Oyédo is a play on the ancient name for Japan’s buzzing and modern Tokyo (formerly Yedo or Edo); but it smells like nothing old or arcane at all. Over-the-top citrus note of yuzu is at the centre of this modern citrus composition, which creates a very surprising reaction for anyone who's never experienced the fruit before.

Yuzu (Citrus junos) is a Japanese citron with an intense grapefruit type of smell, a surprising strength and unmistakable personality. It is the epitome of citrus, yet is like no other citrus. It has an intense sweetness as well, and adds an impressive entrance to any perfume it accompanies, calling for attention and adding a rare component: a sense of humour in perfumery. In this perfume, the sulfuric characteristics yuzu and it’s intense acidity is exemplified rather than softened. As a result, Oyédo is abstract, almost disturbing uber-citrus.

Oyédo opens with a burst of overt yuzu, accompanied by no less prominent than the floral and almost sickeningly sweet clementine and mandarin of the yellow variety, and a balancing act of harsh peppermint; the dry, peppery kind that is almost too spicy to handle, adding a burning sensation to the tingling of the skin. Another surprising aromatic component, with a hint of spiciness and an almost fruity finish is thyme, which gives the scent an odd Mediterranean reference.

At the heart of Oyédo, yuzu calms down only slightly, and melds with sweet orange mellows the impressive opening only ever so slightly. Peppermint continues to tingle, and yuzu reveals, true to form, its more humble citrusy personality - juicy pulp and aromatic pith underneath the bumpy zest.

The shelf life of this uber-citrus is a bit longer than you’d expect from most eaux de cologne. Oyédo remains citrusy, aromatic and zesty for quite some time. Then it reveals subtle, smooth and suave woods: sandalwood, Japanese cypress (hinoki), creating a very clean finish - later turning into musky raspberry drydown. 

Top notes: Grapefruit, Peppermint, Clementine
Heart notes: Yuzu, Yellow Mandarin, Sweet Orange, Thyme
Base notes: Sandalwood, Hinoki, Musk, Raspberry


zebra volute shells by *omnia*
zebra volute shells, a photo by *omnia* on Flickr.
Diptyque's has already won my heart if not at least gained my deepest respect time and again with their classics - Philosykos, Oyedo, l'Ombre Dans l'Eau, Ofresia and Tam Dao. But I kinda stopped following their latest releases as I found them all to be pleasant enough; yet non has stirred anything in me. I probably would have dismissed Volutes completely if it wasn't for Trish's enthusiastic recommendation - she literally left a sample for me on the kitchen table to take home with me - which she didn't need anymore, because she already got her own bottle. Imagine that! If you're a perfumista, you know how rare a "full bottle" is...

Smelling it from the vial (or bottle) did not do it justice, and in my haste to catch the plane to San Francisco, they were left on the kitchen table... And caught up to me a little later, when Trish sent me a care package of a few perfume samples she thought I ought to try.

When I finally made the skinspace for Volutes, I understood what the enthusiasm was all about. It's very different from the other Diptyques in that it's a lot more substantial and full bodied; and dances on the edge of ethereal, smoky, oriental, and maybe even a little gourmand. If anything, it reminds me more of some of the more forthcoming scents they've created for their candle line (i.e.: Feu de Bois, Essence of John Galliano come to mind, in terms of their bold, outspoken complexity).

Volutes plays on the contrast between two themes - the smoothness, warmth and strength of polished woods against the airy, untouchable movement and swirling of incense. It spills out on the skin like warm melted beeswax and honey, creating a feeling that is not quite gourmand, but more so a sensory memory of gliding honeyed wax on smoothly-plucked skin. And maybe licking a polished wooden staircase (I might have done that at some point between the ages of 2-4...).

And then comes a waft of swirling incense mingled with pink pepper, roses, saffron and dates. Sounds familiar? Yes, it does bring to mind another favourite of mine - Ormonde Jayne's Ta'if. Only here the dates are more pronounced, and the musk is less powdery, and more sweet and addictive. The dry down reminds me of the (also addictive) Chai incense sticks (in Shoyeido Gourmet Incense Series).  Burnished pipe also comes to mind, which echoes the tobacco notes beautifully... And the tobacco with an accent of dried hay and immortelle are the last to remain while everything else is has jumped ship.

Top notes: Pink Pepper, Dates
Heart notes: Honey, Beeswax, Roses, Saffron, Incense
Base notes: Tobacco, Vanilla, Musk, Immortelle, Hay

Fig in Fragrance

crossed processed figs, originally uploaded by MatthewA.

