First off, several people have asked what those Total Beauty posts are. We are signed up with them and they link to us to help grow our readership, and we run their ads and link to some of their articles. They cover a lot of topics besides fragrance, and I’ve read several fun articles on there. We’re still fiddling around with the formatting and the timing of their posts on here to have them visible but minimally intrusive. Feel free to check them out (or not!) and give us your feedback.
Okay, on to today’s review.
I believe the story goes something like this: Once upon a time, Estee Lauder, a perfume visionary, marketed a fragrance called Youth Dew as a bath oil – to get women to buy it for themselves, rather than the (traditional) fragrance route of finding some man to buy it for them. I´ve always been interested in this. I have a bottle of vintage Youth Dew Bath Oil that is – literally – slightly larger than my thumbnail. I can only imagine it was a freebie in a gift package, or another type of giveaway, decades ago. The stuff is fabulous, but it´s so strong I think the tiny bottle would level the city. A single drop on my skin, applied with a toothpick, is – to be honest – slightly more than I can bear. Yes, my Youth Dew has had some extra fermentation time in the bottle. And maybe, if I could grow a pair, I´d try dropping that toothpick´s worth of Youth Dew in the bath to see if it diffused the scent some. But I´m afraid to. What if I can´t get it to go away? Ever? What if we have to tear that part of the house down to the studs just to get rid of the smell? The Big Cheese would be vexed with me, I am pretty sure.
Another (possibly apocryphal) story springs to mind: Tom Ford bought the house of … somebody (his aunt? Estee herself?) who wore Youth Dew on a regular basis for decades. The smell permeated every surface pore of the interior, like cigarette smoke, or possibly anthrax. It was impossible to get rid of. Youth Dew´s notes are orange, bergamot, peach, spices, aldehydes, clove, rose, ylang-ylang, cinnamon, orchid, amber, tolu balsam, patchouli, benzoin, and vanilla. In the end, I am not sure whether it is the spices or the resiny-balsamy wallop upside the head that does me in, but I have decided that Youth Dew (at least my bottle of it) is best appreciated in occasional whiffs, my own curious version of smelling salts.
Angela at Now Smell This, in her recent review of Dana Tabu, did an arm-to-arm comparison with Youth Dew, which has similar notes and similar killer sillage, and said “Youth Dew was almost prim by comparison. Youth Dew smelled spicy and musky clean while Tabu smelled like the leftovers of a dessert buffet in a medieval hall.” I thought, wow, that Tabu is something I have to try. I mentioned this in a post and – voila! – the wonderful Amy offered to send me a sample of her vintage parfum.
Tabu was born in 1932, and there are all sorts of stories about it; I am not entirely sure I believe the assertion that it was designed for/to be worn by prostitutes. That sounds like some marketing alchemy to get women to buy something naughty. Even if it´s not true, the construct works – don´t most of us, at some time and in some place, want to brush up against taboo? There is a great tradition in fragrance, from My Sin to Poison. Fragrance as boundary-pusher. Fragrance as elixir of transformation.
Tabu’s notes give you an idea of the potency — bergamot oil, coriander, neroli, spice notes, clove bud oil, clover, jasmine, narcissus, oriental rose, ylang ylang, amber, benzoin, cedar, civet, moss, musk, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver. This is, like many strong fragrances, a love it/hate it on Basenotes.
Given Tabu´s popularity and production run, I´d probably try to get ahold of a vintage bottle. Tabu parfum is stunning. It is animalic but not intensely so. The spice notes are strongest at the top, but never at the smother-me-now levels they maintain in my vintage Youth Dew. (Other spice-burial frags off the top of my head: Malle´s Noir Epices, CdG original or Kenzo Jungle L´Elephant. Not that there´s anything wrong with that.) For a fragrance allegedly designed for prostitutes, the florals are elegant and restrained, adding their soft, lightly sweet voices to the skank notes rather than dominating the composition. Like the glorious Bal a
Angela says her parfum “smells less sweet and stays closer to my skin” than the current EDC, which makes sense and is reinforced by Basenoters describing the drugstore variety as too sweet and cheap-smelling. I think my assumption that the EDT from CVS is swill compared to a vintage parfum is probably reasonable, and I promise I will find out at some point. Angela says: “I don’t know what Tabu smelled like when it first came out, but today Tabu smells to me like a viscous brew of maple syrup, patchouli, and incense. It is an odor that is almost tangible, like walking through a thick-napped velvet curtain.” (Tabu won the 2007 and 2008 Basenotes award for best mass-market, drugstore, budget or direct-sell fragrance, so the current iteration maybe isn´t so bad, but that´s a pretty low bar.) I checked the local drugstores, and this most venerable of drugstore scents doesn´t seem available, but maybe it will appear before Christmas. In the meantime, I´d like to report that I wore the Tabu parfum in our recent mid-90s weather. It is always interesting to experiment with “cold weather” fragrance in extreme heat. Super-sweet, gourmand winter scents in the heat can make me gag, but marinating in Bal or Tabu in sweltering weather brings out all the incense. Bal and Tabu have an oddly cooling effect I think Patty and others have mentioned – like stepping into the cooling shelter of a stone cathedral.
King Kong vs. Godzilla: cinemastrikesback.com