I press soft flesh to bark in the evening’s gold dusk,
to breathe heavy hues of a Satyr’s musk.
My body is swelling with the oak’s root and seed
Our veins and our vines weave together with ease,
And as your chatter dispels at the shake of our leaves,
You set your ear to our chest, to hear the whisper of trees. [….]
Beneath the dark of your eyelids, our damp forest floor rises.
The lilac of lavender soothes dwindling sight.
The essence of our body’s sap stained perfume
Soars above oak beams, drenched in silk, silver light.
I press the soft suede of an apricots sheath to your lips.
The sweetness jars with narcissus’ bitter.
Head tilted, enchanted, you breathe your first breath, with the timber of touch I lead you, bereft
of sight and of sound, but with gilt dew on your skin
each of your pursed pores unravels, and the forest seeps in.
I watch moist emerald moss survive in the sun,
I catch burnished, bronze leaves that fall from each stem.
While dwelled in the canopy, I skim saplings in starlight,
And dust gilded galbanum through the dim of the glen.
From autumn to summer, from winter to spring
The branches and bow are open.
The changing of seasons ticks with the sun.
Each colour prints petal marks to rest at your chest; it is dappled with wolf’s blood and the slick of deer’s tongue.
Roses creep at my ankles, bergamot blooms
Clary sage clouds you with billowing fumes,
and here in my tree I watch you awaken; I do not hide behind trunk or stem.
So dance with the Dryad’s, sip all you have taken
Fall blind, deaf and drunk in the pearl of the glen.
These lovely words are a few senual stanzas from a long poem written by Jasmine Moores, Liz Moores‘ talented eldest daughter, in celebration of Dryad, Papillon‘s much anticipated new release. (The complete text is posted on Papillon’s FB page.) The poem is also part of the company’s official description for Dryad, and it conveys far better than I could some of the perfumer’s inspiration and intended feel for the scent.
Yet, despite the wonderfully evocative druidic, sylvan, and green imagery, Dryad is technically a chypre rather than a traditional “green” scent (in the way that last category is usually defined or described in perfumery). In fact, on my skin, Dryad is a chypre, chypre-oriental, forest scent, and green fragrance, all rolled into one, and it ripples fluidly from one genre to the next without ever limiting itself to one category’s main, dominating characteristics. As someone who finds purely green scents far outside their personal comfort zone and who typically twitches at the words “galbanum” or “violet leaf” (let alone when horrifically combined together)(full-body shudder), one of the things that I like best about Dryad is that it demonstrates none of the frigid hauteur, aggressive stiletto sharpness, and stark minimalism of Chanel No. 19, the legendary benchmark for green compositions. Thank God, no. I’m equally relieved that there is none of the biting green-black brutality of its galbanum-drenched, cold, leathery couture counterpart, Robert Piguet Bandit.
At the same time, Dryad is nothing like Mitsouko, the olfactory benchmark for the chypre genre, nor a literal and on the nose rendition of a forest scent. For example, there is none of the earthen, mushroom-laden forest floor that so dominates Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse‘s fantastically alien (but admittedly polarizing) fairy forest, nor the Tolkien-esque wildness of the Pacific Northwest which Slumberhouse‘s Norne manifests with such intensity. Instead, Dryad borrows from all these varied genres to create a modern but completely timeless hybrid that dances along the usual parameters while forging its own path in a seamless, polished fashion.
Even better, it invites one in — even green-phobes like myself — with its mellow, rounded edges and sunlit meadows, and creates a world that (to me) is all about country chic. Instead of the poem’s satyrs cavorting lustily amidst gnarled tree roots and moss, instead of Chanel No. 19’s icy urban edges, I imagine lounging aristos from Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited sipping a large G&T at a casual picnic on a sunny summer’s day under an old oak tree at the edge of a grassy flowering meadow. Or a Ralph Lauren tweedy couture photo shoot set in Oxfordshire at an ancient manor house whose crumbly red bricks are covered with a verdant blanket of crunchy ivy and fresh, springy moss, and whose untamed narcissus and violet leaf garden lies midway between a mossy glen and a tiny herb patch. Dryad imbues its many forms of greenness with a welcoming, approachable warmth, balancing its competing cool and warm elements with great finesse and judicious editing for a fragrance that flows with fluidity and seamlessness. The result not only demonstrates Ms. Moores’ enormous growth as a perfumer, but it’s also her best work yet.
