French Colonial Style – Review: Dior Escale à Pondichéry

On the hunt for the perfect summer scent I happened upon the Dior Voyage collection “Les Escales”.

There are three Eaux de Toilette (for now, I have no doubt the line is going to be extended). The first to be released was Escale à Portofino, a year later followed Escale à Pondichéry and finally the most recent one is Escale aux Marquises.

Since I am on a tea kick, I’ll start with Escale à Pondichéry, but the others will follow soon.

Created in 2009 (by Francois Demachy, as far as I could find out), Pondichéry includes notes of black tea, cardamom, jasmine sambac, woods and musk.

If you want to know how this smells, DO NOT test it on paper. If you do, you are in for a surprise when it actually hits skin. There is a world of difference. Thinking this was only my skin’s reaction that distorted this fragrance into something so different from the blotter, I recruited some friends to try it – with the same results. I am not saying Pondichéry is bad or disintegrates on skin, it just is not the same as on paper in a dramatic way.

On the skin Pondichéry opens with a bright burst of citrus notes that carry the tea with them. Soon cardamom is apparent too, I love that note. The first half hour of development of this scent is the best. A lovely melange of cardamom-laced tea with lemon. I do not get much of the jasmine, the composition segues into its sandalwood drydown on a strong bergamot fuelled citrus note carrying the scent of tea with it, jasmine – for me – is providing only a hint of a soft floral background. The drydown phase is surprisingly long-lasting, if low-key. I am tempted to reapply soon to experience the glorious crushed cardamom and fresh tea again and again. It is hard to go overboard with this kind of fragrance anyway, but it is a good way to burn money fast.  🙂

I like Pondichéry in a “it is lovely and fulfills its function” way, but I am not floored by its beauty or uniqueness. I love the bottle very much though, such a pretty piece of art I love to look at.

If you are looking for a tea-based cologne style summer scent that is undemanding and low-maintenance, Escale à Pondichéry is a good and solid choice.

The actual city of Pondichéry

What it fails to do is inspire me to any flights of fancy, to any associations, it does not invoke dreams of faraway locales in me. I get the feeling it smells like a Frenchman would want India to smell like, not like the actual place or even the fantasy of the actual place. It is the ultimate colonial fragrance maybe, a nod to the host culture, but essentially a good old European construction.

I have way to many perfumes that are able to inspire and invite to dream, to spend my time with a purely functional, if pretty one.

Image source:,, some rights reserved, thank you!

About Olfactoria

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18 Responses to French Colonial Style – Review: Dior Escale à Pondichéry

  1. Tara says:

    B, I just love the sound of this. I adore cardamon, taa, jasmine and sandalwood. Guess it’s not cheap though and I don’t have the spare cash to spend on something that’s not extraordinary or substantial. I’ll try it on skin though if I get the chance.

    • Olfactoria says:

      It is not extremely expensive (over here it is around 60€ for 75ml), but I am not sure if it would be worth it for you. The notes sound definitely better than the resulting fragrance, although it is not bad at all, it is not breathtakingly, heart-stoppingly, money-is-no-object special either.
      I’ll send you a little bit!

  2. Marie says:

    I think I’ve made up my mind that Escales a Portofino will be my summer fragrance so I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on it 🙂

    • Olfactoria says:

      I just finished writing that post, it will be published next week (Tuesday probably). Just this much – I like it way better than this one today! 🙂

  3. Marina says:

    I like the third one in the series, jeez, what IS its name?! Well, clrealy I like it only so much since I cna’t remember the name…

  4. deeHowe says:

    I wonder if this is unremarkable because it’s for Dior’s mass market audience (and that’s what that audience wants) or if the quality of the materials really causes such a great breach between “it is lovely and fulfills its function” and something more?

    There are some really good mass market frags out there (Cinema, Bulgari Black), so it can’t just be materials, can it??

  5. axum says:

    I’m glad to hear someone else experienced the same paper-to-skin transformation. I have not sniffed Marquises, but was reasonably impressed by the fresh-lemon-hold-the-sugar of Portofino.

  6. Tarleisio says:

    Well, whaddaya know, I’ve tried all three of these, and whaddaya know…great minds think alike, maybe? 😉

    I can see the marketing idea behind this – port-of-call/luxe/exotic blah blah blah. But with one exception – I’ll be getting back to that one – two of the three, including Pondichéry, struck me as falling rather short of the mark. They were well-made, they were Dior, and the bottles are, I have to say it,fahbulous, dahling! But for what they were supposed to represent, they were…not quite so much.

    The exception has to be Portofino. This is one of my summer staples for that glorious burst of citrus/lemon/orange/neroli/petitgrain, and then, the coup-de-grâce…that downright strange yet perfect note of milky almond, leathery green skin and all. It isn’t demanding or demands too much of you, it isn’t asking you to dress for the occasion – unless it’s Pucci, which I’d be thrilled to wear! – and for a summer in a bottle, it’s great.

    A bit like the best kind of fling. Light-hearted, uncomplicated and you know it won’t last but who cares? It will be fun while it does! 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      As you say, great minds think alike: my notions regarding those three perfumes are almost exactly the same, as you will soon see in the upcoming reviews of the other two. 🙂

  7. lady jane grey says:

    Jeez, you’re already looking for the summer perfume ? When it is still freezing cold and wet in our (yours and mine) corner ?
    Do you know the feeling, when you want to like a perfume only because you found its name nice and/or romantic ? Well, probably not, and am the only hopelessly sentimental (or less diplomatically : stupid) creature, but I wanted love Pondicherry and Portofino. And of course I was disappointed : I mean, they are fine. But they’re definitely not worth my love !

    • Olfactoria says:

      For the sake of blogging I have to stay ahead! 😉 And besides I can’t stand the cold anymore and decided to ignore it.

      I absolutely know that feeling, and well! Happens to me all the time! 😉

  8. Pingback: Only You – Review: Dior Escale à Portofino | Olfactoria's Travels

  9. Jennifer says:

    Escale a pondichery is the most beautiful scent I have discovered in years.
    Very subtle and elegant. Congratulations!!

  10. Pingback: From Tea To Infinity – Review: Atelier Cologne Oolang Infini | Olfactoria's Travels

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