Roja Dove Diaghilev (The Imperial Collection)

A perfume with the feel of the past, concentrated as if distilled to its richest essence through the ravages of time, and brought back to life with a price tag from the future.

Source: Paris Gallery, UAE.

Source: Paris Gallery, UAE.

It’s hard to know where to begin in discussing Diaghilev, a 2013 release from the famous Roja Dove. The perfume has a history beyond just the ballet legend whose name it bears, a history that starts at an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in 2010, and indirectly goes back much further still to a Guerlain fragrance with which it shares enormous similarities for a good portion of its opening hours. Plus, Diaghilev has a huge buzz about it, and not solely because of the Roja Dove name, as you will soon see. Perhaps the real reason why I find it so hard to know where to begin is because I’m simply not moved by Diaghilev. No matter how many times I try it, I recognise its quality on an intellectual level, but it does absolutely nothing for me emotionally. From the first time I tried it last year in Paris, to repeated tests now… my emotions are always at a firm distance. 

Diaghilev is a pure parfum or extrait that was inspired by Serge or Sergei Diaghilev, the famous early 20th century ballet impresario who founded the legendary Ballets Russes. On his personal Roja Parfums website, Roja Dove describes the perfume and its notes as follows:

“Decadent Intoxicating Sophistication”

WARM, DRY, SWEET, FRUITY, SPICY, SOFT, & VERY SENSUAL

“I am immensely proud of this work. I love its rich opulence, its complexity and depth, volume, and sensuality. I was inspired by Diaghilev, one of the greatest creative forces of the twentieth century, who changed the world and totally re-wrote the rules – this creation is for exactly that type of person”. Roja Dove

Source: lth-hotels.com

Source: lth-hotels.com

INGREDIENTS
TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tarragon
HEART: Blackcurrant Buds, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Peach, Rose, Tuberose, Violet, Ylang Ylang
BASE: Ambrette, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Civet, Clove, Cumin, Guaiacwood, Labdanum, Leather, Musk, Nutmeg, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Peru Balsam, Sandalwood, Styrax, Vanilla, Vetiver.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Diaghilev opens on my skin with a flood of oakmoss on the most beautiful, animalic, castoreum-like base. The base is truly spectacular, especially in the opening 20 minutes. It’s like beautifully darkened, oiled leather with velvety, musky, dirty, and skanky undertones. There is no castoreum listed in Diaghilev, but it really smells like it to my nose. The raunchiness is kept in perfect balance; a touch sweet, urinous, and earthy all at once. It is not feral or fecal, but, rather, akin to the most gentlemanly dirtiness around. The musk is delicately dusted with earthy, dry, cumin, and infused with the sweetened, “fuzzy, warmed skin” characteristics of ambrette seeds (musk mallow).

"Novemthree" by Olaf Marshall. Source: vitaignescorpuslignum.blogspot.com

“Novemthree” by Olaf Marshall. Source: vitaignescorpuslignum.blogspot.com

The overall bouquet is a simply perfect base for the vista of green that lies atop it. There is the carpet of oakmoss that is dense, pungent, lightly fusty, vaguely oily and mushroomy, and wholly amazing in its viscosity. The greenness is underscored by the small bits of earthy vetiver, which dance at the edges next to an extremely bitter lime peel. I don’t know quite how Roja Dove has replicated the feel of vintage, real oakmoss so well, but he’s done it in spades with something that feels like juices from the past that have been reduced down to a darkened thickness.

Source: wallpaperuser.com

Source: wallpaperuser.com

In less than a few minutes, the colours change. A bright yellow arrives to dapple the mossy forest floor, followed by massive dabs of orange. The first is the bergamot, the second is the peach. The freshness of the former is a muted touch, while the heavy juices of the latter are quite noticeable on my skin indeed. The ripened fruit combines with the cumin to add to the fleshiness underlying Diaghilev, creating the image of musky, heated flesh that merely happens to be lying on a well-oiled leather couch made from castoreum in the midst of an oakmoss forest.

Jubilation 25. Photo: Basenotes.

Jubilation 25. Photo: Basenotes.

It’s all very lovely, and all massively familiar. This is Mitsouko parfum, in vintage form, reduced to the level of an attar in density, and thoroughly infused with Amouage‘s cumin-flecked Jubilation 25 (Women). Every minute of Diaghilev’s opening two hours on my skin feels like Mitsouko drenched with Jubilation, right down to the light dance of the very well-blended florals. At this point, Diaghilev’s florals are an abstract, seamless blur that are hard to pull apart, though the jasmine stands out the most. Again, like Jubilation. (And later, it is the ylang-ylang, which is again like Jubilation.) There is even a light flickering fizziness of something nebulous like aldehydes, the way I would experienced with old Mitsouko. By the way, if we’re talking about echoes of famous perfumes, there is also a fleeting, tiny kinship to the post-1989, cumin-y, vintage version of Femme by Rochas as well, though Diaghilev is darker, drier, greener, more leathered, and less fruited.

Most of those differences can be chalked up to Diaghilev’s substantially concentrated Extrait formulation. It is certainly explains why Diaghilev’s oakmoss is much more dense than it is in Jubilation 25. And I’m sure the skanky bits in the Amouage perfume would feel heavily leathered and resinous as well, if the perfume had been amped up by a 1000 to an extrait level the way Diaghilev has been.

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

That said, I loved the opening 20 minutes of Diaghilev. The perfectly calibrated degree of cumin-y, skanky, leathered, castoreum-like velvetiness that rises up to bite you on the nose is glorious. And it’s so wonderful next to the dark oiliness of the heavy oakmoss, the earthy vetiver, and the bitter lime. The perfume has a real, substantial kick to it that makes it stand out at that point.

Unfortunately, the elegant meow of animalic bitchiness soon turns much more well-mannered, sedate and restrained in nature, as the dirty accords sink into the base. You can still detect them, quite easily if you sniff up close, but they blend into the overall blur of greenness that is dominated primarily by the dark, slightly fusty oakmoss with its peachy undertones. For me, by muffling the skanky whiffs, Roja Dove has de-fanged Diaghilev of its more modern, interesting touches, and moved the perfume squarely back a century to the well-bred, distant past.

Regardless, Diaghilev is a very nice, opulent, luxurious perfume in its opening stage. It is a perfectly seamless, extremely dense blend of green chypre notes with thick oakmoss, lime, bergamot, cumin, peach, amorphous florals, and touches of vetiver atop an oily castoreum-like, leathered, skanky base. It is monumentally heavy in feel at this point, as well, much to my great enthusiasm. Two big smears feel like the equivalent of 6 very large sprays of the most potent eau de parfum around.

Yet, to my surprise, the heavy Diaghilev wafts only 2-3 inches above the skin even in its opening. Spraying improved matters, but only moderately, by maybe another 2 inch at most. A friend and reader of the blog, “Tim,” was kind enough to send me a small spray atomizer of Diaghilev which I used in my 3rd test of the perfume, and there was no monumental increase in projection that I detected. The one difference is that spraying brought out the rose note after an hour, though it was still muted and muffled in that perfectly seamless blend of what really just seems like abstract “florals” from afar.

Source: 10wallpaper.com

Source: 10wallpaper.com

45 minutes into its development, Diaghilev drops in sillage, and also turns much softer in feel. 90 minutes in, the perfume loses even more of its body, heft and density. It’s primarily an oakmoss scent with sharp lime, bergamot, amorphous florals, peach, atop a velvety dark base just lightly flecked with cumin. Part of the problem in trying to dissect Diaghilev is that it’s so perfectly melded that it is really hard to separate out its tiny details at times. You get the plethora of greenness and the chypre elements up front, but many of the other notes lurk behind, peeking out in the most polite manner. And I’m only referring to 6 or 7 of Diaghilev’s 30 ingredients. The remainder is wholly subsumed within the larger whole.

At the end of the 2nd hour, however, I noticed new elements darting about, weaving their way through the top notes. Now, there is: clove, nutmeg, guaiac wood, mossy patchouli, and cedar. For about 5 minutes, there is even a really pretty touch of soft, earthy, delicate violets. Yet, with the exception of the new spices at hand, most of the elements were mere flickers and are not really a profound presence in a strong, individual, clearly delineated way.

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Much more noticeable instead is the sudden arrival of the ylang-ylang with its custardy, vaguely banana-like, rich undertones. It adds a lovely touch to the pungency of the oakmoss, and is also a great contrast to the skanky, leathered, darkly oily base. I also really like the introduction of the spices, especially the cloves which add a subtle heat to the scent, enlivening it. The guaiac adds a subtle undertone of smokiness, while the cedar brings a tiny burst of pepperiness. The overall effect is to veer Diaghilev straight back into Jubilation’s arms.

