Scarves are my favorite accessories. I love the way the sheer organza feels on my shoulders in the summer. The warm heft of a thick, cable-knit wool feels comforting on blistering cold days in the winter. My work uniform of jeans and black sweater can be easily spiced up with a piece of silk in cobalt blue or the Russian style tasseled square in red. In an overlap with my sartorial wardrobe, I have a whole category of fragrances I categorize as my “scarf” perfumes. They usually stay close to the skin and have a warm, smoky drydown. To smell them on me, you would have to lean in close, and I love the intimate aura they create.
One such warm and smoky contender has been Diptyque Volutes, which I’ve been testing over the past couple of weeks. Volutes in French means swirls, as in swirls of smoke, and as Volutes unfolds gently on skin and wraps me in its warm embrace, it indeed makes me think of sweet cherry scented tobacco. The story behind Volutes is of the transatlantic journeys one of Diptyque’s original founders, Yves Coueslant, used to make as a child, crossing from Marseille to Saigon and back. The vision of the “elegant ladies leaning on the ship’s rail smoking their Khedive cigarettes” inspired this languid perfume. These ladies must also have worn Shalimar, because this Guerlain classic was my immediate association with Volutes.
At first, Volutes smells peppery and citrusy, but within minutes the tobacco and iris begin to fill out the composition. After a brief spicy-leathery detour, Volutes ends on a sweet incense drydown. A pretty, easy to wear perfume, but if you’re looking for a quirky blend like the Diptyque perfumes of its early days–Eau Lente, L’Ombre dans L’Eau or L’Eau Trois, you will be disappointed. Volutes is as dainty and well-mannered as they come. And not particularly original.
The shadow of Shalimar has been lurking at Diptyque for a while, because its previous release Eau Duelle also reminded me of this great citrus-vanilla perfume. With Volutes, the perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin gives us another modern twist on Shalimar with plenty of iris and cherry tobacco filling in for the Guerlain’s dark amber and leather. I will happily use up my sample of Volutes–I already envision cool fall days when the heavier scarves and richer perfumes will replace my gauzy summery choices–but I’m not tempted to buy a full bottle. I like the polish and refinement of this perfume, but it doesn’t rival other modern Shalimars like Etat Libre d’Orange Fils de Dieu, Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur, Paul & Joe Bleu or Etro Shaal Nur. Nor does it rival Fragonard Rêve Indien, a budget Shalimar version.
The Eau de Toilette is a more transparent and drier take on Volutes. The spicy sweetness of the Eau de Parfum is less obvious, with the floral notes rendered pastel sheer and ethereal. It smells of the snuff box emptied of its contents. The ship landing is empty, the elegant ladies are back in the salon playing bridge and drinking cocktails. On your skin, the smoky whispers are obvious, but instead of sweet tobacco, you smell the woods, incense and musk. It’s elegant and soft at first, but the late drydown reveals a sweet, plasticky note that feels jarring. The lasting power and tenacity of the EdP are much better, another point in its favor.
Diptyque Volutes includes notes of iris, honey, tobacco, dried fruit, pink pepper, black pepper, saffron, hay, immortelle, myrrh, storax, opopanax and benzoin. 100ml Eau de Toilette (82 €), 50ml Eau de Toilette (62 €), and 75ml Eau de Parfum (95 €) .
Sample: my own acquisition