The Buddhist temple was vast and ancient, but well-tended by its many yellow and red-robed monks. Its colours gleamed lacquered Chinese red and gold; vast, bronze dragons stood guard and snarled from odd corners; and the smell of incense was in the air. Enormous bronze vats filled with it, in fact; the many, brightly coloured sticks stuck in sand and billowing out heaps of smoke. It was a religious holiday, maybe even Buddha’s birthday, that cold day in November when I visited the Yonghe Lama temple monastery in the northern part of Beijing. Throngs of people filled in the vast courtyard, holding sticks of incense, bowing and praying, and monks were everywhere.
Smoke curled and swirled in the air, becoming almost a wall in its own right. One portly, bald, yellow-garbed monk smiled at me and I’m pretty sure he gently tilted his shaved head towards the large bronze urns filled with fiery logs, as if to tell me to light the sticks of incense in my hands and join the crowds of worshipers. I smiled back at him, then moved past him and the phalanxes of his gentle, smiling brothers, to join the crowds looking like ants before the most gigantic, amazing Buddhist statue I have ever seen.
Beijing and its stunning Lama temple filled with flowers and incense are what come to mind when I wear the absolutely enchanting, elegant Mitzah from Dior. It is from the fashion house’s La Collection Privée line of perfumes which are sometimes called elsewhere (like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance) La Collection Couturier. I’ll stick to Dior’s own name for the line which is exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website. Dior’s La Collection Privée began with three perfumes but, in 2010, the company issued seven more fragrances — all intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior. Mitzah was one of them.
The perfumes were created by Francois Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, and his goal for Mitzah was to evoke Dior’s greatest muse, Mitzah Bricard. She was a socialite with a mysterious background who always wore something in a leopard print and whose personal style was a huge influence in Dior’s New Look creations and beyond. In fact, she became Dior’s chief stylist and advisor. Mitzah, the perfume, is meant to pay “tribute” both to her role in Dior’s creations and to Ms. Bricard herself as “an extremely sensual woman, with a divinely chic allure and captivating presence.”
According to the Australian Perfume Junkies, Mitzah is going to be discontinued next month, sometime in March 2013. If that is true, then it’s an enormous shame as Mitzah is an incredibly beautiful labdanum, incense and spiced rose oriental perfume whose richness comes with huge delicacy and a surprising airiness. My personal taste veers towards for the opulently opaque, the resinously heavy, the really baroque, or the ultra-feminine and, yet, there is something about this lightweight perfume that makes me actually want to buy one of the giant bottles (more on that later) right away, even if only to split it with friends.
[UPDATE – 3/2/2013: I just spoke with the Dior Beauty Stylist, Karina Lake, at the Dior Las Vegas boutique. The perfume is NOT being discontinued from either the Dior website or from actual free-standing Dior boutiques. She just returned from Paris and a training session at Dior Beauty; she is adamant that the perfume is permanent. It is, however, being removed temporarily from Dior shops in department stores, such as Neiman Marcus, Galleries Lafayette, and the like. Apparently, Dior rotates out 6 of their Privée fragrances at a time in such venues, to make way for others in the collection. That is what is happening to Mitzah. However, Mitzah will remain continuously on the website and at their actual shops.]
[Update as of 5/16/13: Dior seems to have changed their mind. The perfume IS being discontinued after all, along with Vetiver. You can read the full details here.]
The notes for Mitzah, as compiled from the Dior website and Fragrantica, are as follows:
Russian coriander, Damascena Rose, spices, Sri Lankan cinnamon, vanilla, honey, labdanum, Indonesian patchouli, Somali frankincense and incense.
Mitzah opens on my skin with rich, boozy resin and incense. The resin is unbelievably captivating, rich and sweet but, in an odd dichotomy, it’s very airy. There is a raisin-y rum feeling that is also surprisingly light, but note doesn’t last long. Underlying the rich amber are a fleet of other accords: honey; chewy, dark, slightly dirty patchouli; coriander that smells woody and nutty; dusty cinnamon; and a rich, beefy, dark damask rose.
