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Having gone into Selfridges to get some perfume samples, I came across the Diptyque counter and was immediately drawn to the beautiful spare, elegant packaging I saw there. I was dimly aware of Diptyque as a brand before (it was founded in Paris in 1961 as a shop selling printed fabrics, but soon instead became a success selling scented candles and now additionally sells home fragrances and eau de toilette perfumes) but it's only now that I'm really starting to become really interested in their perfumes. The intriguingly named Philosykos means "fig tree" in Greek, and that's exactly what this perfume is all about - figs. Made by Olivia Giacobetti, whose notable other creations are Dzing! by L'Artisan Perfumeur and En Passant by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Philosykos is a very green perfume based around the fragrance of figs. It's also unisex, apparently.
All perfumes by Diptyque are packaged very simply, elegantly and perhaps a little old-fashionedly: they come in square, clear glass bottles with a round label featuring a line drawing printed entirely in black and white, and with a black lid. 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 Philosykos has the same writing with a delicate shaded line-drawing of three figs, the left of which overlaps the border ever so slightly - it's spare, delicate and very attractive; not all that feminine but then, on a unisex fragrance, perhaps that's a positive thing!
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Philosykos opens with a fantastic combination of green and creaminess which makes it very much like smelling a real, fresh fig: a very rounded, real scent which borders on the tactile. The greenness is very, very green, almost astringent and definitely grassy; there's a hint of bark and stem in there too which does really call to mind the leafiness of a fig tree. Although this is a perfume based on figs, it's important to note that it's not fruity at all and certainly nothing like dried figs - what the top notes convey is the fig alongside the whole tree! If you're keen on fruity perfumes, I'd be careful about this one unless you also like your scents green and zippy, as Philosykos doesn't offer much sweetness or roundness, particularly in its top notes.
After about 20 minutes the middle notes start to develop, although Philosykos is rather linear and doesn't change all that much (this linear quality is a common aspect to many Diptyque perfumes). I noticed that the creaminess, which is weirdly dry-creamy at first, becomes rounder and more enveloping, taking the edge off the greenness and stalkiness to make the overall accord much softer; the green still remains but it's not as invigorating and fresh as at first. I also find that the overall accord becomes quite dry at this point, like a very arid wind going through a tree. The sillage (how much you can smell the perfume around you) isn't huge, but nor is it particularly close to the skin; it'll probably be detectable to people nearby but not really all that strongly.
Unfortunately, this perfume really doesn't last all that well at all on me - the base notes come out after about an hour and the whole thing is gone in an hour and a half. The base notes are basically muted versions of what have gone before, but combined with a slightly woody tang, not dark but rather a light wood such as cedar. If wood can shimmer in a perfume, it manages to do that briefly here before disappearing: Philoskyos is all about the light layers and there's no exception in the base notes.
Philosykos is also available as a solid perfume, which I haven't tried but, based on the fact that it's waxy/creamy, might well be an altogether greasier or heavier affair. I'd be interested to know how the sharp greenness of the opening fares against a more solid base - this is definitely something for me to try next time I'm in Libertys!
Philosykos may be based on fig, but don't get it wrong: fans of gourmands or fruity perfumes won't find much to like here. Instead of a sweet fruity fragrance, what this one offers is the bracing green astringency of the whole tree and the bizarre dry-creaminess of fig sap and juice. It's reasonably light in terms of not containing heavy vanilla, spices or dark woods, and I like perfumes with some guts and punch (not really a fan of aquatics or light perfumes) but this has definitely got enough strength and power to keep me interested - I like the strange dry-creamy accord and the sharp green.
It's not particularly comforting, more of an invigorating kind of scent: I reckon Philosykos would be perfect for everyday wear, perhaps best suited for summer when the freshness mixed with aridity would work really well in hot air. I can't imagine it working all that well in humidity as it might be a little cloying, but its freshness might also work well with rain. I'm a student and I've worn it generally out and about, in the library and for lectures as well as in the evening (although really it's a morning kind of perfume). I'm fine with the fact that it's rather linear, but my main gripe is the lack of longevity, as it's gone in an hour and a half.
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. Philosykos is on sale for £48 for 50ml eau de toilette and £28 for a small solid perfume.