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  1. #1
    DustB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Washington, DC

    Default KO-ed by Tam Dao

    I missed the board while it was down too. I missed it especially because I wore Tam Dao by Diptyque a couple times during that time, and was knocked out by its beautiful nastiness each time. I was bothered I couldn't immediately sit down and tell you guys about it.

    I remember when Tam Dao came out; word was that it doesn't last on the skin. Wrong! I say. Holy smokes, gents, on me the stuff kept building in its richness well into the evenings of the days I wore it, bringing that weird cedar sickness dreadful note deep down into caverns of damp, rich, heavy and strange woods. I don't know what real sandalwood truly smells like, and I don't give a damn. All I know are its representations in eponomously named commercial scents, and that's good enough for me to be able to talk about it. Truth, I don't care. The olfactory image of the wood in my mind, that's good enough for me. While I thought Tam Dao was going to be a work of mere, or mostly, sandalwood, what I found living in it for a few days was a forest. Weird dripping bark all around me, woods made to smell rich because they're waterlogged versus woods that smell rotten because they're decaying in dampness.

    This scent makes the ugly beautiful and uses the beautiful to help you see something new in the ugly. Wrist tests don't help you think about it. A full day's wearing is required. This is for those who live an adventure in a day because of their scent. Therefore it is one it'd be easy to wonder when to wear. Maybe it is another party scent. That's the worst it would be. For when you want to be the party animal this stuff would make you into the party dragon.

    Sillage galore, and touches of it that got on my scarf smelled deliciously of it for days, almost drowning out the beautiful Voleur de Roses on the next day I felt like wearing a masterpiece.

    I'm late to loving Tam Dao, I know. Fortunately the principle of Babette's Feast is true for me and my Tam Dao bottle: those things that we reject are not denied to us.
    That girl, that bottle, that mattress and me.

  2. #2

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Love this review! "Beautiful nastiness" indeed. Said quality translates on me into modeling clay, unfortunately.

  3. #3
    apekrul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Lier, Belgium

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    This review makes me want to go out and try it tomorrow, which I will! Thanks!!

  4. #4
    foetidus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    The Great North Woods

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Great review, I'm definately looking into this one.

  5. #5
    MadScientist's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Tornado Alley

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Crap. I just chose Creed Original Vetiver over Tam Dao in a set of samples I ordered this morning.

  6. #6

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Basenoters' consensus is that the sharp and bitter woody top of Tam Dao appears to be cypress (not cedar like Santal Noble). Sandalwood per se is not really "woody" though, just like patchouli is not woody, either. It depends, but generally it's earthy, resinous, balsamic and creamy. Tam Dao's sometimes-kind-of-nauseating cypress top dissipates gradually, then this unique sandalwood accord comes up and stays on your skin for a while. Some people say it is Iso E. Super that gives a kind of fullness and volume. Some others say it's the cumin that makes the sandalwood smelling kind of sensual. I was once interested in this Goa sandalwood they claim they use for Tam Dao, and tried their Santal Room Spray for the possibility of finding out what Goa sandalwood smells like (without cumin or Iso E. Super or whatever they added in Tam Dao). It turned out it's the same sandalwood, but very bare. I sprayed some onto my wrist, but it was too dry and earthy for me to tolerate. But it worked pretty well as a roomspray as it's supposed to. I splashed a bit onto my desk lamp, and in 5-10 minutes, when I returned to my room, it was filled with very exotic-smelling sandalwood scent. Anyway, my point is that it's partially the Goa sandalwood and partially some other added ingredients (like cumin and Iso E. Super, possibly) , that makes Tam Dao smelling very unique and original.

    I think Tam Dao is a love or hate fragrance as most masterpieces are. If one is looking for some generic lavender-cedarwood fragrances, he would not find Tam Dao attractive at all. The cypress top would scare him away before he reaches the interesting Goa sandalwood dry-down, just like the almost-fecal-smelling cedar-amber top of Santal Noble would. Some people also say they like "sandalwood" in Santal (Floris) and Santal Imperial (Creed), but I don't think it's sandalwood they're fond of, because these fragrances do not have any detectable sandalwood in them (to my nose). To my nose, besides Tam Dao and Santal Noble, Sandalo (Lorenzo Villoresi), Sandalwood (Floris), and Santal de Mysore (Serge Lutens) are all masterpieces which we have to wear it then we start to appreciate the beautiful sandalwoods.