There is almost a chocolate-y note from the combination of the spices, the patchouli, and the labdanum. The latter is extremely luxurious and extremely balsamic. You can almost picture tear drops of resin oozing out in dark, chocolate-y ambered hues. It’s slighty animalic, but not in a musky, skanky way. Rather, it’s like dark, molten, honeyed amber with the edge of something slightly more complex, masculine, and dirty.
It’s the oddest thing: none of this is heavy! Mitzah is almost like a gauzy veil. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a rich scent, but it’s not opaque and thick. It’s never overpowering, bullying, or brazen.
It’s probably a bit like what Mitzah Bricard was like herself. Judging from the photos, she was distinctively stylish, and never hesitant in being a strong, commanding presence. But she was always elegant and a lady about it. Mitzah, the perfume tribute, is much the same way. I confess I’m quite fascinated by how they made ingredients smell so rich and, yet, simultaneously, feel so airy.
Twenty minutes in, the incense and frankincense notes become stronger. So, too, do the spices acting in the background as supporting players. There is a definite feel of Chanel’s fabulous Coromandel to everything. Actually, to be specific, I keep imagining Coromandel, Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1934, and Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis in a three-way triangle. I think it’s because there is a very cinnamon-chocolate feel to Mitzah. It lacks the mentholated camphor of Borneo 1834, the white cocoa powder of Coromandel, and the more gourmand, bitter chocolate aspects of Anima Dulcis, but Mitzah has a definite kindred spirit tie to different aspects of each of those perfumes. For example; the patchouli-chocolate aspects of Borneo 1834; the labdanum, incense and frankincense of Coromandel; and the sweetness, cinnamon-chocolate, incense aspects of Anima Dulcis. All this with a fair greater lightness than should be expected from a scent with such rich notes as Mitzah.
Clearly, none of this makes Mitzah a hugely original perfume. One might easily argue, however, that there really aren’t a lot of particularly original amber and incense perfumes anyway. At least, not incredibly wearable, comfortable scents. Dior was not seeking to create an avant-garde twist on resinous, smoky ambers but to make something elegant. It not only succeeded, but it also made something that is hugely versatile. I can see myself wearing Mitzah as much with jeans and a t-shirt, as with leather pants and stilettos, a little black dress, or a suit. It would work for the office, for a date, or for a night just curled up watching a movie. I’m utterly in love with this, and I’m sorely tempted to beg some friends to split a bottle with me! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
An hour in, the frankincense (which, to my nose, is smokier and darker than incense) and the resinous labdanum become even richer and more concentrated. The deepening amber note takes on almost a caramel quality in its sweetness. The cinnamon also starts to make an appearance, adding a faintly dusty, nutty element. And then there is the rose. My heavens! One imagines the deepest, most blood-red, baroque roses have been plucked and reduced down to concentrated nectar for a note that is as full-blooded as this one. It’s never cloying; it’s nothing like a British tea rose; and it’s almost fiery in its sensuality. But, unfortunately, it is just merely a glimmer here and there, and I would have been far happier with a touch more of it.
One might argue that Mitzah is such a superbly blended perfume that all the notes blend into one, and it would certainly be true. This has been done absolutely beautifully. But one could also argue that it is quite a linear scent — and that would be true, too. It doesn’t morph into something different in any drastic way. It is predominantly a labdanum-frankincense perfume first, second and third — and all the rest of the notes are merely incidental additions that pop up only occasionally, and never in a way that truly competes with that ambered resin and smoky frankincense. That one vein carries through from the start to the finish of the perfume — and its strength certainly gives weight to the argument that it’s basically a one-trick perfume.