That’s the contextual and larger framework, but let’s move onto the specifics now. Dryad is an eau de parfum, and it will be released on July 10th. Its ingredients go far beyond the mere five or six things printed on the box or even the longer official version provided by the company to retailers. The poem quoted in part at the top of this page should give you an idea of some of the notes in the scent, but Ms. Moores, knowing my compulsive obsession with specifics and details, was generous enough to share the full list with me:
Bigaradier, Cedrat, Apricot, Bergamot, Tarragon, Thyme, Star Anise, Geranium, Narcissus, Jonquil, Oakmoss, Turkish Rose, Orris, Orange Blossom, Ylang Ylang, IFF’s Costus, Castoreum, Civet, Galbanum, Lavender, Clary Sage, Deer Tongue absolute, Vetiver, Tobacco, Bois de Landes, Styrax, Ionones, Benzoin, Labdanum, and Peru balsam.
Some of you may be unfamiliar with a few of these ingredients, so let me briefly explain. Bigardier is another word for Bigarade or Seville orange, a type of bitter orange. Cedrat is a citron with a great fragrance but not a lot of acidity. Jonquil is a relative of the daffodil and narcissus but, in my experience, it is not as dry or hay-like as the latter. Deer Tongue (sometimes called “Dog-Tongue” or “Vanilla Plant”) has a sweet, coumarin aroma and was often added to tobacco in the old days to give it a vanilla-like scent. Costus is an animalic material that smells of dark musk, skin, fur, and sometimes of either rubber or dirty hair. (It does not here, let me assure you now. It was used very judiciously and carefully.) Clary sage is a material with the aromatic freshness of lavender but it’s smoother and less forceful, and it can also have a leathery undertone as well. Ionones are often used in perfumery to recreate the scent of violets (or rose). Castoreum and Styrax are frequently combined together to give a leathery quality to a scent. And, finally, Bois des Landes is a Robertet co-extraction of French pine resinoid with Virginian cedarwood oil.
Dryad opens on my skin with springy, mossy, piquant, peppery, and tannic galbanum, strewn with immensely crunchy leaves that make me think of ivy, followed by bright violet leaf. One of the reasons why I generally dislike the latter so much is because it is typically a shrill, heavily synthetic greenness that is imbued with a sharp lemony quality. There is none of that here, however. Instead, there is a soft, deep, mellow green leafiness whose edges have been rounded out and which bears layers of olfactory nuance ranging from sweet summer grass to loamy earth, dried autumnal leaves, and fresh, sweet herbaceousness. A ghostly suggestion of thyme (and rosemary?) ripples through the air while the lightest sheen of yellow glitters amidst the greenness as drops of citrus suddenly appear like morning dew. Slender fingers of emerald-green oakmoss slowly sprout up around the galbanum like dancing spring shoots. In the base lurks the merest suggestion of dark sticky resins that weave their way under the main notes like roots. The cumulative effect feels like an early morning stroll through an untamed garden or woods, one’s steps crunching on springy vegetation, fallen leaves, and fresh earth as other parts of nature rustle quietly all around.
The rustling grows louder when other players arrive on scene. The narcissus appears within minutes bearing aromas of hay mixed in with a dry floralcy, rootiness, leafy bitterness, and a certain sappy bite (for lack of a better word). I suspect that orris and vetiver both subtly contribute to the sense of rootiness that is enfolded within, just as the galbanum accentuates the impression of bitter sap, but Dryad is so seamlessly blended and so wonderfully smooth that it’s not always easy to ascertain where one note ends and another begins. (Plus, so many of the elements have olfactory traits in common.) The important thing to know is that the narcissus quickly joins the peppery galbanum, the crunchy leaves, and the complex violet leaf as the main forces driving Dryad’s first hour. The oakmoss, citruses, herbs, vetiver, orris, earthiness, rootiness, and subtly resinous warmth all trail several feet behind, rounding out the picture.
The cumulative effect quickly shifts Dryad away from the cool, damp, shadowy forest of the first 10 minutes to also encompass an entire meadow on a fresh, sun-dappled summer’s morning. Sometimes, the emphasis veers more towards the flowers with their dry, semi-bitter, semi-sweet, and occasionally hay-like aromas; sometimes, it’s planted firmly on the peppery galbanum and complex violet leaf. The two camps or set of accords play off each other, rippling back and forth, as if an olfactory wind had blown across the fields. There is a seamless balance between the two threads where the various parts that make up each section are perfectly clear and distinct, but they’re woven together in perfect harmony so that there is never too much greenness, leafiness, floralcy, dryness, sweetness, or bite.