Every time that I’ve tested Diaghilev, I noticed what feels like a transitional bridge period that starts always about 2 and a half hours into the perfume’s development. Diaghilev starts to lose its purely oakmoss-chypre focus, and begins the slow move towards an oriental scent. After having reviewed a handful of Roja Dove creations at this point, I get the strong sense that he seems happiest and most comfortable when making Chypre-Oriental hybrids. Many of his best and most beloved fragrances certainly start off as Chypres before turning into pure Orientals, like, for example, Puredistance M and the two Fetish Extraits. At the very least, I think we can agree that he’s a master at the split genre.

Here, the transition is gradual. The visuals are the first to change. It’s as though an oriental autumn has hit the green, oakmoss-covered peach trees and florals in the cumin-dusted forest with its skankily leathered floor. The dark greens are now heavily covered by rich, spiced, brown-reds and by velvety, custardy, ylang-ylang yellow. Sprinkles of white appear from sweetened vanillic powder, as the benzoins and tonka stir in the base. The subtle patchouli element pops up its head to inject a wine-red colour, taking on a liqueured, sweet, jammy richness. The woods encroach on the dominant moss and peach duo, as the guaiac and cedar crowd around, casting dark shadows. Bitter nutmeg is countered by the first traces of a sheer, gauzy wisp of smooth amber. 

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

Technically, it’s masterful, and theoretically, it should all be right up my alley. Yet, I’m unbelievably detached and disinterested. It’s not the sense of déja vu, but something that is very hard to explain. For me, Diaghilev feels like a technically perfect evocation of the classique tradition, but without a soul or a spark of passion in its depths. It’s like listening to a cover band who is playing all the right notes in a perfect rendition of some classic hit, but it doesn’t fresh, alive, distinctive, or individual. At least, it doesn’t for me. I feel as though I’m stuck in a room listening to Stephen Hawkings giving the most technically correct elucidation of theoretical physics… in Aramaic. Diaghilev’s soul simply gets lost in its correctness, its technical mastery, and in its translation of the past.

Vintage Ballet Russe poster. Source: Pinterest.

Vintage Ballet Russe poster. Source: Pinterest.

The perfume continues its march towards Orientalism. At the start of the 4th hour, Diaghilev is primarily a spicy cinnamon, clove and nutmeg dominated, abstract “floral” scent on my skin, with earthiness and woody elements over a leathered, castoreum-like base lightly infused with skanky civet, labdanum amber, and a whisper of warm ambrette muskiness. By the middle of the 5th hour, it is almost a skin scent that feels extremely abstract. Warm, musky, earthy, sweet, and spicy are the dominant elements. Soon, there is the sense of dry earthiness like soil that has been sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vetiver. Dancing at the edges is a dry, brown patchouli. The tiniest veins of labdanum amber, tonka vanilla, and musk run through it all like golden threads. Diaghilev is still strong if smelled up close with your nose on your skin, but it feels like a silken, brown-red sheath of earthy spiciness and sweetness, dappled at its base with musky skankiness from various accords.

At the start of the 7th hour, Diaghilev sets its course for the next few hours. It is primarily a gauzy, soft labdanum amber scent with abstract spices, skanky elements and a touch of vanilla powderiness. It remains that way for ages, until it finally turns into cinnamon, vanilla powder from the benzoins and tonka atop the thinnest smear of civet-y muskiness. In its dying moments, Diaghilev is merely spiced, sweet powder. All in all, Diaghilev consistently lasted over 14.5 hours on me when I applied moderate amounts, and over 16 or 17 hours with larger quantities.

"Copper abstract" by StarwaltDesign via deviantart.com. http://starwaltdesign.deviantart.com/art/Copper-Abstract-207268167

“Copper abstract” by StarwaltDesign via deviantart.com. http://starwaltdesign.deviantart.com/art/Copper-Abstract-207268167

It’s hard to review Diaghilev without bringing up its price. I never examine perfumes in a vacuum, but I usually state that price is an individual, wholly subjective assessment. That’s undoubtedly why most perfume bloggers rarely talk about the matter when assessing fragrances. However, when you have a perfume that costs over $1000 with tax — that retails for $990, €990 or £750 — then price becomes something more quantifiable and objectively critical. In fact, I’d argue that price becomes an integral part of the perfume’s fabric, as much as its notes or its olfactory genre. Intentionally so.

Roja Dove via his Twitter feed.

Roja Dove via his Twitter feed.

The basic bottom line seems to be that Roja Dove is aiming for a clientele that is part of the 1%. He’s aiming for the very rich, or, in the case of his special “Roja” perfume that costs well over $4,000, perhaps the super rich. He’s intentionally seeking exclusivity in a way that even Joel Arthur Rosenthal, the stratospherically expensive, legendary jeweler, isn’t trying to do with most of his JAR perfumes. It’s Roja Dove’s right to price his stuff as he sees fit, and there is no doubt that all his fragrances scream high-quality, expensive luxury. No doubt at all. But it is my right to think them over-priced at times, times like now.

I’ve pondered the issue of Diaghilev’s cost for days, and I can certainly see all the logical reasons why people would spend the money on it. But would I, even if I had the money to buy 10 Diaghilevs? I doubt it. I’ve thought about it in-depth, and I’m being honest. Diaghilev feels old in a way that never once crossed my mind when I wore Amouage’s Jubilation. I haven’t tried vintage Mitsouko in years, so I don’t know how I would feel about it now, but I never liked Mitsouko enough to be willing to spend $1000 on it. And, honestly, for me, the very best part of Diaghilev is its opening 20 minutes which are truly glorious. After that, when the skankiness subsumes itself into the base, it loses the one real spark of passion and distinctiveness that it exuded for me. It turns into a very expensive-smelling, beautifully crafted perfume that someone like Joan Collins would love. Glamourous, but dated.

Nijinsky and Pavlova, the two superstars of Les Ballets Russes. Vintage image. Source: jbtaylor.typepad.com

Nijinsky and Pavlova, the two superstars of Les Ballets Russes. Vintage image. Source: jbtaylor.typepad.com

There are quite a few reviews for Diaghilev out there, but the most fascinating one comes from The Non-Blonde. I will quote parts, but I encourage you to read the long review in its entirety, as it echoes many of my sentiments. And the opening two sentences are a doozy:

A very successful perfumer who’ll remain nameless described the perfumes from Roja Dove’s line as “belong in a museum”. After a few seconds of thought he added, “so does Roja”. I didn’t inquire further as to what specific aspect of Roja Dove’s public persona he was referring. Your guess is as good as mine. Diaghilev, a larger-than-life chypre is a perfect example for what the famous perfumer meant. Diaghilev, with its mélange of notes is so over the top that if I weren’t standing at the Bergdorf Goodman counter with the tester right in front of me when I first smelled it, I’d have thought (convinced even) that someone has mislabeled a vintage perfume sample. A very very vintage perfume. Something from the 1920s, perhaps, when leather, oakmoss, all the spices in the world, and a thick overripe floral bouquet could be thrown together and then worn in public without shame.

There’s cumin in the top notes which the husband detected immediately while my own skin smoothed it over. I can smell traces of many thick and plush perfume ideas, the ghosts of  famous perfumes the way they smelled back when Louise Brooks, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Gish and Marlene Dietrich used to wear them. Diaghilev is rich, plush, and very animalic, padded with a thick layer of oakmoss that I can smell throughout the perfume’s development. It’s everything I can ask for in a scent. In a different time and place (ok, and a different personality) Diaghilev could have easily been a contender for my signature scent.

They no longer make them like that. They no longer sell them like that. And if you want to wear this type of perfumes you probably need to run with a very specific crowd who appreciate things like that. There aren’t all that many of us around these days, which is probably the reason that Diaghilev stands out so much and feels so shocking. You just don’t smell perfumes like this unless you’re well-versed in vintage perfumes. […]

Here’s the thing: Diaghilev is a magnificent perfume. It’s a very fitting tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his uncompromising artistic vision. But I almost feel like an oblivious Gwyneth Paltrow prattling about in her GOOPy ways as I’m writing this, because it’s nearly impossible in this case to separate the excellent perfume from its positioning at the very top of the fragrance market. Roja Dove has made sure of that. [snip]

You should read her piece in full. In my case, I doubt I would be inspired to wear Diaghilev, whether it were gifted to me or cost $100. From the very first time I sniffed it at Jovoy around the time of its release, I shrugged and moved on. “Very well done, nice, but …. eh.” I suspect my problem is the lack of strong personality, and not the very dated, “museum” feel of the perfume. I love vintage perfumes, but this feels far too well-bred, dull, and old. Plus, given how very little time I have to wear perfume for myself these days, I would never waste a precious “free day” on Diaghilev. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. (The fascinating Jubilation 25, however, would be a very different matter….)