Perhaps. But damn, what a stunning trick it is. In its later stages, Mitzah turns into pure honeyed perfection — sweet but still subtly tinged with that smoke. There is depth to it from the sweetness of the labdanum, and it sometimes throws in a ghostly chocolate undertone to the mix as well. At the same time, there is also a hint of the vanilla, but it is not powdered as in the dry-down to Coromandel.
All of this occurs with perfume that is not overpowering in its sillage. Not at all. In fact, I think the elegance, airiness and moderate (to low) sillage of Mitzah would make it perfect for those who want a discreet, sexy, smoky oriental that is never obvious. On me, the sillage was moderate to strong for the first twenty minutes, but it was hardly something that could be smelled across the room. Mitzah is far too airy to be overpowering; it’s like a silken gauze on your skin. After that, it became much closer to the skin. In fact, it became a bit too damn discreet for my personal liking! By the fourth hour, I had to somewhat forcefully inhale at my arm, and I think others would have to nuzzle your neck to get a good whiff of it.
It was also a bit too evanescent for my liking. There were faint traces of it during the sixth hour and it died entirely midway during the seventh, which is too short a period of time for my liking. Yet, this is one perfume that I would not hesitate to re-spray, despite my usual dislike of having to do that. I haven’t fully comprehended why I would make so many exceptions for Mitzah — but I would. Perhaps because it is so comfortable, while still being sexy. It feels like wearing the perfect, airy, silky-soft cashmere sweater with just the hint of a silky teddy underneath.
The real problem with Mitzah is not its sillage or longevity but something else entirely: the size of the bottles. They are just enormous! The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz or 125 ml. Most perfumes start at 1.7 oz or 50 ml, going up to 3.4 oz or 100 ml in the large size. Mitzah’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz or 450 ml! More than four times as large!
Per ounce, they are far, far cheaper than most niche or exclusive-line perfumes. The “small” bottle costs $155, so that is approximately $36 an ounce — the price of mass-market perfumes. The gigantic “large” 8.5 oz size costs $230 for $27 an ounce — far less than any perfume at Sephora or Macy’s! But, tell me seriously, how many people will ever finish an 8.5 oz bottle?! Who? Even for someone like myself whose perfume-consuming skin would require frequent re-applications during Mitzah’s moderate-to-short duration, I can’t imagine anyone ever finishing the large bottle! On the other hand, the size makes it perfect for splitting among friends which, if the story about discontinuation is true, makes Mitzah incredibly tempting.
If you are a fan of smoky ambers and orientals, I urge you to order a sample of Mitzah as soon as you can from Surrender to Chance or the Perfumed Court. Then, find a friend and go in with them for a split. It’s worth it. Oh, is that labdanum and incense worth it!
[Update as of 5/16/13: Dior seems to have changed their mind. The perfume IS being discontinued after all, along with Vetiver. You can read the full details here.]
The SA at Galleries Lafayette told me about the discontinuation. She was awesome and full of wonderful samples for us.
Thanks for the extra details, Portia. 🙂 BTW, I wasn’t doubting you. It’s just that you’re the only place I could find that mentioned Mitzah would be discontinued.
I just thought you’d like to know I’m here and reading beautiful.
That means a lot to me, Portia. Thank you for letting me know. 🙂
The next day after Portia wrote it would be discontinued I wrote to the Las Vegas boutique and bought my bottle.
As much as I like the line I can’t understand why they’ve decided to kill off this one. I think it’s one of the best in the line.
Undina, you have no idea how tempted I am to buy that 4.25 oz bottle off the website right now, no splits or anything. But 4.25 oz??! Crikey! That’s pretty damn big, though I’m working on justifying in my mind why it really isn’t quite so large. One of the things that I’m using is the fact that they may run out of that size and then the only other option would be the monstrously huge 8.5 oz bottle! I keep thinking of Portia’s comment how they had sold out of the “small” size when she went to Galleries Lafayette. (I’m surprised they carried it there given that there was all this talk on the website (I think) about exclusive to Dior boutiques and since Dior’s headquarter boutique is in Paris.) Anyway, I just adore the scent and think you made a good choice in going for the full bottle. How come you ordered from the Las Vegas store and not online? Was it easier?
