Soft, soft, soft. That’s how I’d describe Papillon Perfumery Dryad. When I was a kid, we used to pull cattails from the creek bed and twist their velvety tops open, releasing clouds of “fairies” into the breeze. Smelling Dryad is like chasing these seeds as they float in a meadow. It’s all about texture.
Papillon’s founder Liz Moores created Dryad, and its notes include narcissus, oakmoss, jonquil, costus, galbanum, clary sage, deer tongue, cedrat, benzoin, lavender, thyme and orris. When Moores describes Dryad, she talks about the aroma of the forest surrounding her home and mentions that Dryad will smell familiar to lovers of Miss Dior and vintage Vol de Nuit.
I understand the references to these fragrances in Dryad’s green, hay-infused, leathery and mossy scent. I’d add Nina Ricci Fille d’Eve to the list, too. But the one thing Dryad has that the other perfumes don’t is a texture as light as goose down.
Dryad’s opening is a rich combination of galbanum (tart, smashed flower stems, leaves and cut grass) and narcissus with its hint of ashtray that gives the note the innocent-dirty feel I love. Moss and herbs take over as the galbanum retreats, and iris seasons Dryad’s heart rather than playing a starring role, given it a bare hint of sweetness. After twenty minutes or so, the “baby scalp” scent of costus comes through. It's sophisticated but easy.
Dryad settles into a sage-tinted leathery-mossy phase for a while before spending its last several hours humming in a quiet herbal-resin halo. I can dab it from my sample vial before my morning coffee and still smell it after dinner. While it’s present, it’s never intrusive. When I wear it, it’s sort of the “salt” to bring out my day’s style rather than driving force behind how I appear to the world, if that makes any sense.
I can’t imagine Dryad making any headway on department store shelves. It’s too subtle and elegantly old-fashioned. If you’re looking for a fragrance with Papillon Salome’s in-your-face attitude, you won’t find it here. Yes, Dryad does have Miss Dior’s clary sage and galbanum and leather, but it doesn’t show any of the perfume’s freakiness. As for the comparison to Vol de Nuit, the two fragrances share narcissus, galbanum and an easygoing character, but Vol de Nuit Extrait is sweeter and thicker.
To me, what sets Dryad apart is its chiffon-like weight on skin. It gives the fragrance a hard-to-pin-down presence that glows in the background, letting you — not your perfume — be the focus of interest. I could imagine someone choosing Dryad as a daily fragrance, then punching it up with Miss Dior, Piguet Bandit, Carven Ma Griffe or Christian Dior Dioressence when he or she wanted to make a statement.
I’m already shortlisting this one for my Best of 2017 list.
Papillon Perfumery Dryad Eau de Parfum is $160 for 50 ml. I got my sample at Fumerie, but for a full list of stores carrying the line, see “Stockists” on Papillon’s website.