Diaghilev, the original EDT limited-edition bottle.

Diaghilev, the original EDT limited-edition bottle.

Speaking of museums, there is an important issue I need to cover: the original Diaghilev. A few commentators to the Non-Blonde’s post brought up the fact that Diaghilev was originally released in 2010 as part of an exhibition that commemorating Les Ballets Russes at the Victoria & Albert museum. It was a limited-edition fragrance which cost £75, and supposedly only 1000 bottles were released, though there is mention of Roja Dove selling refills in huge 250 ml aluminium bottles on his website. I paused at the comments, like the one talking about “the earlier EDP version’s affordability” and how it felt like “naked manipulation of the consumer.” And I very much agreed. It seemed like bloody cheek for a man to sell a perfume for £75, but then, 3 years later, stick the exact same thing into a crystal-capped bottle and sell it for exactly ten times as much at £750. It seemed outrageous, as if he were pulling the wool over your eyes, while laughing all the way to the bank.

Except that is not what actually happened. I did some digging, and the facts are different. It’s true, as Roja Dove discusses in old blog posts on his website, he made Diaghilev for the exhibition and, yes, he did release it back the for a substantially lower price. There are two key differences, however, between the original Diaghilev and the one released in 2013. For one thing, the original was an eau de parfum, though a number of people also state that it was a mere eau de toilette. Regardless, the new one is an Extrait, and, as noted, has the dense viscosity of an oil in feel, at least in the first few hours. For another, the current Diaghilev is supposedly remastered and changed.

The website, Cosmetopica, writes about that last fact in a glowing review for the new Diaghilev where she also explains the differences between the versions. Her article reads, in part, as follows:

Why the change, I asked Roja’s PR? Because Roja visited the Kremlin, he said. Once he got to Russia, he completely reformulated his ideas about Diaghilev and his oeuvre, and the perfume had to change with it.

The immediate effect of the opening notes of the ‘new’ Diaghilev is identical to the ‘old’ Diaghilev but it only lasts a second before there is then a massive bloom of citrus like falling head-first into a vat of bergamot. You might not get out alive, but it would be a good way to go. To this untutored nose, the citrus melange smelt above all like tangerines (a note that I see is absent). It is also strong enough to knock a horse over at 20 paces.

This phase of the perfume lasts a good 30 minutes – a very long time for citrus – and is fabulously rich and oily, not light and sparkling. […] [It] has the richness of the real deal, due to its use of natural materials in abundance.

I loved this phase of the fragrance, but it got even better in the second act. The floral heart emerges over time like a full orchestra tuning up and to be honest, I found it impossible to pick out the notes. It is at this point that the fragrance morphs back into the character of the original Diaghilev – true, old-style grand perfumerie. Ten hours later, it’s still going strong, wafting up from your clothing whenever you move or sweat, but “curiously well-behaved,”[.]

The next morning, the animalic facets are still there, which I love. I like a bit of skank in a perfume […] So the base notes of civet and musk that hang around for about 24 hours on clothing are just fine by me. […]

Source: scent-intoxique.com

Source: scent-intoxique.com

As for the issue of Mitsouko, Cosmetopica writes:

Diaghilev mark 1 smells like Mitsouko should and no longer does, and that, apparently, is no accident. Having read that Diaghilev the man used to spray his curtains with Mitsouko, this is partly Dove’s interpretation of what that atmosphere must have been like.

Does it smell like Mitsouko? Well no. It smells like a Guerlain we haven’t met yet – no accident, I guess, given that Dove worked for the company before it was swallowed up, masticated and vomited back out by LVMH.

I agree that it doesn’t smell purely and wholly like Mitsouko. However, to me, it starts off strongly as a mix of Mitsouko with Jubilation 25 (Women), before eventually shrugging off the Guerlain and turning more into Amouage territory. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. On Fragrantica’s page for Jubilation, 8 people noted a resemblance to Diaghilev, while 3 voted for Mitsouko. There are the same 8 votes for Jubilation on the actual Diaghilev entry as well.

On Fragrantica, the reviews for Roja Dove’s creation are almost all uniformly admiring. The shortest, flattest comment comes from one person who writes simply, “If Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit met and had a baby, their offspring would be Diaghilev.” Others, however, wax rhapsodic. Here are two of the shorter reviews representing the general consensus:

  • As usually with Roja Dove’s fragrances, Diaghilev as well is strongly inspired by big fragrances of the past. In this case, the old-fashioned chypre structure, comes directly from huge compositions such as Mitsouko and Sous Le Vent. A wonderful fizzy citrusy opening evolving into an extremely refined floral middle phase to then turn into a fresh and rich mossy vetiver drydown which is not so distant from the latest phases of Onda Extrait. [¶] The level of appreciation of Diaghilev is strongly related to one’s personal preference towards extremely classic fragrances. That said, if you like the genre, this is one of the best chypres currently available on the market.
  • Insanely opulent and suave chypre that, hilariously, reminds me of Aromatics Elixir. A smooth oak moss flanked by top-shelf patchouli and vetiver with minuscule touches of citrus and culinary herbs floating around. Ambrette and civet are present, but highly civilized; many of the myriad fruit / floral notes are there, but not prominent enough to isolate. The whole thing is big, round, and undeniably impressive, but it’s hard not to snicker at the kind of over-the-top luxury it’s signifying. Excellent, beautiful, stunning, and a tad ridiculous. [¶] Break out your Liberace furs and bling, slap some of this on, then go stomp around the neighborhood like you *own* the damn place.
Source: 10wallpaper.com

Source: 10wallpaper.com

Both those reviews come from men, by the way, which should alleviate any concerns that you may have that Diaghilev is a woman’s fragrance. As for the price, well, a good response comes from “Tymanski,” my friend who so generously sent me a small atomizer from his own bottle:

i never EVER thought i would even contemplate spending a week’s pay on a bottle of perfume. i made the fateful step of trying this juice out the other day and over the course of the day this smell just got better & better & better. i was extremely sceptical of roja dove – tried several and thought “what’s this guy pulling here”, but with Diaghilev, i take it all back. this is just spectacular on every level. a chypre of such depth, elegance, balance, simply a perfect fragrance. i am not going to start with notes, as this is prodigiously complex; i will say that the rose middle is the finest i’ve ever smelled. the sillage is quite discrete but very solid, and longevity is where it should be for an 850 euro (!!!) parfum. the long drydown has a beguiling affinity with amouage epic man (another favouite). some say this is similar to vintage mitsouko, i really can’t say. it does embody everything i love about chypres in the end, i was seduced.

The bottom line for you is that you should seek out a sample of Diaghilev if you’re a lover of rich chypres, vintage perfumes, Mitsouko, Jubilation 25, and/or very heavy, strongly classical fragrances. Do it for the experience, particularly you’re relatively new to perfumery and want to learn about opulent chypres done in the vintage manner. (Consider it an expensive educational lesson, if you will.) For those who don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories, I am somewhat dubious as to your reaction. I suspect that you might find Diaghilev overly heavy, very dated and museum-like indeed.

As to what will happen once you smell it, well, then the issue of price will come back to bite you squarely on the nose. You will either: be unable to separate the issue of the cost from the smell, much like The Non-Blonde; think Diaghilev is worth it and be in a quandary; or be like me and intellectually recognize Diaghilev’s quality, but be utterly unmoved nonetheless. One thing is absolutely certain, though: the price tag is the 800-pound gorilla in Diaghilev’s room. £750 to be precise.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Diaghilev is a pure parfum or Extrait which is available in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size which costs $990, €990 or £750. In the U.S.: Diaghilev is carried by New York’s Osswald and Bergdorf Goodman. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Diaghilev from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London, from Harrod’s online, or from Roja Dove’s e-store at Roja Parfums. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Parfums and sells Diaghilev for €990. In the UAE, the Paris Gallery has Diaghilev for AED 5,175. For all other locations, you can use the Roja Dove Locations listing which mentions more stores from Poland to Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Russia, and the Ukraine. By the way, in Russia, Roja Dove is supposed to be at Moscow’s tsUM, but I couldn’t find the brand listed on their website when I did a search. There are no Canadian, Asian or Oceania vendors. Samples: I purchased my main, core sample. It came from Surrender to Chance which sells Diaghilev starting at $7.49 for a 1/4 ml vial.

