In the mid-aughts, I was enamored of Votivo’s Red Currant candle. I used to stroke my fingertip across its waxy surface and smear it behind my ears, trying to pick up the scent for personal use. (This method is not very effective, not to mention that candle-safe fragrance components are not necessarily skin-safe.) Red currant perfumes were not in abundance at the time, but when I finally got around to trying Diptyque’s L’Ombre dans L’Eau (which translates to “Shadow in the Water”), I thought I had found the perfume equivalent of that candle.
I sort of did. I just didn’t give it enough time.
The currant note (actually black currant in the perfume) smells remarkably similar to the candle, but it’s not the whole story with this fragrance. Unfortunately, I bought the solid of L’Ombre dans L’Eau right after sniffing both solid and liquid at a perfume shop, and wasn’t aware of how the fragrance would evolve until I got it home and applied it. It’s still lovely overall, but at the time, I was somewhat disappointed when it didn’t prove to be the currant aroma of my dreams. Moral of the story: fragrances should always be tested on skin and maybe walked around with for a few hours before purchase.
However, that was nine years ago, and my tastes have shifted with age and experience. I no longer want to smell like that red currant candle, and I’ve come to appreciate L’Ombre dans L’Eau for what it is. The fragrance has become a travel staple for me, thanks to its durable metal compact and elegant aroma that suits both fancy dinners out and afternoons spent haggling at a flea market. It’s one of the highest-quality solids I’ve encountered and a worthy addition to your collection if you like the scent.
Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau Solid Perfume Review
Size: 0.14 oz./4.05 g (the version available today appears to be a bit smaller, at 3.06 g).
Packaging: A heavy metal compact coated in shiny black lacquer, with the Diptyque logo and the address of the Paris boutique in relief. The compact came with a small velvet pouch, in a black and white cardboard box that is recyclable. It’s a shame Diptyque doesn’t sell solid refills, as the compact is very “heavy-duty” and would otherwise be reusable.
Base: Triticum vulgare (wheat) starch, isononyl isononanoate, ceresin, silica, synthetic wax, hydrogenated microcrystalline wax.
Color and Texture: An off-white, creamy solid that spreads easily on skin.
Natural perfume or mixed media: Mixed media.
Fragrance description and notes: From the official Diptyque website (description of the liquid, which was more detailed than the solid): “Telling the story of daydreams, a calm river, a summer slumber under a weeping willow… The combined scent of roses and blackcurrant berries in the palm of the hand: the herbaceous, acidulated accents of blackcurrant leaves and buds, and the floral intensity of rose. A nature-filled moment to savour.”
Longevity: Excellent, at seven to eight hours or more. This one usually endures a full workday on my chest and the backs of my wrists.
Sillage: Also excellent, and when new, it was almost on par with the liquid fragrance. My solid is nine years old and has faded a bit, but the sillage is still very strong for the first two hours, and still noticeable at half-an-arm’s-length for the next two-three hours after that.
The experience: It amazes me that this one came out in 1983. I was in middle school then and can recall the perfumes and colognes from that time, which were nothing like this. It still feels remarkably modern today, when fruity-floral fragrances are in abundance.
This is possibly the best performing solid in my collection. Or at least it was when it was new, and it still does a damn good job despite its age. Once I recovered from my initial disappointment that this is primarily a rosy green fragrance, rather than a currant fragrance, I was able to enjoy the full beauty of L’Ombre dans L’Eau.
Aspects that people love or hate in the liquid version (tomato, peach, ambergris) are not present in the solid, for better or worse. I’ll argue for better. The black currant note dominates the opening, but it becomes a fresh, frosty rose with a few greens and just a hint of that black currant within 30 minutes. The solid really doesn’t evolve much from there, but it’s such a beautiful blend by this point that I’m fine with its limited development. If you like how this one smells one hour after application, you get to enjoy exactly that aroma for the next few hours with the solid perfume. The scent gets softer but does not change as it slowly fades from my skin.
I don’t dislike rose, but it’s not a note I reach for very often. When I did my big purge a little while ago, only two rose-forward fragrances made the cut, and this is one of them. Its rosy-but-unique spin on the classic rose perfume ensured its place in my collection. The fragrance’s versatility and high quality, combined with that sturdy metal compact, have also made L’Ombre dans L’Eau my most-traveled fragrance. It’s seen ten cities and four countries to date, and I look forward to putting another stamp in its passport when travel becomes possible again.
Where to buy: Online, from the official Diptyque webiste; at local Diptyque boutiques around the world; major department stores in the United States, including Nordstrom; many online beauty/fragrance etailers; Ebay.
All photos by me.