The royal apartments where Pharaoh's daughter lives are decorated in blue and black. Incense is burning in the corners, and the princess is being dressed and made up by her handmaiden. There are bowls and bottles full of balsamic pastes and thick herbal oils; some were produced especially for her, others imported at great costs from faraway lands. A special perfume was blended by a local mystery man, Megalus, who is rumored to have secret powers and knowledge from the beyond.
Megaleion by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes is an attempt to recreate the ancient Megaleion perfume. It's a second version (the first one was created by DSH for the Denver Art Museum’s King Tut exhibit in 2010), meant to be regarded and worn as a real modern perfume while still using the wisdom of the ages and ancient ingredients. Megaleion is a balsamic oud fragrance, along the lines of Mecca Balsam but much (much!) lighter.
As I spray Megaleion on my skin I mostly smell oud and ambery resins. It's barely sweetened, lightly spiced and the complex incense that joins as the scent unfolds smells like it's already been wafting higher and higher in the air, so it's not really smoky. This effect contributes greatly to the impression of a modern and airy perfume, despite the natural density of some notes, especially oud. The main spice I smell in Megaleion is cinnamon, on its own and beautifully mingled with a dark rose. It gives the fragrance an almost edible facet, and help create the gender neutrality-- the stark woods and black oud shouldn't scare away women.
In Megaleion, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created an elegant and wearable fragrance that is both sensual and cerebral. There's quite a lot going on there, but none of it hits on you on the head. It's like walking around the deserted palace halls, smelling something incredibly beautiful just ahead of you. You hurry your steps, anxious to find it and inhale deeply, but the ghost of the ancient princess keeps evading your grasp.
Longevity of Megaleion is moderate-- about five or six hours if you keep it to two or three sprays. The husband complains that it doesn't project and linger as much as Mecca Balsam, Pure Oud or Shams . Obviously, he likes his oud to survive a shower or three. I suspect that the pure perfume (I only tested the EDP) is more tenacious.
Notes: amber, atlas cedar, bergamot, oakmoss, bulgarian rose, cardamom, cassia, castoreum, cinnamon, costus, cyperus esculentus, indian patchouli, red wine, olibanum, incense, labdanum, lemongrass, myrrh, myrtle, agarwood (oud), peru balsam and nard himalayan (jatamansi).
DSH Perfumes Megaleion ($48, 10ml EDP. Other sizes, concentration, and samples are available) can be purchased from dshperfumes.com. The sample for this review was supplied by the perfumer.
Egyptian ruins at night from a tourist info website (sorry, I somehow lost the source).
Ancient Egyptian perfume box from the 18th dynasty, Cairo Museum.