Fashion critics say a great designer gives you what you want before you know you want it. Before Christian Dior launched Dior Homme in 2005, I did not feel a need for vanilla in the perfumes I was wearing. I was more interested in the fresh tonic notes of fragrances such as Frederic Malle’s Angelique Sous la Pluie and L’Eau de L’Artisan by L’Artisan Parfumeur. The first time I smelled Dior Homme, I distinctly remember my experience. The way IFF perfumer, Olivier Polge, cocooned his base of soft vanilla in iris and leather made immediate sense to me and Dior Homme felt instantly at home on my skin. The experience opened up a new world of possibilities, and lifted my self-imposed vanilla embargo. Not only did Dior Homme smell fantastic, it also reset the narrow boundaries of masculinity as defined by designer perfume brands. It spoke of freshness, modernity and sophistication, without being pretentious or cliché. Dior Homme’s innovation went hand-in-hand with the French couturier’s eponymous menswear label. In 2000, designer Hedi Slimane became creative director of Dior Homme. In the same way M. Christian Dior redefined women’s couture with his “New Look” collection of 1947, Hedi Slimane redefined men’s ready-to-wear in 2001. Slimane’s first collection disregarded what his contemporaries were designing and his unique perspective had a ripple effect through men’s fashion for the next six years. Without Hedi Slimane, I doubt Dior Homme, the fragrance, would exist. After those formative years, designer Kris Van Asche succeeded Slimane and Parfums Christian Dior moved all perfume design in-house, recruiting Francois Demachy as Director of Olfactory Development in 2006. Although we are yet to see an entirely new men’s fragrance launched under Demachy’s direction, his work, expanding Dior’s existing collection of men’s fragrances has been well received and his parfum versions of the house’s masculine pillars, Eau Sauvage, Fahrenheit and now Dior Homme, help retain Dior’s position as a couture house committed to innovative perfumery.
Unlike Demachy’s Eau Sauvage Parfum (2012), which was a substantial departure away from its 1960’s namesake, Dior Homme Parfum does not stray too far from its original parent – a golden aura of abstract flowers, brûléed woods and supple leather. For this new version, Demachy makes micro-adjustments to Dior Homme’s olfactory landmarks of iris, cedarwood and vanilla. Previously drenched in light, the Parfum transforms Olivier Polge’s delicate balance of powdery iris and milky vanilla into a darker experience. It is as if you smell Dior Homme in the shadows. A mysterious act of chiaroscuro, each ingredient captures the light of recognition for a moment, before moving back into the darkness of abstraction. This play on light and shade begins with a golden hue of Italian orange oil, which weaves its subtle effect into the fabric of the fragrance’s head and heart notes. Tuscan iris absolute and Damascus rose absolute create a dry and stoic floral character. An intensified leather accord is one of the more noticeable enhancements in this new version. The leather notes have a terraced effect, beginning with a saffron-like layer that works beautifully with rose and iris absolute. As the leather accord unfolds on skin, it takes on the character of soft, aniline suede. The final tier is a acrid note of smoky tar, which works in contrast, lessening the sweetness of the amber resins in the base. Supported with Sri Lankan sandalwood and ambrette seed absolute, Dior Homme Parfum is a robust and complex fragrance. If like me, the dulcet amber core of Dior Homme Intense proves too sweet too bear, then ironically, this more intense Parfum might appeal, especially to lovers of the original Dior Homme.
With Dior Homme now overtaking Fahrenheit as the most extensive masculine scent series Christian Dior has to offer, men are spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a Dior Homme fragrance. The collection moves in two directions – the bitter freshness of Dior Homme Sport and Dior Homme Cologne, and nocturnal woods and resins with Dior Homme Intense and now Dior Homme Parfum. For me, the soul of Dior Homme has always been dark and urban, and less about sport. Although there are plenty of fans of these fresher incarnations, I enjoy playing in the darker end of the spectrum. Here the 2007 limited edition and anomaly, Dior Homme Cologne, deserves special mention. Even though it is an interpretation inspired by orange flower and eau de cologne, it maintains the original’s dark sultry character and is very different in comparison to the current snow-white Dior Homme Cologne. I currently enjoy wearing Dior Homme Cologne (2007) by day and the new Dior Homme Parfum in the evening.
Alternatives: Christian Dior Dior Homme, Christian Dior Dior Homme Intense, Christian Dior Dior Homme Cologne (2007 version), Van Clef & Arpels Bois d’Iris
Perfumer: Francois Demachy
Bottle Designer: Creation Dior
Release Date: 2014
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Dry Woods