Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dana Voodoo Perfume- Cherries & Costus

I am back to report further on the identity of a little mystery perfume mentioned in an earlier post. It came in a plain looking, round bottle with a plain looking little black top, a micro mini with no label or design I could see... It held just a smidgen of thick red-brown juice in the bottom. Unmarked perfumes, especially those in undistinctive looking bottles, just aren't that interesting to me... In order to appreciate a perfume fully, it seems that you need to be able to identify where it came from, what's in it and who made it... and until you know it's name, you really don't know it at all. But the scent in this little bottle was different- really it was too good for me to let go. Once it got its hooks into my nose I just had to track it down. But there was absolutely nothing to be done about it so it lingered in its little spot and every once in a while, maybe if I felt in a bit of a funk, I'd put just a tiny drop of it on and enjoy the weird, cherry sweetness.

Then a couple of years later I bumped into another perfume that reminded me of the little mystery jus- Luctor et Emergo by People of the Labyrinths. When I stumbled onto POTL, I had no idea there was a 'perfume world', a world that could only exist because of and on the internet but I was captivated by the smell of it, white flowers and grasses which smelt nothing like how you thought it should. Somewhere between cherry pie and playdoh, it was the first niche perfume to catch my attention; but my preference for the old fashioned, passe and out of place grew, perversely perhaps, as I smelled more and more of the new niche fragrances. That's when I began to appreciate how much I really loved the past era of vintage perfumes which I'd always worn and had around, mostly due to finding the perfume incidentally while hunting for vintage clothing and other treasures!

So fast forward to a bleary eyed night when I staring at the monitor's alien glow, scanning through rows and rows tiny thumbnail photographs of vintage perfume bottles- when I found myself staring at a bottle of vintage perfume and thought, "Hey, I've seen that before". And sure enough, the bottle resembled my little mini but it had a name on the lid, Voodoo. Ah ha! Maybe this Dana creation was the answer to my perfume riddle... but without further evidence I remained sceptical. I soon began to notice other pictures of the Voodoo bottle in various collections but it was always empty, then just recently I managed to locate a bottle that still contained within it the magical cherry cola colored brew. Luck was with me and Voodoo was soon be within my reach although there were still some weeks of nail-biting, waiting for the package to arrive safely.


When I received the smallish black padded satin box and saw the beautiful little bottle of Vudu (the European spelling), my heart skipped a beat! Of course an immediate comparison with the dregs of my tiny sample ensued. I am pleased to announce: it's a match! Somewhat validated, I conclude my good eyes and a good nose lead me to the right place. But dear reader, since I do not have a classically trained nose, you may question how well I smell and my ability to describe accurately the perfumes I present here. I don't get to smell many of the recent released perfumes I read about either, and still I find when I do, if the writer has done their job well, that I am familiar with how the perfume is going to smell. Sometimes, as with Estee Lauder's Sensuous, I knew exactly how it would smell- just based on other writer's words ("molten river of woods"- it wasn't the biggest hit with me, honestly it smells like a base, not a fully formed perfume, imho). Anyway, I do have a good palate/nose and my mind still seems pretty good too so the bottom line is, you've just gotta trust me.

However, you were given a clue about this scent when I compared it to Luctor Et Emergo although there is more to it than that. The perfume I received this time is less dehydrated and better preserved than my original sample so I'm smelling several elements here for the first time. And this is what I smell: at the open, is a savory herb- tarragon, thyme or basil. I'm not able to tell these apart super well (in perfume form at least) but I smell a certain something, an unexpected turn away from the usualy fruity or floral citrus of most perfume openings... I'd assign to it a greenish/black color if various aspects of fragrances had colors. I always love the quirky akwardness I perceive from these herbal accents within a floral perfume, I find it surprising and it keeps things from becoming too conventionally pretty for me.

Amouage Jubilation 25 opens with tarragon and that smells similar to the herb effect I get here. Along with the tarragon comes a rapidly sweetening violet-cherry symphony, in which I find big heliotropin, with ionone, orris, jasmine, cassis, orange blossom and clove bud facets all present. As the scent progresses into middle and dry down, two different stories present... One is the story of french soap, a clean up involving creamy carnation, rose and a little vanilla. But the other side is far more disturbing tale, that of dusty dirty hair, old wax candles and muddy vetiver.
This is costus- a big part of the darker side of Vudu, whose scent recalls voo doo rituals replete with shrunken heads, dried chicken's feet and blood mixing with dirt and ashes.

Keep in mind also that while I compared it to Luctor Et Emergo, Voodoo does not really smell so alike to that perfume. It does not have the bright techno strength and modern pop of POTL's creation nor any of its heavy resinous wood/amber notes (the playdoh that some people so hate!), but also the cherries in Vudu are much more real, visceral. Here is heliotropin that I'll bet came from a nice hot purple-pink "cherry pie plant" variety of the Heliotrope flower, not the bluish or white types that can have a scent more like a wan vanilla cookie.

The history of Voo Doo perfume is interesting, too. Some sources date its creation to 1951, but this is wrong. Voodoo was trademarked as a perfume name by Dana in 1938/39. There was a court case in the USA involving the use of the name Voodoo for perfumes that reveals a little more of its history in America. Apparently a San Francisco shoe salesman by the name of Rolley who had a side line as an amatur perfumer claimed that he had used the name Voodoo for his perfume since 1940 and owned the name. But Les Arfumes de Dana Inc., would have none of it. Even though Rolley only sold his perfumes in only a few shops in the Pacific-Northwest, Dana sued him for trademark infringement in 1953 and when Dana produced the proof of trademark (sales bills from US going back to 1938), the courts decided in Dana's favor. Rolley tried to change his dates around but to no avail. It could not have helped that Rolley also had perfumes called Taboo and Forbidden Fruits when Dana had two earlier hits with Tabu/Taboo and Forbidden!

I'm not sure if the court case may have caused Dana to pull back on US distribution of Voodoo... It had apparently reached $250,000 in sales by the time of the trial and I don't know how big that was, given a 20 year span in which it has been made... but today Voodoo is undeniably scarce. Even advertisement images are scarce. I see only about three vintage ads out there that feature Voodoo and always it's shown with three or four other Dana perfumes.

I'm not about to go into collecting vintage print ads for perfume any time soon, so I do not own the ad and I've not been able to read the fine print describing Voodoo- I would LOVE to know what it says, though!

So this is how the story about my little mystery was solved and has ended. Happily, this acquistion helps form a memorable chapter of the history of early House of Dana Perfumes as featured here at The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was able to hold on to some of the perfumes I wore back in the 60's - stayed true to Chanel #19 and the Guerlains but Khadine by Yardley disappeared as did others that went out of business. Strange how a scent can bring back those times when you could take on the world!

iza said...

Usava o Khadine quando tinha meus vinte anos...hoje, com 53, ainda me lembro do aperfume e ando como louca procurando para comprar. Será que alguém sabe onde tem? Se souberem, me avisem!

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