I’ve struggled with Dzongkha for a long time, and even now, three, four years on, I admit that I’m perhaps only halfway towards understanding this brilliant and sometimes frustrating fragrance. Part of my old problem with Dzongkha is that it smells so little like perfume that I am always wrestling with the question “What the fuck am I smelling right now?” Because, depending on the day, the hour, it’s always something different.
I don’t know what I’m smelling, so my mind defaults to the nearest recognizable object.
Most of the time, Dzongkha smells like the steamy aromas caught in the wool of my sweater when making chicken stock – pepper, chicken fat, bones, celery, salt. It smells intensely savory, almost salty, metallic, and most definitely vegetal. On other days, I spray it on, and it is obviously, immediately a very rooty iris, smelling of nothing so much as potato starch or hospital disinfectant. Other times, my nose shortcuts to a glass of whiskey or to the smell of a wet newspaper, its ink running down my fingers, about to disintegrate into mush.
But then again, sometimes the smell of paper is dry and rustling. Sometimes, there is a fiercely pungent boot polish note, as iridescent and blue-black as a bluebottle’s shell. Sometimes, the iris shows me a petrichor side, similar to the flat mineralic smell of drying rocks and tarmac after a rain shower that features so heavily in Apres L’Ondee.
In the background, there is always a strain of green tea leaves, dry-roasted over a campfire, a waft of incense, and a totally puerile-smelling, soapy overlay of fruit and flowers, faint and smudged like the waxy, wet residue of the bottom of a bar of cheap hotel soap left to fester in a dish. There is a purple cheapness to the floralcy here, a cleaning product whose scent nobody has given much thought to other than the brief to contain a smell that is "like a flower" and "opposite to poo". The first few times I tried Dzongkha, I remember being shocked at the florid, purple floral smell more than any of the weirder stuff.
At some point in Dzongkha’s development, a rubbery, dry leather note emerges and takes center stage, and it puffs on in this mode for the rest of the duration, sweetening and softening quite a bit along the way. It even starts to smell, well, nice. Slightly more like perfume and slightly less than the collected smells of a household.
People are fond of saying that Dzongkha is like Timbuktu but with iris added, but I don’t really get that. For me, Timbuktu is a deceptively simple smoky woods and incense fragrance, with all its magic and power tied up in its uncluttered nature. I wear it to reset my clock when I am feeling upset or out of balance – I find it calming and far more spiritual than any of the acclaimed church incenses out there.
Dzongkha, on the other hand, packs an awful lot of weird stuff into one tight space, and is clearly a Hieronymus Bosch to Timbuktu’s naïve art. When I wear Dzongkha, it distracts me. My mind is agitated, feverishly trying to mentally place all of the odd little flourishes in this library of smells I carry around in my brain. Whether this proves to be stimulating or just plain annoying depends on what kind of day I’m having. So you better believe I think twice before spraying this on.
But still, I spray this on. It’s interesting – it’s art.
There was a thread recently here on Basenotes that posed the question of whether L’Artisan Parfumeur was going out of fashion, and there were a fair few people who wrote in to say that, yes, the house was irrelevant and that most if not all of its perfumes could happily disappear off the face of the earth for all they cared.
Well, get a load of you, you bitches. Before you all slope off looking for the most chemically-powered hard leather bombs with which to blow your smell receptors out or the latest , achingly-cool melting glass bottles that won’t stand up full of liquid that smells like fish eggs, or toner ink, or glue, or whatever niche decides is new and shocking these days, take a moment to remember the Grandmaster Flash of them all, the weird-before-it-was-cool-to-be-weird Dzongkha. And maybe don’t be so quick to dismiss an entire house with quite the back catalog of conversation starters and pot stirrers.
You can't even throw that tried-and-tested (and true) complaint about L'Artisan Parfumeur's fragrances - weak longevity - at the head of Dzongkha. It is not quietly radiant as Timbuktu, it is just as strong and as dense as a brick. This stuff lasts 10-11 hours easily. Of course, whether you'll want it to or not is another matter....
Dzongkha is both the name of a language spoken in the Himalayan country of Bhutan, and the designation of the monolithic, fortresslike temple architecture characteristic of that land. This is a very aptly named fragrance, as it is redolent of smells I could imagine inhabiting a sacred space in which sharp incense has been lit, wood fires burned and buttery tea served, since the 17th Century.
Dzongkha is dank and bitter, without being heavy (owing to the juxtaposition of vetiver and peony, no doubt). It's a very interesting fragrance, moody and evocative. I can't imagine wearing it often, as it's more atmospheric than anything else. But I still give it a thumbs-up, because it succeeds as a concept: it has the ability to transport one to realms that capture the imagination.
One caveat: be careful how much you apply, because Dzongkha lasts a long time. For me, one spray outlives a shower and multiple handwashings.
A superb green iris/vetiver, cool and refined.
For those familiar with Etro's 1989 masterwork, Palais Jamais, Dzongkha may strike you as a lighter, airier version of that great vetiver.
Here the cool orris tones down the green, green vetiver and combines with minty carrot seed, and warm incense/musk to create a strikingly sophisticated fragrance that is as well balanced as a Guerlain - praise indeed from this reviewer.
I do not get the peony or cardamom scents other reviewers do. My nose does not require them to judge Dzongkha as one of the great vetivers on the market today.
Vetiver and leather, with a soft, subdued floral of iris and peony, topped off with a smokey incense. Perfectly blended and balanced.
Dzongkha is the first fragrance from L'Artisan that I've tried and I think it's absolutely fantastic. I love vetiver fragrances and Dzongkha is a compelling take on the note. The vetiver seems to be of the rooty, dry variety and the leather, equally dry and worn. The sweet lilting combination of peony and iris, add a lightness, and the temple like incense inserts an ethereal quality. I didn't get pepper or any sharpness in the opening, and the scent stayed fairly linear for it's duration. I went light on the first application and got average sillage and about 5 hours longevity.
I have a 5ml sample and will enjoy this through the fall. I can foresee purchasing a bottle, as I right away like this one a lot.
Outstanding fragrance and a easy Thumbs Up.
Dzongkha is a very well blended fragrance. It is a very dry spicy and herbal composition. At first spray I get the pepper with a blast of Iris. It comes on as very strong, but wait for the dry down. Incense also plays a role here in the background. IMO it is calming and lasts a very long time on me. I like it for the fall when the humidity is a bit low here in South Florida.
The initial blast of hot, dry, smoky incense is almost hallucinogenic. I’m immediately transported to some half-imagined, ancient landscape that’s at once faintly familiar and disorienting.
An extremely deft peony note soon mellows and rounds out the scent, so that the heart is less austere than the searing top notes. It’s all still very mysterious, and the rich, rich incense just keeps deepening with time. Exotic spices, woods, and balsamic notes flicker in and out of the background as the drydown progresses, but the glowing incense never fully loses its grip.
Dzongkha could pass as a better behaved sibling of Timbuktu; cleaner, sweeter, and less harsh. Dzongkha smolders where Timbuktu has long since charred, making the former a much more wearable scent for me. Lovely for wintertime, and a nice antidote to cold, wet weather. It also lasts better than many L’Artisan fragrances.