Perfume Review. Donna Karan Essence: Wenge and Labdanum
Donna Karan Essence is a collection of four of Karan’s favorite “bare scents”, Lavender, Jasmine, Wenge, and Labdanum. These are clear-cut, single-note fragrances that can be worn on their own or layered according to the wearer's desires and tastes. This review is for Wenge and Labdanum.
According to Donna Karan, this is one of her favorite scents; in fact, wenge was one of the notes in her rather popular Black Cashmere. Wenge or Wengue is a wood native to Africa, where it has been used for centuries to craft ceremonial masks and statues devoted to gods. There is certainly something mysterious and uplifting in the spicy smell of Wenge. It is centering, comforting and relaxing; a warm, resinous fragrance that is not overwhelming or heavy. I adore the serene subtlety of this woody accord. Even though the wenge note was used in Black Cashmere, I do not find Wenge the fragrance very similar to that scent. Black Cashmere is a strong, forceful blend, rather heavy on incense, while Wenge is an understated, enjoyably minimalistic composition. If I had to compare Wenge to another perfume, it would be Donna Karan’s sadly disconitnued Chaos. Both share a tranquil, spicy-herbal-woody quality that I find extremely appealing.
Labdanum is a resin obtained from the shrubs Cistus Ladanifer (cistus, rock rose). It is a complex accord that can be perceived as amber-like, woody, smoky, leathery, floral, etc, etc, depending on the blend and one's skin chemistry. In the case of Donna Karan’s Labdanum, the note smells to me like a mix of flowers and incense. It does not remind me of any particular flower, there is simply an attractive floral hint. The incense part of the accord is also very subtle and refined. Like Wenge, this is an understated, light and extremely wearable fragrance that puts me in a spiritual kind of reverie and soothes and comforts me (by the way, Labdanum is the biblical “Balm of Gilead” and is said "to reach into our subconscious to help evoke moods, memories and feelings.")
Unsurprisingly, Labdanum and Wenge layer beautifully together, after all, a mix of spicy wood and balsamic, incense-like labdanum is a union made in olfactory heaven.
If I had to choose only one Essence (and I should, considering the price), it would be Wenge whose subtle and spicy woodiness I absolutely adore. Both Labdanum and Wenge can be found at Neiman Marcus, where 100 ml Eau de Toilette sprays cost $165.00. The Essence fragrances also come in a set of four essential oils in a leather pouch (7.5 ml each), as essential oil vials in a leather pouch necklaces (7.5 ml), as body lotions (200 ml ), and as scented candles.
*The images of wenge and labdanum are from donnakaran.com.