I really love artichokes. From the unique savour of their heart – drenched in olive oil and French wine vinegar; generous carciofi on a Roman pizza – to the beautiful idea of them (tenderness wrapped in hard foliage; clad tight in a springtime embrace of fierce green leaves ).
As a fragrance concept, the artichoke does not seem like an obvious choice – and in fact the new Diptyque is a scented candle, not a perfume (but who knows? They sometimes double up). Odd though it might seem, though, there is no offputting vegetality here, just a vernal freshness with light floral undertones – very pleasant, optimistic; and perfect for placing by a slightly open window on a dresser in spring.
When I was a teenager, at the row of shops at the end of our road on Dovehouse Lane, there was a gift shop that sold an array of triple-milled soaps by Crabtree & Evelyn. It’s funny when you are younger and have managed to excitedly get a bottle or two of perfume for birthdays and Christmas and infatuate yourself with every aspect of its being from the bottle to the label to the box to the rapidly diminishing liquid inside (do you remember how precious each drop felt? Not the flagrant abandonment we have now; the saturated neglect, but a new melding of the scent and budding self.)
I felt exactly the same way about those soaps. I would go up to the shop quite frequently, to just fixate on and inhale their unsullied sanctity – each one in the collection presented neatly on a wooden shelf for the customers’ perusal (is there anything nicer than the rice paper that encloses a soap in a beautifully illustrated box?) Although I liked virtually every offering in the range, especially obsessed with the sandalwood, the rose, and the seashell jojoba, it was the lime and the avocado that I would save up my newspaper round money to buy; the former dark green and translucent and divine on a summer’s day, the lighter greened avocado not discernibly avocado-like but unique, utopian : deliciously fragrant and cleansing to the spirit.
Whatever its olfactory similarity to the vegetable or fruit, I was somehow inspired by those soaps as a room in a museum full of white Grecian statues. I love soap more than candles, the sheer enjoyment that it brings together with hot water – although smelling Diptyque’s Artichaut yesterdaya, which has a certain appeal for me despite its possibly being too mild-mannered, I found myself feeling a forlornness when thinking about all the original, former L’Artisan Parfumeur products in the black-curtained boutique on King’s Road back in the nineties which were just so much better, really special, the ultimate niche brand way back when, before they were taken over by conglomerates and became desaturized – and run of the mill.
The perfumes and candles in that shop were completely alive, bristling with an almost humorous natural energy and all the beautiful Jean LaPorte intricacies, not the serviceable flatness of now; there was also an incredibly concentrated candle called Feuilles Vertes – although my memory is possibly as blurry as the photo – but I remember that it was greenness itself, scenting the space around it without even an itch of a matchstick coming near. Diptyque’s new bougie parfumée doesn’t seem to have anywhere near the same vivid greenery or inherent presence as that one did, but it is still cheering and bright. Likeable. The presentation is good; and it is possible that I might end up finding myself buying one. Sometimes it is the small and simple pleasures.