“A poor man’s jasmine” is ylang-ylang‘s unfair moniker, but to me, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Ylang-ylang essence, obtained from the fragrant flowers of the Cananga odorata tree, shares some facets with jasmine, but it’s even more dramatic. The icy cold top notes of wintergreen are contrasted with the apricot jam sweetness in the heart, and the whole smells more luscious than a flower is allowed to be.
Enter Diptyque Eau Moheli, which not only promises to give us a new ylang-ylang interpretation, but also features a refined new version of this classical perfume material. Several years ago, Givaudan, a company that manufactures fragrances as well as many of the raw materials used in flavor and fragrance blends, started a project on the island of Mohéli in the Comoros. The quality of commercial ylang-ylang oil has declined over the years, and the idea behind Moheli’s project was to regenerate the production of ylang-ylang. The result was a high-grade essence, with nothing poor about it.
The opening of Eau Moheli didn’t disappoint. The ylang-ylang part was gorgeous, the gingery top notes that playfully liven up the effervescence of wintergreen were beautiful, and it was a sunny, joyful perfume. The drydown of Eau Moheli was the only part I wish were different. After the initial exuberance, the perfume mellows down to a soft, barely there patchouli and musk far too quickly.
As a feminine floral, Eau Moheli is pretty but tame, but if appropriated by a man, it becomes much more interesting. Some aspects of it–the gingery fizz, the crunch of leafy notes, the soft spice of pink pepper–are androgynous enough, but the best part comes when ylang-ylang unfolds all of its sweet, lush layers. Supported by vetiver and earthy woods, it make for a perfect boutonniere.
Eau Moheli was created by perfumer Olivier Péscheux, who is also responsible for Lanvin’s Arpège Pour Homme. Arpège Pour Homme makes jasmine and iris manly–quite a feat!–and Eau Moheli manages the same for ylang-ylang. Still, a man should be comfortable with floral notes to pull it off, but it’s not too much of a stretch. It has a bright, smiling character, flirty even, and I love how intriguing this blossom smells on a man.
It lasts well enough, but the mild character of Eau Moheli means that it won’t make much of a statement–this seems to be a familiar pattern with the latest Diptyque perfumes. While I now think of their fragrances as fresh colognes and wear them as such, I still wish that the house returned to the weird and gorgeous things like L’Autre and L’Ombre dans L’Eau.
Those of us who love ylang-ylang are in good company though. Perfumer Ernest Beaux was also passionate about this note–his contemporaries remember that he was downright obsessed with finding the perfect grade. In Chanel No 5, ylang-ylang is just as important as rose and jasmine, while in No 22 it is set against a rich blend of other white flowers. It makes me wonder how Beaux would interpret Eau Moheli?
Diptyque Eau Moheli Eau de Toilette features notes of pink pepper, ylang-ylang, patchouli, ginger, vetiver, benzoin and incense. Available in 100 ml Eau de Toilette and 20 ml roll-on bottles.