Cheap and Cheerful: Tabu by Dana

I’m sure I’m not the only one who falls for this bit of marketing: I will scour a website trying to find something that I may not even want and certainly do not need simply to get to the holy grail, the nirvana, FREE SHIPPING!!

This time was with Fragrancenet, where, if you’re careful you can tip the scales of giving them $6 to ship you something by spending $12 on stuff you don’t care about! Hey, it’s the American way, and who am I to not play the game.

This led me to a giant (considering I don’t really intend to use it) bottle of Tabu by Dana.

Apparently (according to Fragrantica) this was the first scent for the house of Dana, created by Jean Carles and released in 1932 with the brief that he create a fragrance for a lady who, shall we say, is free with her virtue but charges up front.

Notes (also from Fragrantica):

Top notes are Spices, Orange, Coriander, Neroli and Bergamot; middle notes are Cloves, Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Jasmine and Narcissus; base notes are Amber, Civet, Benzoin, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Musk, Oakmoss, Vetiver and Cedar.

Now I don’t necessarily look at that list and think “Hooker” and I am sure that this has gone through a mind-boggling number of reformulations in the 90-odd years the planet has circled the sun since it was released. Back in 1932 it was standard practice to use real civet, and having smelled that I can tell you it packs a punch in a way that the modern synthetic substitutions simply don’t. Real Oakmoss also can no longer be used, citrus oils are out and I am sure that few if any fields in Grasse were denuded to distill anything that went into this modern version of the “Forbidden” perfume. (the Dana website doesn’t even list civet as a note.)

What I get is powdery aldehydes in the opening (I know, they aren’t listed, but that’s what I smell) that aren’t bright and sparkling so much as fizzing. As a matter of fact, on me with the clove and the spices, I kind of get… Root Beer. Not a hand-crafted one with honey from special Wisconsin beekeepers like Sprecher, more like the stuff A&W pours over Vanilla ice cream. Like a cold soda the nice elderly lady next door gives you for mowing her lawn. The one that goes to Sunday Mass in her black lace Mantilla but doesn’t go to the socials. Some of the roses peep through and at the end you do get a bit of the musk and the amber/patch/sandalwood: kind of a reminder that back in the day the lady rocked the place back on it’s heels and maybe her confessions make the priests blush.

But mostly I get root beer.

This is shockingly inexpensive: I think I spent under $10 for a bottle that will doubtless live with for eons and it’s not that much more at the Dana website. Just note that if you want free shipping from them, you will be ordering gallons of it.

Photo of bottles is mine.

  • March says:

    This review was a hoot! I can’t remember at all what Tabu smells like although I have definitely smelled it, I bet I’d love the vintage. I’m also a sucker for spending $ to “save” — I’d keep that giant bottle on display somewhere!

  • Dina C. says:

    Root beer, huh? When I see those note lists that include everything but the kitchen sink, I have to wonder “how is that going to smell nice?” It’s remarkable that such a long list of notes melds into root beer. She sounds like she’s been de-fanged after all the reformulations. No longer taboo. Just Tabu.

  • Musette says:

    Even though I deal with freight logistics on the daily (so I know what it costs to send stuff) I am still hooked by Free Shipping as well! It’s just one of those things, I guess. I had a teeeeeeny little bottle of vintage Tabu, back in the day – and MAYNE! that stuff was potent! I haven’t smelled new Tabu and since you took the hit for the team, I don’t have to! Thanks!


  • alityke says:

    I have loved every iteration of Dana I’ve sniffed including my vintage EdC.
    If I had to choose between current Opium & current Tabu, Tabu would win hands down. Vintage Tabu vs Vintage Opium? Close but Opium would just swing it.
    If you can find it try the shower gel. No need to apply any fragrance after

  • Shiva-woman says:

    My mom used to wear Tabu back in the 60’s and the 70’s. It was AMAZING. I’ve gone to STC to check out vintage. It smells nothing like Walmart Tabu by the gallon. The original vintage is/was sex in a bottle, rich, deep and glorious, frankly better than the vintage Shalimar I have, no rootbeer, etc., but rather a spicy animalic.

  • Maya says:

    Free shipping gets to me too.
    I remember the scent of Tabu in the air when I was a kid. I thought it was wonderful. I’ve gotten some vintage from ebay and they’re very inexpensive. They smell just as I remember. It’s fun to wear occasionally – good silage and lasts a long time. The edc is as strong as most current edp.

    • Tom says:

      The modern stuff isn’t bad at all. I like the root beer aspect to it- it’s almost post-modern. Ironic. I think my 20-something godchild would love it.