Olene Eau de Toilette by Diptyque Review
Olene is a faint, delicate bunch of flowers in a colored shot glass being used as a vase, on a windowsill, or perhaps a piano. You can’t smell them unless you’re up quite close. They are one-dimensional but very pretty, innocent and white without being dull, slightly sweet without being overwhelming or cloying.
The mental image I have of flowers in a colored glass on a piano here is one Olene shares with Frederic Malle’s En Passant in my mind. It’s conjured by a certain delicate, refined, watery quality to the flowers. They’re both impressively realistic florals edged with green notes that make me think of real cut flowers in the springtime.
Though there’s less dimension here than in En Passant to my nose, this is a similar example of an uncomplicated floral surrounded by fresh green notes representing the flower stalks and water in which it stands.
The body of Olene is mostly pure jasmine, so much so that it brings me back to my first year of college when I wore straight jasmine oil to dance practice as perfume (I was strange).
There’s a touch of extra floral sweetness here, a singing golden dose of honeysuckle and perhaps a hint of weeping purple wisteria. It’s a lovely almost-honey-like golden-bronze-colored sweetness that isn’t too cloying but still provides such a delicious rush. It’s tempered, sparkling with sweet, innocent magic while still being a little bit shy.
It’s nothing like the cloying-honey-sweet osmanthus note in Amouage’s Journey Woman, for instance. The sweetness in Olene feels smaller, more precisely packaged, delicate and neat, dancing on the nose of the jasmine in Olene without ever overpowering it. Detecting it feels the same way as reveling in the sweetness in real honeysuckle or jasmine or perhaps even lily of the valley.
You know how the sweetness in a real flower never feels like it’s too much, it always feels perfect and natural and like you’ve earned it, an explosion of humming pleasure you want to keep reaching for over and over again? The floral sweetness in Olene is excellently dosed, and the effect is similar.
The most interesting note here, to me, is the elusive hint of narcissus, with its opulent springtime sadness and dusty pollen. These are embellishments, folded into a heart that is jasmine on jasmine in jasmine. The blending is solid and gives the impression of a single dynamic jasmine bloom of some special cultivar that’s a little sweeter and a little more springlike than others.
There is no real base to Olene to speak of, except perhaps the tiniest hint of green adding a further lifelike dimension to the jasmine. This is not an entire, dripping wet green stem or bundle of leaves that is integral to the big picture, the way it often is in clean-and-green Olivia Giacobetti creations like Diptyque’s Philosykos or Frederic Malle’s En Passant. Instead, this is the tiniest hint of green color in the head of the jasmine itself, a whispered suggestion without a strong presence or aquatic component.
At times, something in the hints of green seems almost like menthol hidden between the flowers, perhaps for added brightness and contrast in place of strong indoles. Something like sprigs of mint hidden among the white jasmine flowers.
This is not soapy in any way that a department store designer fragrance is soapy; it does not smell like a bathroom. Olene does, however, at times give the impression of a fine bar of hand soap in that it is perfectly clean and refined.
It’s kind of similar to the way the poignant clean green and citrus notes in Hermès’ Le Jardin de Monsieur Li make me think of a liquid dish soap from Trader Joe’s. There’s something about a certain type of very clean, dew-dropped green scent that inevitably can feel a little bit like liquid hand or dish soap to some, but it’s not an overwhelming impression the way some vintage florals feel overwhelmingly like bars of French-milled hand soap. Olene is clean in its pretty white flowers and green notes, and isn’t so overwhelmingly soapy as to feel artificial or cheap.
The animalic, heady side of the white floral indoles is left entirely unexplored: this is a neat and pretty white floral that carefully toes the line, but is still entirely itself, without any dilution or obligatory designer amber and musk. Olene is clean and utterly polite. There’s no filthy underbelly here. Even those words look so ugly and out of place in this review.
No, everything here is pretty and innocent, white and sweet and clean. It reminds me a little of the incredibly polite black locust blooms in Jo Malone’s Nectarine Blossom & Honey, although there’s much more interest and nuance to the floral accord here, especially with the speckles of sweet honeysuckle and moody, dusty narcissus.
