One Thousand Scents

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Circus Freak: L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzing!

This morning when I sat down at my desk I thought it seemed a little more fragrant than usual, but I didn't really think any more of it, because there are usually little scraps of scent eddying around it, unsurprising considering how many vials and bottles of things are usually scattered on its surface and in its drawers, defying my attempts to keep some sort of order.

I picked up the sample vial of Dzing! that I knew was lying there, popped out the stopper, applied it to the back of my hand without really looking at it, and was shocked to discover that it was quite empty. I looked where it had been lying and — uh-oh — there was tiny rectangular pool of something where the vial had lain since yesterday. Yes, somehow I had not stoppered it tightly, and it had all leaked out and evaporated, leaving only its oil behind.

But no matter. I owned Dzing! quite a while ago — it's one of the first niche scents I ever bought, back in 2000 — and I know it well. Still, I wasn't going to let the remnants of the sample go to waste, so I swiped the oil up with a couple of fingers and applied it to my skin. Of course I did! How can I write about it if I can't smell it?

Dzing! is an oriental, but it's a very strange one, the damnedest thing you ever smelled. It bears a real kinship to Bulgari Black, to the point where I would say if you own one you don't really need to own the other, different though they are. Both have a quantity of vanilla in the base, but where Black's dominant idea is a wondrously strange tea-and-rubber accord, Dzing!'s is a genuinely peculiar wood-and-saffron blend, the peculiarity arising from the fact that the wood isn't wood at all, it's wood products — it's sawdust and cardboard, supplemented with leather. It is meant to evoke the circus (which explains the lady-aboard-a-tiger picture on the label): the sawdust in the ring, the leathery-animalic smell of elephants and lions, the sweetness of cotton candy.

I'm not sure it does that, at least not for me, but it is riveting nonetheless. When you remember you're wearing it, you bring your nose close to your skin for another intoxicating whiff, and when you forget, you're occasionally shocked by a little gust of sweet cardboard-and-leather strangeness. I don't believe in signature fragrances, but if you had to pick one thing to smell like all the time, Dzing! would be a pretty good choice, because it's so weird and so appealing at the same time: you'll smell good, but you sure won't smell like anyone else.

People complain about the longevity of the scent (a common complaint for Olivia Giacobetti scents, though she's made some heavy hitters like Idole de Lubin as well as the gauzy Mandarine Tout Simplement). Maybe a reformulation has shortened its life expectancy, but the bottle I had a decade ago and the sample I just finished up last for at least eight hours on my skin.



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