Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
A whisper of Christian Dior Diorissimo on this cold day makes me imagine spring. I glance at the dark rooftops covered with white patches of snow, black outlines of icicle draped trees against the grey sky and even though the landscape is morose and silent, I can almost feel the warm breath of spring. The frozen winter vista is almost scent-free, which I find renders rich, oriental fragrances somewhat overwhelming. Instead, I tend to reach for citrus, iris, orange blossom and other delicate white floral fragrances. Like Venice covered in snow, the impossibly transparent and airy Diorissimo (Christian Dior) is a perfume whose beauty is only enhanced by the cold. Then again, just like Venice, it is beautiful regardless of time and season….
Created by one of the greatest perfumers of the 20th century, Edmond Roudnitska, Diorissimo (1956) is an excellent example of a perfume classic. Although it celebrated its 50th birthday last year, this perfume is beyond the effects of time, beyond trends and fashions. It is also a beautiful testament to perfume artistry. Inspired by the elusive fragrance of lily of the valley whose white bells resist giving up their fragrance using conventional methods of distillation, Diorissimo was Roudnitska’s stance against the heavily lactonic and sweet fragrances of the time. The fragrance was created for the perfume house of Christian Dior, who considered lily of the valley to be his lucky flower. Indeed, the composition wonderfully embodied the lightness, the elegance and the femininity of Dior’s fashion.
In Roudnitska’s vast repertoire, Diorissimo stands out as the least abstract and yet it is rather stylized. It is not a posy of delicate lily of the valley, but rather a dream-like image of flowers growing in the forest. Diorissimo unfolds with green leafy notes, which suggest the buds of springtime covered with translucent sap. The heart of the beautiful lily of the valley is painstakingly reconstructed from a range of materials, from natural essences to synthetic components. Its radiance and harmony are breathtaking. Although Diorissimo retains its sheer and floral character, a subtle animalic hint infuses life into what could have been a beautiful piece of marble. It feels like a living flower that speaks of spring days that are soon to come.
For all of its delicacy and transparency, Diorissimo has a gorgeous trail and tremendous lasting power, which is another affirmation of Roudnitska’s genius. The fragrance features notes of bergamot, lily of the valley, jasmine, lily, amaryllis, sandalwood and civet. It is currently available in the Eau de Toilette and the parfum (Parfum de Toilette used to be available at one point as well.) Unfortunately, the fragrance has been reformulated to comply with the regulations of International Fragrance Association (IFRA) as well as to replace animalic materials, with the result being a version that strikes me as somewhat strident. The parfum is better, but it also contains the same screechy synthetic woody note in the base that ruins the appeal of Diorissimo for me. Still, the allure of this fragrance is such that even these changes do not prevent me from enjoying it.
Update March 2011: there is now a new version of Diorissimo called Diorissimo Eau de Parfum. While the extrait de parfum and the Eau de Toilette are the original Roudnitska creations (even if reformulated to comply with IFRA,) the Eau de Parfum was created by François Demachy, Dior in-house perfumer. It is richer, denser, with a strong jasmine note.
For more lily of the valley fragrances and lore, please see my article, Spring Flower Bouquet: Lily of the Valley. Photograph from Moosecountrygarden.com.