When I was a kid, my father worked in New Jersey, about 200 miles from our house. I didn’t see him that much because he would stay down there during the week, then come home on the weekends. But every year around Columbus Day this little circus would come to town to perform at the local college. Several restaurants in the area gave away free tickets and Dad always came home to take me. I looked forward to it every year.
For those who haven’t been to the circus recently, they have a very distinctive smell. They smell of animals and popcorn and caramel apples, of sweat and pony hair and hard work, of buttered popcorn and warm cardboard and a thousand other things. It is a smell you recognize instantly when you walk into the Big Top.
L’Artisan Dzing! smells like that.
Created by the great perfumer Olivia Giacobetti in 1999, Dzing! was intended to smell like a circus in the best way possible. Ostensibly a woody leather, it is perhaps one of the most striking examples of perfume genius I have ever encountered. It is not a perfume so much as a liquid Proustian Memory, the kind of thing that perfumers go their whole lives trying to create. It is the ultimate masterpiece.
It opens with a faint animal scent, like the smell of woodchip-filled cages that house fluffy, powerful animals. There’s a hint of elephant poop, but it’s so mild that it only serves to make the perfume more appealing rather than fecal. A leather note accompanies the animal construct, not the new, rubbery leather of Bulgari Black or the gasoline/leather jacket leather of Knize Ten or even the bitter, bondage-and-sin leather of Bandit, but the rich, warm leather of a well-used saddle, as if it had just been removed from the withers of a pony after he trots off the ring. It continues in this vein for about an hour, like the ghost of the previous night’s show that you smell when you sit down, eyes bright with excitement, munching your popcorn and watching the rest of the circus-goers find their seats.
Then the real show begins. The lights come up, the ringmaster steps out. The perfume shifts, begins to smell of warm caramel apples and roasted peanuts, then develops the almost appallingly beautiful scent of warm cardboard, its spicy, gingery (for it is accomplished here with ginger), dry scent encircling the rest of the notes with a friendly wave. As the scent progresses, hints of cotton candy and some creamy, unidentifiable note (possibly the caramel in another form) shift and weave throughout, never overwhelming the leather or the cardboard but always there in a friendly, elegantly restrained fashion.
After about 6 hours or so, the show begins to conclude, the final acts come to the ring, and the perfume begins to fade. By this time, it has largely dried down into creamy caramel apple, but it still exhibits traces of popcorn and cardboard and even a hint of leather and animal from the beginning of the show. I get roughly 8 hours of total wear from scent, but I love it so completely that I could easily see myself spraying it on again and a gain just to start the show over.
I’ve smelled a lot of perfumes in my life and have loved quite a few, but Dzing! remains the only perfume to have actually moved me to tears. If Lolita Lempicka is the smell of lullabyes, Dzing! is the smell of childhood wonder, spent on the magical night with Daddy. If I am to be buried with one perfume, this will be it. I hope to god they never stop making it.