Though Diptyque’s Oyedo and Olene have no notes in common, I do think of them as brother and sister scents in this way: they are both too-clean, too-neat, pretty but ephemeral bars of hand soap on a safe and traditional theme (bright orange citrus and white floral, respectively).
Both have a tiny hint of something green that feels odd and out of place, yet somehow simultaneously contributes to the soap vibe (as there is more than just fragrance in a real bar of soap). In Oyedo, this is the unsettling herbal touch of thyme, heavy and coarse like coffee grounds, while in Olene it is a green hint of something almost mentholic and minty hidden between the flowers.
Both fragrances are extraordinarily faint and ephemeral affairs, gone without a trace in some three hours.
Olene is a very pretty art piece. It’s not the most practical perfume if you’re looking for something that lasts all day. Nonetheless, nose Serge Kalouguine has composed something quite lovely here. It’s pared-back and minimal, but still unique, delicate, and interesting enough to turn heads.
I especially appreciate the touches of other flowers around the edges that round this out and make this more than just a jasmine scent. It feels like this is a single bloom of some new sort of flower, something that mostly feels like jasmine, but is a little sweeter, a little more melancholic, a little bit pollen-y, a little bit golden and a little bit purple.
Compared to En Passant, the effect of snapping green and cool aquatic notes here is minimal. The emphasis here is on the flowers themselves, not the vase or the water or the stalks. But they’re there, and it’s a very pleasant detail that helps fill in the whole picture and make this more than just a top-heavy floral scent.
As an aside, does anyone know why it is called Olene? I’m very curious and haven’t yet found an explanation online. Usually it seems like Diptyque scents have names that are obvious allusions to cultural landmarks (Oyedo) or easily translated foreign-language phrases (L’Ombre dans L’Eau, Philosykos, Eau Duelle, Eau Lente), but this one appears to be neither.
If anyone knows what this name means, I’d love to hear it. I ended up giving Olene to my mother, lover of delicate white florals, and she used it all up swiftly, enjoying its uncomplicated prettiness while laughing about the name because it’s the Ukrainian word for deer.
Nothing in here smells at all like a deer, of course.
(Though several Prin Lomros scents I just ordered myself to sample do have a lot to do with the actual smell of deer. One is Prin’s Mriga, from the Sanskrit word for deer, which is built entirely around a realistic synthetic deer musk. The other is Onthamara, which prominently features real deer musk. I’m incredibly excited to sample both and a handful of other Prin Lomros creations, so stay tuned!)
But in a way, that interpretation of the name does make sense. Olene is sweet and delicate like a deer — or, rather, one’s first impression of a deer in one’s yard, before they’ve eaten everything in your garden and intimidated your dog and wandered right up to your house every single day for years. This is like how it feels to see a bunch of tiny fawns for the first time, not how it feels to watch a giant buck glare at your pets and stomp its hoof insistently at them until they turn around and trot back to the house.
By the way, isn’t it sweet that the word “fawn” comes from an Old English word meaning glad? That’s why we say we fawn over things. So sweet. As is Olene.
Anyway. Olene is quiet, sweet, and lovely. Though it’s mostly made up of jasmine, this is a floral scent whose timbre feels more to me like innocent golden honeysuckle than a seductive sheaf of seductive jasmine flowers. A trace of green notes and menthol and a melancholy hint of dusty narcissus round out an innocent and sweet white floral scent reminiscent of real flowers and the lush tropical outdoors.
The marketing is accurate enough: Olene is, indeed, flowers without apology, and also without much of anything else. She is simple and her performance is weak, but she is quite pretty. If you enjoy jasmine (and white florals generally) and don’t mind light projection and short performance, give her a try.
Where to Find Olene Eau de Toilette by Diptyque
You can find samples and decants of Olene EdT at Scent Split.
Want more? You can find full bottles at StrawberryNet.
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