Created in 1932 by Jean Carles with the remit to create a fragrance “for a prostitute”, Dana Tabu has stuck around and has been a favourite of millions over the years. Tabu is regarded as a Drugstore Classic: that is to say affordable, ubiquitous, and an acceptably good blast from the past. Wearing this today elicits nostalgic memories from people in their 40s and 50s who remember their Mother or Aunts smelling of this. However, Tabu has a lot to offer the modern perfume wearer too and wearing it today has been nothing less than pleasurable.
Needless to say, this fragrance has been through numerous reformulations. Ingredients increase in cost, yet prices need to remain affordable. I do not pretend to be an expert on all the changes made over the years, so I cannot hope to list them here. However, you will always find those who prefer the original, the vintage, the one from the 80s, the new one …and so it goes on. What I have in front of me is the non violin shaped Eau de Toilette (like the one pictured above). It’s not strong and the sillage wouldn’t bother a fellow commuter. Lasting power isn’t more than three hours on me, but, as I explain later, you can often “secure” a fleeting scent by pinning it down with another. Alternatively, spraying clothes and hair makes a scent less flyaway.
However the fragrance itself immediately reminds me of my room as a student. I was always burning Patchouli joss sticks and the dried smoke from the spent sticks would smell just like this. Smoky, spicy and with a whiff of Patchouli. Tabu is like a watered down poor relation of Youth Dew and this could be down to the heavy note of Cloves. I smelt Oranges too, and a hint of Vetiver and Oakmoss (though I doubt it’s the real thing). Civet is listed as a note, but I didn’t get anything animalic from this. In fact, it smells clean, like lemon washing up liquid, albeit for a few seconds, before settling down to its smoky aromas.
Tabu is widely available for less than ten pounds (UK) and is an excellent addition to any scent wardrobe. It’s good for winter especially, although it does make me laugh that it is described rather formally as “recommended for romantic wear”. But I would happily wear it in the day without making eyes at my husband. It’s light enough for daytime and wouldn’t knock anyone out.
It’s an inexpensive spicy, peppery treat of a perfume, despite lacking good longevity. I often find with thinner, inexpensive perfumes that they make excellent layering scents. In fact I tried this over Yves Rocher Rose Absolue and it was fabulous. The Rose was made complex and spicy, and Tabu seemed to last longer for being pinned down.
I have a great deal of affection for cheap and cheerful scents that do the job. If you’d told me a few years back that I’d have a big bottle of cheap prostitute perfume on my dressing table, and that I’d be pleased about it, I never would have believed you. But then I never would have believed that perfume from Lidl is worth buying too, but it is.
The rules with perfume:
Rule One: There are no rules