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.
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.