Diptyque Benjoin Boheme

"Light & Color, the morning after the deluge," by J.M.W. Turner via Pinterest.

“Light & Color, the morning after the deluge,” by J.M.W. Turner via Pinterest.

Benjoin Boheme, the latest fragrance from Diptyque, calls to mind a Turner landscape painted in a palette of nut-browns, gold, cream, and silver, then edged in smoky shadows. The light is so soft and warm, it seems to ripple out from the canvas to envelop you with soothing, gentle comfort. The perfectly placed shadows merely underscore the warmth, the glowing cloud that invites you to dive in, to let yourself be enveloped, and to just relax. Diptyque is not a brand that does much for me as a general rule, but Benjoin Boheme makes me look at them in a new light. Colour me impressed.

Source: Diptyqueparis.com

Source: Diptyqueparis.com

Benjoin Boheme is an eau de parfum that was released in late September as part of La Collection 34. It generally seems to be exclusive to Diptyque’s boutiques and websites, though a few department stores in Europe carry it. The company describes the fragrance and its notes as follows:

– Laotian benjamin, angelica seed, sandalwood, styrax and patchouli –

Collection 34 welcomes a trio of eau de parfums, amazing compositions in special bottles. Unique and irresistible, they will whisper a thousand stories on the skin.

Benjoin Bohème is an elegant balm. Accompanied by angelica seeds, sandalwood, styrax and patchouli, this Laotian ingredient becomes much less indiscreet. It will whisper a thousand stories on the skin.

Turner, "The Burning of the Houses of the Parliament," 1835, via studyblue.com

Turner, “The Burning of the Houses of the Parliament,” 1835, via studyblue.com

Benjoin Boheme opens on my skin with a tableau that is cool and warm, silvery and ambered, sweet and smoky, spicy and nutty. It’s like plunging into a pool where the water gleams gold and soft nut-brown from ambered benzoin resin, with ripples that are red-brown from spicy patchouli that bears nuances of wood, smoke, and booze. The brown palette is streaked with sandalwood cream before dark shadows fall over the mix, the smoky voice of styrax calling out with a leathery undertone.

Source: hdwpics.com

Source: hdwpics.com

Hovering over all this like a haze is what I would swear is a mix of myrrh and sweet myrrh, and I think they’re responsible for the surprising silvery coolness that weaves in and out of the warm notes for much of Benjoin Boheme’s lifetime. They appear every time I’ve worn the fragrance, wafting the clear, nutty aroma of sweet myrrh layered with a subtle touch of myrrh right from the first sniff. Yet, in the early hours, the resins never bear the soapy, dusty, or woody aspects that are so common in liturgical High Mass fragrances. This is simply a quiet coolness juxtaposed next to the many waves of ambered benzoin warmth, and I find it fascinating.

What I don’t detect is the angelica. There is none of the plant’s green, bitter, herbal, or candied powderiness, not individually nor some combination thereof. Instead, the resins in Benjoin Boheme are accompanied primarily by smoke, wood, spice, and sweetness from both the patchouli and sandalwood. A pinch of cinnamon (from the benzoin) is sprinkled on top, while a creamy plushness runs through the base.

Source: youtube.com

Source: youtube.com

It’s a bouquet that is seamless in a variety of ways. Benjoin Boheme never feels like a stuffy scent and it’s far from dense or opaque in weight, but there is a concrete, solid fluffiness that goes far beyond “airy” to verge on something heavier and more enveloping. At the same time, there is a pitch-perfect balance between the golden ambered warmth and the other elements in the early hours. The fragrance is not too sweet and never too smoky. And all its parts are seamlessly blended as well. You can detect almost all the individual notes in their own right, but they ripple out like soft waves one after another so quickly and smoothly that they created a rounded whole.

Still, the part that draws me in again and again is the interplay between the warm and colder notes. Call me crazy, but it felt as though the parts of my arm where I applied the fragrance were almost cool to the touch during the first hour. Yet, at the same time, the olfactory bouquet itself is filled with warmth.

