Tuesday 11 October 2016

'In the midnight hour, she cried: "Myrrh, myrrh, myrrh"': Puredistance SHEIDUNA review

After eight years, I would probably describe my interest in perfume as 'mature'. That's 'mature' in the sense of being in a plateau phase - I don't mean to imply that I am any more knowledgeable about the subject of fragrance than I was when I first got into this hobby. And the recent twitchiness of my skin means that my interest has been going backwards if anything, not helped by the slew of 'nouveau niche' releases that continue to flood the market, many of them a sorry epitome of style and hiked price over substance.

But as jaded and scent-shy as I have become of late, my perfume mojo never fails to perk up at the mention of a new Puredistance release. For while the Dutch brand trades on an undeniably luxury platform, their products are developed slowly and thoughtfully, with quality ingredients and a high degree of attention to detail in every aspect of the marketing mix.

So when a sample package arrived the other day with SHEIDUNA, the latest addition to the still not overly populous Puredistance stable - I know, I know, they are still on a roll with their CAPITALISATION OF NAMES - I fell upon it with glad cries, metaphorically speaking. In the PR material for SHEIDUNA I had noted that the planned colour scheme for this scent was based around orange and red, and was pleased to see the use of 'red brown paper', if that makes sense, for the outer wrapping of the parcel.

Inside the black outer cardboard was the usual white 'padded coffin'-style coffret lined with sumptuous gold satin. The perfume itself was delivered this time in a small, refillable purse spray (as opposed to the Travalo used to present Penhaligon's Juniper Sling); of particular interest to me as a long time bottle splitter and sample maker was the inclusion of a small gold funnel to use when decanting from the full-sized test tube bottle of SHEIDUNA the company is clearly confident we will one day wish to own.

But back to our muttons. Readers, it is a very fine funnel indeed, of sturdy construction with optimum hole diameter and smooth, well finished edges. And I speak as someone who owns a whole clatter of tiny, tinny, sharp and useless funnels I got in a job lot from China. And even some of my better quality ones have such a narrow aperture that perfumes of higher viscosities sometimes refuse to pour through the blessed things at all. So, never mind the perfume, big fat tick for the funnel right off the bat!

On a side note, I have to mention that in her nice little card with the parcel, Puredistance's PR lady, Mary Gooding, wrote Sheiduna in lower case. Yes indeed! I like the idea that she kicks back from time to time and doesn't stand on capitalised ceremony.

And before getting into the perfume itself, a quick word on the name. You can readily see where Puredistance are going with SHEIDUNA: it is another of those sultry desert-inspired numbers, like Ormonde Jayne Ta'if and l'Air du Désert Marocain, for the likes of which I personally have a quite voracious appetite. And if this were a game of Countdown it would be the work of a moment to make 'SHEIK' and 'DUNE' out of the name. Okay, if you had a 'K' and an 'E' admittedly, but bear with me. (Just checked the PR material and the name was in fact invented from the words 'She', 'Sheika' and 'Dune', 'sheika' being a married woman / wife of a sheik. I didn't guess 'she' - not a high enough word score, obviously, to be on my radar, but I was in the right ball park as you can see.)

Interestingly, I read in a Basenotes comment that 'sheiduna' in Arabic means 'female devil'. I cannot find anything to corroborate this spelling in Google, though 'sheitan' comes up. From this it is surely a short hop and skip to SHEIDUNA as female dune-dwelling devil.

Then further to the Billy Idol song of the title (Rebel Yell, slightly adapted), I don't know why, but the song 'My Sharona' by The Knack popped into my head as soon as I thought of SHEIDUNA, and has remained an annoyingly persistent earworm ever since. It is possibly that song title that has made me now associate SHEIDUNA with the VW SHARAN, the Kia SEDONA, and other (not usually capitalised) SUVs of that kidney. That is after all just the sort of rugged vehicle you need when exploring the challenging terrain in question.

Source: Wikipedia

Here is the official Puredistance statement of the scent's inspiration:

"SHEIDUNA is a rich and intense Perfume inspired by the panoramic views and feel of golden sand dunes in the desert during sunset - soft female curves changing from deep gold to warm, orangey red - embodying a promise of sensual comfort and silent seduction."

I must say I had never thought of sand dunes in quite that way before, but come to think of it their globular nature does rather lend itself to such comparisons. The other key aim of the creative brief from Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos was 'to create the perfume marriage between Oriental Sensuality and Parisian elegance'.