75 thoughts on “Roja Dove Diaghilev (The Imperial Collection)

    • Oh no, really, the Phillippines is one of the few places they don’t ship to??!! 🙁 Do you have a good friend in the U.S. who can take possession of your order and whose address you can use? He or She can then mail it onto you over there. I think that may be the cheapest and easiest way.

  1. One of my absolute favourites.The dated, another time, another place feel to it, is one of the things that I like about it so much. Then there is the oakmoss. It’s real oakmoss, with the IFRA restricted molecules atranol & chloroatranol extracted. I wish other perfume houses would do this with oakmoss, instead of saying they can’t use it because it’s banned.

    • How fascinating about the molecules being extracted out. Thank you so much for sharing that, C, as it certainly explains the unexpected depths of Diaghilev’s moss note. I wonder how much the extraction process costs for, like, a vat of oakmoss and if it is a moderately affordable procedure? If it is, then there really is no excuse for other perfumes houses to follow suit, at least if they are the well-funded larger ones. If you ever come across any information on the cost of the process, do let me know. 🙂

      • At least one of the indie houses is using low-atranol oakmoss… Sonoma Scent Studio, I think. Or DSH, I can’t remember. Ergo, I assume that it can’t be THAT expensive and/or hard to source.

        • Is low-atranol moss the same thing as what C was taking about? His comment made it sound like the molecule had been removed completely. Either way, you’re right about SSS using low-atranol oakmoss. I recall reading that in a few places. I would look up the details but chemistry and scientific discussions alarm me almost as much as anything finance or maths related. LOL 😉

  2. I’ve never tried old Mitsouko so I wonder if I would see the resemblance. I’ll have to do a side by side with Jubilation 25, but I’ve never noticed a similarity even though I’ve worn both many times. It’s funny reading your review Kafka. It is as if time sped up for you because in many ways what you describe as essentially “meh” is exactly my only complaint about Diaghilev. But I have a hard time even describing it as a complaint though, because it happens after about 18 hours. A looooong time. At that point when I smell it, I find it just so very boring. But it’s after 18 hours! Diaghilev is a powerhouse. It projects like a beast, especially the oakmoss burst at the start. My wife has to leave the room after one spray and I really can’t do more than one because I think my family would leave the house. I get an image when wearing Diaghilev. It’s in the palace of the Czar with all things Russian, bold, strong, reeking of everything. A Russian friend of mine once made me a traditional Siberian dish. It was layers of beets, sour cream, pickled herring and all sorts of strong smelling ingredients. After a spoon full I felt like every pore of my body was oozing out these smells. Go big or go home, Diaghilev.

    • “Go big or go home, Diaghilev.” LOLOLOL. Well, that certainly seems to fit both the actual man and his namesake fragrance. I’m glad Diaghilev works for you, Cohibadad. So, are you going to save up for a bottle? 😉 Would you spend $1000 on it?

  3. I just like yourself K was unmoved. When I first smelt it it was on a strip and I thought wow! Truly amazing and complex…the notes were blended seamlessly and in perfect choreography. ….but alas I put some on my skin….rather than a perfect choreography it was like a Christmas Carol rendition in a kindergarden……I guess my skin chemistry was not favourable. There was too many things going on I suppose. It was skillfully presented I can see it’s artistic value and perhaps Roja is trying to make a statement? However I liken it to this….if you were to go to a art gallery , each pieces are carefully selected and spaced out so the spectator may try to understand the artistic statement of each piece, but if there were to many pieces in one gallery and not carefully chosen. …..no matter how skillfully each piece was rendered it would be of less interest to the spectator……it won’t be a gallery exhibition rather a world trade exhibition. ……guess which category I believe Daghialev falls into…..
    Roja’s new expensive bombshell Roja Luxe is absolutely gorgeous! ….apart from Fetish(both gender renditions) and Luxe all of his compositions have either underwhelmed me such as the oudh series, as I’ve smelt better and a lot more cheaper or have had the world trade fare effect like Daghialev. Also I’ve to add although I love Luxe The price is Hilariously obscene and extortionate!

    • The Roja Luxe is the Roja birthday scent, right? The one that costs 2,500 GBP or almost US $4200 (before tax)? Yeah, don’t get me started on the issue of THAT one and how he’s honoured us by sharing his personal scent on his birthday for our pleasure of almost $4500. *snort*

      As for Diaghilev, I think your gallery comparison is really interesting. When there is too much that it overwhelms the eye and no longer feels like a well-curated exhibition. For me, Diaghilev’s blend was too seamless to feel overwhelming, especially as it often seemed — in the early hours and from afar — merely like a perfectly blended cloud of greenness. But that was my skin, and I know everyone is different, so I do understand what you mean. I definitely do. At least you’ve saved yourself the cost of a super-expensive lemming!

  4. I loved the paragraph about the technical aspects of Diaghilev whereby the notes were like Hawkings speaking in Aramaic, or a cover band trying to reproduce the original band’s songs. What a relief that you did not find this Full Bottle worthy. His pricing pisses me off. I mean, Really???? For those prices, I not only expect my perfume to slay me, for hours, but it should give me a full body massage, cook my dinner for a month And wash the dishes!! Your review of the notes and progression is beautiful and so well detailed, and I love the photographs! Thank you. Great review!!

    • Hahaha, he doesn’t CARE if his pricing pisses off peons like you and me. He’s aiming for the Russian oligarchs and their wives. That said, plenty of normal mortals find Diaghilev to be very Full Bottle Worthy indeed. I just happen to be one of the weirdos and freaks for whom it does absolutely nothing, despite recognising its quality.

      Price aside, I don’t think it feels like a very Tora scent either. It doesn’t scream you in my mind, perhaps because it is so carefully, meticulously perfect or so heavily aged. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like your style for the most part.

  5. That photo of the mossy tree… I want to go live there. Oooh.

    I have yet to smell Diaghilev 2.0, but that’s okay – I only marginally liked the first one, the edt. For what it’s worth, I despiiiiiise Jub 25 and cannot manage vintage Femme. Mitsouko I’ve never liked, though after falling so completely and surprisingly in love with vintage Coty Chypre I came to understand Mitsy. If you held a gun to my head and said, pick one of those four, I’d take the Diaghilev edt. (And I’d shiv you for some more of the Coty.)

    The hilarious thing about it is that I had completely forgotten the story of Diaghilev the man spraying curtains with Mitsouko when I tested the edt, and I’m sitting there getting hits off my hand and thinking, “Why does this make me think of middle school? WHY am I getting a you-are-there sort of memory of 7th grade?”… when it hit me. OH YES. My middle school did not have separate classrooms for band and choir classes, and of course the band took precedence, so our choir classes met on stage.

    Behind the enormous burgundy velvet stage curtain.

    At which point I dissolved into laughter. How’d Roja Dove DO THAT? I’m charmed, as if it were a magic trick. It was a delight.

    • So glad you like the picture, Mals, as I felt I had quite scored when I stumbled across it! (Sometimes, finding photos for the reviews can take as long as writing the actual review, but thankfully not this time.)

      As for your hatred of Jub25, why…. naturally! *grin* I wouldn’t be your completely Evil Scent Devil otherwise. LOL. (I am almost tempted to send you a sample of my most cherished scents, just to see which one traumatizes you more. ROFL. 😉 I’d be interested to see what you thought of Diaghilev 2.0, and if the changes are actually noticeable beyond the obvious difference in density and concentration. I wonder if you would still like it the best out of the 4 (Jub25, Femme, Mitsouko and Diaghilev). As for vintage Coty Chypre, I’ve heard it’s wonderful! But please keep it all, as Mals with a shiv is a bit worrisome…. lol 😉

      • Vintage Chypre parfum BLEW MY FREAKIN’ DOORS OFF. Worth a little shivving. 😉

        I don’t mind refo Femme, but the vintage was a big ol’ oriental nightmare for me. There’s something I’ve noticed about myself and fruity chypres: I get nauseated. We’re talking airline barf-bag OMG washitoffwashitoffnow. Vinty Femme, Jub 25, Mitsy, AdP Profumo, YSL Champagne, Patou Colony, Badgley Mischka, Chypre Rouge, even Cartier So Pretty: urp. In the sense of, Excuse me, I must go empty the entire contents of my stomach now.