I’m so tempted to try Mitzah after your review! I’m a big fan of Bois D’Argent and have a decant of Ambre Nuit. Can’t say that I’m a fan of Leather Oud although I tried to like it… Mitzah is listed as a feminine fragrance in Fragrantica but I’m sure I’ll like it as I love Coromandel. The price point on those Diors are great, but the bottles are humongous!
I urge you — nay, I beg of you — to try it soon, Ross! For one thing, and I should have mentioned this in my review, I think it’s very unisex. I remember that Lanier loves this perfume and I’ve seen other men really like it too. I’m trying to work out if I’m really capable of hosting my own split with any others who may be interested because the bottles really are H U G E but that price point….! Undina just informed me that — if one orders from the Dior boutique in Las Vegas — the benefits are:
1) no tax
2) free shipping
3) a free 5 ml mini of your choice
4) and 2-3 samples in small 1 ml vials.
I cannot tell you how tempted I am to order that 4.25 oz bottle right now — just for myself and without worrying about splits. I keep justifying it in my mind, like, “Well, 4.25 isn’t really ALL that much bigger than 3.4, is it? Sure, you rarely have ever finished one of those, but you could use it for another 20 years!” LOL. I just told Undina that I better sleep on it as I tend to do crazy things at 2 a.m., but I am THAT tempted by this perfume! 4.25 oz though…. why the hell couldn’t they make 1.7 oz like everyone else????
Off to Surrender to Chance I go! 🙂 I believe they have Mitzah in Dior boutique in NYC (I bought Bois D’Argent from them last year when I hosted a split for that one).
“Airy”? “Evanescent”? How our mileage varies with this one. : – ). And our tastes in general, hehe. For I go out of my way to avoid “the opulently opaque, the resinously heavy, the really baroque”, though we may cross paths at the “ultra-feminine”. Love and Tears, maybe?
I do like Ambre de Nuit? (the amber one in the range), which is more what I call airy!
Even though our tastes don’t coincide very much, this was a beguiling review. I never knew about the Mitzah (with her arch eyebrows) who was the inspiration for the perfume, and I seriously need to address the Buddha statue deficit in my life.
Ambre Nuit (should have checked the comments first!
Also I forgot to say that I don’t like Coromandel and Borneo, so that all figures.
And having looked again, it seems the model’s eyebrows are a caricature of the real Mitzah’s eyebrows! But I do think I still detect an arch even though she is looking away…
Not forgetting the bracket deficit! IPhones…huh!
Don’t forget the issue of cats vs. dogs and small dogs vs. giant fanged German shepherds/Alsatiens! 😉
I loved Coromandel! I would have liked Borneo 1834 if it didn’t turn a bit cumin-y, earthy, skanky on me. (And there’s no cumin, so I can’t explain it. Must have been something with the patchouli which I’m normally a big fan of.)
Your Evil Scent Twin. 😉
Heh, we established long ago that I’m your Evil Scent Twin! *grin* But, seriously, even this was not airy for you???! My word. Perhaps now you see why I have such a dislike for the L’Artisan Parfumeur line since its overall ethos and approach is really NOT my style at all.
I think even our definitions of “ultra-feminine” may conflict due to the underlying airy/powerful split. But rest assured, I adore you even if we’re polar perfume opposites! 😀
Am proud to be your Evil Scent Twin! A twin’s a twin at the end of the day…
Yeah, Mitzah is a lovely perfume. I was surprised that I liked it as from the notes I had mixed feelings whether I will like it or not. Turned out to be a positive olfactory experience.
Too bad they’re trying to “destroy” this exclusive line. I haven’t tried 90% of those fragrances, that’s too bad I may not have a chance. But at least I tried Mitzah until it will be discontinued. I also tried Ambre Nuit, Oud Ispahan and Bois d’Argent – the latter being the big disappointment.
