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Bombay Duck London

Roja Dove Diaghilev

It’s not often that The Scent Critic sends another (straight) female writer into such a swoon that she all but makes a pass when getting within sniffing distance.  (My colleague’s precise comment:  ‘Whatever you’re wearing, it could really make me go for you…’)  We have not, however, run away together (despite the fact that The Scent Critic lives in a town recently dubbed ‘the lesbian hot-spot of the south coast’).  But this certainly is one of the sexiest and most beautiful fragrances to waft into view in a long, long time.

Diaghilev – created to commemorate the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes exhibition at the V&A – is a chypre.  As you may know, The Scent Critic does love a chypre – that most grown-up of fragrance categories – but this has a smouldering sensuality beneath the characteristic chypre-esque elegance which is truly something else.  From the first ‘puff’ – out of the nostalgic black silk poire – it sort of snuggles around you, like a satin eiderdown of cocooning warmth.  After the merest sherbety breath of bergamot and zesty orange, you’re embraced by its peachiness – not icky, but dripping and honeyed – which echoes the overture of Mitsouko, a fragrance Diaghilev himself is known to have worn, and which is one of my all-time Top 5 fave fragrance raves.  (In fact, there’s more than a nod to Jacques Guerlain’s 1919 masterpiece here.  And no surprises there:  before Roja Dove opened his own Haute Parfumerie within Urban Retreat on the Fifth Floor at Harrods, he was Guerlain’s in-house professeur de parfums for more years than either of us likes to count. Guerlain has clearly seeped into his soul, which is rather a good thing for Guerlainophiles looking for a little affaire on the side.)

It’s rose-rich, in a bury-your-nose-in-a-bouquet-of-roses way, billowing with all the velvety glamour of a Souvenir du Docteur Jamin, or a Madame Isaac Pereire – two gloriously scented old roses that everybody who plants a garden for perfume should find a spot for.  While wafting through that rose garden in my psyche, I am as usual impatient for the base notes, but with Diaghilev I don’t have to tap my fingers for long:  oakmoss – the sweet-woody Little Black Dress of every chypre – and labdanum and vetiver swoop grandly in, like a tiara-ed duchess chaperoning a debutante at the Season’s grandest coming-out ball, and stay for hours and hours…

I’d say it’s definitely nostalgic, yes – without being in the least old-ladyish.  It sort of makes me want to spend Saturday afternoon in front of an open fire, under the aforementioned eiderdown, watching Garbo movies, or maybe a Busby Berkeley or two.  But actually, this isn’t a black-and-white-movies-on-the-sofa type of scent:  it’s very definitely a dress-up fragrance.  More than that, it’s a dress-up-and-be-naughty fragrance.   It’s the best kiss of your life.  It’s a fumble ‘neath a fur blanket in the back of a horse-drawn landau in an Anaïs Nin story.  (And oh, I’m as much of a bunny-lover as the rest of you, but they didn’t have faux, back then, for heaven’s sake, so please:  no PETA-esque rants.)  It’s naughty, naughty, naughty, and I’m sure that’s exactly what the mischievous Mr. Dove had in mind, when he created this.

Diaghilev himself, we’re told, used to perfume the curtains wherever he stayed, so that every time they were opened or closed, they swooshed a gust of his favourite scent into the room.  I’m rather tempted to do the same, if it weren’t for the fact that this perfume comes in a limited edition of just 1000 bottles (some available in the V&A’s store – and trust me, this is as fine a fragrance as you’re ever likely to find in a museum shop.  I hope the bods at the V&A realise what a gem they’ve got.)  I need to reserve my supplies.  Because who knows when my seductive powers might fail – and I’ll need to resort to Diaghilev, to lure a fellow beauty editor into my web?  (Or – sorry to disappoint the scandal-seekers among you – my own Mitsouko-loving husband, more like…)



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