        I don’t know what (specifically) does that to me.

        • Awwwwww, I love YSL’s vintage Champagne so much! I wonder if it is a question of combinations for you, or if there is something in the base instead which is the coup de gras for you? I wish we could narrow it down through some tests, but that would involve you retching in the loo, so we should probably skip the whole idea. lol

  6. “A perfume with the feel of the past, concentrated as if distilled to its richest essence through the ravages of time, and brought back to life with a price tag from the future.”

    So perfectly put, dearest Kafka! Like Cohibadad, Diaghilev projects like a beast on me — which it should for the price! Out of the entire Roja Dove line, it is my favorite of the bunch simply because I adore my Mitsouko, and it feels like the demi-glace version of it (kind of gross to think of it in terms of veal stock, but I am a food blogger after all 🙂 ).

    At Sniffapalooza, the Poodle and me found ourselves walking next to a lady who had purchased two JARs and a bottle of Diaghilev. The JARs, she said casually while waving her hand, were the “cheapest”!

    • Well, if she bought the personal Roja one at over $4,000, then she has even more… er… shopping gusto than I had suspected. That was one very expensive afternoon at Bergdorf’s! I don’t envy her ability, but I do wonder now which of the “cheapie” JAR perfumes she bought. *grin*

      • She bought Jar Shadow. I remember because that’s the one that smelled good on me for about an hour. Then nothing… And yes, she was rather nonchalant about her purchases. I thought that was fabulous actually. She made the most of her trip. I think Daisy is right and she bought Diaghilev not Roja’s personal scent. I can’t say I remember much of either and the one I did like I’ve forgotten the name of.

  7. I appreciate that you don’t review perfumes “in a vacuum.” Prices such as Roja Dove’s ought to be discussed. Creating scarcity (such as Le Labo’s city exclusives) and creating exclusivity by high price are all time honored selling techniques. In a world where the gap between rich and not rich is now larger than in the time of the robber barons, it’s an interesting topic. I’d love to read more of your thoughts about it.

    • Thank you for your kind words, JulesinRose. (Do you mind if I call you Jules instead?) The issue of cost is so tricky because it can step on some toes and it really IS a personal valuation at the end of the day. We all have different tastes, as well as financial resources. There is always someone richer or poorer than us, too. Where I feel more comfortable is in talking about value, or whether a perfume is properly priced in light of its ingredients.

      I’m thinking specifically of scents which are very synthetic in nature because, then, it is much easier to quantifiably say: okay, a big bottle of Aromachemical X costs $30, and could make the equivalent of 200 bottles of scent. Aromachemical Y costs $18 per bottle, and can do the same. (Most of these get diluted down to a very thin solution, so a few drops can go a long way, and a big bottle can go even further.) So, in light of the fact that Perfume ABC has those ingredients (and probably 3 other synthetics as well), then it’s utterly ridiculous for YSL to be charging $300 a bottle. (I’m specifically thinking of YSL’s new, exclusive Noble Leather in this regard.)

      So, when a perfume is basically something like 50% synthetic or more, and they’re charging $150 and up, that’s when I think it becomes a SLIGHTLY more objective issue. Like the new Serge Lutens Bell Jar released last fall that costs $310 but smells like Bounce and Tide, and every other horrifying thing you can imagine…. well, it’s hard not to think it’s over-priced when you compare it to the hundreds of Sephora or Macy’s fragrances that it resembles, but which cost about $55-$65. At that point, it’s an issue of brands treating you like a sucker, more than a question of personal tastes. Yet, even with something like the new Lutens La Vierge de Fer, there are people who think it’s absolutely worth it for them. And that’s their right.

      With something like Roja Dove’s Diaghilev, it’s impossible to talk about anything but personal feelings because there is no doubt that very expensive, very real ingredients were used. This is not some aromachemical cocktail. Far from it. So then, it becomes a question of personal choice and finances, including HIS choice to position himself amongst the very top tier of perfumers in terms of price.

      I think the question of false scarcity and artificial exclusivity can’t be so separated out from the issue of personal tastes. At least, not politely. Because one would essentially be implying that someone who fell for a Le Labo is doing so more because they are a sucker for the exclusivity than for the actual smell, and who are we to judge that? How can we know the truth of it? Plus, if we’re to be honest, hype plays a role in ALL of our assessments about perfumes, regardless of brand, and perfumistas are also often chasing the next, big, new thing.

      There are so many different variables going on that it’s not so easily to separate out the wheat from the chaff, or to know to what extent we’re all just being played as suckers. I fear I’m not answering your (implied) question at all, and I’m so terribly sorry for rambling, but I’m not sure there IS an actual answer to any of this. Can there EVER be for a product that, at the end of the day, is all about something sensory, invisible, and elusive? The only “Sure Thing” in all of this is that Roja Dove is certainly not struggling to sell his uber-luxe creations.

      • Jules is fine (lol), and I’m simply delighted to have set off what you call “rambling!” I would love to read more rambling on this topic. I am not sure what my “implied question” was. I suppose my own problems, misgivings, distaste (call it what you will) at the fact that high end luxury is thriving in a world where we’re starting to really feel the effects of climate change, a growth of the permanent underclass, a shrinking middle class, etc., well, it rather feels like fiddling while Rome burns. Yet, I’d be pleased as punch to have a sample of this and any other Roja Dove scent, and I thoroughly enjoy reading about it. I ask myself why I balk when I don’t about the purchasing of fine art, for instance, when I say I think perfume is Art, at least perfume of this caliber. Roja Dove knows how to hype well, but I do know the difference between his products and the average department store scent. I was just looking at the price of organic CO2 extracts. So, I’m rambling (far more than you). . .and so torn about all of this. Perhaps it is the ephemeral nature of perfumery, and perhaps it’s the perception of perfume as luxury (which it always has been in the West), which I argue with others about often. I love perfume and scent and a world without them is as barren to me as a world without music, art, and fine literature. So, no summation from me. Thanks for writing so beautifully, Kafka. Thanks for making me think yet again. The last time I left a comment was about Coco Chanel. I do so much love your smart writing about these topics!

        • I had the impression, undoubtedly mistaken, that there was an implied question about my thoughts on the perfume as being representative of the growing chasm between the have and have nots in what you astutely noted is a Robber Baron era, but worse. I tried to side-skip the nature of the world today because it implicitly brings up socio-political philosophies, and talking about politics never ends well. Suffice it to say that I quite agree with you on the state of the world today. 🙂

          I do hope you will feel free to comment more often, beyond just Coco Chanel as a Nazi spy or the issue of perfume as a luxury. Don’t lurk! Perfume is always more fun when shared! 😀

          • You were probably not mistaken! 🙂 I was probably asking that without even realizing it. I’m always curious what people think about these matters. I can’t separate anything from sociological phenomena – it’s impossible for me – and I sense you may do the same, otherwise you wouldn’t write extensively about Coco Chanel the way you’ve done.

            I applaud your ability to side step and be gracious. I forget that these matters do get people into arguments and create upset.

            Bottom line for me: I love perfume. I love art. I love thinking about it all, and I’m so glad your blog is here & you didn’t boot me off for even bringing up the implied question! 🙂

          • Pfffffffttttttttttttt, I would never boot off anyone who discussed things politely, let alone someone having a wonderful intellectual, analytical discussion on things! I think that’s wonderful. 🙂

  8. Absolutely NOT defending Roja Dove’s pricing strategy, but I am curious as to how much *100 ml* of Mitsouko extrait (or other similar quality) would cost at retail.

    • I think that’s a great question, Lindaloo. 🙂 Let’s take the famous “M” perfume that was also created by Roja Dove, but for the luxury perfume house Puredistance. 100 ml of that (which is also an Extrait only scent) costs $590. Amouage’s Extraits usually costs around $440, but they don’t come in a 100 ml size because, I assume, Amouage wants to make them approachable for customers. By the same token, Guerlain doesn’t want to price out and exclude people either, so it’s Extraits come only in 30 ml size from what I’ve seen. 30 ml of Mitsouko Extrait is about €268 or €288, last I checked.

      Sure, that is not a 100 ml size like Diaghilev is, but the thing to consider is that the other companies have intentionally offered SMALLER sizes in order not to make the item completely beyond reach for most consumers. Roja Dove is intentionally doing the opposite, it seems. Diaghilev is offered only in one size, 100 ml, with no possibility of anything more affordable. But if Puredistance, one of the uber-luxury lines, puts *its* 100 ml extrait (that was also made by Roja Dove) at $590, I think that says something.