Photo: Hawkea. Source: hawkea.blogspot.com

Photo: Hawkea. Source: hawkea.blogspot.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

Benjoin Boheme is a soliflore, a fragrance devoted to highlighting a single note, so it’s largely a linear scent without a lot of twists and turns. For the first 3 hours, it changes only in its nuances. After an hour, the fragrance becomes much sweeter, smokier, and spicier. The benzoin wafts large puffs of cinnamon, while the styrax sends up plumes of smoke up top and a subtle, resinous leatheriness down below. The coolness also ends at the end of the first hour and, like a dam lifting, a flood of syrupy sweetness ensues. It’s too sweet for my tastes when I smell my arm up close, though it’s a little better from a distance.

"Caramel" by Matt Spinella at Saatchi Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

“Caramel” by Matt Spinella at Saatchi Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Then, as the third hour draws to a close, Benjoin Boheme changes. The benzoin finally grows less sweet but, more importantly, the myrrh bursts forth on center stage, sending a wave of soapiness over the other notes. Yet, it also wafts more naturalistic, pure cleanness that’s a bit hard to describe, in addition to an actual, real incense note rather than mere resinous smoke and darkness from the styrax. The latter grows weaker; the patchouli even weaker still; but the sandalwood’s creaminess grows stronger. The end result is an incense-flecked fragrance that feels soapy, golden, and soft in a way that practically verges on the fluffy. If it weren’t for the soapiness and the earlier degree of sweetness, I probably would have have bought a bottle of Benjoin Boheme for myself. (Well, if small sizes were offered, but more on that later.)

Source: abstract.desktopnexus.com

Source: abstract.desktopnexus.com

By the start of the 8th hour, Benjoin Boheme is primarily a golden but clean resinous warmth. The myrrh’s incense and soapiness have faded away, leaving the sweet myrrh intertwined with the titular note. Streaks of styrax smokiness and spiciness remain, but they’re very muted and subtle. For the most part, Benjoin is mostly just golden softness that is clean and cozy. I would compare it to a really fluffy, warm towel that’s been taken straight from the dryer and that still bears a “just washed” cleanness that hints at soap, but Benjoin Boheme is a bit better than that. It’s also got the silky skin feel of a really lovely Angora or cashmere sweater.

Source: pt.dreamstime.com

Source: pt.dreamstime.com

In its final hours, Benjoin Boheme merely grows lighter, softer, and cleaner. It felt like it was about to die in the middle of the 9th hour, but the scent lingers on as a gauzy wisp. Now, it’s mostly a mix of myrrh and the nuttier side of sweet myrrh. The benzoin gives them both warmth, but also ensures that the incense resins cool, dusty, church-y sides are avoided. Eventually, Benjoin Boheme turns into nothing more than fuzzy, warm cleanness with a hint of nutty sweet myrrh resin in the background. It’s clean in such a natural, appealing way that I kept thinking, “this is how ‘clean’ should be done. Not with that revolting white musk.” I don’t know who Diptyque used as the perfumer, but I really commend them. I wish more brands employed this sort of fluffy, natural “clean.” To paraphrase an expression in the beauty world, it’s “like my skin but better.”

Benjoin Boheme had good longevity, soft projection, and strong to moderate sillage. Using several generous smears equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, the fragrance opened with 3 inches of projection and about 6-7 inches of sillage. After 90 minutes, the projection was about an inch from the skin, but the scent trail was still noticeable from about 5 inches away. It took 6.75 hours for Benjoin Boheme to become a skin scent, but it was easy to detect up close without effort until the middle of the 8th hour. All in all, the fragrance consistently lasted 11-12 hours.

"Everything Burns" by Andy Gray on Flickr. (Direct website link embedded within.)

“Everything Burns” by Andy Gray on Flickr. (Direct website link embedded within.)

I haven’t found much discussion on Benjoin Boheme to share with you. The fragrance has no Fragrantica page at the time of this review, but you can check their general Diptyque listing later to see if it’s been added. On Basenotes, a discussion thread has one description of Benjoin Boheme and it’s very positive. “Hedonist 222” writes:

Divine resins. [¶] Like being enveloped in a warm hug.

