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Monday, February 13, 2006

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


Blogger marchlion said...

I've gotta get back over to the NM and smell these. You and Patty make the wenge sound especially enticing.

But how does it compare to Le Wild Bois by Coty, our current love? ;-) (Doesn't it sound sophisticated when I say it in Frenglish?)

9:16 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It's gentler, less intense than Le Wood Sauvage :-D

9:51 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I also find these scents to be quite subtle in a sense that they saty close to the skin and after a while become quite faint. EDP would have been great. Or Parfum :-)

10:43 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

M, Still haven't tried them! Was told at Bloomies that they were already sold out, but that can't be, can it? Will have to get over to NM.

1:23 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

If they are sold out, I am sure that MUA is to "blame" :-)The raves must have caused the stampede :-)

1:43 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Nose nugs!!! I am going to use this phrase all the time, I might as well warn you straightaway. Nose hugs. This is great.

2:34 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

No apologies necessary! That is exactly how I feel about Armani Prive scents. And I grumble about those all the time. :-)
And you are so right, when you think about it, bell jars are almost modestly priced, in comparison to other scents. LOL

3:08 PM EST  
Blogger Anna, Fair and True said...

You've been tagged! See my blog for instructions!

3:11 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You naughty, naughty girl :-)
I promise to post mine on Saturday!

3:36 PM EST  
Blogger katiedid said...

I have to admit the Wenge sounds intriguing, though the idea of that price for such a simple affair does scare me some. At some point this month I'll have to make the trek into the zoo of downtown traffic to my Nordie's and see if they have this one.

"Balm of Gilead" - now you've got that old song in my head (do you know it? The old spiritual? Very beautiful, a hopeful and elegant song that always makes me feel peaceful and smiling.) Don't know that I might care too much for the Labdanum, though, at least not for the price. Still, will check it out with the other at Nord.

4:29 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I would love to hear what you think about these two. Sometimes simplicity os so beautiful, it's worth it :-)

4:44 PM EST  
Blogger Althea said...

I would like to read Anna´s blog but I dont know how.....

anyway, I find Donna Karan´s WEnge expensive for winter........

Any cheaper, but mysterious winter scent, anyone ?

10:13 PM EDT  

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