Diptyque Volutes : Perfume Review

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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 DieuFrédéric Malle Musc RavageurPaul & 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

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47 Comments

  • Henrique Brito: Your review and Denyse reviw of this one is making me very tempted to buy this one even without trying it. I love tobacco, love cherry aromas, love shalimar, and a silkish scent is welcome to me, as long as it has a decent longevity on skin.
    I suspect that i’ll appreciate the edp better than the edt.
    Thank you for the lovely review Victoria 🙂 September 11, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that you enjoyed it! I recommend sampling it first though. It’s a very good fragrance, but if you already have a large collection of sheer incense-smoky perfumes, you may find it that you don’t need it.
      But yes, if I were to pick between the edt and the edp, I would definitely go for the edp. September 11, 2012 at 10:41am Reply

      • Henrique Brito: I guess that i don’t have many sheer smoky-incensed fragrances, and diptyque fragrances are quite reasonably priced, which makes a blind purchase more, let’s say, acceptable. I just need to find now a place that is selling it… September 11, 2012 at 12:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s true, the Diptyque price is somewhat better than that of many other niche houses, although nothing beats Parfums de Nicolai in terms of price and of value for quality. September 12, 2012 at 4:36am Reply

      • Alyssa: I am not sure it is possible for me to have too many sheer, smoky-incense perfumes. 🙂 Especially since I can’t bring myself to buy a full bottle of Bois d’Armenie. September 12, 2012 at 12:32am Reply

        • Victoria: Then Volutes has your name on it. But have you smelled Shaal Nur or Fils de Dieu? If you liked those, you will definitely enjoy Volutes. If you haven’t smelled them, I can’t recommend them highly enough. September 12, 2012 at 4:46am Reply

  • Barbara: I’m a scarf junkie too. Don’t care for jewelry, but give me a pretty scarf and I’m happy. My favorite is a red scarf with a band of little horses that I picked up from a vintage store. I feel very Parisian chic wearing it. 🙂 September 11, 2012 at 9:11am Reply

    • Barbara: Gah, I got so sidetracked by my scarf story that I forgot to comment on your review. It sounds immenently wearable. Eau Duelle disappointed me at first too, but then I used up a whole bottle. I like to smell big orientals, but I end up wearing lighter ‘fumes like Eau Duelle and Shaar Nur. Volutes might be more up my alley. September 11, 2012 at 9:28am Reply

      • Victoria: If you loved Eau Duelle, you will enjoy Volutes for sure. It has a similar aesthetic–sheer, playful, with a hint of mystery. September 11, 2012 at 10:43am Reply

    • Victoria: That scarf sounds beautiful! I’m not sure if I have one favorite. On another thought though, I have a long rectangular scarf made out of faded blue silk, and I find that it matches everything. A great accessory to brighten up a dull, rainy day, and there are many of those in Belgium. September 11, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

  • Daisy: Another scarf junkie! I like big ones that can double as sails 🙂

    My comments might be kind of random but I like Eau Duelle and find it very wearable. Back to Black by Kilian is another tobacco fragrance that I think is great. Given the great story behind Volutes, it is such a shame that the perfume itself isn’t more original. September 11, 2012 at 10:38am Reply

    • Victoria: I kept thinking of the intro scene from the movie “The Lover” as I was thinking of the story Diptyque describes. Not sure if you’ve seen this film. Totally wrong scene and girl (who in the film and the novel is very young, wearing a man’s fedora and definitely not smoking).

      Back to Black is one of my by Kilian favorites, but I can’t really pull it off during the summer. I need a very cold day and lots of warm scarf to really enjoy it. Wait, these are coming, and I will be waxing poetic about it in a couple of months. I mean, waxing poetic about the perfume, not the Belgian weather. 🙂 September 11, 2012 at 10:54am Reply

      • Daisy: I was thinking about that scene from The Lover too! Something about the colors and the light. September 11, 2012 at 11:12am Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, maybe that’s why I was hoping that Volutes would be like a tobacco version of Tam Dao–rich, enveloping, sultry. It’s still very good and beautifully made. As I mentioned to Jack, if only Diptyque had the 30ml bottles… September 11, 2012 at 11:50am Reply

          • Daisy: That would have been the best!

