In the years following the post-war austerity, perfumes took on a new level of sophistication with increasing number of complex compositions entailing long formulae. These included the grand chypres blending citrus top, floral heart, and woody, mossy, animalic fond in perfumes like Ma Griffe (Carven, 1946), Miss Dior Originale (1947), and Jolie Madame (Pierre Balmain, 1953). Even other styles such as the exhilarating floralcy of L’Air du Temps (Nina Ricci, 1948) or the oriental seduction of Youth Dew (Estée Lauder, 1952) were just as puissant.
They were beautiful, of course, but perfumer Edmond Roudnitska differed in his ideal of aesthetics. Why not a simple formula that could just as well bring out novelty, signature, and beauty clearly? And, perhaps, when he collaborated with Christian Dior — whose lucky charm was a boutonnière of muguet — the chips fell into place, and Diorissimo (Dior, 1956) was conceived.
It came along and threw everyone back to the soliflores of the early nineteenth century when flowers that did not yield scents to extraction were being rendered by perfumers. There was no abstraction of elaborate ideas. Diorissimo felt as though it were against the idea of baroque grand parfums: it was just a flower.
Was it not?
One ought to smell again to see the concealed complexity beneath the white porcelain bells. The current Diorissimo is rather intense in the opening blast of ylang ylang. Its spicy solar note spearheads the brightness, whilst its fruity and heady notes also hint at the underlying depths.
As the jarring debut settles, the shimmering white bells emerge. It is coloured in layers, from the rosy top, the narcotic floral volume, to the green depth. These are interspersed with the watery shades of lilac. The infinite patches of muguet are to be admired along with the accompanying crisp, cold spring.
However, the current eau de toilette is not as radiant and rich as it should be. It has certainly been reformulated. Lily of the valley odorants are now limited to a certain concentration and animalic tinctures that once suffused the composition with a vernal impression of damp earth is banned. This likely accounts for some lost radiance and depth.
Despite that, Diorissimo is still excellent and surprisingly modern for a fragrance concocted half a century ago. In any case, the composition settles after some time into the distinct lily of the valley note of cool white flowers. It stays close to skin for six hours, and occasionally wafts out its crisp green floral sillage.
Diorissimo came at a time when perfumes were fuzzy formulae. Its impression of a single flower might seem like a reversion to the tradition of soliflore at first, but the depth of Diorissimo begs to differ. Its character leaves a strong impression with simplicity and veiled complexity found in shades and nuances of muguet. In Diorissimo, Roudnitska painted a vernal backdrop for the lily of the valley. He did so with the Impressionistic touch of Debussy. No longer are the lilies of the valley confined to a delicate vase. The result is redolent of the muguet in its very habitat deep in the damp, earthy woodlands.