Review: Dior Homme — 5.0 points

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I say Dior Homme (2005) deserves its place on a pedestal of classics. Rarely do mainstream launches proceed without deliberation on market tests, but Dior Homme did. And its composition does not conform either: at the centre of it is iris, a material that does not have a firm ground on the masculine territory like, say, lavender or geranium. Yet perfumer Olivier Polge did an astounding job, thereby firmly establishing its place amongst masculine fragrances.

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Iris, which has the connotation of powder puff and lipstick, is not exactly a fresh note. However, in Dior Homme, its carrot facet is cleverly extrapolated with green herbs to give a fresh top note. A combination of bergamot, lavandin, geranium, and carrot seed renders the impression of aromatic green herbs. Cardamom and coriander provide a spicy contrast. Such cool herbs introduce freshness to the dense note.

The lively iris theme at heart revolves around 0.25% of orris absolute with its rich powder, carrot-like green, and chills. A peachy glow, the fruity touch of δ-damascone at 0.11%, and violet-like ionones warm and sweeten the composition. A radiant floral touch keeps the heart limpid. The glow and shimmer impart such clarity and polish, rendering an otherwise austere and sometimes dull note of iris vibrant.

Towards the base, the composition is warm and inviting. Here, vetiver is sweetened by vanilla, coumarin, and musk with a crisp ambery note of Ambrox. The resultant gourmand sweetness is brilliantly offset by the combination of myrrh and frankincense oil each at 0.5%. Patchouli conjures a surprising touch of bitter cocoa when paired with powdery iris. The character of vanillic woods strongly contrasts with that of iris, and pairing them together creates a gripping tension between warm and cool notes. It is riveting.

Offering iris as a masculine fragrance untested is a bold and risky move, but in doing so Dior and Polge have created a milestone with a memorable character and a lasting influence. The iris is rendered surprisingly fresh and spicy, and its rooty chills polished by radiant florals and glow of fruits. Then, pitted against vanillic woods and incense, it makes Dior Homme unforgettable. It is tenacious and its suave sillage of grand cru cocoa and supple leather will impress. Its boldness has certainly left a mark in perfumery.

A note on the concentrations: Since its launch, Dior Homme has been a success, spawning various incarnations. The versions which are clearly related to the original character are Dior Homme Intense (2011), which is an eau de parfum, and Dior Homme Parfum (2014) by perfumer François Demachy. The eau de parfum is like a creamy, sweet leather-cocoa as the levels of vanillin and coumarin are increased. For the parfum, its richness is overall increased, creating a dark supple leather; and the emphasis shifts to the fond with fumes of frankincense and myrrh — the blotter has been oozing these dark swirls even after three weeks from the first spray. The longevity of both is, likewise, sterling. Their presence also lingers long after one has disappeared.

Sources: fragrantica.com, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors

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Review: Christian Dior Bois d’Argent — 4.5 points

Bois d’Argent (Dior, 2004) is not only a great perfume in terms of quality, but also a salient example of how its shades of iris are played to open the material to a unisex effect. We would later see a ground-breaking success a year later of the ‘masculine iris’ in Dior Home (2005) which truly demonstrates the potential of iris. For this reason, this excellent Bois d’Argent by perfumer Annick Ménardo is ahead of its time.

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At the heart of the composition is a combination of musks and 0.8% orris butter. Accents of vanilla lend its sweetness, and completes the powdery musky iris theme. In contrast, the woody shades of iris are expanded by patchouli and a noble whiff of frankincense oil at 1.1%. Thus, the character is powdery deep down, but with an interesting woody incense subtext.

The woody tone is kept warm and salty like driftwoods. Here, the unprecedented amount of Ambrox at 13.6% plays a major role with its crisp ambery note. It also gives an interesting warm sillage and a lift to the musky iris theme of Bois d’Argent.

Often, when I have already forgotten that I put on Bois d’Argent, I would still catch its warm, powdery, faintly sweet, and woody semolina hours later. It recalls somewhat the late dry down of Chanel N°19 Poudré, but is inflected with a warm woody accent.

Interestingly, Bois d’Argent explores the warm woody shades of iris whilst remaining easily accessible to both men and women’s shelves. At the centre is iris. The woody aspects are played up by ambergris, patchouli, and frankincense, meanwhile the soft powdery element is expanded by vanilla and musks. My favourite part is in the interesting pairing of the warm ambergris note and the musky flour of iris. It gives not only a beautiful contrast, but also a signature warmth. It is a brilliant composition.

Sources: dior.fr, Scent and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors