Eau Lente Eau de Toilette by Diptyque Review

Collage of Diptyque's Eau Lente and its notes, including cinnamon, opoponax, cloves, myrrh, vanilla, other spices, and resin.

On me, Eau Lente opens with a resinous clove bomb.

It has a strong room scent aura, reminding me of a cloyingly resin-heavy candle, or perhaps an odd room spray. It makes me think of the oddly overpowering cinnamon room spray in a certain craft store chain, with so much resin the spice feels completely artificial and too loud, except that instead of cinnamon, here it’s all clove.

Though it’s not for me, the clove note here is rich and decently realistic. It opens with that lovely minty aromatic edge that fresh cloves often have before expanding lazily into the world of dense brown spices. There’s a moderate sense of spicy sweetness, but there’s no sugar added to Eau Lente: that’s all coming from the mix of resins and warm spices.

A pile of dried brown cloves.

After a few minutes, the minty freshness of the clove fades away, and a more peppery phase kicks in. It’s a little like black pepper in texture, with some background resinous sweetness and that cinnamon-like powder sprinkled all around it.

Another few minutes and the peppery phase passes, and Eau Lente settles into a still-clove-heavy mix of muted warm spices.

What comes next is the spiced latte phase.

There’s nothing here that actually smells like coffee — but then, there are lots of coffee-based drinks out there these days that don’t taste at all like coffee, right? This is the generous helping of cream and spices on top of the latte, without any of the coffee underneath. It’s a rich, warm, cream spiced drink with something or other at its base — milk, chocolate milk, coffee, cocoa, tea, or something else entirely.

A golden-brown cup and saucer containing a bubbly medium-brown cappuccino topped with latte art of a heart-shaped flower.

How soon this develops and how rich it becomes seems highly dependent on your environment: temperature, humidity, skin chemistry, and so on. In the past, Eau Lente was only overwhelmingly cloying and smoggy on me for hours, until finally it became slightly gourmand in the drydown. Right now, in my hot and incredibly humid apartment, this phase emerged much more quickly than it had in the past, and with much more richness and mouth-watering sugar and milk.

There’s a dose of what feels like sweet vanilla in the background, mellowing the spice mix to a level that makes me think of a pumpkin spice latte or similar sweet-spice-flavored drink. It’s softer now, almost milky, sweetened by warm amber resins.

Although for the first hour it appears to simply be vanilla, later it becomes apparent that a strong balsam of Peru note drives this stage of Eau Lente. It ties the warm and spicy notes together with a heavy dose of sweet firewood smoke. This is a rather high-quality balsam of Peru note — much better than that in Shalimar, in my opinion. It’s more sweet than it is smoky, leaning into the pure white burnt-marshmallow sweetness of the note. Incredibly soft and almost buttery, it contributes much of Eau Lente’s milky smoothness, as well as a combination of fluffy sweetness and smoke I really can only describe as marshmallows cooked over a campfire.

A pile of large white soft marshmallow candies.

But that sugary warm spiced latte phase hasn’t always happened for me with Eau Lente. The scent seems highly temperamental, appearing either soft and warm or sickly-sweet and harsh depending on the day.

At times, this fragrance has only reminded me of some sort of spicy sanitary wipe, and, more prominently, of the sort of crystals-and-cards shop that might burn a candle like this. I got no cinnamon and nothing soft or warm, just noisy cloves and sweet myrrh. Cloying, smoky, simple, linear, straightforward.

Eau Lente develops this almost-gourmand facet in the midst of its room spray resins and spices. It becomes softer, more forgiving, a touch more ambery, sweet in a way reminiscent of some nondescript pumpkin spice aroma. This is partly the softening and development of the spicy accord, and partly the emergence of opoponax, that mysterious warm amber resin. It brings a significant sweetness with it that feels almost — but not quite — edible, still in line with the room spray theme but admittedly making my mouth water at times.

