There are few perfumes as defined by their stories as is L'Artisan Parfumeur Dzing!. People who have heard about Dzing! but not smelled it still usually know that it's supposed to smell like a circus — well, either that, or like cardboard.
When Dzing! was launched in 1999, it was called Désir de Cirque. In what surely must be one of its most successful bits of perfume copywriting, L'Artisan described perfumer Olivia Giacobetti's inspiration for the fragrance as the full range of the circus's "sights, sounds, smells and tastes". They topped off the description with a tiny drawing on Dzing!'s label of a lady wearing an ostrich feather in her hair and riding a tiger. With this idea planted in a person's head, one whiff of Dzing! invokes images of leather harnesses, caramel apples, sweaty trapeze artists, elephants, and the greasy underbellies of aging trucks with hay spilling out their backs.
The story is alluring. But if you can, forget about circuses when you smell Dzing!. Instead, focus on the marvelous unfurling of its notes and the crazy, original fragrance that results. L'Artisan's website describes Dzing! simply as leather, musk, toffee, iris, and saffron. Osmoz defines Dzing! as an "oriental-vanilla" and lists its top notes as rose, orris, and daffodil; its heart as ginger, cinnamon, and saffron; and its base as castoreum, Peru balsam, benzoin, and musk.
Dzing! opens with a whack of rubbery leather that reminds me of Bvlgari Black. Soon, the rubber scent fades slightly and is joined by cinnamon and saffron and softened and given body by flowers that aren't distinct or even present enough to call out by name. Gradually, a sweet, spicy musk — still ticklish with a whisper of rubber — takes over and the fragrance evolves into a gorgeous skin scent. I've heard complaints about Dzing!'s longevity, but it lasts about six hours on me.
Although Dzing! is like nothing else I've smelled, after its opening act it turns into a scent that feels natural and quiet. I've had more compliments on Dzing! than on any other fragrance I've worn. (For the record, Christian Dior Miss Dior has turned up the most noses. I love it anyway.) Dzing! is great when the weather is cold, but it's also nice on a warm evening. It's fine at work and excellent on the town. It's a dream to smell on yesterday's scarf or on the head of a dog whose ears you've scratched. Dzing! is definitely one of my top ten favorite perfumes. I only wish cardboard smelled so good.
Last year rumors swept the internet that L'Artisan planned to discontinue Dzing!. Fortunately, although L'Artisan did stop producing Dzing! in 50 ml bottles, it's still available in a 100 ml bottle. If you haven't yet tried Dzing!, it's worth tracking down a sample of it. If you're lucky, you'll be like one friend who discovered Dzing! and who sent me an email the next day saying, "I just can't stop smelling myself!"
For buying information, see the listing for L'Artisan under Perfume Houses.