Glen or Glenda: The Paradox of Habit Rouge & Diorella, By Alessio


Now let me take Paolo’s question of what makes a fragrance male or female further. Sometimes we don’t care about what others think and we, for whatever personal reason, love a certain fragrance whether it is appropriate to wear as a perfume or just to enjoy alone. One of my favourite fragrances for women is Diorella (Dior 1972 reformulated recently) and one of my favourite fragrances for men is Habit Rouge (Guerlain 1965 but reformulated in 2003). The architects behind these two fragrances, Edmond Roudnitska and Jean-Paul Guerlain respectively, must have been deeply entrenched in the spirit of freedom and social revolution late 60’s early 70’s. They even went so far as to break away from the Hippie’s favourite – patchouli (though they claim to have patchouli in the ingredients, I will throttle anyone who tells me they can pick it up in any of these two fragrances)! Artistic freedom was main stream and Feminism was high on the agenda. It is no surprise that Diorella and Habit Rouge were dreamed into existence by the gods of perfumery.  Diorella and Habit Rouge are the raw expression of the times in which they were conceived.

I could smell these two scents all day long. They are never cloying or overbearing. They tempt the nose to take in a deep breath of its symphonic genius. And each time you do, the serotonin floods the brains synapsis and you are in heaven.

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HOWEVER! There has been a gross mismatch in my view. Although they both have a prominent citrus top note, HR has a confectioner’s influence, giving me the pleasure of memories of being a kid in Johannesburg, sucking sherbet powder out of a straw. Perhaps it is the vanilla following close behind it. On the other hand, Diorella’s citrus notes align themselves with bolder green notes, very much like its older brother – CD Eau Sauvage. HR’s heart is composed of Rose, carnation, jasmine, cinnamon spice and all things nice…do you see where I am going with this? Diorella also has jasmine, rose and carnation in the heart (….um again like its older brother CD Eau Sauvage) but unlike HR’s base of amber, benzoin and labdanum, which gives it the musky flavour of “pink musk sweets” that Paolo & I used to push aside while searching for the mystery toy in the “lucky packets” our grandmother bought us after Sunday lunch, Diorella’s heart is broken by a handsome base of vetiver, oak moss and patchouli – YES, yet again like its older brother CD Eau Sauvage!

In my opinion, HR is an absolutely beautiful fragrance and an olfactory delight, but not on a man other than Willie Wonka. I bought a bottle for my wife and it smells absolutely magnificent on her. I confess that I (more than occasionally) spritz my wrist with HR before bedtime and fall asleep with a massive smile on my face. Conversely, Diorella, in my opinion is a masculine fragrance. Granted, the reformulation has softened the peach and melon notes that stood its ground in the original formulation. Today’s Diorella sits in my cupboard instead of my wife’s. Luca Turin puts properly when says: “I have always seen it (Diorella) as a perfect Eau Sauvage”. It seems as though Edmond Roudnitska was so impressed with Eau Sauvage (and so he should be) that he felt women were finally free to enjoy his masterpiece of 6 years earlier.

In 2017, we as a western society have never been more open minded and free, yet ironically we adhere to the codes and conducts of our kind.