Few perfumes have the bad reputation of the 1932 Tabu by Dana, "un parfum de puta", the prostitute's perfume. I remember in the play "Love, Loss And What I wore" there was a snippet about someone looking and smelling cheap. As Tyne Daly explained on stage: "she was wearing Tabu". The audience roared with laughter, knowingly. Why, of course, what else could it have been?
Once upon a time, Tabu wasn't a drugstore perfume priced at around $10. The advertisement campaigns appeared in the best magazines and the perfume was rumored to be a favorite of Ava Gardner. The sultry and passionate aspects, though, were always firmly in place, used by Dana to their utmost power and effect, as you can read in this article on Cleopatra's Boudoir.
I have a really old bottle. I never managed to date it, as the box seems to be even earlier than the ones I've seen in 1950s ads. I bought it sealed in a crumbling crusty cellophane of some sort and held my breath as I opened it, unsure of what to expect. What I found was a breathtaking heavy animalic oriental. The note list seems to include just about every strong raw material in the universe. Smelling and wearing it I get a spicy patchouli-civet blend that takes no prisoners and doesn't take no for an answer. In today's standards perhaps it isn't pretty. We tend to be scared of perfume that is so aggressive and doesn't try to hide its raw sexuality under a layer of pastry or fruit. Tabu is a little extreme. It wraps you in an intoxicating mix of exotica, lures you in and then puts on the moves. It dries down to a leathery civet, very faint sweetness and a lot of flushed skin.
My bottle is of the "colonia" concentration, yet it's shockingly deep, rich and long-lasting. Dabbing might be the more tasteful thing to do, but I've decanted some into a small sprayer and I give myself a good 2-3 spritzes for full effect. Yes, I do leave the house smelling like that.
Notes: bergamot, orange flower, basil, neroli and coriander, heart notes of carnation, jasmine, rose, clover and ylang-ylang, on base notes of patchouli, civet, oak moss, amber, musk, vetiver, sandalwood, cedar, benzoin and vanilla.
Photo of Dana Tabu Colonia by me.
Ads from 1943, 1950 and the original "The Kreutzer Sonata" by Rene Prinet from tabuperfume.wordpress.com