King Kong vs. Godzilla


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 Versailles, the vintage Tabu smells strongly of incense on me. Of course, every vintage bottle is a roll of the dice, and Amy – the benzoin in yours is lovely.

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:


  • harry says:

    godzilla would win easly because kong was the underdog of the fight in the jp one in the american one kong wins it needs a reemake.

  • dinazad says:

    You’re never alone with Youth Dew. That stuff is like an instant entourage of hefty bodyguards. It opens the door in front of you, closes is behind you and has several broad-shouldered persons sweeping in on either side. It instantly turns you into an entire executive committee all on your lonesome. I rarely want to flatten my fellow humans that way, but it’s nice to know that I could, if I felt like it. All I have to do is reach for that vintage little flacon……
    Tabu, on the other hand, joins Paco Rabanne’s La Nuit and Habanita and the completely different Agent Provocateur on my personal hit list of smouldering, sensual, skanky and sexy perfumes. I wonder where it got its bad reputation? I find it absolutely gorgeous and half expect swooning admirers at my feet with gifts of diamond rings, and enormous bouquets, and modest little 20-room beachside huts in the Hamptons every time I wear it!

    • March says:

      That is really well put. For two fragrances that bear some similarities, they are in fact sending very different messages. Youth Dew is all sorts of things, but I don’t find it “sensual.” (Maybe it’s the balsam note?) Tabu seems deliberately designed to feel provocative and sensual.

      I love the idea of YD as its own committee. :d/

  • moi says:

    Oh, how I love the Dew. Ever since junior high school, when I received it as a gift in that fab rubbery blue retro bottle, I have never been without a bottle. But, yeah, spray up, let it trickle down.

    • March says:

      I definitely need to try the fragrance now. It sounds marginally less killer than the bath oil.

  • Helen says:

    The pic is great! And if what Godzilla was spewing forth in the photo were YD or Tabu, it would surely be deadly!

    • March says:

      Or maybe a super-duper deadly blend of the two?

      It was a fun idea when I was struggling to come up with the title of the post and started out with the clash of the titans.

  • bella says:

    YD and Tabu both remind me of “old lady smell” and not in a good way!
    They are both so strong and forceful that they are like the hurricanes of fragrance. I like my perfume to whisper not knock me down; caress me and only me.

    • March says:

      There are caressing perfumes; and whispering perfumes … and sometimes the day seems perfect for the knock-down perfume. :d/

  • Francesca says:

    There was a ’30s song by Ernesto Lecuona and the Cuban Rhythm Boys called “Tabu,” and it’s been going through my head since I first read your post this morning. I:d
    I haven’t smelled either of these two, but I love your Godzilla vs King Kong imagery. Is Tabu the one whose vintage ads depicted a pianist swooning into a passionate kiss in the arms of a violinist? I always thought that was pretty sexy age 7 or so…

    • March says:

      I’m trying to remember … I think she’s just staring at us, looking all gorgeous? And not particularly hooker-ish. I remember in the ad I saw there was (I think) one bottle of a couple dancing that reminded me of Bal a Versailles.

      • Musette says:

        I think Francesca’s right – I remember that image – always in b/w, yes? He has snatched her up in a fit of passion (still holding the violin, by golly) and she is all swoony in his arms, wearing something truly swoon-worthy…

  • AngelaS says:

    My guess on the “Tabu is for prostitutes” bit is that it wasn’t intended to be worn by prostitutes, but was supposed to smell like a well-to-do Spanish guy’s idea of what a prostitute smells like–you know, so that women could have the thrill of smelling naughty. (I bet the Spanish prostitutes of 1932 really smelled like lilies!)

    • March says:

      I think they did a good job with the well-to-do bit. The current iteration of the EDT may be some rough road, but gosh, the vintage parfum was so sophisticated.

  • Musette says:


    You need to get out in the boonies more! I got Tabu coming out the Wal-Mart aisles! I think I might even be able to cop a mini for you – if so, I will bring it to the Event and you can ‘wear it and be wonderful’


    • Musette says:

      Btw –

      There is NO contest. Godzilla wins. Every Time.