      Perhaps the best example of Roja Dove’s strategy is his “Roja” perfume that costs over $4000 and comes with 24-carat gold leaf flakes in it!

      JAR could exceed most of the Roja Doves (bar 3 or 4) if they offered their fragrances in 100 ml only sizes, but they don’t. Per ounce, their fragrances are equal to Roja Dove’s scent with the most expensive JAR perfume, Bolt of Lightening, being around $780, I think, for a mere 30 ml. I imagine 100 ml of Bolt of Lightening would be about $2300 or so. Hardly anyone is perhaps more top-tier than that luxury jeweller, and he could easily have done what Roja Dove did. The key thing is that all of these people have intentionally sought not to price out a vast segment of the market.

      Ooops, I got a weeeee bit carried away with all the numbers. My apologies, Lindaloo. One mustn’t get me going, or else, I’ll never stop. LOL.

      • Yes, I agree it’s the 100 ml *only* sizing that is a deliberate try for the exclusivity of “if you have to ask, you can’t afford (have) it.” I appreciate the comparison to Puredistance M — practically a ‘half-price Dove’ . ;-). But even more I appreciate that it’s available in 17.5 ml. And, one can order samples.
        If you want a real snicker read Dove’s shameless self-description on his website — god’s gift to perfume. And he tags his fragrances as “The Finest fragrances in the World.”

        • His self-promotion is always amusing, but at least he’s focusing on quality with that tag-line about the “finest” fragrances. I don’t know what to say about Clive Christian’s equivalent line which is all about the cost. They have a crass boast that they plaster all over their stuff and site about how they have “the most expensive perfume in the world.” http://clive.com/ It’s so damn vulgar, if you ask me.

  9. Great review as usual! I obtained two 10 ml decants of the original….my first thought upon spraying was ‘it’s a mixture of Mitsouko and Diorella; but blurry, like each was cancelling the other out’. Then a while back I was looking around in my decants and saw that the remains of one Diagilev had evaporated to leave just the base oil….phee-ew….super animalic but not in a good way! I guess RD has taken his adoration of Mitsouko ( my beloved soulmate for decades) and added in that slightly rotten melony thing that is so amazing in Diorella. Well there is no argument in my mind what the solution to the expense quandary is…bottles of vintage Mitsouko and Diorella at any price; towering masterpieces of the perfumers’ art.

    • Haha, another vintage hoarder! I love it. 🙂 As for your evaporated Diaghilev Original version, I’m rather intrigued now by the sound of the oil base and just HOW animalic it may be! I have rather a fondness for skanky, dirty perfumes, though it can widely depend.

      I’d be very interested to see what you thought of the current Diaghilev and if you could notice any substantial differences between the two types. If you ever try it, do let me know what you think, Marion. I’d particularly like to know if you still saw a Diorella resemblance, and what you thought of the massive new density of the Extrait.

  10. Actually and in an amazing coincidence I chose the glorious ‘Mito’ for today, a beautifully wet and rainy drought breaking day in my part of Australia. Mito is also a masterpiece that references vintage green chypres with a gorgeous floralcy and richness. So there you are, one could probably get sets of perfume, EDP etc in vintage Mitz and Dior, and Mito for well under 1000$… I know I did! And never to feel let down and vaguely ripped off…

    • Vero Kern’s Mito is very nice, though it is not very “me” personally speaking. But I can absolutely see its appeal to those who love a certain type of scent. Have you tried Mitsouko in Extrait form? If so, what did you think? As for your 3 bottles/purchases, nice deal!

  11. Vintage Mitsouko is one of those things I still dream of. I remember my grand aunt had a bottle of it that she had from who knows when and I just looked at it in awe. I was too young to even be allowed to touch it. I have not tried Jubilation though. My only experience with Amouage was Lyric Woman and I do not like it.
    I am interest in your disinterest. I was thinking that maybe is the lost aura of a whole era? Perhaps technique that cannot revive that era. Perhaps the reproducibility of the lost time confirms how the aura is lost (Gosh sorry. your review made me think of Walter Benjamin. I don’t know.).

    • I’d love for you to order a sample of vintage Mitsouko from one of the US decanting sites, and see what you thought of it now, as an adult and perfumista in your own right. 🙂 I’d also love to know what you thought of Jub25. Tell me about Lyric Woman on your skin. I had a very uncommon time with it, as it wasn’t very much a rose scent on me but primarily ylang-ylang. What didn’t you like about it?

      As for Diaghilev and my disinterest, I just was bored. I was bored in Paris when I put it on, and I was bored everytime I tested it here. Emotionally, it simply doesn’t move me at all. And I like Chypres quite a bit. You saw my reaction to MDCI’s Chypre Palatin, and how hard I fell for that one immediately! Diaghilev, though…… *shrug* It was too restrained, perhaps? Character and distinctiveness sacrificed at the altar of just super-rich density done with perfect technical correctness? I don’t know. I only know that I wouldn’t be interested in wearing it, no matter how much or little it cost.

  12. I tried Diaghilev at Fortnum & Mason (yes, yes, they have a very serene Perfume section on Floor 2) and it was my favorite. I have a decant of it. I don’t get Mitsouko at all!

    And speaking of prices…
    Les Exclusifs de Chanel Bois des Iles Pure Parfum 15 mLs = $200 (just sayin’ ;-))
    …but there’s more, if you LOVE Chanel Gardenia, you can buy the GRAND EXTRAIT bottle with 900 mLs for only $3,800…and the per mL cost is a BARGAIN at $4.22 per mL versus $13.33 for the 15 mLs.

    Wonderful review!

    • I also meant to mention that in January, Bergdorfs had $250 off a purchase of $1,000. I think these sales happen twice year so if one really really wants a bottle, be patient and wait for that deal.

    • I’m glad you like it so much, my dear. As for pricing, as I was talking with Lindaloo up above, the real issue is that the other houses which offer Extraits usually do so in more affordable, smaller sizing. Like Chanel’s Mitsouko in 30 ml, while those who sell 100 ml extraits (like Puredistance M which Roja Dove also made) is $590 for the exact same 100 ml extrait size. The fact that Diaghilev isn’t offered like that Bois des Iles Extrait in a size which would make it more approachable for the average customer is the key, especially when seen in light of his $4,000 Roja with the 24-carat flakes.

      At the end of the day, pricing is still a subjective decision, but it’s a factor that is worth discussing when a perfume is priced at almost $1000 (before tax).

  13. If you liked the first 20mins of this Diaghilev then I suspect you might actually much prefer the original D’. Which IMO was a glorious composition, one that I much, MUCH prefer to this retweaked ‘Imperial’ parfum version. … I was one of the lucky ones that snapped up 3 of the original 1000 bottles, which was in comparison an absolute bargain at the original price. – (In fact it was an extra ‘steal’ for me as I when later persuaded to auction off my 3rd bottle, it surprisingly more than paid for my other 2 bottles, & then some. So = a real fab lucky score !) 🙂 … For some reason, I find the original D most evocative & utterly intoxicating – & yes that opening phase is indeed sublime ! However, rather than wanting to actually wear it as such it’s rather become my preferred ‘lullaby’ perfume. As in, I probably enjoy it most when spritzed on my pillows for drifting away to sleep with. (And again, also lovely to wake up to.) … So rather than just ‘spritzing curtains’ methinkz it makes for an even better sexy ‘bed-sheet’ ‘fume. 🙂

    Also just a little correction : the original was in fact an EDP (not EDT), with excellent 12+ hrs longevity. And the original price of £75 was in fact for the 100ml size, not the later 250ml refill flasks which were a little more. (Much closer to ±£280, but was beautifully packaged in a faux-crocodile skin box & wrapped in a RD monogrammed silk scarf.) … Which of course was still an absolute bargain when you consider it’s excellent quality & especially in comparison to the now ridiculously over-exorbitantly priced descendant – (which is a real cheek !) … So IMO the original D was perfect as it was and more than worth every single penny – this ‘Imperial’ version quite the opposite regrettably.

    • Thanks for the information on the prior bottle. I’d read numerous times that it was an EDT not an EDP. I have corrected the post.

      I’m interested on what you see as the olfactory differences between the two versions. From what you’ve written I gather the skanky 20 minutes are either more noticeable or last longer, but beyond that, do you detect a lot of difference throughout the two perfumes’ lifespans?

