One of the great vagaries of a perfume habit is how you can end up besotted with a fragrance that you originally disliked. Somewhere in the mid-nineties I came across Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau, a fusion of tangy blackcurrant leaf, dark rose, and white grapefruit. It was completely out of step with the perfumes I knew in those days when niche fragrances were more or less not known or available stateside.
At the time, I was wearing one of those huge glitzy florals (Dior Poison!) and L’Ombre dans L’Eau was its exact opposite. The green intensity of blackcurrant leaf in particular struck me the wrong way, as if the edges were sharp, cold, and brutal. The fragrance smelled not of a shadow in the water (as its name would be translated from French) but of digging in a garden in the dog days of summer, hands in the dirt around a rose bush, with a heat haze dragging the bitter, earthy and resinous smell of tomato leaf through the thick air. It was too photorealistic, this experiential French scent, and the leafiness was such that one might experience it as both a smell and as a taste, as if somewhere in one’s memory was trapped a childhood remembrance of biting into a tomato.
Many years later, I came across the scent at Barney’s and bought not just a bottle of eau de toilette but the solid parfum as well. L’Ombre dans L’Eau is now one of my favorite summer scents and is one of only two or three fragrances that do not suffer strong personality changes in the Florida and Georgia summers. The little solid parfum in its heavy black metal oval is a revelation.
L’Ombre dans L’Eau’s sharply green and leafy opening can be polarizing; it smells like the best day of summer rather than a commercially cogent idea of it. The leaf note is pitched high and sharp against the dusky rose. The rose emergence is slow and almost painstaking but it is there, in relief against that piney, sappy summer leaf. The rose never fully blooms but becomes a soft and dark discernible rose note against which this leafiness settles but never leaves, joined by unripe and puckery blackberry tang. As it is with the memory of summer, the fragrance slowly fades out over a sweet trace of musky skin, leaving behind a light sweetness from tomato—it is a fruit, after all.
The parfum solid comes in a heavy black metal container embossed with the Diptyque logo. It’s a heavy little thing with a magnetic closure. The solid has a surprising sillage and tremendous longevity. Its fragrance follows the progression of the eau de toilette, but the EdT has a more startling opening where rose is less apparent and a dazzling grapefruit-like note steps forward. The EdT is fizzy and exuberant in its summery dress and the solid parfum is mellower, sweeter. It’s more of a second skin, if you might slip on the red robe of the tomato fruit and spend your July and August in it, resplendent.
Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau Eau de Toilette includes notes of rose, blackcurrant bud, amber, musk, and myrrh. This fall Diptyque will release the richer Eau de Parfum version. Diptyque perfumes are available at Diptyque stores, Barneys, Nordstrom, Saks5thAvenue, and Blue Mercury.
Photography by Richard Hurd via Flickr, some rights reserved