  7. #7

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Quote Originally Posted by MadScientist
    Crap. *I just chose Creed Original Vetiver over Tam Dao in a set of samples I ordered this morning.
    I think you made the right choice. I think OV is much better smelling than Tam Dao.

    2 different animals completely though.

  8. #8
    Lightninrod's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Warner Robins, GA CSA

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    MS: *I don't think you'll be disappointed in OV. *It's just a totally different scent/world from TD.

    DB: *I felt similar to you about BN being down and I had just started using A*Man. *I was "KO'd" by it as you were with TD. *I don't care what anyone else think's about this(A*Man) controversial frag as it speaks to me as no other I've tried yet! * *

    "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." Ayn Rand...

    "The essence of fascism is to make laws forbidding everything and then enforce them selectively against your enemies."

    Daily Wardrobe

  9. #9

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Quote Originally Posted by DustB
    on me the stuff kept building in its richness well into the evenings of the days I wore it

    A full day's wearing is required. *

    Sillage galore, and touches of it that got on my scarf smelled deliciously of it for days, almost drowning out the beautiful Voleur de Roses on the next day I felt like wearing a masterpiece.
    Chris, spot on! The wonderful part of the seemingly entire dipytique line is how they develop.. Tam Dao, absolutely, eau de elide develops in this way as well - give 'em a few hours and wow!

  10. #10

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Even though I love Tam Dao, I just have to mention that for me, I will save my money. The scent disappears within minutes on me. I have tried it several times and find it too weak. I have the same problem with Boise Farine by L'artisan. I have to apply about 10 sprays to get it to hang around for any amount of time. I don't get any cypres or pine in Tam Dao at all! Just sandewood and cedar. Mmmm.

    By the way, I think sandlewood is definitely considered "woody". After all, it is a wood. I know because I owned a (very small) sandlewood tree in the past.

  11. #11

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Some thoughts on my part inspired by Chris’s initial post and by Vibrant_Violet’s response.

    I'll hazard to suggest that the beautiful nastiness that Chris and Vibrant_Violet are so eloquently putting their respective fingers on is the ambergris in *Tam Dao*. I wish there were more posts of this searching, thoughtful quality. What a sheer pleasure to read such posts.

    Back to *Tam Dao* and the search for the beautiful nastiness. There is no cumin in it as far as my nose can tell. The cumin is being mistaken for the animalic complexity added to the Goa Sandalwood by the ambergris note that is in Tam Dao. True sandalwood, raw sandalwood essential oil, has a particularly subtle but definite animalic component to it. This is part of the aphrodisiacal properties it has that have been recognized for thousands of years in the East. It’s a dirty animalic quality, the same kind of dirtiness one gets in the rich aromatic intricacy of true rose oil, particularly of the species Rosa Damascena as opposed to the more ethereal otherworldly qualities with no animalic component of Rosa Centafolia or May Roses. For my money, these two animalic components of sandalwood and rose oils find their most impressive blending in Czech & Speake's *No. 88*. I have described the sandalwood note in *No. 88*, elsewhere “as pure and natural; none of your thin, shrill manufactured sandalwood note here; it’s weighty, full-bodied, and persistently aromatic with that slightly turpeny note of pure sandalwood oil that gives it an organic, almost dirty woodsy richly resinous edge that hangs in the air and literally lasts forever”.

    For what it’s worth, I think “that slightly turpeny note of pure sandalwood oil that gives it an organic, almost dirty woodsy richly resinous edge” is what the ambergris is giving to the more dry and earthy nature of the Goa sandalwood oil as noted by Vibrant_Violet. My eternal thanks to your questing/questioning nature Vibrant_Violet for undertaking such a project to find out what Goa sandalwood smells like.