Global warming makes Vancouver's summer feel real. And with it comes a craving for figs. I miss their tangy, fizzy sharpness. I miss their oddly refreshing green sap-milky attitude. I even miss the burning in the tongue as soon as you betray their fabulousness and decide to move on to the next victim in your daily diet.

I would spend many hours of my summer wrapping the fruit in brown paper bags, to protect it from the coveting eyes and beaks of birds. I would spend my mornings around the tree picking the first fruit that might have ripened in the heat remaining over night. I would go back there late afternoon for a snack, checking on the more fruit that ripened in the scorching sun, while frying my bare feet on the sun baked earth.

Figs are one of those fruit that if you don’t eat them fresh, you better not eat them at all. Fresh in this case means that you’ve just picked them from the tree less than an hour ago and preferably haven’t washed them either. It’s better to eat them dusty than washed. Trust me. Once you wash them, they lose both their flavour and their texture: their skin softenes and they become this characterless green sack of seeds…

Black (or “red”) figs keep better and are more marketable. Yet their flavour is often less intense or interesting in my opinion. It is the green figs that I am truly passionate about. And I’ve never seen them sold anywhere… Last summer I’ve had them after about 8 years of green fig withdrawal…

Diptyque Figuier Candle, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Olivia Giacobetti’s Philosykos for Diptyque is by far the most satisfying fig scent I’ve ever encountered. It reminds me of the whole fig picking experience, tongue burning, milky sap and all. I’m sure by now you are well aware of my partial opinion about it. This summer I am enjoying both the scent as well as the “Figuer” from Diptyque. I got it at Lola, and the first time was very unfortunate: the candle has no scent at all, unless you happened to stick your nose to the flame. Not even than, really. Christina was kind enough to take it back (this is her personal favourite too, and after (not) smelling for herself the poor performance of that particular specimen, has given me a replacement candle, which I am enjoying tremendously.

But for those of you unmoved by Philosykos or simply looking for other fig scents to indulge in this summer instead of the real thing, there are quite a few to choose from, as a quick search on Make Up Alley may turn out.

While I can’t claim to have tried them all (well, I haven’t!), I can definitely bring a few to consider and which I would like to re-visit this summer:

Figs in Bowl, originally uploaded by MatthewA.

Aftelier's Fig re-creates the experience of overripe black figs, the kind that is actually worth trying even when not freshly picked. An accord of resinous yet sweet fir absolute along with jasmine sambac and yuzu creates this pleasant illusion for a moment in the opening. In my experience, the FIR is the star of FIG, and the jasmine creates a perfumey impression, which dries down to a powdery sweetness.

Jo Malone’s Wild Fig & Cassis
: As the name suggest, you get two fruit here: green fig and black currants. I found it to be a little to fruity to my liking, yet I think it makes an interesting layering companion to Black Vetyver Café.

Fresh Index Fig Apricot: Like most of the Fresh line, I find this one to be yet another artificially delicious fruity aroma with too little substance to back it up and account for its perfumeness. The base is musky and head achingly artificial. Still, it’s one of my more favourite combinations in the line (the other being Pomegranate Anise and Redcurrant Basil).

Figue Amere by Miller Harris: If you’re looking for a more sophisticated fig, this might be an intriguing challenge for the fig lover: it is one of the most perfumey of all the fig scents I’ve tried, besides Aftelier’s FIG. Bittersweet and salty at once, it feels dusky rather than summery and reminds me of salt-dipped green almonds, myrrh and heliotrope more than figs...

Io Capri, on the other hand, is an uncomplicated summer pleasure of wild fig and tea leaves. To me this smells mostly of green tea, and while being not in the least sophisticated it makes perfect sense for summertime, when we tend to be a little more extrovert and don’t need the additional distraction of a contemplative fragrance. Io stays the same on my skin, light and fresh and delightful, both unchanged and extremely long lasting yet at the same time never overpowering.

Another fig and tea combination, but more perfumey than Io is Fig-Tea by Parfums de Nicolaï
As a whole, I find Patricia de Nicolaï's fragrances to be quite perfumey.

Feel free to share your favourite fig scents with me here. I would love to hear your opinions and recommendations for any fig scents I haven't smelled or heard of but should!

