Perfume is a labour of love for Jan Ewoud Vos, the founder of European niche perfume house Puredistance. Starting out over a decade ago as a seed of an idea, Puredistance is now a fully fledged collection of seven distinct perfumes. I’ve been a fan for a long time and my favourites include the spectacular leather-chypre “M” created in collaboration with Roja Dove and the intensely solar “WHITE” created with renowned perfumer Antoine Lie. One of Puredistance’s claims to exclusivity is the fact that the collection is produced exclusively in “extrait”, perfume’s most decadent concentration. Also, unlike larger commercial brands that follow perpetual launch schedules, Puredistance only launch a new perfume when an idea is conceived that merits pursuit. Sheiduna is the house’s latest perfume and it was officially launched in Florence at Pitti Fragranze in September. For this latest project, Jan Ewoud Vos chose to work with Cécile Zarokian, an independent perfumer who is based in Paris. Cécile has created perfumes for a select number of niche perfume houses and her work with Puredistance was a nine-month project that began with Jan Edwoud sending fragments of his concept to her in the form of postcards.
Sheiduna is a highly evocative perfume in both scent and story. The poetic title is “a name composed from the words: ‘She’, ‘Sheika’ and ‘Dune’, having the same cadence as the word ‘Seduction’.” This olfactory story continues with references to desert panoramas filled with sand dunes glowing under the setting sun. Defined by light and shadow, the curved peaks of dunes mimic the sensual lines of a woman’s body and the desert’s warm colour palette of reds and oranges bears resemblance to the colours found in the intricately woven tribal rugs made by nomadic Bedouins. The tactile quality of these rugs is also a part of Sheiduna and you can almost feel the fragrance as you wear it.
Like a story from Arabian Nights, Sheiduna is exotic and romantic. The perfume also has a contemporary side to it with Cécile adding a touch of modern Paris to her creation. It is a perfume I can imagine smelling on a passer-by in the narrow streets of Le Marais and I can imagine smelling Sheiduna in a crowded bazaar somewhere in the Orient. Even though the perfume’s lead character is female, the perfume’s fiery oriental personality translates perfectly well on male skin. I have been happily wearing Sheiduna over the spring months here in Australia.
Sheiduna is a multi-faceted fragrance. Being both perfume extrait and an oriental, these rich and complex facets come alive on the skin with all of their majesty in tact. Sheiduna begins with a momentary flash of tangerine, lemon and aldehydes. This bittersweet medley enlivens the senses and settles quickly as other notes move forward. At this point I sense something milky, warm and lactonic that pushes against the angular citrus notes and creates an interesting contrast. The heart of the perfume contains geranium, Bulgarian rose oil and blackcurrant. This fruity-floral section is bracketed with oriental notes of spicy clove and cumin, textural myrrh, incense and patchouli. By this point Sheiduna’s oriental nature is fully revealed with notes of spices, resins and woods. One of my favourite sections of the composition is the overdose of tonka bean absolute, benzoin resinoid and vanilla absolute. This sweet and slightly powdery theme is a continuation of the gourmand milkiness that follows the opening. Enhanced with musk, these warm and inviting notes are offset by modern woody-amber notes. This includes the very extroverted molecule AmberXtreme, which is like an anchor in the fragrance. A beachy, textural quality is further enhanced with small amounts of Ambroxan and an infusion of real ambergris. In its final stages of life, the perfume leaves a warm powdery trail on skin.
Advances in chemistry freed perfumers from nature over a century ago. This freedom opened doors to new possibilities and perfumers began translating abstract ideas into perfume. They could also create hyper-real perfumes that exaggerated nature in the same way CGI technology has evolved filmmaking. Although perfume has no specific temperature, perfumers can affect the user’s perception of temperature. Maison Martin Margiela’s L’Eau feels cool and wet. Sheiduna feels hot and dry. It is perfect given the story Puredistance is telling; this illusionary heat adds to the romance of this desert story.
Extrait de parfum is becoming increasingly popular, not just in niche fragrance and not only for women. Christian Dior and Hermes now offer “parfum” versions of the house’s most popular most men’s titles and in the fine print, even some eau de parfums are reaching concentrations of over 20%. I love recommending big and loud fragrances but I think you need to know how and where to wear them – otherwise they wear you. I prefer wearing Sheiduna in the evening, particularly for special events and dinners. Characteristic of oriental fragrances, I like the way this scent mingles with the night air and its extroverted personality is perfect for social occasions. I haven’t had an opportunity to wear Sheiduna in cold weather but I expect it wears like a warm scarf or winter coat.
Perfumer: Cécile Zarokian
Olfactive Direction: Jan Ewoud Vos
Release Date: 2016
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Oriental