What about Bois d’Argent turned you off or made it a disappointment? Do you really think they’re trying to “destroy” the line? So far, only one perfume has been discontinued, no? I think the line — as a whole — would probably have been much better known and much more successful if they made the bottles in a more practical, approachable size.
I love my VC&A Bois d’Iris and Bois d’Argent smelled to me like a cheap copy of this perfume. Bois d’Iris is better so I totally don’t need Bois d’Argent.
Yes, you’re right. I overdid saying they’re trying to “destroy” the line.
I agree. 125 being the smallest is a little bit of a pain
125ml *is* a big bottle, but I suppose when you consider the vast majority of people don’t have more than a bottle or two of perfume, they could probably work through it quickly. It’s very reasonably priced anyhow, and if they used the pricing scheme other houses are using they’d do something like charge $125 for 50ml. LOL.
On the topic of the perfume, this sounds so nice! I’d love to try it at some point, though I have to say, I hate Dior’s La Collection Privee bottles. I can’t explain why because I usually like elegant simplicity, but something looks so cheap about them to me. 😦 Still, I haven’t explored this line at all yet and I’m overdue to do so! Lovely review, definitely made me want to wear this one! Do you think it’s my taste?
I do think it’s to your taste, particularly as you love Coromandel but aren’t into really boozy ambers. I also think you’d find this to be a very versatile fragrance.
I loved this review. Loved IT! Yes, there is a small just recently opened Dior boutique at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. They carry the entire line. I checked with my Dior manager there when I read Portia’s report on the discontinuation and it is true. They are referring to Mitzah at the moment as “a limited release” and it will be gone soon. So with that information I bought a small bottle because in my estimation this will very soon be a lost classic. It was a big ticket for me at $155 with tax $169. I was sweating bullets spending that much but it is as you say per ounce a very good price.
Everything you mentioned about the life of the perfume is so spot on. Well done! I can vouch that it does in fact work very well on a man’s skin and all the guys at work want a bottle too! The frankincense and chocolate knocks them out. You wrote: ” Mitzah would make it perfect for those who want a discreet, sexy, smoky oriental that is never obvious.” and that is just what makes it work so well on men.
Awww, you have no idea how much that means to me, sweet Lanier. Really. Thank you for your kind words. And thank you for chiming in on how this would work for a man; I hope that some of the other readers who wondered if this might be too feminine for them will take note.
I keep hesitating on getting that full bottle. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I’ve had the luck to test a few things recently that I’ve really, really liked. But I can’t get Mitzah out of my head. I think I’m hoping that someone will want to split it in half with me. LOL.
Do you have any idea of when exactly they are going to pull Mitzah? The end of March? Sooner? God, of all the ones to pull, WHY Mitzah??!?!
Guess what, Lanier? I succumbed to a full bottle! Also, this is not being discontinued! Long story short, they’re only rotating perfumes in the Dior mini-boutiques that are within department stores. At the actual, free-standing Dior shops and online, it will remain a permanent part of the collection. I explained more in an update to my review, but I thought you might like to know that I bought a bottle. You know, it was you who started this journey with your love for the perfume. I owe you many, many thanks and I will think of you when I wear it. 🙂
Oh that is good news indeed! I am so happy you got the bottle you won’t regret it.
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Wonderful review! Thank you for all the details too about the discontinuation/rotating the line. It definitely clears up a lot of confusion as well as subdues some panicky feeling of not buying it in time. Also thanks to you and Undina for the info about the Vegas store! No tax? Free shipping? Heck yeah! Because it’s 8.75% sales tax here!