And last but not least is the first fig perfume to be released, also by Olivia Giacobetti – this time for l’Artisan Parfumeur, which reportedly proceeded all the other scents I’ve mentioned. While it is indeed a very fine fragrance, I believe that Ms. Giacobetti got it perfect the second time around with Philosykos. To me, Premier Figuier is a tad too melancholy, and too green with its mastic leaf top notes, and it is a tad too fleeting as well. Nevertheless, the coconut milk base makes it my second choice after Philosykos when a green fig fix is required.

Closing the Summer with Philosykos

Figs are irresistible. Considered the fruit of Venus and Aphrodite in the Roman and Greek traditions, figs are believed to awaken a healthy passion and bring fertility. The sensuality of figs combines some ambivalence, just as sexuality can sometimes be both disturbing and pleasurable. And while the fruit is utterly seductive, lest we forget the leaves, who are responsible for the development of fashion for generations to come. And

This is perhaps why it took an Italian perfumer, Olivia Giacobetti, to recognize these intriguing traits in figs, and create the very first fig soliflore (Premier Figuier for l’Artisan Parfumeur). This green concoction opened with complementary (yet melancholy) notes of mastic bush, which accentuated the crisp and tangy greenness of figs, and was daring enough to pay attention to fig milk in the way of adding a coconut milk to the concoction.

But it wasn’t until Ms. Giacobetti has created Philosykos that the sensual experience of green figs was completely squeezed into a bottle. Anything from the very first aroma surrounding the trees baring the ripe (or not-so-ripe) fruit in summer can be experienced from first whiff of Philosykos. One can feel the fuzziness of the fig skin and the roughness of the leaves as they rub against a bare shoulder. One can hear the crumbling of dry wild grass underneath the tree as the eyes are set up to the branches searching for that paler, slightly yellowish waxy look of the just-ripe fruit. One can feel the surprising stinging sensation of the skin when the fig-milk drips from the slightly under ripe fruit’s stem, and crawls along a trembling finger and sticks to greedy lips and burning tongue.

Green figs are best eaten fresh. To be more accurate, they must be eaten straight from the tree, and not be washed at all. If they are dusty, considered the dust a gourmand addition from the earth itself. If the milk burns your lips, consider it a blessing of fire, as even the purest spring water cannot wash the milk away.

Many secrets were whispered below the fig trees, many warts were banished by the burn of the firey milk, and many summers were seasoned by aromatic green figs. When I can’t hop on the plane to pick figs with my brother along the sides of Road no. 6, at least I have Philosykos to marinate myself in, with it’s dry and green edible notes of green fig, coconut milk and cedar.

Hamsters and Elephants

“Deep in the rainforest, riotously alive with the tangle of lianas, the odour of wood and overgrown temples, elephants are dragging scented logs of the sacred tree sandalwood.” – from Diptyque’s website.

It must be terribly difficult for the elephant to escape its cliché tiny enemy, the mouse. And so the noble sandalwood must be having hard time avoiding confusion with lumber.

The first thing I smell in Tam Dao reminds me of wood shavings that are used to cushion the floor of hamster cages: Tam Dao opens with a definite aroma of Virginian cedarwood and other soft lumber, scents that are particularly favoured by carpenters.

The otherwise humble and well behaved sacred oil of Sandalwood usually acts out when it meets my skin – its otherwise smooth and benevolently flattering aroma tends to flatten out the other notes, and adds a certain woody bitterness that is not what I consider pleasant, but rather acrid. With Tam Dao, however, my experience is a bit different – once the initial slightly green blast of freshly-logged cedarwood blows away, it stretches into an endless sandalwood with barely-there hints of cinnamic warmth and an overall smoothness that is calming and has the potential of developing into an addiction. Especially if you happen to be a carpenter..

I think Tam Dao is a great woody scent, even if not quite what I would expect a sandalwood scent to be. Overall, it is nothing like the warm incense from dry sandalwood powder. In fact, it is rather cool and refreshing. It is also more on the bland side and does not demonstrate much evolution or complexity. After a while (half an hour to an hour) I get bored with Tam Dao, and feel tempted to layer it with other scents, particularly florals such as rose and tuberose and jasmine, but also Philosykos. But than – I would rather wear the scents that already have those notes built in to the original fragrance.

Urban jungle, originally uploaded by Pensiero.

P.s. and while I find hamsters to be the friendliest of animals and the ideal pet, I cannot resist linking to this page that Katie have posted on her blog recently for no apparent reason - the image of the attack of the hamster is hands-down hysterically-funny.

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