Diptyque is brand that I love for its candles and a few spellbinding perfumes, of which Orphéon, sadly, turns out not to be one, at least for me. Orphéon, a release from Givaudan perfumer Olivier Pescheux, came out in 2021, in celebration of Diptyque’s 60th year. He’s done a lot of great things for Diptyque already – including creating El Capital, 34 Boulevard St. Germain, Tempo, and Vetyverio.
The name of the fragrance is inspired by Paris in the early 60s, when the Saint-Germain quarter was alive with the rhythm of all-night sessions in jazz clubs and artistic encounters. Orphéon was one of the bars there, filled with people discussing the world, dancing and laughing in a warm, vibrant, and elegant atmosphere. The three founders of the nearby Diptyque boutique liked to meet there, apparently.
You might think this fragrance would be a boozy, sexy, effervescent sort of thing, but the smell of this got me thinking that perhaps it was more of a healthier, daytime lunch meeting they had going on there at L’ Orphéon? I say that because this fragrance is clean, fresh, almost aldehydic at times, and earthy. And also very subtle. So subtle that it barely jumps from the skin, but when it does, I detect a slightly spicy paper quality, with a touch of something sweet mixed together with soap suds. This fragrance is a tribute to a creative friendship, and friendship is also something I associate more with daytime and cleanliness than night and deep sultry evenings.
- Juniper berry, cedar, tonka bean, jasmine
In this simple composition, Diptyque claims you get warmth from the tonka, a sort of depth from the cedar, a richness from the jasmine, and a liveliness from the juniper. Agreed – I think it’s well-rounded. I hear the juniper note faintly screaming in there at times, though. I would also say that there is a lot more in here than the notes listed. I’m sure there are some resins basking calmly at the base of the melange.
Open the door, you’re at the Orphéon… To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Diptyque reopens the doors of a legendary bar in the Saint Germain district. The house invites you into the atmosphere of the buzzing, artistic Paris of the early of the early 60s, and invites your senses and imagination to step back in time.
Point #1: An artistic friendship
Orphéon was born of a creative encounter, just like Diptyque, 60 years ago. The house was founded by a cosmopolitan trio of multi-talented friends: Desmond Knox-Leet, Yves Coueslant and Christiane Gautrot (I hope I am not killing their names). At the time, such artistic friendships were part of the zeitgeist. Today, they are the very essence of Diptyque.
Point # 2: The creative energy of a night bar (or night CLUB?)
It was here, as neighbors, that the founders of the house and their friends met in the bubbling atmosphere of this night bar. In the 60s, the Paris of artists lived to the rhythm of all-nighters and meetings. People dance, laugh and remake the world until dawn. Friendships were forged, and artistic projects were born… like Diptyque. (OK, so perhaps they did meet up at night and not day as I’d thought.)
Point # 3: A souvenir from Orphéon
The Orphéon may have closed its doors, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone. At least not completely. The long, stroboscopic blue column in the middle of the store at 34 boulevard Saint Germain is a colorful vestige. It saw a lot of people in those years. Jazzmen sounding the rhythm in their brass, philosophers theorizing on the zeitgeist, young girls in ballerinas dancing in the fog, dandy smokers that were often flirtatious.
Point # 4: Creation begins with a encounter
The original musical composition “Orphéon” is a Jazz / Bossa Nova interpretation of the olfactory notes of diptyque’s new eau de parfum, born of the encounter between perfumer Olivier Pescheux, Orphéon’s nose, and Lewis OfMan, a talented young French musician and composer.
Point # 5: Inspired Illustrations
A tale of origins, the genesis of a friendship, the epic of a creation… At diptyque, there are many stories to be told through illustrations. For Orphéon, artist Gianpaolo Pagni has interpreted the festive atmosphere of this nightclub in the Saint Germain district in the 60s. The front side of the bottle displays a nod to the fabric patterns created by diptyque, the House’s primary vocation. The iconic oval is multiplied by rays of light, reflecting the festive spirit of the place. On the opposite site of the bottle, there is a rereading of a historic motif from the house archives, with three different profiles. We can see the original artistic collective with the trio represented by Christiane, Desmond and Yves. We can also read a three-beat score, the triptych that has been the spirit of Diptyque for 60 years: the house, the perfumer, the illustrator.
Point # 6: Smell
Like an olfactory portrait, Orphéon immerses you in the atmosphere of this emblematic Parisian landmark of the 60s. The comfort of patinated woods, the fumes of alcohol, the powdery musky trail of artists and their muses… It’s all there, in a luminous floral woody scent. It’s the magic of a composition combining the warmth of tonka bean, the depth of cedar, the richness of jasmine and the vivacity of juniper berries.
(Translation from DeepL)
Diptyque has milked its heritage big time for this release, which was a very intelligent thing to do, because we humans love stories. I think one of the reasons luxury brands with long histories perform so well in the marketplace is the fact that they take advantage of the tales from their histories and embed them in their campaigns like the above. It’s a powerful way to get consumers to bond with the brand, and I have to admit, that little digital vignette I shared, especially with the music, has made me appreciate this fragrance more.
Orphéon is powdery, inviting, woodsy, and indeed different from a lot of stuff I’ve sniffed before. It’s daytime, signature-scent worthy, and inoffensive (even if some people do find it kitchen detergent like). I find it linear for the most part, though the sharpness of the juniper at the front does calm down to give way for the sweeter jasmine to step out. It stays more tarte than sweet, which, in the popular landscape of louder, much sweeter fragrances, provides a pleasant respite. On some days wearing this fragrance, however (and I have worn it a few times), I have detected something I am not a fan of, and that would be soap – lathered, bubbly soap suds, to be specific. This to me signals the presence of some sort of musk. I know many perfume lovers who adore soapy clean smells, but I prefer musks of the skankier variety. After sniffing this about 30 minutes in, you might detect a smoke and cigarette smell, which reminded me, if only conceptually, of Jasmin et Cigarette by État libre d’Orange. Now this makes more sense to me in that I can imagine a bar at night: plumes of tobacco smoke on a table of burnished wood with paper-based art, cocktails (gin tonics – juniper berries, after all), and playing cards. Was there makeup in that scene? Anyway, now it’s all come together a little more, at least for me.
I’ll admit that before exploring the historical inspiration for this fragrance, I was underwhelmed with it, not so much because it doesn’t smell appealing – it certainly does, or because it’s not unique – I think it is. It’s simply because it falls very short of my expectations of how a more expensive fragrance, especially an EDP, ought to perform. This one is a skin scent. If you’re like me, after wearing this highly inspired perfume for just a few hours, all that will remain is a pleasant peppery sweet waft of woody and sometimes soapy air bubbles for those whose nose is lucky to come close enough to your skin to perceive it.