Christian Dior Dolce Vita : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Christian Dior Dolce Vita is what I would call an abstract dessert, a fragrance that has a mouthwatering effect without smelling like a candy bar. It is a cedarwood compostion delicately layered with stewed peaches and dusted with cinnamon and vanilla. Created in 1996 by Pierre Bourdon (with Maurice Roger), the creator of Iris PoudréYves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981), and Shiseido Féminité Du Bois (1992, with Christopher Sheldrake), Dolce Vita opens up with magnolia and watery lily, the transparency of which allows a glimpse of a hot cinnamon note. The presence of cedarwood hints at the connection with Shiseido Féminité Du Bois (1992), but  the heart of Dolce Vita is miles away from the plummy darkness of its predecessor.  Dolce Vita strays into the spiced peach territory. Where Féminité Du Bois is brooding, Dolce Vita is sweet and bubbly.

The composition dries down to an elegant blend of cedarwood and sandalwood layered over balsamic vanilla and oakmoss. Its almond notes give the drydown a delicious sweetness that vacillates between a flaky pie crust and an almond candy. The dark resinous notes temper the sweetness, preventing the composition from becoming overly sugary and gourmand. Although designated as a feminine fragrance, Dolce Vita would be ravishing on a man.

Christian Dior discontinued Dolce Vita in the States, but it can found at various discount stores online. There is also a lighter version, called Eau de Dolce Vita (1998), with the emphasis on jasmine and orange blossom.

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43 Comments

  • parislondres: Dear V! I cannot wear this perfume even though your review sounds tempting. This makes me feel ill. I had received a mini a while ago. Perhaps the trick is to apply VERY lightly.

    Hope you are well and look forward to catching up soon.

    Hugs! September 30, 2005 at 4:24am Reply

  • Karin: I wore this almost exclusively, which is unusual for me, the first couple of years it was out.
    I always got compliments on it. I actually went through a couple of bottles and also the lotion.

    I recently tried what I had left in a mini, but of course, that wasn’t spraying, but dabbing. I’m not sure it is ‘me’ any longer. But I still like it. I might just get another bottle and give it a go.

    Beautiful post, as always! Karin September 30, 2005 at 8:54am Reply

  • Marina: At one time a friend of mine wore this exclusively, if she hasn’t, if it wasn’t so associated with her in my mind, I would have worn it too, I love this scent. Warm, golden, opaque…dolce vita indeed.
    I didn’t know that Pierre Bourdon is the creator of this…I can definitely see the similarity…well, mabe not similarity of the notes as such…but a common theme of sorts, where Iris Poudre is concerned. September 30, 2005 at 10:13am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, you are absolutely right! A light hand is exactly what is required in being able to carry off Dolce Vita. It is a rich composition, and I once made a mistake of trying it during a hot day. It was not a good idea! September 30, 2005 at 10:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I have a soft spot for Dior, because the house’s fragrances have accompanied many periods of my life. My mother wore Diorissimo. My first fragrance purchase (by myself) was Tendre Poison, from a boutique that opened up in Kiev shortly after perestroika. I even have a review of Tendre Poison someplace, written after I bought it. 🙂

    Dolce Vita is a superb composition, however I understand what you mean about it not being you anymore. I have several fragrances like this, from a period when I would actually wear just one fragrance. September 30, 2005 at 11:04am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I agree–both share a certain elegance, classical structure and a very luminous quality. I am wearing Dolce Vita right now, and it smells of something beautiful and golden, with a nice interplay of vanilla and oakmoss in the base. September 30, 2005 at 11:06am Reply

  • linda: I used to wear Dolce Vita when it first came out. Your review inspired me to wear it today. I have forgotten how beautiful it is.

    Have a great weekend! September 30, 2005 at 11:29am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, I am glad that I am an inspiration! 🙂 It is good to revisit old favourites. September 30, 2005 at 11:41am Reply

  • Liz: I too have a soft spot for Dior. I’m also a huge sucker for their teardrop-shaped, jewel-toned shower gel bottles. This one would be yellow, I assume. Mmm. I’ve never tried it, but it sounds lovely, and I’m surprisingly enamored of Iris Poudre (surprising because as a rule I don’t wear powdery floral aldehydics). I’ll definitely sniff this one soon! September 30, 2005 at 12:05pm Reply

  • julien: I love Dolce Vita.
    It is a luminous version of Feminité du Bois, much more joyous!
    I adore it… September 30, 2005 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Tania: You know, I’ve never smelled this one. Silly of me, I know. It always gave me the impression that it would be too sweet. (Uh, probably it was the word “dolce” that misled me.) Anyway, now you’ve made me sorry I missed it! September 30, 2005 at 1:26pm Reply

  • Katie: Oh I love you for writing about this one! It’s one of my faves from Dior. It’s like the chypre for non-chypre people. It’s that touch of vanilla that really does it for me. Somehow it just nails the scent right into my brain. And who can resist that concave polka dotted bottle? I love the way it catches the light when I hold it up.