The benzoin note is the same as in 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. But over here it’s in it’s full form. No citrus notes nor florals to lighten it.

Benjoin Boheme’s actual Basenotes entry page has one review there at this time. “Nairn” writes

Benzoin resin via Diptyque at static.diptyqueparis.com

Benzoin resin via Diptyque at static.diptyqueparis.com

Aromatic resins, [¶] woody leathery notes, [¶] initially warm but later has more dulcet tones of sandalwood (real or otherwise?),

gives impression of having amber-ingredients in it (but nah…),
resolve [sic-resin?] is a fragrant woody residue.

A solid presentation with quality ingredients, a beautifully crackled glass bottle (do ignore the plastic cap!) and the trademark minimalist Diptyque packaging.

Speaking of that packaging, I don’t normally comment on bottles but I love the look of the glass here. Based solely on the photo, it reminds me of the way the old Opium bottles used to be. However, something quite different seems to have been done here. According to the site, Pretty Connected, the “glass is plunged into ice water so the thermal shock starts to crack the bottle. The stoppers, made from malachite that have been recycled and processed with precious metals resemble a wall of the boutique at 34 boulevard Saint-Germain.”

I obviously loved some parts of Benjoin Boheme quite a bit. Every time I tried it, the opening bouquet in the first hour made me want a bottle, and I probably would have succumbed were the second hour not so sweet and the third not so soapy. If Benjoin Boheme came in smaller sizes, I might well have given in despite all that anyway, but it’s offered only in a 100 ml bottle. I’ll spare you my lament about companies not offering a variety of bottle sizes for perfumistas who already have more fragrance than they’ll ever finish in a single lifetime (or two), but I’m one of them so I can withstand the appeal of Benjoin Boheme’s opening and finishing stages. I know others don’t mind large sizes, though.

If you love “cozy comfort” scents and smoky, resinous ambers with a woody undertone, then I strongly recommend giving Benjoin Boheme a test. However, if you hate spicy patchouli or soapy cleanness, you might struggle during some of the stages, even if neither element is ultimately all that encompassing or long-lasting. If you prefer your amber to be diaphanous and sheer, Benjoin Boheme might feel too heavy. For hardcore amber and resin lovers, though, I think it’s a must-try.

Cost & Availability: Benjoin Boheme is an eau de parfum that only comes in a 100 ml size for $200, €150 or £130. It is listed as a “Boutique Exclusive,” so it seems to be limited to Diptyque stores and websites (U.S., U.K., France, and the EU), though there are some department stores in Europe which carry the scent. Diptyque offers free shipping with purchase on all its websites. In the U.S., a search of Nordstrom and Saks turned up nothing, so you might have to go to the brand’s own shops to sniff it. Diptyque has stores from N. America to Europe, Russia, India, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. You can use their Store Locator guide to find one near you. Outside the U.S.: In the U.K., Benjoin Boheme is available at Liberty London. In Paris, Le Bon Marché has it. Samples: Surrender to Chance has Benjoin Boheme starting at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial. They ship worldwide.

14 thoughts on “Diptyque Benjoin Boheme

  1. I just checked my email and saw that you had posted this review. I thought “Diptyque”?

    I was surprised after reading this, though, thinking it sounds like something I may like, though I agree about the bottle sizing issue. So many times I see something I would have bought if it came in a smaller size, 30ml or even 15ml would be better. You’re right about the bottle resembling older Opium bottles. I don’t throw my empty bottles away anymore like I did; I kind of wish I saved all of the ones that I threw out.

    Speaking of Turner- have you seen Mr. Turner with Timothy Spall? 🙂

    • Heh, yeah, Diptyque. I reviewed one of them before, but I’ve generally found the line to be too thin, too synthetic, too watery, too light and/or too clean/fresh for my tastes. This one came as quite a surprise as a result. The fact that it’s an eau de parfum helps, but it’s also well done.

