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Eau Duelle is my first foray into Diptyque's extensive perfume range, and indeed into Diptyque as a brand. Founded in Paris in 1961 and originally selling printed fabrics, the brand soon became a success selling scented candles and then eventually home fragrances and eau de toilette perfumes. I'd known about the brand for a while but it wasn't until I got some perfume samples from the counter in Selfridges that I actually tried any of their perfumes. Eau Duelle ("dual water" in English, but that doesn't sound half as sexy of course) is their newest fragrance, formulated to be unisex and supposedly in the "spicy" family, but I'd put it more as a vanilla-based oriental. It was made by Fabrice Pellegrin, whose most recent other creation is Thierry Mugler's "Womanity".
Diptyque's packaging is beautiful, really simple and elegant. All their perfumes come in square, clear glass bottles with a round label printed entirely in black and white, and with a black top. The boxes are similar, white with a round black design on the front and featuring really beautiful lettering running around the edge of the circle, saying "34 Boulevard Saint Germain", which is the address of Diptyque's flagship store in Paris. The label for Eau Duelle has the same writing with a delicate line-drawing of an eastern-looking palace and some rolling fields. All in all, very modern yet timeless, clean, delicate and absolutely lovely to look at.
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Eau Duelle is billed, rather romantically, as "a journey through shadows and light", and although I wouldn't go that far, it does have two contrasting sides to its character that makes its name quite appropriate. It starts with vanilla, sweet, creamy and soft yet not particularly edible-smelling (this isn't a gourmand fragrance at all) tempered with a definite hit of spicy pepper. The pepper isn't sneezy or overwhelming, in fact it's quite warm and spicy, just a small jolt to cut through the creamy vanilla. There's also something else in the mix too that I can't quite put my finger on: it's something spicy, like cardamom or cinnamon, again, inedible but very warm and very soothing.
The top notes last for about an hour, after which point the middle notes start to appear. If I'm honest, they're not so different from the top notes: the vanilla stays put and the pepper is replaced by a smokier, darker scent - something exotic-smelling, like frankincense. The smoke is backed up by a definite scent of lapsang souchong tea; woody, liquidy smoke which overlays the vanilla to make the whole effect a little bit like smelling a cup of chai. None of this is overpowering, by the way - the effect remains soothing and I'd even call it muted. Nothing blasts at you or is strident, making this an excellent perfume for work or when you just don't want to smell too strongly.
The base notes and drydown are predictably muted - all I really get is vanilla at this point, a little musky perhaps, a little amber in there as well, but really just warm, sweet and silky vanilla. For such a soothing perfume, the staying power is excellent: about six hours in all, and I sprayed only one squirt of eau de toilette from the tester bottle. You won't smell strongly, or leave a wake of perfume behind you, but Eau Duelle is intimate and lovely when you smell it yourself. I'm struggling to imagine this on a man, though - I know it's billed as unisex but there's something very feminine about the smoke and the vanilla which would make me uneasy about smelling this on a man!
Eau Duelle is also available as a solid perfume, which I haven't tried yet but would imagine is a slightly stronger, perhaps oilier scent.
I'm surprised at how much I love this perfume. I tend to like strong, dominant perfumes with wood, bitterness and serious guts, so I didn't expect to like this soft, intimate and muted offering as much as I do. I like the two sides to it, the smoke overlaying the sweetness which changes the vanilla and makes it altogether different, like smelling it through something else; I also really like the roundedness of it and the way it doesn't change all that much. All of these qualities, of course, being things I would really, really dislike in another perfume, so there must be something good about it!
This isn't one for a hot date or any time you need a boost, but rather one for work or just everyday. I spend a lot of time in libraries and for some reason it seems to work really well with the smell of old books all around me - something about the soft vanilla and smoke working with slightly musty paper, perhaps. I think it would also be lovely if you wear perfumes in bed - it's so soft and comforting that I can see it being perfect for drifting off to sleep to. I'm going to finish my tester and then in all probability buy a full-size bottle.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Diptyque products are available either from their London shops (Westbourne Grove, Marylebone, or Brook Street), Space NK, or their concessions in Liberty, Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis and Fenwick. Check out www.diptyqueparis.com/store-locator/ to find out if there's one near you. Eau Duelle is on sale for £48 for 50ml eau de toilette and £28 for a small solid perfume.