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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.