      As for the film, Mr. Turner, I did see it. I enjoyed it, but I wish they had focused a bit more on the paintings. Still, Timothy Spall acted very well, and Turner’s life was interesting as a whole.

  2. I second the first comment, my first thought was “Diptyque? Really?”
    But this sounds absolutely lovely, minus the soap.
    Amber? Benjoin? Myrrh? Count me in! I’ll try to take a sniff and will report back.

  3. I’m glad you found it interesting Kafka as its one I’m eager to try! I’m also with you on the fact that after all these years, what drew me to them in a different way is a recent release, Oud Palao in my case. Have a lovely Sunday! xx

    • I’ve heard nice things about Oud Palao, and I’m looking forward to trying it. Have a great Sunday, too, my dear.

  4. Good Morning. Home from work at 3 A.m. Up at 7 to make breakfast for visitors from out of town. I’m saving a full read of this review as my reward when I am done. Will you be reviewing Oud Palao?

    • That’s a tough schedule, Rich. Ouch. As for Oud Palao, I should hopefully be getting a sample this week, along with the other 2 releases in the 34 Collection.

  5. I, too, was surprised to see you’d reviewed a Diptyque. Now I am intrigued! I’d noticed that they’d put out some interesting sounding fragrances, but figured they were as pallid as all the Diptyques I’ve tried. And now I read that’s it’s not so! Must get a sample. Hope you review the Oud Palao, too.

    Thanks, Kafka! I was raving about your blog to a friend last night. You’ll have a new reader soon (or she could be reading this right now)!

    • Heh, everyone’s so shocked at my covering Diptyque. That’s cracking me up. But you’re all right in noting that it’s not exactly a brand that’s up my alley. Like you, I’ve found them to be “pallid.” Such a great word for so many of them. For my tastes, they are definitely too pale, thin, clean/fresh/crisp/citrusy, synthetic, and/or insipidly light. I ordered a sample of this one solely because it was an EDP (rather than an EDT) and I like benzoin resins, but my expectations were certainly on the low side. One of the things that surprised me was that it didn’t smell synthetic and it was so nicely balanced, in addition to just plain smelling good. As for Oud Palao, I hope to get a sample in 3-4 days time, along with the cumin/rose/saffron one (Opone) and the orange/spice/amber one. The latter contains Ambroxide, so my I’m a little concerned. And I hope the rose one isn’t a stereotypical, generic saffron rose because that’s been done a thousand times before.

      BTW, thank you for being so kind as to recommend the blog to one of your friends, and even more so for “raving” about it. I’m very touched, and I send you a hug, my dear.

      • Oh, goodness – you don’t realize you’re “rave-ably good” yet?! Yes, you are. Hugs back!

        And looking forward to all those reviews. En bref or not.

  6. I sniffed this one in a Diptyque boutique as I’m drawn to anything with the word “boheme” in it and was surprised at how much I loved it. Weeks later, I was still thinking about it which, to me, is a sign of a winner. Usually I hate frags with patchouli but this one was so….creamy. Yesterday I took the plunge and ordered a full bottle. I can definitely see this one getting a lot of love, particularly as “Fall is Coming”. Fantastic blog. Thank you for all the effort you put into it.

    • Hi, I had the same experience with Benjoin Boheme. After going through a 2 ml sample I couldn’t stop thinking how good and enjoyable it was to wear, not just for myself, but I felt it was a very attractive attention getter around people, a nice added bonus.
      This will be my most exquisite fragrance for Fall and Winter.

      Awesome review here of Benjoin, I agree. Enjoy it.

  7. Beautiful review of Benjoin Boheme.
    I enjoyed a sample, and called a boutique in Brooklyn to order a bottle.
    I love how you painted a subjective picture to describe the warmth and beauty of the juxtaposed contrasts.
    Many great Amber’s are stuffy like TF Amber Absolue, or Lutens Ambre Sultan, both great. But there was something about Benjoin that makes it more attractive and supreemly wearable, it terms of a compliment getter.
    I loved the nutty warm Benzoin, and the Angelica seed may give it a wet lush greeness; the coolness you aluded to.

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