I like to think of myself as pretty tough. I don’t often wilt. Or blub. But unstoppering a bottle of Dior Eau Fraîche, from a new Les Créations de Monsieur Dior edition issued a few months ago, I burst into tears. And I realised in a flash: this is the fragrance that kick-started my fragrance obsession. Sure, I got a whiff of my mother’s Femme de Rochas or No. 5, from an early age, but it was my father’s gift of a bottle of duty free Eau Fraîche – when I was about 13 – that truly made me fall in love with scent. And smelling the first joyful, nose-tingling gust of lemon sherbet as I sprayed it on my skin this time, I got such a strong sense of my father (who died a dozen years ago) that I found myself wet-cheeked and very wistful. Such is perfume’s legendary power to Tardis us through time and space.
Although a classic ‘cologne’-style scent, Eau Fraîche was a pretty sophisticated choice for a 13-year-old, though. Created in 1953 by Edmond Roudnitska (one of the greatest ‘noses’ of all time), it was a forerunner of my other favourite teen scent (Eau Sauvage, another Dior masterpiece). But despite the presence of sharp bigarade (from Seville orange blossom) and a bucket-load of those Sicilian lemons this is softer, with powdery nuances.
Once the effervescent freshness has dispersed, it actually morphs into a chypre – actually, my favourite scent family, which sensual spans everything from Miss Dior to Aromatics Elixir, Mitsouko to Cuir de Russie (all of which, in my time, I have owned, worn and loved). I have an inkling that Dior have tweaked the formula for this since I first developed my teen-crush on it, but it’s still divine. Stealthily, the patchouli creeps in, which may be the moment I love this best; there’s a sort of purring sensuality which if I close my eyes, reminds me of nothing so much as the old lion house at London zoo – a little bit of sexy, dangerous Big Cat, bottled. (And yes, I do think that’s a good thing in a fragrance. If I wanted something safe, I’d be wearing Philosophy’s Baby Grace, for heaven’s sake.)
I do kind of miss the classic, ridged glass bottle that Eau Fraîche came in – oh, such a grown-up trophy on my dressing table – but this is more than elegant enough to make up for it, actually: crystal-hefty and with its gold thread wound tight around the neck, baudruchage-style. Above all, it serves as a wonderful reminder than when we buy a fragrance for someone, we’re buying a little bit of immortality – because every time that person smells it, in future, they’ll remember you. Always and forever. So: merçi, Daddy…