      • Pleasure ! – And yep, that it’s an EDP I’m absolutely certain, as it’s basically printed right on the bottle/label, so there’s no dispute. It also certainly feels/behaves as one, so … . 🙂

        Also, just like to quickly add that I think Roja’s whole “visiting the Kremlin prompted reformulated idea” excuse is all utter BULL ! – In reality he had no choice but to change the formula if he wanted to keep cashing in on it basically. I think he was rather caught of guard by the original D’s overwhelming success. Then ecstatically, having not quite entirely satiated capitalising on the massive interest with the subsequent larger refills. To continue further still necessitated a reformulation, for not only was the original tied to another company it was also restricted to it’s promised 1000-only exclusivity. In fact I’d say he was rather lucky/fortunate they even let him keep/transfer the name to his own line. I bet he fought tooth-&-nail for that privilege when he realised quite what the ‘golden-goose’ he had come up with (& wanted to keep collecting eggs on.)

        The two versions do certainly have an instantly recognisable resemblance, mostly on initial impact, but it soon passes thereafter the parfum morphs into a rather different perfume. To me personally they’re essentially two entirely different beasts. I, just like you, like/prefer my perfumes deep & rich, however to me the original was already more than rich enough, so IMO the parfum becomes almost suffocatingly so. Also thereby loosing much of the perfectly balanced magic the original possessed. Probably the best analogy I can give is the original is so beautifully balanced that the sum of it’s parts seamlessly created a single perfect ‘symphonic’ scent. Whereas the extrait more easily falls into a succession of it’s component parts/notes. It certainly makes it easier to analyse whereas the original’s more difficult to pull apart into it’s separate notes (it also seems unnecessarily more chockfull of notes, with the original far more ‘pared-back’). …
        I know notes-pyramids don’t usually list all the notes actually contained, but it’s interesting that in comparison the original listed only : Bergamot, lemon, orange – rose de mai, jasmine – oakmoss, orris, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla. And other than the addition of a seriously delicious musk animalic base, it actually smells exactly like an amalgamation of those listed notes.
        The main distinct differences between them to me are : the original’s bergamot opening leaned distinctly more lemony, whilst the parfum’s far more prominently tangerine-orange. After it’s far more ‘in-your-face’ & lengthly citric onslaught the florals are also far more richly rosy (a different rose to my nose) & also more distinctly ylang-ylang-y than jasmine-y – overall it’s far more richly ‘floral’. Another distinct difference is it’s ‘spicier’ than the original (which didn’t feel ‘spicy’ at all to my nose, other than perhaps a little cumin.) Also, and as to be expected with extraits, the base is far deeper/richer with far more labdanum & more prominent vetiver. In fact the whole base is far more ‘masculine’, leathery & ‘darkly oily’ whereas IMO the original was far more warmly ‘purry-feminine’. Overall I prefer the suave animalic growl of the original. And whilst the original is distinctly deliciously oakmossy, if there is one thing I do prefer in the parfum is it’s even more gloriously so (& a little more deeply ‘woody’). It also becomes more deeply ‘orientalised’, the original more subtly still leaning more chypré. 🙂 – There are also flashes throughout of many notes that do not feature in the original.

        And whilst the parfum does once again pick up to closely resemble the original for a short while just before settling down to it’s far more extended base. Overall I’d say that they actually differ more than they are similar. Far more so than the usual EDP/Parfum differences of a namesake fragrance. (These subtle nods evident almost as tho’ they’re only there to warrant the Diaghilev name.)
        BUT each of course has got it’s merits, as beautifully ‘vintage-evocative’ compositions. Certainly amongst the most expert I’ve ever sniffed for sure ! But personally I think the original was so perfect as it was that any change/addition could only but disturb/diminish it’s beauty. So the ‘Imperial’ whilst beautiful in it’s own right it just looses something in translation.

        I really urge you to try the original before you write-off Diaghilev completely, as I believe you might still be pleasantly surprised. I’d certainly luv to read your own breakdown of their comparison. 🙂

        • Lovely details, and extremely interesting! Thank you for taking the time to elaborate on your experiences with the two versions and the variation in notes. I really appreciate it, as I’m sure will anyone else who is curious about how the new Diaghilev may differ from the original. Thank you again, Julz!

          • Once again, mon plaisir my dear Kaf’ ! … Hope it’s given u enough of an inkling of how it differs, or why I at least prefer it – (& hopefully enough to intrigue u to give D’ another chance) ? … As long as u appreciate it I’m more than happy to oblige. 🙂

            P.S. – The delicious ‘musk’ I mentioned is a truly glorious one, which somehow manages to be both deeply ‘raunchy’ YET simultaneously feeling still somehow ‘clean’ too – it really is a fab musk synth IMO, (one of the nicest I’ve sniffed.)
            Tho’ I imagine it’s more than possible you’ve already sniffed it in some or other RD frag I’ve yet to sniff !? As I’d imagine it’s probs one of Roja’s faves. – He does use fab musks methinkz (when he’s not on ‘white’ mode.) 😉 😀

  14. Another comment from me, or rather, from my husband. . .we chatted about this topic for an hour after breakfast this morning (and thank you for starting the conversation)! Says he of Roja Dove, “Good for him! Artists should charge as much as they can and want!” He pointed out that a high end dinner for two could cost this much with wine, and that there are plenty of luxuries that most people can’t afford and give no thought to, particularly fine art. He proffered that this particular one may sting, as it is seemingly accessible. One does not need to know Mr. Dove in person to procure his scents, does not need to visit some obscure location, etc., and so, it is out there in the public eye, and rather a slap in the face to the upper middle class, which may be perceived as intentional. The price tag reminds us that there are those who don’t think twice about spending this much money. It is not an affordable luxury, as high end niche perfume has been.

    • Your husband’s argument is precisely the argument that is always used when it comes to an item of luxury. It’s a free market, which permits there to be Bentleys and Rolls-Royce alongside other options ranging from BMW, to Volvo, Ford, and Volkswagon. Those on the side of Rolls-Royce talk about the quality, and they would be right. It is why it is so hard to talk about pricing, especially for something as sensory and abstract as perfume which comes down even MORE so to individual tastes and personal choices. Roja Dove wants to be in the same category as Rolls-Royce, not BMW or Porsche. And that’s fine. But as long as he makes that choice, there will be discussion about his pricing, more than for other perfume brands. 🙂

      • But, does anyone question the price of a Bentley or a Rolls? I don’t think so. I think the crux of the matter is, after a certain point, as you noted, the price is arbitrary. When my husband says, “Good for him as an artist. . .” he wasn’t talking about free market concepts, but questioning me as to whether I’d put my money where my mouth is in calling really good perfume Art. Artists’ prices go up with value according to prestige, not by value of the ingredients. And we don’t talk about that often, only when it becomes stratospheric. It’s a rich topic!

        • The thing about Bentley or RR is that we’ve had over a century of them, and their prices. Perfumes that come at relatively Bentley prices is a very new thing. There was Jean Patou’s Joy which was a big deal in the 70s as “the most expensive perfume in the world,” and then I think it was Gold later on from Amouage. These were all anomalies though. I had a discussion about modern/current perfume prices with “The Ultimate Perfume Snobs,” my parents, who did indeed spend quite a small fortune on expensive perfumes when I was growing up, and they said they’ve never seen anything like what is going on now. The percentage of increases, the way there is a whole world of more and more expensive perfumes outside of the more established, commercial lines, and the nature of the prices as a whole.

          Before, there was Guerlain, Chanel, Balmain, YSL, Dior, Patou and the like, and the average, basic perfumes from these “prestige” leaders were never priced so astronomically out of line with the rest of the offerings. (Joy from Jean Patou again being a singular, rare exception). The companies worked for years on a creation, put out one thing every few years, and priced it in a way that didn’t put it on the same level as a Bentley, relatively speaking.

          So, there isn’t a longstanding tradition of accepting stratospheric perfume prices the way there may be for a Bentley, a Monet, a Chateau Lafitte-Rothschild bottle of wine, or a Fabergé egg. Perfume was seen as a luxury, yes, but it wasn’t seen as Art or as a necessity for life the way a car might be. That is why there is a difference in terms of what people will question.

          However, niche (and people like Roja Dove, perhaps Lutens, Malle, etc) are increasingly insisting that perfume *IS* art, as well as both an absolute luxury and a necessity. They’ve reframed the question, and hence the discussion. It helps them justify their prices (especially Roja Dove), but I think many of them also believe it at their core. (Lutens, for example, genuinely thinks about perfume as an art form). We get the benefit of the theory of “Perfume As Art” but, as a corollary, we also get the negative side of that which is: prices to match! Sometimes they will be justified in terms of the cost of the ingredients. Other times, however, as in Lutens’ synthetic Laine de Verre bell jar perfume or some ridiculously synthetic crap (like Malle’s Lipstick Rose, imo, or many creations from cheaper houses like Montale), then the “expensive ingredients” justification is much more suspect. And given the generic nature of numerous niche perfumes that merely copy tired old trends (in addition to using a lot of synthetics), then the “Art” argument is also highly dubious.

