Wednesday, July 4, 2007

L’Autre – Diptyque : Perfume Review

In 1973, Diptyque launched their second fragrance, aptly named L’Autre (“The Other”). Fiercely unique, this brave scent has me constantly sniffing my wrist for the first half an hour after its application. Before it finally calms down, its character is extremely volatile, taking me through various “blink-and-you-missed-it” stages. I am aware L’Autre doesn’t have many fans out there, which does not come as a surprise to me, considering it's challenging, difficult composition. Yet, I decided to write about it today, not only because I find it intriguing, but also because perhaps, this small review will prompt more people to try it and experiment with it.

L’Autre’s opening is to me, stunningly evocative of an old apothecary. My first thoughts every single time I smell it, tend to invariably be something along the lines of “Oh My Goodness!” as I am hit in the face by the strong medicinal, herbal, blend which is intensified by alcohol. Unfailingly surprised each time by the punch it delivers, I can’t help but find my senses alert, watchful and almost wary of what is to come. As the initial alcohol burst dissipates, a provocative mix of near-eastern spices begins to emerge. Sun-drenched spice markets come into view, their bulging woven baskets baking in the sun which serves to make the contents ever more fragrant. The hot air is dry and there is sand in my ears, mouth and nose – the dusty qualities of cardamom. The draft carries with it the unprecedented fullness of cumin and caraway and I follow their scent as if called by an invisible piper – or perhaps it is just the convincing calls of the merchants ringing in my ears. Provocative and realistic, the smells of the market have seduced me. My mind is filled with colors: Ochre, brick red, taupe and blue accented with gold...and suddenly....bright green? The market disappears abruptly, rather than fading from view. Cool breeze on my skin, it is springtime and I am at my paternal home, paradoxically a child again. The kitchen door is open and I pick a couple of lemon leaves from the tree in our garden. Curious, I stub my little nails in the leaf and the most beautiful aroma rises. I scratch the leaves more intently now, filling the air with the stimulating, fresh fragrance of the lemon oil. I almost don’t hear my mother calling to me, completely carried away by this fabulous lemony goodness. Back inside, I find mother cooking, juicing lemons and chopping coriander, which has filled the kitchen with its slightly astringent smell. How beautiful is springtime, I think to myself, surrounded by the energizing, zingy aromas. As soon as I complete this thought the picture disappears, the spell broken. I shake my head in surprise, emerging from my dreamworld as if by a rude interruption. Stillness, as I struggle to come to terms with the fact that L'Autre's previously unabashed trail seems to be all but faded when compared to its original strength. Giving my senses some time to adjust I begin to become aware once more of its lingering qualities. The moderate sillage is now all but gone and my travels were fleeting. But when I smell close, I find the softest, kindest patchouli. I am extremely surprised to find it, I have to admit. I would normally detect its heady scent instantly, but with L'Autre, it only makes an appearance at the final stages. I find it to be mixed with the shyest of pine and traces of spice. There is an undeniable animalic appeal to this drydown stage, something that makes my heart quicken. I cannot decide whether I’d wish for it to have more strength or if I am indeed content that it has become a skin-scent one can only detect during intimate encounters. All I know is that I like it – it moves me. Despite it being officially a unisex fragrance, I see this as being more suited to men. To me L’Autre smells deeply masculine and I believe it has more to offer to men than women. For a woman, L’Autre will be an experience, a mood-scent. For a man it positively becomes a weapon in his arsenal when it comes to seduction: Unquestionably, yet almost inexplicably sexy.

Images courtesy of www.mekuno.net, http://chowtimes.com and www.exodus.co.uk


10 comments:

TMH256 said...

Oh, this sounds very interesting D.! Thank you for bringing my attention to a new scent. I will definitely experiment with it. :-)

Have a wonderful day! (Sorry I have been so quiet. I am now back to my routine of reading my favorite blogs in the a.m.)

xo,
T.

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
What a fascinating description, and what a well made fragance this must be! I love your description of yourself as a little girl sniffing the lemon leaves, as well as the evocation of the spice market. I think I would love to smell this as worn by my partner: and it sounds perfect for hot weather! As always, I read your reviews with admiration and excitement. Warmest wishes,
Linda

Arhianrad said...

Divina--

You are far, far braver than I. I smelled L'Autre on-paper and couldn't get past the cumin. I really should try on-skin, there's no telling what it'll do there. Great review, as always! :)

helg said...

This is one weird frag, as far as reviews go, and you describe it soooo lovingly, so I must track it down next time.
Can it be compared to Arabie by Lutens? Although that one has no lemony aspects to speak of, but plenty of middle eastern souk aromas.

Divina said...

Dearest T, so nice to see you here again :) Glad to see you back from your vacay!

Divina said...

Linda, I am glad you liked the description of me as a child :) It is a little embarassing, but it is indeed what I used to do as a child, scratch leaves to see how they smelled. Our garden (which unfortunately does not exist any longer) had so many wonderful, wonderful plants to scratch n' sniff. Rosemary, Orange tree leaves, Lemon tree leaves, basil and spearmint and my personal favorite, bay leaves. I dream of finding the perfect bay-leaf scented fragrance just to get the chance to write about these memories one day. Thank you for your always wonderful comments. Mwah!

Divina said...

Hiiii Helg :) It is INDEED a very strange fragrance and worth sampling even if you don't end up loving it. To answer your question though, no, it cannot be compared to Arabie. They both share the very prominent cumin note but that is where the similarities end, imo. Arabie is fuller, warm, complicated. As well as that, it is far fruitier and sweeter than L'Autre. Even though I love Arabie, the sweetness always bothered me, I wanted it to be less so. L'Autre is fresh, somehow cooling, which Arabie sure as hell isn't. (and I wouldn't want it to be anyway... Arabie needs to be warm!) And as I mention in my review, L'Autre dries down to something shy, soft and sexy. Arabie keeps going strong for hours. I hope this helps answer your question!

Divina said...

Arhianrad - I don't know if I am brave... I love cumin so it didn't require much valor on my part to wear L'Autre! :) You know.. I'll call myself brave when I finally dare to try Secretions Magnifique on my skin. Every time I say, "today is the day, today I will smell it on skin and not on paper"...And every time.. I open the bottle, get slapped around by the iodine, metalic smell and get gripped by fear. Maybe some day :P

chayaruchama said...

I'm not surprised we share this one !
It's really a wearable version of South Indian cuisine.
My younger son loves the body wash and EDT.

It layers well w/ Tam Dao, too.
Not for the shy...

Abigail said...

You always write such evocative reviews, more so then feeling like I'm smelling the fragrance, I always feel like I'm traveling with it.