Orange and red Persian rug from Central Casting

Then I greatly enjoyed trying to decipher the notes which passed back and forth between perfumer Cécile Zarzokian and Jan Ewoud Vos during the development process. I see that Catherine Deneuve, Eva Green and Charlotte Rampling are cited as muses, and that the perfume should be sensual, veering towards sexual, without tipping over into vulgarity. Or was it supposed to tip over slightly into vulgarity? I can't quite make out the snippet which may or may not say: 'Hint of vulgarity'. So of course I had to write to Mary and ask for clarification, also of the word that on balance probably isn't 'Cabillaud', which is 'cod' in French. Mary told me that my phantom cod was in fact 'Cotillard', the surname of a French actress, singer-songwriter, environmentalist and spokesperson for Greenpeace (Wikipedia informs me).

Marion Cotillard ~ Source Wikimedia Commons (George Biard)

I didn't get any further with the vulgarity issue, mind, for Mary replied:

"I spoke with Jan Ewoud about deciphering the rest of the post card and he explained that the card is meant for feeling, not analysing. Please take the feelings and emotions you have when viewing the cards with the earliest hand-written notes and messages between Jan Ewoud and Cécile Zarokian to bring you a little closer to the development of the concept. 

I hope this proves to be an interesting endeavour for you!" 

It certainly did. I like a bit of mystery at the end of the day.

So how does SHEIDUNA smell?

Well, first up, here are the notes;

Lemon, tangerine, blackcurrant, aldehydes, Bulgarian rose essence, geranium, clove, vetyver, patchouli, amber woody incense, benzoin, myrrh, tonka bean, vanilla pods and musks

Eyeballing that list I was immediately reminded of the notes of Puredistance 1, with which there is a surprising amount of crossover.

Fresh tangerine blossom, cassis, neroli bigarade, magnolia, rose wardia, jasmine, natural mimosa, sweet amber, vetyver, white musk

Diptyque's L'Ombre dans l'Eau and Baume du Doge by Eau d'Italie also sprang to mind, with their crackling tension between (respectively) blackcurrant and orange notes - and myrrh. While the mixture of aldehydes and incense inevitably conjures up Serge Lutens' La Myrrhe.

Tried burning the stuff once but it was myrrh trouble than it was worth

In the opening to SHEIDUNA, the crystalline texture of the myrrh coupled with the amber base convey a simultaneously warm and granular feel, as befits the sandscapes which form the thematic backdrop to the scent. (Purple prose alert!!) The prickly heat effect is further reinforced by a coruscating canopy of spiced aldehydes. To my nose there is a vaguely odd aspect to the scent at this point, possibly because of the juxtaposition of fruit and the amber woody incense accord, or just the latter on its own packing a punch - I can't quite put my finger on it. The feeling of oddness varies from spray to spray - depending perhaps on how liberal I am with the application. But if you are happy to wait a little while, SHEIDUNA soon gets into more classical 'desert oriental' territory. I LOVE the drydown in particular, when the scent becomes a fuzzy caressing tingle of ambery incense. I am sorry, I have tried several versions of that sentence and they all sound a bit louche. Yes, there is a lot going on here that I cannot begin to describe, but as ever with Puredistance scents, you really can't see the join.

Puredistance display in Fortnum & Mason

SHEIDUNA is opulent and elegant and mysterious and completely its own thing: it is not simply an oriental spin on Puredistance 1 as I at first wondered - and if you like any or all of the fragrances mentioned earlier there is a good chance you will enjoy it, singular opening notwithstanding. A perfume with three separate notes that smell of vanilla already has a lot to commend it in my book.

I also tried SHEIDUNA out on the trusty sounding board that is my elderly friend - Facebook friends will recognise who I mean. She didn't want to sniff my skin itself, as she got enough of a whiff some inches away. 'It's creamy', she remarked, adding: 'It's nice', and as an afterthought: 'I wouldn't call it delicate.' Which may have been a reference to SHEIDUNA's powers of projection...or the fact that it does contain a 'hint of vulgarity' after all. ;) My elderly friend seemed to approve either way.

And as well as Rebel Yell, I am minded of a track by The Monochrome Set called Rain Check; it is a surprisingly jaunty ditty about cheating death, who is depicted as a black caped figure swinging his cane and smelling of (presumably) funereal incense:

"The scent of myrrh on your skin..."