    T- It isn’t particularly sweet to my nose. Not that it doesn’t have elements that are sweet-ish, but it is definitely not treacly or anything like that. September 30, 2005 at 2:08pm Reply

  • Tara: I wore this a lot when it first came out, then didn’t replace my bottle. A few months ago I bought another bottle and had a very bad experience with it- it made me ill, I think I overapplied, and now I’m afraid to try again. Maybe I’ll get the courage up. September 30, 2005 at 3:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I love your review of Iris Poudre, which I have stashed in my work folder, for when I need a glimpse of something beautiful.

    Dior packaging has always been outstanding, and Dolce Vita is not an exception. I too love shower gel bottles, and the gels themselves. Smooth, moisturizing and heavily scented. September 30, 2005 at 4:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, you are right–it is a golden sister of patina tinged Féminité Du Bois. There are many similarities between them. September 30, 2005 at 4:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, Dolce in Dolce Vita was the reason I was worried, however it is not particularly sweet. It is definitely sweeter than Féminité Du Bois, but if you like Serge Lutens Bois de Violette and Bois et Fruits, then the level of sweetness would not be an issue. September 30, 2005 at 4:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I am delighted to see another fan of Dolce Vita. You are spot on about vanilla being the grounded element in this composition, as opposed to being just a nice decoration. Its balsamic sweetness smoothes rough edges into a gilded perfection.

    And how can one not like a bottle designed by Serge Mansau! September 30, 2005 at 4:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, I completely understand. I have a number of fragrances that I cannot think of revisiting, because I either applied too heavily or wore them in hot weather. Dolce Vita is reserved solely for cool weather and for light applications. Despite my love of fragrance, I am very sensitive to smells (or maybe because of it). September 30, 2005 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Robin: I too have a soft spot for Dior, but have never tried Dolce Vita. I think that like Tania, I assumed it would be too sweet & fruity for me. September 30, 2005 at 11:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I think that you may find it too sweet for a cedar based fragrance, because you find Lutens cedars to be too sweet. Nevertheless, if you have a chance, I would definitely recommend sampling. It is a well-done fragrance, esp. if you like chypre group. October 1, 2005 at 4:16pm Reply

  • Bela: I can’t stand that perfume: it’s much much too sweet and cloying for me. Same experience as N: it makes me nauseous. Shame. The bottle is so lovely. October 2, 2005 at 10:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Serge Mansau’s bottles are beautiful! I would have all of them, if I could. He is such a creative genius. October 2, 2005 at 10:53pm Reply

  • Karin: I wore Diorissimo back in college days. I loved the lily of the valley note. Can’t wear it now, tho..or maybe I’ll try it again!

    I’m going to try some DV when it cools down here. It’s always hot in the south! I think I wore it year round. I think it is so distinctive, I can smell it just thinking of it. October 3, 2005 at 10:40am Reply

  • sarcon: oh dear, I’m quickly becoming convinced that I must try this. Like Tania and Robin I always assumed it would be too sweet for me. It sounds like a cross between Feminite du Bois and Burberry London, both of which I enjoy. And I always perk up at the mention of oakmoss. October 3, 2005 at 1:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I wonder whether you will notice a difference between the version of Diorissimo you wore and the current one. I recently purchased a vintage version, and it is just like I remember it, unlike what I can find now. That being said, even the modernized version is wonderful. I would love to try the parfum one of these days to compare. October 3, 2005 at 1:39pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sarcon, yes, it is a great chypre variation. While sweeter than Feminite du Bois, it is not cloying. However, be sure to apply in small quantities, because it is extremely potent. October 3, 2005 at 1:40pm Reply

  • Karin: I lost my first comment somewhere unless it posts…

    I think vintage Diorissimo is likely different, smoother than the more modern? I’ve liked the vintage better than modern for the ones I’ve hunted down that I used to wear.