This phase is sweeter, easier to stomach, less of a clove candle affront to the nose, and its familiarity gets a little comforting as it hangs around. The softness comes as a sweet relief after the harsh first few hours of Eau Lente, but without this context it’s nothing particularly unique. Still, a scent doesn’t have to be unique to be pleasant, and this is a high-quality take on the hot-spiced-sweet-drink theme.

Just as it seemed that strong clove candle scent would last forever, the softening and fading keeps on until the vaguely spicy room-scent amber smells rather like the drydown of Guerlain’s Shalimar.

Botanical illustration of a vanilla flower, leaves, and bean.

This one, however, is a bit more nuanced and interesting; the balsam of Peru note is more well-rounded and realistic, and hints of the spices continue to come through the scent every once in a while. It develops more and more of that vanilla facet in its late stages, getting gentler and sweeter with every hour.

Perhaps this is where the cinnamon finally comes in, with mild nondescript spice accompanying the floating sweetness. The artificial feeling of warm-spice room sprays and resins and candles is retained in this phase, but it’s taken down from sticking your face in an overwhelming candle form to the level of any average room spray you might smell in a hotel or administrative building and enjoy with a sort of guilty pleasure despite its cloying artificial nature and lack of dimension.

The first time I wore it, I had expected Eau Lente to be light, considering Diptyque’s reputation and the volatility of many spice notes. I was surprised, however, to see it still going strong at 12 hours. The first 2-3 hours were spent in a world of overwhelming resinous cloves, while the rest of the time sprawled expansively through the gentler, lazier, hazier smoky-sweet room spray phase, until the scent was finally gone without a trace.

After I initially tried Eau Lente for the first time, I tried it again the next day to get my boyfriend’s opinion on the opening (since he liked the drydown on me last time I wore it) and I was overwhelmed by how loathsome this scent is for me personally. I’ve been tempted before, but this perfume became my first true scrubber. I wore it out to dinner, couldn’t stand it, and scrubbed it off as soon as we got home.

A yellow wax tea light candle with a single lit wick.

The adventure was successful, however, in that I realized what Eau Lente reminds me of: there is a shop in my college town that smells exactly like this. One of the oldest stores around, I can’t quite figure out how the place remains open, save that the owner likely bought the place decades ago and is living on some other source of funds.

It has a general boardwalk vibe, selling miscellaneous little odd things and also somehow nothing at all, with tons of graphic tees and tapestries lining every wall and hookahs stacked high on a shelf near the front, along with little boxed tchotchkes you just can’t figure out (“Is this a candle or a sex thing?”).

The place is claustrophobically packed, yet I’d be hard-pressed to name any one thing they sell. The aesthetic is very 70s, all rock bands and tie-dye and hookah smoke, complete with a bitter old shopkeeper complaining that these lazy teens spend too much time on the Internet to ever buy anything. There are at least five different kinds of molding carpet in the little space, not counting the tapestries. Ask him about the various wall hangings and he’ll regale you with tales of being accused of worshipping the devil because he sold Frank Zappa posters.

Eau Lente is a dead ringer for the smell of that place. Somehow, the mustiness, the dust, the mold, the smoke, the overwhelming spices and artificial room-spray-and-candles sweetness all come together in this Diptyque.

I think I’ve ruined the scent for my boyfriend by pointing this similarity out, but he had reacted to it mildly positively before. So there’s that.

A bundle of cinnamon sticks held together by twine and topped with an anise star.

Now, a year later, I’ve broken it out again. I have more of an appreciation for Eau Lente now. Perhaps my palate has expanded and matured, or perhaps the smell of that deeply uncomfortable moldy shop has sufficiently faded from my mind. It’s also possible that the clove note has faded in the vial just a little, getting softer, no longer sticking out like a sore thumb.

I can see how this (admittedly gorgeous and realistic) spice mix would be comforting to many, reminding them of Christmas and their favorite Starbucks drink. It still isn’t quite for me, but I can appreciate a well-crafted note, and can see how this could be immensely pleasurable to spice lovers with a higher clove tolerance.

Indeed, I must admit that I’m now kind of… enjoying sampling Eau Lente.

