King Tut – DSH perfumes (Patty)

King Tut exhibit is in Denver, has been for a month or two, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz did a series of perfumes, based on scents that would have been around in that time period for the modern Egyptian man and woman to paste on.

If you’re thinking these would be heavy on incense and other “burial-type” oils, you’d be right!  I’ve been playing around with the Megaleion, Keni, Antiu, all heavy incense-type fragrances, dancing to  that Steve Martin Egyptian song – was that him? –  and they are really fun to wear to to think that perfumery has been around for so long, and we all still love our incenses.  The beauty of the group that I would so wear heavily right now is the 1,000 Lilies AKA Susinon.

Donna reviewed these a while back at Perfume Smellin’  Things, which is what intrigued me to sample them to begin with.

Megaleion, despite being based on a scent from not just a few hundred years back is pretty great to wear now. It does have a green aspect to it, outside of the resins, that makes it feel a little more modern.   By modern, I mean it could have been made in the last 80 years.  Well, what do you expect?  It’s got a little bit of a vintage Dior or Nina Ricci feel to it.  Notes are olibanum, pine resin oil, cassia, cinnamon, balsam of gilead, cedarwood, lemongrass, spikenard, costus root, sweet flag and myrrh.

Keni is all delicious cinnamon and cardamom spiciness on the open.  There’s more to it than that that enriches it in the drydown, mellowing it out, giving it some softer contrasts, but if you don’t like cinnamon, well, don’t them let mummify you in this.  Notes are cassia, cinnamon, myrrh and pine resin oil.

Antiu is, as Donna notes, serious bitter almond and galbanum out of the pipe. It is nicely fierce!  I like that in a perfume, there’s just no faffing about trying to decide what to be when it grows up.  There’s some nice touches with lemongrass and honey that float around this as it dries down, turning a softer woody resinous green. It softens out that fierce open, which is okay, but I really  kinda loved that open a lot.  Notes are galbanum, bitter almond, cardamom, lemongrass, balsam of Gilead, sweet flag, honey, wine, pine resin, myrrh.  Of the three incense-based ones, Antiu is the one I’d wear happily anywhere and often.

Susinon or 1000 Lilies is pure beautiful white greenish spiced floral.  Lily, lotus, iris, sweet flag, cardamom, saffron, honey, cinnamon, wine, salt, myrrh.  White, shimmering, it’s definitely white floral, but not ovewhelmingly sweet or cloying.  There’s this soft purity about it that has me pretty enchanted.  There’s something about it that reminds me just a little of Shalini, it’s like a little burst of sunshine.

Are there any other historical-based perfumes out there?  I was trying to think about this and recall some, and maybe I’m just stuck on museum-type ones and there are others like this. Am I wrong?  Based on just the list of notes, if you were a super-rich Egyptian with a waiting sarcophagus, which one would you be covered in?

13 Comments

  1. I have the sample set of this, too, and while I am a huge fan of Dawn’s incense frags, I thought 1,000 Lilies was just remarkable. I didn’t even expect to like it. I can’t think of anything else that it is similar to.

  2. Busting out of the sarcophagus to reply: Parfums d’Empire has some…and also Romea d’Ameor – a couple of hers I like, though prolly not FB. I know there are more but these are the ones I’m most familiar with.

    Shalini. You always rave about that. I would love to smell it someday – when I can smell again. Crop dusting and on/off rains have shut me down like a mackerel. b-(

    Maybe a hot shower (and a hot toddy) will help.

    xoxoxo >-)

  3. I’m pretty darn curious about that Susinon, and you’ve made Antiu sound intriguing too. Then again, DSH has more frags than I could manage to smell in two lifetimes, so who knows if these will ever cross my path.

    As Musette mentioned, I was thinking of Parfums d’Empire for historical based lines.

    Last year there was Les Parfums Suspendus, “a new French niche line inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon” (per NST; I don’t know anything more about them). There’s another line that did some kind of series based on civilizations of the ancient world or something like that, but I can’t remember the name; I had a sample of one, but nothing’s coming to mind right now.

  4. Hi Patty. Well, Les Larmes Sacrees de Thebes, don’t you think?

    The King Tut thing reminds me that when we first had the exhibition in London in 1972 my dad and I came down for the day (we didn’t live in London then) and queued for EIGHT HOURS to get in – such was the fever of excitement and we were both keen Egyptologists (I was then doing my archaeology degree). Memories…..

  5. Many of the natural perfumers (DIY and indie) have tried their hand at a kyphi/kapet, but it’s kind of like the Grail, the texts are fairly obscure, and can be interpreted differently, no idea of the proportions, everyone comes up with something a little different. My favorite it Mermade Magickal Arts Kyphi, Katlyn apparently worked for a very long time with research materials and various formulae, the result is lovely. I’d love to know more about how DSH went about reconstructing these, it’d be fascinating. Lise Manniche has written more thoroughly on the subject than anyone else, I believe.

    For fun, my teenage son and I created a perfume called “Smell Like a Mummy” for Egypt Days at school, using materials that were used in mummification, plus vanillin, which mummies give off after a century or so (really!). It was quite popular and I had to make up quite a few bottles for friends and my son’s school chums afterwards. If anyone wants the formula, I’m happy to provide, bwah ha ha!!

  6. You may find David Pybus Scents of Time interesting. Look here:

    • You know, I tried those those; on me they were watery (both with the aquatic notes and strength-wise). I also remember and overwhelming sense of bland.

      As for historical perfumes, I have a vial of the stuff that was supposdely a re-creation of one of Marie Antoinette’s perfumes; if I remember correctly it’s called Sillage du Reine (or something similar.) Now that stuff I highly recommend.

  7. The only one of these I ordered a sample of was Susinon, but now I’m wishing I’d grabbed Keni as well. (Smothered in cinnamon? Sounds good to me.)

    Susinon is gorgeous, just gorrrrrgeous. I was surprised to get some resiny spices up front, and THEN the florals, but that’s what happened. Also surprisingly, I get more lotus than lily, and it can be quite “watery” and “fresh” in a lovely, realistic, overlooking-the-lilypond sort of way. (Forget your standard aquatics, 1000 Lilies isn’t that.)

    I was wearing it when I happened through Macy’s fragrance department last week, and it smelled so much more real and solid and beautiful than nearly everything on the shelves.

  8. I’ve been afraid of sampling these,for fear I’ll want FBs of all of them, just for the historical sake of it all; the bottles are amazing.

    I enjoyed her series based on the Court (and Courtesans!) of Louis the XV.

  9. Not sure if these qualify as “historical” based perfumes, but I immediately thought of Histoires de Parfums. From NST – “The original offerings, Parfum d’Auteurs, were inspired by historical figures and named for their respective years of birth.” Haven’t tried any, but some of them do seem interesting.

  10. You’ve made ALL of these sound test-worthy, Patty. Embalm me in Megaleion please, before setting my funeral pyre on fire!

  11. Of these, I’d pick Antiu…cardamon..incense…that’s me…but I love the name of the 1000 lillies…like the Leonard Cohen lyric Ä thousand kisses deep. What a fun job this must have been!

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