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Bombay Duck London

Diorissimo Eau de Toilette

The Scent Critic, like most women, has always understood that fragrance is memory.  From the evening when our mother first leans over our cot and we breathe her Chanel No. 5, we all associate smells with people, places and events we’ve loved.  (Or sometimes hated.)  I’ll never smell Shocking without being transported back to my (shocking pink) wedding, or breathe the aroma of roasting coffee without being whisked to a certain café in the suburb I grew up in, where my  Mum used to take us to buy her Arabica – and where, if we were good, we’d be treated to a slice of coffee and walnut cake.  (Ah, the behaviour-transforming power of cake…)

But above all, I will never, ever get a whiff of Edmond Roudnitska’s 1956 masterpiece Diorissimo without thinking of my best friend, who died ten years ago today.  (Bizarrely, I kept smelling it everywhere in the week between her death and the funeral.  Great waves of it, even in a fish and chip shop – actually, especially in a fish and chip shop – which I’ve never been able to explain away.)  She also wore Joy, and – for a brief period in the power-shouldered 80s, skipped around in a veritable mushroom cloud of Giorgio – but it was the so-feminine, so-flirty, so appropriately virginal-and-seductive-all-at-once Diorissimo that my friend came back to, again and again.

So, with very bittersweet feelings, I thought I’d unstopper one of Dior’s fabulous new Diorissimo sprays – also available in Eau Fraiche and Diorella incarnations – and see what this beautiful breath-of-spring fragrance triggered on this landmark day, in my memory.

Well, more even than looking at a photo of her, Diorissimo has the power to remind me what I miss about my friend.  (Every darned day.)  The invariable faux-Yorkshire-accented phone greeting:  ‘Hello, Dolly Dimple,’ when she rang to tell me about her latest boy-crush.  (Boy being the operative word, usually.)  The way she could make my stomach hurt from laughing at her quick-witted ripostes and arch comments.  Her sheer golden-skinned beauty, as if lit from within.  Her total outrageousness.  (No hydrangea bush within half a mile radius was safe from midnight raids, often conducted with mortified children in tow.  But hey, who cares?  She got more pleasure out of those hydrangeas – and, come to think of it, lilacs – than the owners of those trees ever could.)  Her enviable ability to flirt with anything and anyone – dogs, men, boys, children, waiters, Chanel shop assistants, oh, and the camera – and make them fall a little bit in love with her.  Above all, Diorissimo reminds me of the morning, once a year, when my friend call up and joyously announce:  ‘It’s THE DAY!’, before declaring a public holiday for both of us – when we were required to down tools (in our case, typewriters) in favour of lunch, shopping and gossip.  ‘The Day’ being the first spring day when it was warm when you woke, threw open the doors – and felt the hum of summer’s promise in the air.  Well, Diorissimo, basically, is ‘The Day’.

Leaving memory aside, the fragrance is, of course, divine.  One of the greats.  Timeless, almost peerless (in white flower terms):  pure sweet, green gusts of lily of the valley, underpinned by ylang-ylang and jasmine.  (The greenness of Diorissimo stops it ever being sickly – and the same can’t be said for so many white florals…)  To be honest, I never get much except the lily of the valley from Diorissimo, unless I close my eyes and sort of fish around for other notes – but who cares?  Lilies of the valley are anyway my favourite spring flowers, so my nose doesn’t try too hard.  Although after it’s been on the skin, it kinda purrs a bit, in an animalic way.  (Just like she did, actually, with that pussy-cat smile, which – happily – at least two of her daughters have inherited.)

Of course, if my friend had been around, she’d have nicked this pretty bottle off my desk, skipped naughtily out of the office giggling, and I’d have never seen it again.  But the true magic of fragrance – the reason we spend so many billions on it, why we’re compelled seek out discontinued scents as if they were missing children, why we reach for it when we want to sweeten a dark mood  - is that it truly is liquid memory.  And in the absence of my friend – still keenly felt, after a decade that passed so in the blink of an eye – I am grateful that all I have to do to conjure up at least a fragment of her unique essence is to open a bottle of Diorissimo, and b-r-e-a-t-h-e.

Because as long as fragrance exists, a friend – or a mother, or a child – can be gone.  But they will never, ever be forgotten.

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2 comments to Diorissimo Eau de Toilette

  • Susan

    I loved reading your review of Diorissimo, introduced to me by your friend Paula Yates.
    I was in a Chemist in Sydney many years ago, when she was there with her baby and Michael. I saw this divine creature walk by, and the most sensational fragrance surrounded her.She was so petite and beautiful, and I honestly recall her golden glowing skin, as she was wearing a tiny clingy red and white gingham frock.
    I did not recognise her until after she spoke to me…..and the reason she spoke was because as a perfume maniac, I had to know fragrance she was wearing.
    Paula smiled at me, and very generously told me… “Diorissimo”, in a lovely London accent.
    I bought it immediately, in the Parfum d’Esprit, now discontinued.
    I believe Diorissimo was reformualted in 2010, and although still lovely, is nowhere near the moist, dense, divine Lily of the Valley I smelt that summer day in Sydney.

  • Thanks for the lovely Diorissimo feedback. I so recognised that description of my much-missed friend… Thank you for bringing her back for a fleeting moment!

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