    I got one bum vintage fragrance, but not having worn it then, I didn’t really know, but it took the fun out of going vintage without sniffing. October 3, 2005 at 6:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I am always wary buying vintage, because you never know how the fragrance was stored. Often, the top notes are damaged, but the middle and especially the base are perfect. It is the case with my Coty Chypre. I need to think of a better storage method. Perhaps, a small fridge, which I can set to about 10C. October 3, 2005 at 7:14pm Reply

  • Karin: I’ve heard of folks storing in the refrigerator. I don’t, but mine are all in the cool, dark. I’ve never had a problem with any of mine. I have not really cared for two that I bought when I bought them but I think they are the reformulated versions (now about 10 yrs old.) I hesitate to pass these on to anyone as I feel they don’t smell as I think they should. I bought a vintage of one and it smells exactly as I remember it.

    All the other vintages I bought except the one I mentioned were fine. A couple had bad top notes, but they go right into the other notes quickly so it’s not a problem. My Coty Chypre is fine. The one that I felt was bad the seller said was AOK and I had no way of knowing.

    Honestly, I wish they wouldn’t tamper with formulas! October 4, 2005 at 8:58am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I wish the same thing! It is such a disappointment when I purchase something that I remember from my childhood only to discover that it is just not the same thing. Olfactory memories are very strong, and even the smallest alteration makes a difference in the perception and emotional response. October 4, 2005 at 11:01am Reply

  • songscent: I loved this so much I got the 1 oz. parfum, too. Dolce Vita is one of the few cedar perfumes I find easy to wear because it’s fresh and pleasantly sweet. I’m all for hedonistic pleasures in scent, and this is to me the olfactive equivalent of a Venetian table at a banquet–skin dessert, but for adults. October 6, 2005 at 10:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, I now need to try parfum. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I also love its sensual quality, hinted by that abstract gourmand note. October 7, 2005 at 12:58am Reply

  • gjn_007: Dolce Vita seems to have a potent effect upon men. I’ve worn other perfumes which men have enjoyed, but boyfriends have consistently asked me to be careful about wearing Dolce Vita around other men. Just an interesting thought! May 16, 2006 at 6:24pm Reply

  • Anonymous: I know it has been a long time since you posted this review but can you tell me if it is possible to still get Dolce Vita? I just absolutely love this perfume and it is all I have worn for the past 10 years. Now they don’t make it anymore and I am getting really depressed. Thank you for anything you can tell me. January 27, 2008 at 8:38pm Reply

    • Andrea Irvin: I know its been along time since your comment. Did you ever find the perfume? May 2, 2012 at 5:48pm Reply

  • Andrea Irvin: Can anyone tell me where I can find a bottle or bottles of Dolce Vita. Like the comment before me I have worn this for years until they stop making it. The last bottle I got was from a store in Jackson MS. My mother bought the sample bottle and the lotion and gel. Well I should say she bought the last of everything they had in that perfume because she knew how much I loved it. I can only wear a couple of perfumes because most give me a headache. Can anyone help me find it. Thanks May 2, 2012 at 5:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: Andrea, try googling it–there are lots of shops selling it online, including Ebay. Some are more expensive than others. Since it’s discontinued, the discounters are your only option. May 2, 2012 at 6:00pm Reply

    • Sassa: I know that they currently sell this at Neiman Marcus, but you may have to go into a store to purchase, they may not sell it online. I’ve bought my minis and a bottle on Ebay with no problem. August 28, 2012 at 2:49pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you, Sassa! That’s good to know. August 29, 2012 at 4:25am Reply

  • Jaya: I still love this. It is available in the UK. I do not wear it all of the time, but it does evoke strong memories of a happy time when I do. I always seem to get complimented on it when I wear it. It makes me feel feminine and a little bit whimsical. I love that other people love it too! x May 12, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

  • Adriana Galani: In Vienna in Müller on Mariahilfer Straße is still to be found. Got my new bottle not too long ago. One of my favorits as well. Well it is anything but sweet right. It surely is one of Dior’s wonders. Got my first bottle when I was 25 on my Birthday from a cousin and I keep re-newing my reserves every now and then.
    Eau de Dolce Vita, well tried, if only without orange blossom…. 🙂 February 26, 2014 at 8:47am Reply

  • Olga: In Quebec, Dolce Vita is still available in stores as well as at local pharmacies (which are NOT your average pharmacy since they have full product ranges for Dior, Guerlin, Lancôme etc). I am definitely giving it a try to help me battle winter blues in Canada! February 4, 2015 at 1:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Olga! Very good to know. February 9, 2015 at 7:43am Reply

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