and sunny, the kind of April day that’s cool and warm at the same time – the kind where you still need a coat but feel kind of silly wearing it. I needed some panache, some flair, some je ne sais quoi, so one quick spritz of Diorella, and I was out the door.

I love Diorella - I’ve worn it since it was launched in 1972. We’ve shared many experiences through the years, created great memories, and my love for this fragrance has never changed. Other older perfumes now seem dated, not quite right, but Diorella is still 100% "here and now", and it gives me a huge rush of feeling absolutely great whenever I wear it. I’ve never thought about this very much, or tried to analyze it – I’ve just accepted it – but yesterday for some reason I wanted to know WHY. So I did some nosin’ around......

First of all, it was created by Edmond Roudnitska, who’s regarded as the pioneer of modern perfumery and, along with Jacques Guerlain, is one of the greatest "noses" of all time. He created the iconic Femme and Moustache for Rochas in the 1940’s, Eau Sauvage for Dior in the 1960’s, and is known for his technical brilliance which, in later years became a very pared-down style – few ingredients, masterfully balanced, focused on pure essence, and resulting in new perfume archetypes. His works are now considered classics, and he said that Diorella was one of his proudest creations.

Diorella is a chypre, with the same basic structure as other fruity chypres, citrus chypres, green chypres,  floral chypres, but this chypre ends up in a very different place than all others.  Notes are heaped on top of the chypre  - notes such as Sicilian lemon, peach, basil, Italian bergamot, melon, green notes, honeysuckle, jasmine, violet, rose bud, carnation, cyclamen, oakmoss, vanilla, clove, sandalwood, vetiver, musk, patchouli .  Unless you’ve a trained nose, it’s not easy to pick out the individual notes in Diorella, because they come together in different accords, weaving in and out through the dry-down. The chypre framework, though, is what gives the depth and complexity.

Opening with a tart lemon-zesty blast, sweet but cool at the same time,Diorella becomes more green and juicy from the melon and peach, like cool, thirst-quenching, fresh-pressed lemonade in a frosty glass. The floral bouquet mixes with the fruit in the heart, and Diorella becomes its distinctive self, creating an accord that is hard to ignore and hard to forget: citrusy but not sharp, fruity but not sweet, green but not sour, floral but not cloying.  It’s young, round and full… and it also has something going on beneath the surface, a note that is somewhat unsettling.

The base notes pull back the curtain on Diorella’s sunny  facade – revealing a seriously intelligent core with an unconventional vibe. Chandler Burr describes the unsettling note as "fur rubbed with mint toothpaste", Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez describe it as the “Vietnamese beef salad” note. It could be the clove mixed with the vetiver in the base, it could be the violet and the oakmoss – doesn’t matter.  To my nose, it smells boozy with a whiff of mildew – something almost beyond the due-date, something almost dirty or feral, but subtle and compelling.

Whatever the mystery note is (I think it's super-indolic jasmine!),  it makes Diorella unique, and elevates this fragrance to the realm of art. Roudnitska’s masterpiece is sexy, and smells incredibly natural and real, so that it seems like part of your skin. It’s comforting and disturbing at the same time, which to my mind, is always the mark of artistic success – art should move you, take you to a new place, deepen your experience, and give you pleasure in the discovery.

Diorella is extremely wearable, but is not an easy fragrance to know. Like most things worth knowing, it takes time to figure it out and discover its true character. Its bright sparkle can be blinding for some, and put them off from ever learning about its inner strength and delicacy, the sublime brilliance that makes it a masterpiece. But if you’re serious about learning about perfumes - the difference between a good scent, an excellent scent and a great scent - then you should take the time to know Diorella, which is considered to be a game-changer, the first of the modern feminine scents.

Diorella is a citrus-green-fruity-floral-woody chypre, a scent abstraction that I think is as close to the most perfect perfume as you can get.  The only way I can truly describe it is to say, “It smells like Diorella”.

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