      He is My Hero!


      I have modeled my life after his, which goes a long way towards explaining a lot of things!=))

    • March says:

      Yowza — I can amaze everyone with my Tabu. That would be fun!

      I miss Wal-Mart. None of that is conveniently located.

      • Musette says:

        No you don’t. You really don’t. You just think you do. If I never saw another Wal-Mart again it would be just fine with me (assuming I could get the goods elsewhere, such as a small, local business) something about Wal just sucks the Life right outa me8-x but out here it’s Wal-Mart or nothin’

        But it’s a great place to Tabu. I’ll hook you up in Chacaga!

        • Melissa says:

          AMEN to that! I HATE WAL-MART!!! It’s like an evil cancer that’s killing every small business that happens to be in a 20 mile radius. We’ve lost some really cool little shops after Wal-Mart moved in. I’ll stick to Target. It has more ambiance & cuter stuff.

  • MJ says:

    I LOVE love love Youth Dew (and I’m 38 so I hope I’m not an “old lady” per the MUA reviews of this stuff) but – apply sparingly. Walk through one spritz, or use the scented body powder. Then you get a warm, subtle cloud. We all know what happens when you overapply….

    I’ve had the same experience with the bath oil. Never tried it in a bath since I’m a shower gal, but I have read “one drop of bath oil behind the ears is subtle” – uh, no it’s not. Trying that was the only frag moment where my usually tuned out and on the internet spouse lifted his head and said “What IS that?” in real disgust. And he thinks that sparily applied Aromatics Elixer and YD are just fine, so the bath oil must have been a sensory WMD.

    • March says:

      I love “sensory WMD”! Gosh, I guess it’s stronger than the EDT? To be honest, that never occurred to me. Duh. :”> Guess I need to try the fragrance.

  • barbara says:

    I wore only Tb and Emeraude in high school in the 60’s-nice to know what notes I waas attracted to Both gave me a sense of security and comfort-a tiny drop to whiff on my wool sweaters…on another note, I know one old male friend(pilot, mountain climber) who swears by a tiny drop of Youth Dew as his only fragrance

    • March says:

      I think if I could figure out how to make the YD “tiny” enough it would smell like Old Spice. 😕 So your boyfriend was on to something.

      Emeraude. There’s another blast from the past…

  • Melissa says:

    I tried Youth Dew at the Estee counter & decided not to make the purchase. I LOVE a lot of her fragrances (the older ones anyway) but Youth Dew left this sad plastic smell on my skin. The vintage bottle of the bath oil doesn’t do that. I do agree, a little goes A LONG WAY! And TABU I actually bought un-sniffed at the local CVS. I got one of those gift sets with the lotion (that glitters). I fell in love! I have quite a collection of the vintage & to my uneducated nose, it doesn’t smell that different. I think the biggest difference is in the concentration. The perfume is a bit softer & more polished & the cologne, which is the only version you can get now, is more in your face with a bigger punch of patchouli & incense. TABU for me is the ultimate (sexy) comfort scent.

    • March says:

      I love Azuree, the old one, I thought it would be too much but it’s not.

      Okay, based on your review, I def have to try the new Tabu.

      • harry says:

        godzilla would win easly because kong was the underdog of the fight in the jp one in the american one kong wins it needs a reemake.

