Full disclosure: I love Dior Homme Intense. It’s one of my favorite perfumes ever, not just my favorite masculine. So when I learned that Francois Demarchy, Dior’s in-house perfumer and the man behind Eau Sauvage Parfum (2012) and Fahrenheit Le Parfum (2014), was going to turn possibly the most beloved of Dior men’s fragrances into a pure parfum, I was both worried and excited.
On the one hand, Demarchy has met a gap in the men’s market for pure parfum versions of classic scents, and has done so competently and to general critical acclaim. On the other hand, when perfumers take on the task of working backwards and producing a pure parfum version of an original EDT or EDP (when it was traditionally the other way around), it must be as difficult as taking an orphaned baby, extracting it’s DNA, and extrapolating backwards to arrive at a picture of its mother that will seem convincing to everyone. It’s a journey that’s fraught with difficulties.
First impressions immediately after spraying: relief – the basic DNA of my beloved Dior Homme Intense is present and intact in the Parfum version. The first blast is dry, powdery iris and cacao – the same basic Dior Homme Intense accord that instantly spells out comfort, luxury, and class. There is plushness to it, but also a slight surface tension, like the pleasurable feeling of rubbing your hand back and forth over the suede covering of a couch, leaving an imprint of your fingers in the counter grain of the material.
However, immediately I can tell that this opening accord, however recognizable as it is, is far drier and more leathery than the original. It feels tougher and more masculine. Wearing it again with Dior Homme Intense on my other arm, I can tell that the difference is that leather accord. It is not a brutish leather a la Knize Ten or Serge Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque, a floral/barnyard-y leather like Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, or even a luxury car leather like Parfums d’Empire’s Cuir Ottoman. In fact, it is an accord so well folded into the backbone of the opening that it doesn’t immediately come across to your nose as ‘leather’, but merely registers as a tougher, more masculine material than the soft suede of the original Dior Homme Intense. In this regard, the leather in the Parfum brings the scent a bit closer to the original Dior Homme EDT, which also had a faint leather accent. But here, in the Parfum, the leather is deeper, and somehow oilier, smokier, and more balsamic.
After the opening, the Parfum diverges from the originals (both the EDT and the EDP) by morphing into a smokey, leathery oud accord. This phase, which lasts about an hour, strongly resembles the oud wood accord you also get in two of Dior’s other offerings (albeit in the pricier, more exclusive Dior Privee line), Oud Ispahan and Leather Oud. It is lightly animalic, but nowhere near as dirty as in the two Dior Privee offerings I just mentioned. Although this accord is probably synthetic, I really enjoy this type of smokey, leathery oud far more than the medicinal oud smell I get in some Montales. I have read that this type of oud accord is built using oud wood rather than the more common oil extracted from the wood. Either way, it is the same type of dry smokiness I get in Guerlain’s Songe d’Un Bois en Ete, and it feels solid and reassuringly masculine. Having said that, this detour away from the French feel of the original Dior Homme Intense into a far more oriental direction feels a bit jarring to me – it’s like having a conversation with someone in French and suddenly hear him break into perfect Arabic. It takes a while to adjust.
The Parfum takes yet another turn after this. It eventually drops the smokey oud and leather accord, and becomes softer, sweeter, and rosier. I don’t know if there is rose in here, but this section of the perfume certainly feels very rosy. It becomes creamy and sweet, effectively taking a turn back to the creamy cacao and suede feel of Dior Homme Intense again after having enjoyed its brief foray into Arabia.
Indeed, I feel that part of the magic of Dior Homme Parfum is the way it allows the basic DNA of the originals to flit in and out of the perfume, like a flickering TV screen – sometimes it is clearly Dior Homme EDT you are smelling (the first few minutes of dry iris and leather), sometimes it is completely absent (the Arabian oud part), and sometimes it flames back up as the ghost of Dior Homme Intense (the third movement, where it becomes sweeter and more balsamic). No wonder reports are divided on the sweetness of the Parfum – some people swear this is far drier than either of the originals, whereas others think it is very sweet. Personally, I think the sweetness level depends on which Dior Homme version the Parfum happens to be referencing at any given moment.
The drydown is where the big weaknesses of the Parfum lie. After the twists and turns of the first three to four hours, a rather basic drydown of dry, woody vanilla arrives and takes up the rest of the scent’s lifespan, easily another six to eight hours. That means that the interesting parts of the Parfum all play out over the course of a very short period of time (three to four hours) and then you are left with a nice but uninspiring drydown. I don’t pick up any sandalwood here – although I am sure it’s there – I just get a dry vanilla and woods combination that feels like the back end of many other designer perfumes.
However, on balance, I really like Dior Homme Parfum, and I think I will get great purchase out of my decant this winter. Wearing Dior Homme Intense on my other arm clarified the key differences for me – the Parfum is deeper, smokier, and drier, and DHI is sweeter, more bombastic, and lush. I would wear the Parfum in situations when I wanted to be taken seriously, in a professional context, because it is dry and sits close to the skin. Dior Homme Intense is a sexy almost-gourmand to wear out and about on the prowl. I like them both. There is room for both.