            I actually wish more houses would do 30ml bottles. I can see how it wouldn’t be seen as very profitable, but 100ml of anything is a lot to get through — especially if your collection is large… September 11, 2012 at 12:26pm Reply

            • Victoria: I think that it mainly depends if they have that kind of bottle mold available. Some stock bottles don’t come in smaller sizes, so the house would have to order it especially for them, which can be very expensive. Packaging is really one of the biggest hurdles for the smaller niche houses, since all of the companies cater to the big clients. It’s slowly changing though.

              So, let’s hope for those 30ml bottles! September 11, 2012 at 3:05pm Reply

    • Rachel: I was going to mention Back to Black as my favorite tobacco perfume! September 11, 2012 at 11:56am Reply

  • Jack Sullivan: Lovely images, as always in your reviews.
    I think the 75 ml bottle corresponds to the eau de parfum concentration, whereas the eau de toilette comes in 100 and 50 ml bottles. September 11, 2012 at 10:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you!

      I’ll add a note about the sizes and the corresponding concentrations. I would really love for Diptyque to release small 30ml bottles, but it’s probably not commercially feasible. September 11, 2012 at 10:58am Reply

  • marsi: This doesn’t sound like smth I would like, but I just want to smell it for the story: I had a friend who smoked Khedive cigarettes. September 11, 2012 at 11:17am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve never smelled those cigarettes, but now I want to! I would be curious if Volutes will remind you of them, so please let me know what you think when you try it. September 11, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

      • sara: i have an empty antique box that once contained khedive cigarettes. i sniffed it just now, and it smells a little spicy but maybe i’m just imagining it from your description. 🙂 September 11, 2012 at 3:46pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve googled the Khendive cigarettes and I noticed that the packaging looked beautiful. September 12, 2012 at 4:24am Reply

      • marsi: Duh, he smoked clove cigarettes, not Khendive cigarettes! I hate the smell of tobacco smoke, but clove cigarettes smelled very good. September 11, 2012 at 6:13pm Reply

        • Victoria: Ah, ok! I’ve smelled clove cigarettes before. I remember them smelling sweet and spicy, with an interesting blend of tobacco and carnation-like clove. That would be great in a perfume. September 12, 2012 at 4:42am Reply

  • CedriCeCCentriC: Dyptique’s Eau Lente and even more their Opopanax candle are very reminiscent of Shalimar IMHO. September 11, 2012 at 2:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: The plush opopanax base of Shalimar is very distinctive. The candle is great, it smells like the drydown of Shalimar, which is my favorite part. September 11, 2012 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I will try this. I tend to like Diptyques and I enjoy tobacco as a note. If it is at all like Duelle I will enjoy it.
    The older Diptyques were much braver scents but in a way not as easy to wear, although I really enjoy Virgilio in the hot weather. September 11, 2012 at 4:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with that, the older Diptyques were definitely not that easy to carry off, although many were so evocative and memorable. If I had a bottle of Volutes, I would wear it quite happily. It’s definitely a well-made perfume. September 12, 2012 at 4:33am Reply

  • Sapphire: Hi Victoria, I was wanting to know how you would compare Volutes directly to Back to Black. I am really in love with BtB and find it suits me even in warm weather (I am in Texas), but Volutes would be so much easier on the pocketbook. September 11, 2012 at 11:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: They are very different to me. BtB is sweet, warm, with lots of musk, almond, tonka bean, and Volutes is sheer, dry, androgynous even. Unfortunately, it’s not an exact replacement for the pricey BtB. September 12, 2012 at 4:45am Reply

