Dioressence in its older versions comes from a time and place where people didn't buy perfume as an afterthought while shopping at the mall. It smells very French and womanly in the best way possible, and one can feel the connection Dioressence has to Miss Dior- according to Luca Turin, perfumer Guy Robert got the idea for the formula when washing his ambergris-smelling hands with a Miss Dior soap. While none of the vintage bottles in my possession gives a strong ambergris note, I can understand the inspiration behind it.
Dioressence could be described as Miss Dior's Casual Friday outfit. This is what she wears when out of her pencil skirt and seamed stockings. It's greener and wilder, especially once the aldehydic opening calms down. Miss Dior's leather and smoke are replaced with (controlled) sweetness, but there's still enough oakmoss there to keep things interesting. My bottles (EDT and parfum concentration) are from different years, and as is the case with all the classic Diors, it's hard to make heads and tails between the versions. One bottle has clearly a lot more spicy carnation and powdery flowers, while another is strong the chypre structure.
I love them all and tend to layer them together randomly. I find Dioressence surprisingly easy to wear, despite what some call funky notes- there's no dead rodents for me, just joy, exuberance and tasteful sensuality.
Dioressence has undergone several reformulations. I've smelled the EDT (the parfum has been gone for years now, at least in North America) from the mid 2000s a few times and found it utterly forgettable. Word on the various boards is that the most recent version- one that came out in the second part of 2009- is actually better and resembles the original. I haven't tried it yet- my local Saks seems to still keep the previous tester and the Dior SA can't talk perfume to save her life.
Vintage Dioressence ads from around 1981- okadi.com and paperpursuits.com.