It’s a clever adaptation of the classical chypre structure for something more modern and less typical than we’ve come to expect from the genre. Instead of the traditional top-heavy bergamot paired with a juicy, fruity rose over a mossy base, there is dry narcissus accompanied by galbanum and violet leaf with a heavily tempered citrus note that is folded within soft herbs, grasses, earth, fresh and dried leaves, and sweet grasses. Instead of a rose in bloom, Ms. Moores has gone outside the box to bring you the countryside and its less vaunted denizens.
The classical green genre has received the same modernized variation or upgrade as well. For example, Ms. Moores has avoided pairing the highly challenging galbanum note with its usual cold acolytes, like the clean, soapy aldehydes that Coco Chanel loved so much, or the dusty, powdery version of iris. Instead, she’s given it a more naturalistic, country freshness with an underpinning of sunny, oriental warmth through ambered resins and even a carefully calibrated bit of musky, furry, animalism and leather.
Those last two accords become significant when Dryad’s middle or heart stage begins roughly 1.25 hours into its development. The fragrance turns both warmer and darker, the ambery resins not only seeping up from the base but growing in strength as well. They’re joined by a wonderful styrax-castoreum-costus leather note that smells quietly smoky, redolent of both campfires and dark musks.
Given the seamless fluidity of Dryad notes, the impact of these new arrivals varied from one wearing to the next. In one of my tests, the leather and resins pushed the galbanum and violet leaf to the side at this point, and fused around the narcissus, the dark earth, and mosses. The result was a mix of floralcy, hay, leather, and resins, although the balance of notes increasingly tilted towards a lovely and novel central accord of hay-strewn leather. Small curlicues of campfire smoke, rooty iris, ambery sweetness, furry muskiness, and sticky balsamic darkness remained, but they were not the central focus of the scent on my skin in this wearing. In this test, the floralcy changed late in the third hour from narcissus to a fruity floral sweetness that, on my skin, smelt more like jasmine than orange blossom. It was accompanied by an increased earthiness from patchouli which, every once in a while, bore a hint of dark chocolate and spicy woods.
Other tests differed even more. In my second test, it was the narcissus which flitted away at the start of the second hour, leaving behind peppery galbanum fused with benzoin, patchouli, musky costus root, crunchy violet leaf, and a faint suggestion of anisic tarragon. In a third test, most of the green notes retreated into the background, the narcissus remained on center stage, smelt more of dry floralcy than hay (perhaps thanks to the iris?), and was accompanied primarily by a distinctly horsey leather, which I loved and which I was sorry to see go after 40-50 minutes. In a fourth test, Dryad was a blur of spicy greenness layered with musky leather, a smidgen of tobacco, and a bit of purring, furry, fuzzy animalism, but there was zero sense of floralcy and not much overt ambery resinousness, either. In short, Dryad manifests itself in a rather kaleidoscopic way on my skin in its middle stage and from the second hour onwards, so you might want to test the fragrance a few times before you make up your mind about it.
If you’re concerned about my references to animalism, don’t be. Dryad is not Salome, not even remotely. What appears is a carefully restrained, balanced, and very sexy cloud of quiet muskiness that hovers over whatever main accord is on display on center stage. It’s not animalic in a tangible, solid way, but it’s definitely not clean white musk, either. (Thank god.) It’s frequently either a skin-like textural thing (like heated flanks), or an impressionistic “animalism,” just as in some cases the “leather” aspect was merely a shadow of darkness upon the green. The costus root (known to be quite a notorious, challenging material) has been meticulously calibrated to avoid anything overtly skanky or brazen; the leather is smooth, running fluidly under or around the other notes; and everything works harmoniously as though a micro-dosing olfactory approach were used. (In point of fact, Ms. Moores told me that she used microscopic quantities of civet and, in my experience, it really wasn’t a noticeable, prominent element except once, in one test, where there was a short-lived ripple of something urinous lurking below the dark musk and leather.)
This highly finessed approach is one reason why, as I mentioned at the start of this review, I think Ms. Moores has really grown as a perfumer and in her craft. The notes in Dryad are so harmonized, balanced, and fluid that the scent stands apart from its siblings. Ms. Moores’ other fragrances were frequently dominated by one central theme, albeit usually a multi-faceted, layered one. For example, the brazen “skank”-cumin of Salome, the smoky darkness of Anubis, the endless roses of Tobacco Rose. One might argue that the same thing applies to Dryad as well with all its greenness but, to me, the scent incorporates so many elements and nuances, and it ripples back and forth between them so fluidly, that there is no one singular, overwhelming element towering above all the rest, at least not for the first six hours of its life.
