Sigh sigh sigh. There are several springboards from which I could leap into my review of Dior's new Sauvage (composed by in-house perfumer, François Demachy), but despite my best efforts to remain upbeat, none of them would avoid falling into despondency. I could start with the scent's advertising imagery and take my lead from the fact that, as Persolaise Junior #2 pointed out, Johnny Depp's facial expression suggests that something rather nasty has just wafted past his nose. I could bemoan the apparent lack of original ideas at the house of Dior: not only does this creation come in a bottle already used for the brand's Collection Privée, but its name is a depressing and transparent attempt to ride on (and therefore dilute?) the status of one of the most successful masculines of all time (the one that's so well-known, you don't need me to tell you what it's called). I could also argue that Sauvage is little more than Dior's version of Bleu De Chanel, right down to the hue of its flacon. But instead I think I'm going to focus on a subject which is often mentioned in scent-speak, but rarely given serious attention: bergamot.
Any of you who have ever sniffed genuine bergamot essential oil (even the modern, bergapten-free variety) will know that it's a fascinating material. Its odour profile binds several seemingly contradictory facets. On the one hand, it is without doubt the product of a citrus fruit: lemony, biting and refreshing. On the other, it is sweet, herbal, peppery, woody and suave. It evokes salty, marine vistas as easily as conjuring images of Italian orchards reclining beneath the final rays of a sunset. It can appear both straightforward and greedily complex. In short, it is a precious substance, worthy of respect from all those who use it. And that's why it's so galling when a perfume claiming to contain a substantial helping of the stuff fails to display any of the characteristics that make it special and compelling.
The publicity material for Sauvage would have us believe that it features "an overdose of freshness ... the invigorating top note of a peppery bergamot". Well, sorry, but to my olfactory bulb, all that comes across is ersatz citrus, watered down, wan and almost entirely lacking in Mediterranean verve. Yes, everything would appear to be in the right place - the woodiness, the herbs, the lemon edge - but sniff closer and you realise that you're trying to suck the air out of a vacuum. There's no soul here, only a bid for the reassuring comfort of the mundane. And in a sense, that's the most disappointing aspect of this release. It isn't terrible. It isn't terrible at all. It's just very safe, very predictable and very monochromatic, from generic-bracing top notes to undemanding ambery-musk drydown. Sauvage is the morning commute on the train. It is the stop-off at the petrol station before heading to the office. It is the gym. It is the lunchtime trip to the bank. It is the easy-listening music bleeding through the speakers at 5 pm. It is so much less than some of us had hoped for. But it is probably just what we should have expected. And I have little doubt that Dior will sell more bottles of it than there are leaves on all the bergamot trees in Calabria.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Christian Dior in 2015.]
- For my thoughts on a much more enjoyable new release from Dior, check back in a few hours.
- You may be interested in this excerpt from the press release for Sauvage, in which Dior explain the thinking behind the choice of the scent's name. Make of it what you will.
Because we like it. It's as simple as that. Because it's a snappy name with a nice ring to it. A compelling name. A Dior name.
A brother to Eau Sauvage?
No, not even a cousin. It's a brand new 'Sauvage'. The next generation of Sauvage that plays with the history of the House. Borrowing from its elder a word with strong resonance at Dior. And a nice dose of citrus too. One that writes itself a new, contemporary destiny. Eau Sauvage is a timeless classic, an undeniable token of good taste. The new Sauvage is immediate and powerful, like a manifesto of freedom."