          • Ah. Thank you for that. Perfect explanation! This is so very interesting. Very. May the discussion continue (some other day). Cheers!

  15. Fascinating review and comments, Kafka. I tried the original (edp or edt) version of Diaghilev, sent to me by a very kind perfume lover who knows me well and figured it would be right up my alley. Oddly, though, I couldn’t stand it, though for different reasons from you. I found it massively suffocating.

    Jubilation 25, on the other hand? Deep, deep love.

  16. Great review as always, Kafka: you summed up my feelings in this one very succinct statement: “We get the benefit of the theory of “Perfume As Art” but, as a corollary, we also get the negative side of that which is: prices to match!”
    I haven’t tried any of RD’s line because I balk at the prices – and not because I couldn’t afford them (although it would be a stretch, I could wangle it – as you so rightly point out, price is completely subjective), but because until reading this post, the principle just rubbed me the wrong way. From what I’ve read of RD (including info on his website) and as much as you can “judge” a person based on said reading, I summarily dismissed the price points of his perfume as the arrogant statement of someone who “when he speaks, the world listens.” The whole “undeniably the complete, and most provocative, authority on fragrance” thing just stuck in my craw. Which is a bit like cutting off my nose to spite my face I guess, because on the other hand, I don’t want to miss out on what might very well be an amazing experience just because of an assumption about a person I’ve never actually met.
    I agree that of course it is his choice as to whom he markets and the price he accordingly sets and could even add (albeit a bit grudgingly) “more power to him.” After all, he’s set the bar high with the fact that his perfumerie is in Harrods – how much more of a statement could you make? If I accept that he is most definitely and unashamedly aiming for that top 1% clientele and that his perfume at least contains ingredients that warrant a (somewhat) higher price tag, then why do I still feel irritated? I think it might come from the same source that I feel whenever I go to the Tate Modern, for example, and see what is offered as “art” – I look at the price tag and hear my mum saying “some people have more money than sense.” (ugh I know I am opening an enormous vat of worms here – the subjective thing again).
    So the art and price thing are very closely intertwined imo – its a double edged sword for me because on the one hand I like the fact that perfume is increasingly being established as an art form but as you say, we the consumers, will pay accordingly.

    • I had to laugh at your mother’s quote, an old line that I’ve heard often myself, especially in the UK. And, honestly, for a lot of things in life, it probably holds quite true. I understand completely what you mean about Roja Dove’s persona, the way he presents himself, and how it can rub someone the wrong way. Let’s just say that modesty is not Mr. Dove’s strong suit in life…. 😉 But you know, it’s not like he’s an absolutely heinous human being like Coco Chanel. He’s merely an extremely astute businessman who knows how to sell himself and his brand.

      Also, I genuinely DO think that he’s passionate about perfumery and the classics. He helped Grossmith return their brand to life after it died in the post WWII world, and he seemed to do so out of sincere commitment to the important old houses, their legacy and their creations. (You can look up my review of Grossmith’s Phul-Nana if you’re interested, as that talks a little about his role in Grossmith’s return to life.) So I give him credit for a lot of things outside his slightly … um… P.T. Barnum showman persona.

      I don’t know if that helps you to see him in a different way, but I do think it’s worth it to at least *sniff* some of his perfumes. Just to see and to add to your own perfume knowledge. Buying them is a different thing, but given the quality of his creations, you’re only harming yourself by not at least experiencing what perfumery is like at this level. So, if you’re in London, give them a test sniff. Think of it this way: you DO go to the Tate to see the art there, even if you have no chance to buy one of the paintings and probably wouldn’t WANT to buy others, even if you could afford it. His stuff is the same. I don’t think a few of them are worth the cost, but I would never deny the mastery that is at hand and testing them isn’t really so different than going to the Tate to interact with a painting there. 🙂

      • Excellent response – and yes, I will read the post you mentioned after this. I do agree that I should give his perfumes a try – as you so rightly point out, I’d be missing an opportunity to experience this level of artistry. And too, I absolutely agree that he’s different altogether from CC – ugh…
        I certainly shouldn’t hold it against him simply for his marketing strategy, particularly as he’s offering a high level product. Also as a long time lover and collector of vintage, it would be interesting to me to smell Diaghilev, seeing as the consensus seems to be that it incorporates that very “vintage-ness” that I so miss in many (most) of today’s releases.

  17. I like this one very much – but Roja Dove is positively delusional if he thinks this scent is worth $1,000, IMO. I simply can’t fathom it. I know, I *know* price is so subjective – but $1,000?! It’s absurd. It’s a shame, too, because I’d be tempted by it if only it were more reasonably priced.
    Naturally, he’s free to charge what he wants, but I think he could reach a much wider audience and propel his name further into the perfume stratosphere if he lowered his prices to something even slightly more reasonable. I mean, clearly, he doesn’t care or have an interest in that, but I think it’s disappointing because I don’t think there’s a whole lot of scents like this on the market currently (but if anyone knows one that is, let me know!). Between this and his “birthday gift” scent which costs thousands, I think I’ve sort of washed my hands of Roja Dove to be honest. Dramatic, perhaps, but it definitely gives the vibe that he’s so far up his own ass at this point. Crass, perhaps, but that’s how I feel!

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  19. One more time I’m last in line: Roja’s scents made it to Germany only about two weeks ago.

    Luckily the Dove retailer’s not far away from where I live so I went and had a sniff, especially at the legendary “Diaghilev” (this rhymes so well…).

    It smelled so wonderful at the bottle’s spraying device, and on me after about one and a half hours, Diaghilev went completely haywire (of course, I had then already bought the sample). The same happened to me with Pure Distance’s “Black”, Guerlain’s “Arsène Lupin” or Lancôme’s “Sikkim” and almost with Amouage’s “Lyric” and “Beloved for Women”; and then some I just don’t remember right now.

    Can anybody explain this? This must be an ingredient simulating moss or some kind of woody base, or maybe it’s the real thing itself. On me it produces a very uncomfortable scent, obviously not in agreement with my body chemistry. Well, it stinks. I wonder if anybody else has had the same kind of experience.

    It doesn’t happen with “Mitsouko” (one scent Diaghilev did not remind me of at all) or “Nuit de Noel”, by the way.

    Just one last comment on salesmanship: there exists the so-called “Luxury Effect”, which means you can increase sales by making prices higher, which basically contradicts every economic rule. But it works fine, especially with luxury goods. The less necessary a good is, the higher you can price it.

    Psychological tests have proved that the higher the price, the more people’s dopamine production
    increases, which has very positive and soothing effects on the biologic reward system.

    You simply feel great offering yourself a “treat”.

    Which explains why I still fall for Dove products every now and then. “Danger” really is a more expensive version of “Samsara”…

    Petra

    • So when you say that all these perfumes “go haywire” on your skin, how do you mean precisely? Is it always the same note which appears, or do they go wrong in the exact same way? I don’t think a few of those fragrances have anything in common, as Puredistance Black doesn’t have a lot of shared notes with Diaghilev, Lyric or some of the others. It sounds like it may be something woody more than oakmoss, but I can’t figure out what note it might be.

      • It is always the same way they go “off”, I can hardly describe it, there’s a bitter taste which is very disagreable, and the whole impression is as if there was some wood hidden behind it.

        A scent I cannot wear at all because it even starts off this way is “L’heure Mystérieuse XII” by Cartier. “Chamade pour Homme” by Guerlain as well as the attar “Salamah” by Amouage tend to take the same direction in their dry-downs,
        but, luckily, this is not so overwhelming as to ruin the entire scents. The same applies to “Fetish” for women by Roja Dove.

        As most of the scents are quite pricey in my opinion, it seems my skin is averse to some high quality ingredient 🙂 which at least spares me some expense…

        Petra

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  23. I don’t have time to read through all of the discussion but I must say the fragrance is mind-blowing, head spinning perfection to me. Ignoring price, it has my signature scent written all over it. I am also completely fascinated by the ROJA composition (a violet bomb) but that is completely different. In any case, I likely will pick D up and rest it on my dresser to be worn at least once / week. Bravo!

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