  • Elle says:

    I got some vintage Tabu parfum from Jaime a while back. I thought (was going to insert “actually” in there and refrained after reading Judith’s comment, but I so hopelessly overuse other words anyway that there’s really no point in editing myself)this scent was completely d/ced. Nice to know I can get the edt. However, have to admit I’ve only worn it maybe three times and those were for testing purposes. I really (the “really” abuse police certainly could make a strong case against me)do love it, but it doesn’t seem to match up w/ any associations or memories in my mind and I find more and more that the only scents I (just eliminated a “really”) reach for repeatedly have some emotional resonance or powerful association for me. They need to fit. It’s like that recent puffed sleeve trend in fashion. I can appreciate them on other people, but they were *so* not something I could relate to. Still, I feel like I should be able to wear Tabu. I love the kitschy name, I adore similar scents and I live and die for incense. Not sure why this doesn’t fit, but it doesn’t. Will keep on trying it for a few years to see if I can locate a storyline for it. I’ve managed to do that for other scents, so I’m not giving up.
    I have a bottle of YD stashed somewhere in case I need to sniff it in winter. It reminds me of a great teacher in high school, but I associate it w/ her too much to be able to wear it myself. I loved her, but I’m afraid moderation in application was not something she appeared to believe in.

    • March says:

      Actually, I just really overuse some words. Like: actually, just, really, and some. :d :”> Also, while we are curating: so, wow, and I am sure you and regular readers can think of others. SOME others. REALLY.

      See, that’s what scares me about YD, the lack of moderation. What was it like, I wonder, when tons of women were wearing YD?

  • Olfacta says:

    I’ll give Tabu another sniff. There’s gotta be some vintage at a flea market somewhere, or on ebay; I remember those black spray bottles. I haven’t smelled it in, oh, I dunno, 30 years? Is that possible?

    I did try YD recently at a dept. store. It smelled good, and lasted, which is a problem for me. But…it’s so balsamic, and, well, I just can’t think of an excuse not to wear it, except that it’s not just “mumsy,” it’s “grandmumsy,” and so immediately identifible as a brand. As in, “Oh, are you wearing Youth-Dew?” Kind of gives me the willies, being branded, and then, there’s that NAME. Just the name “Youth-Dew.” Is that like you’re trying to spray some Youth onto yourself? I mean, what IS Youth-Dew anyway? Girl-sweat? Something that Humbert Humbert would’ve swooned over?

    • March says:

      That’s funny. Youth Dew seems kind of … gaggy to me as a name as well, but I can’t even articulate why. I am assuming she meant it like “elixir” but what do I know? And balsamic is right, I think that is what I can’t quite get past.

      • Existentialist says:

        You know, the name is bad, but it’s so bad it’s good. YD is one of those scents that you have to grow into, I think (and it’s one of my favorites). I can’t really see it on someone under, say, 35. The YD hand creme is very nice as well – less potent than the fragrance but still lets you feel like a siren.

  • Kim says:

    I agree with you about Youth Dew – too strong for me and there is a note in there that just isn’t right on me. Oriental perfumes in the heat are WONDERful! Try some of the Lutens in the heat (Un Lys, Borneo 1834, Un Bois Vanille – exquisite!) Also L’Heure Bleue, Shalimar, and Opium in the heat are amazing – almost like a totally different scent. Especially L’Heure Bleue – I have been in some pretty warm places this summer and it has been my perfume of choice each time. Somehow heat and humidity bring out the anise note in a major way and it feels cooling, not cloying. What genius!

    • March says:

      LHB?!?!? Seriously?? Okay, today’s going to be a melter. I’ll try it. Sounds so wrong. 😮

      Opium I can see, sort of. Like drinking really, really hot tea when it’s 100 degrees outside.

    • Disteza says:

      Heck! Why not go all the way with the heat-inappropriate Lutens and try MdB or Arabie. Neither one has had enough muscle to actually kill me on a hot day, although MdB probably came the closest.

  • Judith says:

    I am buried under work, but I’m checking in to say

    I like Youth Dew, but I don’t own it (or feel a need to). I actually don’t know what Tabu smells like, and should find out. And I need to stop saying “actually”; I do so almost as much as j Biden says “literally.” Anyone notice that?

    • March says:

      Actually…. I delete the word actually regularly from my posts and responses. Although you’ll notice that one snuck by me in the comment in front of you. And literally is in my post today!