Did you have panicky feelings too? Ha, that was exactly my feeling! As though a clock were ticking down. I think my first comment to Karina on the phone was “Hi, I want to buy Mitzah. PLEASE TELL ME YOU STILL HAVE IT!!!” 😀 I hope you order from her, Baconbiscuit. She’s fantastic and sent me a ton of samples of the rest of the line. She was really sweet, extremely helpful, and my box arrived within 4 business days. It’s a fantastic deal, though one may be wearing Mitzah for the rest of one’s life given the size of that bottle. 4.25 oz for a “SMALL”?!?!?? I simply can’t get over it. LOL.
I have found that the word “discontinued” is the most effective sales approach on me 🙂
Karina sounds amazing! Makes me wish that all SA’s were as helpful, enthusiastic, and knowledgable! Filing away her info now . . .
And yes, the bottle sizes are ridiculous! Especially when I think about all the other bottles I own…
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When you first suggested Mitzah and Coromandel to me, you said you suspected I would prefer Mitzah, and you were so incredibly right. Coromandel is very lovely, and I do enjoy it, but it also seems simpler than Mitzah and unfortunately, it causes that awful jaw aching, sinus burning headache that some perfumes do for me. However, I’m glad it’s the one to give me the headache, and not Mitzah, because I love Mitzah sooooo much more!
Also, Mitzah lasts much longer on me than Coromandel, upwards of 24 hours for a single spray. Which is typical of my odd skin that eats some perfumes and just seems to amplify (and attempts to immortalize a few) others. Thank you so much for the suggestion and beautiful review.
Oh, I’m SO glad you love Mitzah!! And it sounds like labdanum is one of those amplified notes for you. It is for me too, my Scent Twin. 😉 But, still, 24 hours…. WOWZER!! That’s jaw-dropping! I wonder what in the Coromandel gave you such a headache. It’s funny how you thought it was simpler than Mitzah because people who try the Coromandel first often seem to think the Mitzah is simpler. If you’re tempted to order a full bottle of Mitzah, you may want to do it soon. There seems to be some continued debate about whether or not the perfume is going to be discontinued. You may want to call the number of the Dior lady in Las Vegas and double check with her.
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I think vintage Opium has finally met her match! So enjoyed reading this review as well as all of those comments! Glad to hear that it is not being discontinued for when I DO get to sample it I am afeared I may also fall madly in love!!! It sounds so perfect for me….I think I would very well succumb to that large bottle….not really expensive when you break it down ounce for ounce, right?
See, that price per ounce calculation is what got to me too! But let’s not go so far as to say it’s like Opium!! It’s not. (My preciousssssssssss! 😉 No, seriously, it doesn’t compare.) It’s hardly as complex and you have to really sniff it to detect some of the nuances. But it’s a gorgeous fragrance and I think you’d love it, especially in the dry-down.
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However backwards it is, I actually purchased a bottle of Mitzah first and then found your review of the perfume. Now I’m hooked on your posts! Just so you know, I actually bought my bottle at the Saks in Chevy Chase, MD. They have the full collection.
I called Karina at the Vegas store this past Sunday to ask for some samples for Ambre Nuit, Bois d’Argent, etc. How long on average does it take for you to receive them? I’ve relocated to NC and am anxiously awaiting!
First, welcome to the blog, Iman! Second, you have a lovely name. One of the most beautiful supermodels, in my opinion, was Iman. Third, you have no idea how happy you’ve made me with your purchase of Mitzah! (Though it’s wonderful that you’re reading the posts or following the blog too. lol) It’s great to hear about the Saks in Chevy Chase carrying the full line. Thank you for letting me know. 🙂
With regard to packages from Karina, it depends on when she sends them out. Somehow, I’ve always called at a time that makes her put the package out for late pick-up on a Saturday and I’ve usually gotten them by Wed./Thursday. If you called on Sunday, you will probably get your package by today (Thursday). I’m glad you’re getting more samples, as it’s a fantastic line in terms of quality and value for the price. Will this be your first time trying Ambre Nuit? I really liked that one as well, though it’s not the masterpiece that is Mitzah. (Few things are for me.) If your tastes run towards things like rich ambers or orientals, have you tried Chanel’s Coromandel?
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