SHEIDUNA, the scent of myrrh, and so much more.


Tara said...

Hi V,
I enjoyed sharing your excitement at getting to try the new one from PD. It's good that we can still feel that way now and again.
SHEIDUNA does have a "misleading" notes list. I wouldn't have imagined a desert oriental for those mentioned. Cod really would have been a curve ball though, haha.

Love the reply you got about the writing on the postcard :)

I haven't worn perfume properly for maybe 3 or 4 weeks because of one minor health issue or another so I know how you feel. I've quite gotten out of the habit so need to rectify that by the end of the week, hopefully.

Is there enough myrrh for it to be a contender for you perfect myrrh perfume or does that fruit/amber mash-up count it out anyway?

Your elderly friend is excellent value as usual!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

It's good to feel excited, I agree. My enthusiasm for scent was definitely rekindled lately by the Aroma M line, and I really liked Ruth Mastenbroek's Oxford, and may even review it at some point.

That is a kitchen sink list of notes, no question, but especially after the opening this is very much another desert oriental to add to our stable, maybe with a bit more warmth and body thanks to the fruit and amber facets.

I hope you are feeling fighting fit soon and can get back into regular perfume wearing.

No, there isn't enough myrrh to be my favourite - that accolade still goes to Myrrhe Imperiale - and I don't know why I have homed in on that note in particular, given the three types of vanilla-esque notes, the woody aspect, and all the rest. Some of the prickly sensation that I attribute to myrrh is quite possibly due to spices. But they do say it is all about what a scent conjures up, and it made me think of all those other fragrances that combine fruit and incense, with or without added aldehydes.

Thinkingmagpie said...

Funny... I was humming Rebel Yell all morning when I was hoovering and then saw the title of this post. From now on, I'd be singing it "Myrrh, myrrh, myrrh", not "More, more, more".

Blacknall Allen said...

This sounds promising. Anything with a good long dry down is very welcome.

Puredistance does a nice job of making classic scents for the post signature scent age.

Tatiana said...

I've entered a mature phase of my perfume enjoyment as well. As much as I would like to try new releases, it seems that I have developed asthma which rather limits my enthusiasm for trying new scents which may or may not trigger breathing difficulties. This one does sound lovely, except for the aldehydes. I will have to find someplace to get a small sample of this, just because it's Puredistance. In the mean time I've gone back to wearing the discontinued scent that sent me down this rabbit hole, Armani Sensi.

Anonymous said...

This was an entertaining review, and such enthusiasm too!
I have to admit that I thought the title of the review was a reproduction of the sound of Truffle's approval. :-D

Your mention of Kia Sedona put me in mind of the following "Car Song" by Canadian songster and comedian. The more car names you know the funnier it is
Here's a YouTube version:

-- Lindaloo

Anonymous said...

Servus! There is a particular accord used in many new releases to which I am often sensitive. (I noticed this in London with Sheiduna) But I do love myrrhe and will give this a spritz when I come across it.

However I love Rain Check and played it several times in a row whilst on a machine in the gym. Fortunately that has become my earworm, and not Billy Idol. Bussis. xxxxx

Vanessa said...

Hi Thinkingmagpie,

Well, what a coincidence, of all the pop songs to hoover to! ;) I would like to hear you singing the new incense-forward version, haha.

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

You have put your finger on it - their scents all smell considered and timeless. This one is a more full bodied and feminine oriental than BLACK - there was definitely room in their stable for another perfume in that category.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

So sorry about your asthma - it seems to be a thing these days that people are developing allergies of all kinds later in life. The aldehydes are not too prominent in this I should say. Not in the same league as La Myrrhe or No 5, say.

Oh boy, another fan of Armani Sensi. I have a little mini of it which I am frightened to use up. Such a pretty scent and so under appreciated.

I didn't have many readers six years ago, so here is the review I did of it, on the assumption you wouldn't have been reading Bonkers back then:


Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Glad you enjoyed it! I know that is more enthusiasm than I usually feel. It is partly the lovely Puredistance packaging that gets my juices going in anticipation of a quality scent to match.

That car song is hilarious! I have shared it on Facebook. One would need the transcript really to fully appreciate how clever it is.

Vanessa said...

Hi Val, and back atcha with Servus!

Yes, I remember that you picked up on a discordant note in the perfume that bothered you. It may be this AmberXtreme used in the amber woody incense accord. A bit like an ambery version of Iso E Super maybe, that not everyone gets on with?