It’s only in the drydown that things turn simple, although, even then, Dryad never follows an identical course in terms of its specific details. In almost all of my tests, the drydown began roughly around the middle of the 6th hour and was a blur of notes that were musky, warm, sweet, green, lightly floral, grassy, and occasionally a wee bit sour. To the extent that I could pull out any one element, it was initially the narcissus-hay and then, much later during the second half of the drydown, the vetiver. Ultimately, though, Dryad felt more like a sense or mood to me than a set of concrete perfume notes. What it reminded me above all else is the scent and feel of a warm, heated body after rolling around extensively in grass, moss, hay, and flowers on a warm summer’s day, their crushed essences, stalks, and petals sticking to your skin. In this test, Dryad eventually finished up as a grassy greenness imbued with a faintly powdery, skin-like muskiness and warmth.
The one exception to this development was my third test when the previously dominant narcissus unexpectedly vanished at the end of the fourth hour, and the vetiver took over as the star of the show, wafting its greenness, mossiness, and leafy earthiness. What was nice about this is that the vetiver had a delightful smoky quality to it that worked well with the castoreum and the subtler licks of benzoin sweetness. Equally enjoyable was what came later: a warm, cozy, fluffy vetiver licked by benzoin caramel, dusted by a coumarin-ish powderiness (the deer tongue), and then placed atop something creamy and faintly woody that reminded me of the last stages of sandalwood, only more buttery and sweet. It was only when I look a second look at the complete note list that I realized it had to be the ylang ylang interacting with the Bois de Landes and resins which had created such a lovely buttery woodiness and textural creaminess.
This was my favourite drydown and version of Dryad, but all of them were enjoyable to test and wear. I won’t lie to you and say that I plan to rush out and purchase a full bottle of the scent, because you’d think I had been abducted by aliens and possessed if I did, but I would definitely consider buying a decant of Dryad for occasional use. I find it both mentally interesting in its many variations and a very approachable take on the chypre and cool green genres. If I had to compare it to anything else on the market, I would call it the love child of La Via del Profumo‘s Tarzan/Muschio di Quercia (a very sunny vetiver oakmoss combination with some leathery darkness) and Aftelier‘s Bergamoss, only with narcissus added in, loads of galbanum, and a heightened emphasis on violet leaf.
Dryad, however, has significantly better projection and longevity than either of those two all-natural scents on my skin, although I would hasten to add that it is softer than its purely oriental Papillon siblings, Anubis and Salome. I was provided with a sample atomizer (whose spray hole was smaller than that on a regular bottle), and I consistently applied several spritzes amounting to roughly 2 sprays from an actual bottle. With that amount, Dryad always started out softly with about 2.5 to 3 inches of projection and about 3-4 inches of scent trail. However, once the warmer, richer, and darker oriental elements began to surface, the numbers grew. The sillage typically expanded to about 5-6 inches after 40-50 minutes, and the bouquet gained body. It was actually quite a strong scent when smelt up close. At the end of the 3rd hour and the start of the 4th, the projection was about 1.5 inches, while the sillage dropped to about 3, unless I moved my arms about in which case a small trail briefly wafted around me. Dryad hovered just above the skin when the 5th hour rolled around, and became a skin scent not long after. However, I had no problems detecting it well into the 9th hour if I put my nose on my arm. After that point, it took a bit of effort. In total, Dryad typically lasted between 13 and 14 hours on me. As a side note, I noticed the fragrance performed better and showed more layers in the heat than in air-conditioned coldness, and that spraying lavishly (i.e., more than the equivalent of 2 small sprays from a bottle) increased the sillage and longevity. As another side note, I think Dryad is completely unisex in its gender profile.
Dryad won’t launch until July 10th, so it has no Fragrantica listing at this time, but there are several reviews out there already, all of which are very positive. I’m trying to write shorter articles (comparatively speaking) upon my return to blogging, so I will merely provide you with links and nutshell synopses, and then you can read further at your own leisure. I Scent You A Day fell in love with Dryad, finding it to be an exquisite, green, mossy, sylvan scent with elements that reminded her of vintage Dior Diorissimo atop a slightly Guerlainade-like base. The Candy Perfume Boy called Dryad a “showstopper” with more white floralcy than expected in its opening, followed then by foresty twists and turns thereafter, but with classic Guerlain quality and style throughout. Megan in St. Maxime is, like me, normally twitchy about the green category, but she found herself delighted by Dryad with its “rare mix of that classic, retro feel made modern (and perfected),” and she plans to buy a bottle.
In short, Dryad is definitely worth a try. If green scents are outside your usual comfort zone or if prior Papillon scents like Salome or Anubis have been difficult, then this might be the one to make you change your mind.
Disclosure: My sample was provided by Papillon. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.