This tends to be a strong theme in my reviews lately. From Philosykos to Paper Passion to Eau Lente, I seem to be on a streak of re-examining perfumes I detested and finding that I kind of like them now. Why? I have no idea. Probably some combination of maturity and experience, different environments and perceptions, and the good ol’ mere exposure effect. But I’m not going to complain about it. Growth that makes more things pleasurable instead of obnoxious? Sounds good to me.

So yes, while the clove is still a little much, somehow, a year later, I’m finding more to love in Eau Lente. Somehow that mix of warm spices feels more mellow, more softly backlit by vanilla and resinous opoponax. It feels softer somehow, creamier, almost lactonic, like hot spiced chai with milk and sugar. The mix of sweet resins keeps bringing back that room-spray-like effect for me, and the clove is still front and center, but I kind of feel like I get it now.

A pile of brown opoponax gum resin.

I see the beauty of Eau Lente. This is a hot drink that warms you up and relaxes you before going to bed. It’s warm, it’s festive, it’s just a little gourmand. It’s an artful gymnastic show of everything clove can be: sharp, minty, peppery, smoky, warm, sweet. This is the place where warm pumpkin spice latte and resinous incense meet in a milky, sugary swirl punctuated by solemn suggestions of smoke.

Yes, I imagine Eau Lente would work much better in winter, when that spicy smog isn’t made even more potent by overwhelming stuffy heat. With space to expand in the crisp autumn air, I can see this being a pleasant sparkle of warmth, perhaps a fond seasonal reminder of Christmas.

A number of red-tipped incense sticks in a glass jar, with golden bokeh sparkles floating around it.

I’ll have to revisit Eau Lente in the winter and update this review. Ultimately, I don’t think this sort of scent is for me, but that does sound like a much more enjoyable context for it. The downside is that I expect cold to prolong the harsh and clove-heavy opening phase, preserving the note for as long as possible before making way for the others to mingle with it.

Eau Lente is dense and smoggy in a way that chokes me, but it very well could be cheerful or soothing to you. It’s richly spiced in a way that feels quite vintage, impressively weighty and heavy for a Diptyque Eau de Toilette. This does make sense, since Diptyque released Eau Lente in 1986, and skilled noses Desmond Knox-Leet and Serge Kalouguine really infused this one with the rich spicy decadence of the 80s.

It’s quite possible that, though I find this perfume cloying and oppressive now, someday I’ll come back and appreciate something in it more.

This might be good layered with a fruity scent, something like a gourmand-leaning apple for that spiced apple cider effect.

Several slices of a cut-open orange.

Or maybe with citrus: when I sampled Eau Lente again today there was a dusting of clementine juices left on my hands, and the combination of sparkling orange citrus and clove was delightful. It reminded me of elementary school crafts around the winter holidays, poking handfuls of dried cloves into oranges and tying them up with translucent green ribbons.

Eau Lente is not for me, but it is rich and well-crafted and a great choice for a lover of cloves. Maybe you’re looking for something warm for the winter months that cheers you up and reminds you of the holiday season.

A piece of amber-colored dried and fossilized resin.

Maybe you love incredibly dense, warm spicy accords, or are looking for a layering scent to warm up a fruity perfume. Maybe you run a small tchotchke shop where no one ever buys anything as a black-and-white photograph of Frank Zappa stares you down, day in and day out.

Or maybe you’re just a clove fanatic. Whatever it is, if you are fond of cloves, give Eau Lente a shot. It’s a masterfully-blended scent that surrounds and supports a high-quality, realistic clove note with minimal sweet and spiced flourishes. If you want a beautiful warm spicy scent and are confident you can tolerate a heavy dose of pure clove oil, don’t miss this one. This just might be the rich, vintage-y spiced scent of your dreams.

Clear oval bottle with white illustrated label filled with pale yellow liquid Eau Lente Eau de Toilette Diptyque.

Where to Find Eau Lente Eau de Toilette by Diptyque

You can find samples, decants, and full bottles of Eau Lente EdT at Scent Split.

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