  • carmencanada says:

    I own both YD and Tabu and wear neither. YD because it brings back memories of being a gift-wrapper at a high-end dept store in the Montreal suburbs (the gift boxes sold like crazy), so I can’t appropriate it. Tabu, like Bal à Versailles and Habanita, belong to that family of super-saturated vintage fragrances that I can’t wear any longer though I appreciate their beauty.
    I did buy a bottle of Tabu DEODORANT of all things, in a little stall in Brazil, when I was tired of the scent I was travelling with… Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? I did use a regular deodorant, and used the scent for fragrance. So it’s definitely possible to wear it in hot weather, as the Brazilians do…

    • March says:

      Actually … I think Tabu deodorant sounds perfect. I was sniffing the Old Spice deodorant recently, pondering a purchase for my pits. I’m bored with my current flavor… where were we? Yikes, sniffing YD in the gift wrap dept. would probably kill off the desire.

      I think what I like about my vintage Tabu samp is it is not sweet. Habanita always seems too honeyed to me.

      • Louise says:

        My son used to wear the Old Spice deodorant, to very nice effect. Now it’s an Axe variant :-& Doesn’t mix too well with the PdN New York that is so lovely on him…

        • March says:

          Bleah! The new Axe stuff … like Bod … how do we make them all go away?

          • Musette says:

            Whatever you do, DO NOT send them to my dad’s house. For the longest time I wondered why I was fighting a migraine everytime I was over there….then he stayed at our house and I developed one here! Traced it to that blasted BOD!b-( Threw out all his spray bottles (one on every floor, including one in the ….kitchen?) and replaced it with Old Spice. Headache gone.

            They should consider using BOD as a WMD.

          • March says:

            Yay!!! Good for you!!!!!!! So glad you got rid of them, I know they were chafing you.

  • Louise says:

    Didja say Gawdzilla? KingKong? These sound right up my alley. I never tried Youth Dew oil (or anything) or Tabu, but Bal a Versailles is amazzzzing :d/

    And as for the powerhouse effect…well, given my skin, these risk being pleasant skin scents for me 8-|. But you never know-Bal is strong and long-lasting for me, just don’t know where to wear it…workmate issues and all. Dull evening life. But still, must try 😉 I think in spite of my wanderings, I remain an oriental fan at core.

    • March says:

      Well, that seals it. I will bring my teeny Youth Dew and the Tabu on our next visit. It would not surprise me one bit if you ate the Youth Dew immediately. 🙂

    • Olfacta says:

      I wear Bal a Versaille to bed — to sleep. There’s something so nice about waking up and smelling it. And the EDT cheap enough now to use as a sheets spray — athough the modern formulation isn’t as good as the vintage, you gotta use it for something. (I save my vintage Bal for special occasions.)

      • March says:

        I have an EDC that I think cost four bucks that is nuthin’ but bass. Like listening to one of those car stereo systems where it’s all vibration.

        At those prices you can use it for room spray. :)>-

  • annie says:

    :(Well,now ,March…if we’re going this route,please include your remarks about My Sin,and Arpege…I wore all of them in high school (I was a bit of a ‘tart’…s**t,is a more fitting word…but did we have fun!!!)…..Tell Lee;smooches to sweetie Gracie,AND START DECANTING THAT ‘puppy breath’….NOTHING COMES CLOSE….IT IS NERVANA….SWOON….carry on perfume soldiers,carry on…;)

    • March says:

      My Sin is lovely. There’s a review of it on here somewhere if you search, my father gave me my mother’s bottle.

  • tmp00 says:

    Nest time you’re travelling bring the Youth Dew with you.

    That’s what hotel bathrooms are for! :d

    • March says:

      Heh heh. But it’s got to be a nice enough bathroom?!? Seriously, I can’t think of the last time I stayed in a hotel nice enough that I wanted to sit in that thing… they’re all the size of suitcases now, even if you get a tub. Makes me long for the clawfoot of yore.

      • tmp00 says:

        sadly that’s true- a Four Seasons I stayed at had one that was a birdbath with water pressure to match. I think I would have liked to pour some Youth Dew into the HVAC as retaliation