      • Sapphire: Thanks, Victoria. I will definitely sniff Volutes when it comes to Nordstrom, and maybe even buy a decant. But I’m savin’ up for the Kilian! September 12, 2012 at 8:08am Reply

        • Victoria: It’s worth a sniff, especially if you like Shalimar and these kind of vanilla orientals. Volutes is much smokier, more tobacco though. September 12, 2012 at 3:22pm Reply

  • Lavanya: I love scarves and stoles too! My favorite is a copper sulphate blue and yellow one (not unlike the color combination in your beautiful blue and orange silk saree)..The perfume sounds lovely- i am interested in the Shalimar aspecy though wary of the cherry tobacco angle..Other than Caron Tabac Blond I don’t think I’ve loved any tobacco fragrances (I can see/smell the appeal of Back to black and TF tobacco vanille but find them difficult to wear) September 12, 2012 at 12:36am Reply

    • Victoria: I also don’t quite get Tobacco Vanille. It’s beautiful, but not that easy to wear, because it feels so opaque. Same thing with L’Artisan Tea for Two, even though I like it very much on others. I have a decant and reach for it time to time, but drier tobacco scents like Caron Tabac Blond is more up my alley.

      The thing with Volutes is that it’s fairly dry, so it shouldn’t be as hard to pull off if you don’t like the sweetened tobacco notes.

      Your scarf sounds beautiful. I love the combination of blue and orange, as you’ve noticed, especially if the orange/yellow part is vivid. That sari, by the way, is still a favorite, but unfortunately, a dress maker almost ruined the blouse during my last visit to India. When they returned it to me after pressing the sari, I noticed a big greasy spot. My aunt took most of it out, and you don’t notice it when you tie the sari, but still it was annoying. September 12, 2012 at 4:52am Reply

  • Sapphire: Another possible similarity occurred to me. Do you think Volutes is anything like DK Black Cashmere? September 12, 2012 at 10:05am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s interesting, and I just went to smell them side by side. Black Cashmere is much drier and woodier (cedarwood) than Volutes. The drydown is very different, but the aura, the gauzy-smoky character is similar. September 12, 2012 at 3:45pm Reply

      • Sapphire: Should be interesting to try. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until at least late October for it to come here. Oh well, the weather is much more likely to be cool by then. Thanks! September 12, 2012 at 4:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re welcome! It would be better in cool weather anyway. September 12, 2012 at 7:19pm Reply

  • Aimee L’Ondee: Thanks for the review! Darn, I’m bummed that this didn’t blow you away! I was sooo intrigued by that tobacco note, and hoped it would be edgier. September 13, 2012 at 10:06am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m kind of bummed not to love it more, but still, it’s a very good perfume and is worth trying. The lovers of tobacco notes will definitely enjoy it. September 17, 2012 at 6:30pm Reply

  • Jennifer: I have a sample of Volutes EDP, and I’ve really liked it. I wore it today, as a matter of fact. I’ve been interested in tobacco notes this fall (though I’m in Houston so “fall” doesn’t really feel much like fall), so it kind if hit the spot for me. And fortunately, I don’t get the plasticky note described in the drydown. October 24, 2012 at 2:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad to hear that it’s been a winner. A cool weather is a perfect time to wear it. November 21, 2012 at 5:22pm Reply

  • Sapphire: Victoria, do you think the EDP is similar to SSS Tabac Aurea at all? November 21, 2012 at 4:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t find them similar. Tabac Aurea is dry and woody, while Volutes is softer, sweeter and muskier. November 21, 2012 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Rob: Would you go for Volutes EDP or Eau Lente EDT? I’m thinking of it for myself a men. October 26, 2013 at 9:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Eau Lente is more unusual and has a more interesting development. Volutes is very good, but it’s so close to Shalimar that I would just go for Shalimar (it smells great on men). October 26, 2013 at 12:09pm Reply

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