When I went to Italy to work as a teaching assistant on my gap year, I discovered just how far I could stretch a Lira. The only white wine of drinkable quality I could find within my measly budget was Orvieto Classico, which was roughly the equivalent of €2 back then. Thin, slightly metallic, but oddly quaffable, I found I could live with it.
Now, even though I am no longer a poor student, I wouldn’t be without it. My brother, who is an insufferable wine snob, loves to pick up a bottle of Orvieto Classico from my fridge, run his finger down it with disdain, and mutter, “Jesus, I can’t believe you’re still drinking this shite.”
It’s not shite. I am fiercely fond of it.
It’s not a memorable wine, true. But drinking Orvieto Classico is comforting in its familiarity. Pleasant background noise for when you don’t want anything too taxing. Like putting your car into cruise control on a long stretch of straight road.
Like Orvieto Classico, Volutes EDT by Diptyque is not particularly memorable or brilliant, but it sure goes down easy. Like a handful of other perfumes that I don’t think of as masterpieces but still find utterly, almost mind-numbingly pleasant and therefore very wearable – Spiritueuse Double Vanille, Bois d’Armenie, and more recently, Feve Delicieuse, for example – I manage to race through massive quantities of it. It was after my bath a few nights ago that I reached for my bottle of Volutes EDT and realized there was only about 5mls left in the bottle. I had drained 45mls of it in less than six weeks.
Laugh all you like – but in perfumista terms, that practically puts Volutes in the same category as a functional grooming product like a body spray or a liquid hand soap. How did it come to this?
Well, Volutes is mindlessly pretty. It requires absolutely no intellectual input on my part. With a wardrobe stuffed with challenging, amazing, difficult, tempestuous perfumes, Volutes stands out not because it “stands out” but rather because it doesn’t. It’s the battered leather jacket in your wardrobe that you just can’t bear to part with, and reach for over your fancier coats even though it’s falling to pieces. Love isn’t rational. It may not even be love – it may be simply a reflex.
I was thoroughly unimpressed the first time I tried Volutes – a pale, powdered honey and iris thing with a lingering whiff of blond cigarette rolling tobacco. I got nothing of the promised drama of the published notes, such as saffron, hay, and immortelle – hell, it wasn’t even smoky. I always go into a perfume named for or inspired by smoking with an expectation of, you know, smoke. But when I stopped looking for the sturm und drang in Volutes, I found myself appreciating it for its blurred prettiness.
Now, when I wear Volutes, I pick up these notes: a cool, starchy iris, warm honey, blond tobacco, a hint of rubbery leather from the saffron (only at the start), and some nebulous resins in the base. These notes all smell quite blurred and perfumey to me, in the same way that baby powder smells like rose, chamomile, and heliotrope all swirled together but never distinctly of themselves.
Volutes sits on the skin like a creamy balm at first, but as time goes on, dries to a texture like fine, powdered sugar. This is not a sweet scent, however. The iris exerts its influence here from top to bottom, reflected in that cold, vegetal starchiness. The tobacco, although not smoky, adds body to the iris and makes it slightly more “of this earth” than irises tend to be.
It is not exotic, but it is even-tempered. I wear buckets of it, carelessly sprayed around my person until it drips, like honey, from the tips of my fingers. I let it run in rivers down to my belly button. No matter how much I spray, Volutes remains this utterly pleasant, low key piece of background music to my day. It’s a fragrance on cruise control.
And you know what, I wear Volutes far more than I do my more artistically-accomplished perfumes. Maybe it’s true what my brother says and I am just a total Pleb. But sometimes, like with Orvieto Classico, you just have to go with what’s familiar and cozy because sometimes it would just kill you not to.