Glad you love Rain Check - it is a firm favourite of mine too and a worthy earworm. xxx

Asali said...

Dear V, sorry for the absence, work, work, work, illness and yes that plateau you mention.
I used to be enamoured with puredistance too, but ever since their less than convincing pr-focus on family and children (and children’s fingers in cookie dough, children and flowers, children at Christmas) which for me doesn’t add up, especially not with the luxury market they are targeting, I am just not that bothered. Only because I like Zarokian would I care to sniff it. Oh and those names; Opardu and Sheiduna. Nah. Not good either. I love words, as you know, and these are not good ‘words’.
Ok, rant over. I loved your post; trust you to point out all the fun details; cod, lowercase/UPPERCASE and padded-coffin. Oh how I laughed at that last one.

Vanessa said...

Dear Asali,

Hey, don't apologise - we all get busy from time to time, but I am sorry to hear you have partly been ill as well, and hope you are better now.

I must be honest and say that that children's PR campaign completely passed me by - possibly due to the aforementioned plateau! - and now you point it out it does seem a little off-message for them.

Never was a fan of the name Opardu - the first bit is 'grandpa' in German for starters.

Tatiana said...

That's for linking your review. I had actually read it some time ago. Don't ask when, my memory is not that good these days. Lol. I was delighted that there was someone else who likes it as much as I do, considering Mr. Turin didn't like it all in his book.
Hope you are well.

Anonymous said...

Ask an ye shall receive -- the lyrics are here and there are 48 car names:

-- Lindaloo

Asali said...

Thank you 😊
Perhaps not PR as such, but social media.

Vanessa said...

Oh, I am amazed anyone reading today would have seen it from so long ago. I didn't realise Mr Turin was not a fan. There are a number of Armanis I would diss - Diamonds, Si and that awful pear number chief amongst them (Idole, that's it!) - but Sensi would not be one of them.

I am not bad at all, thank you, also my skin seems quiescent at the moment, thanks to the many helpful suggestions from readers of gentle products to try.

Vanessa said...

Oh, that is fantastic! I am pleased at how many I spotted while he was singing, but the full list has to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Vanessa said...

Ah okay, but still an odd choice of target audience, or 'associated audience', even.

Undina said...

First, I want to mention that I agree with everything Asali said. Especially about those two names - they are NOT good words. And I disagree with WHITE and BLACK names. But I still like Puredistance :) And I think that I like Sheiduna, notwithstanding the name (it's too early to say definitively: I'm in my first hour of the first test now).

I liked the packaging so much that wasn't opening it for a while thinking if I should take a picture of it. Then I looked inside myself, thought for a while but didn't "feel" any story about that - so I just opened it. Now I'm glad that you took that picture.

I'm surprised you haven't thought about dunes "in quite that way" - have you seen bodyscapes by Carl Warner?

Tomorrow I'll test Sheiduna and Black in parallel: I think they have a lot in common but I'm almost sure I won't think that after I try them both.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Maybe we should set up a 'brand naming agency', or get a job with such a company. I see there is one in London called 'Spinach Design' - I wonder how they came up with that name!

WHITE and BLACK are a bit basic as names go, but I like the perfumes. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on SHEIDUNA once you have tested it some more.

I often seem to have a story about packaging, hehe. Well, story is overstating it, but packaging often sparks a reaction.

I must try comparing SHEIDUNA and BLACK more fully - I just had a quick sniff of the opening of BLACK this time round. But I remember it as dryer and more cinnamon-y and more unisex overall.

See also if you note any resemblance with PD 1, especially as you like blackcurrant. ;)

Vanessa said...

PS No, I haven't seen bodyscapes, but will check out that link, thanks!

Marie said...

I nodded along while reading your article, from the level of perfumista maturity, "nouveau niche" (love the expression!) over to how you're excited about Puredistance's releases, I wholeheartedly agree :)

I like how you describe Sheiduna (lowercase) and imagine it like a mixture of Theorema and Dune... is that about right? Or is it more creamy and voluptuous?

Vanessa said...

Hi Marie,

Glad the post chimed with you!

Regarding those perfumes you mention, it is a good long while since I smelt either, but I remember Theorama as more orangey and creamy / voluptuous than SHEIDUNA, and am struggling in my mind to superimpose the scent of Dune, though it would certainly lend our new 'police photofit mash up' an oddball twist!

Hmm, that's not very helpful of me I know. ;)