    Even though Goa sandalwood lacks that beautiful nastiness, that dirtiness, Diptyque perfumers understood, I am sure, that a more direct and true representation of sandalwood would have to include this component. Indeed, none of the heavy hitter sandalwood fragrances are without this component. Lorenzo Villoresi's *Sandalo* achieves it with the animalic components of Opopanax and Labdanum (see my recent post to the “Chrismas resins - Frankincense and Myrrh” thread). It’s there in MPG’s *Santal Noble* fecal/amber component. Of course, in some rarified sandalwood-based, sandalwood-themed fragrances, the “beautiful nastiness” might purposefully be left out and the pure creamy milkiness emphasized as it is in say Caswell Massey’s *Sandalwood*, a fine fragrance in it's own right.

    Of course, the question then becomes why do so many of these sandalwood fragrances strive for a true sandalwood affect, that is the dirtiness, the beautiful nastiness. The answer that follows is a theory, but I’d like to think it’s at least a considered theory if there’s anything to commend it.

    First of all it’s perfumery. When we read Lorenzo Villoresi’s *Sandalo* or MPG’s *Santal Noble* or even Diptyque’s *Tam Dao*, our first thought is “Ah ha! The potentially perfect sandalwood fragrance” and then, of course, most of the time we’re disappointed initially because it doesn’t smell exactly like the pure sandalwood oils we sandalwood lovers love to love. If it did, and if these houses wanted their sandalwood fragrances to smell like pure sandalwood oil, they could easily achieve this effect. They would simply go to India and buy the best sandalwood oil available and then they would rename their products Lorenzo Villoresi’s True Sandalwood Oil, MPG’s True Sandalwood Oil, or Diptyque’s True Sandalwood oil, and they would all smell the same, especially if the sandalwood was from Mysore. But they don’t all smell the same, and they don’t for a couple of reasons. First, it would be prohibitively expensive and there isn’t enough truly great sandalwood oil out there to meet the demand for the fragrance industry. Second, and more importantly and relevantly, fragrance houses are not in the business of producing and bottling essential oils. They’re fragrance houses and as such sandalwood and, yes, even vetiver, are ideas, concepts, possibilities, starting points for the art of creating perfumes/colognes, and, as we know, perfumery is not simply the distillation, mixing, and bottling of essential oils. If one doesn’t grasp this concept, one will be perennially disappointed at the next release of yet another sandalwood or vetiver fragrance because none of them will smell like it’s essential oil namesake. Some sandalwood or vetiver namesake releases will have a more tangential relationship to the essential oils which is the inspiration behind the fragrance, and some will have a more direct relationship, but, all in all, they will not be carbon copies of natural essential oils which are the inspiration behind the fragrance.

    Diptyque’s *Tam Dao* should be seen for what it is: an achievement of fragrance art. Dry, earthy, sandalwood made “beautiful and nasty”. Fragrance art at is apogee; pure artifice perhaps with a little touch of nature.

    As a coda to these thoughts, I think Vibrant_Violet’s understanding of the aromatic spectrum of sandalwood is unrivalled, and I would have to agree with him when he characterizes sandalwood as “generally . . . earthy, resinous, balsamic and creamy”, rather than “woody”. It’s definitely not “woody” in any cedar kind of way at all.

    Best regards,


    Last edited by scentemental; 11th May 2009 at 10:53 PM.

  12. #12
    Paul G's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Naperville, Il

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Chris, is hell freezing we agree on a scent????? I absolutely love this one. While I prefer it in the tweener months, it's one of the better pure sandalwood scents around. Wonderful stuff.

  13. #13

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Excellent reviews! *I've missed this board for the past couple of weeks.

    Like Chris, I recently acquired Tam Dao, and I'm wondering if I'm going to have to "eat my words" from previous posts. *Historically, Santal Noble has been my hands-down favorite in the sandalwood arena. *Tam Dao gives it a strong run for its money, and may even have jumped to the top spot. *To be honest, I don't get a lot of "nastiness" out of Tam Dao. *To me, its smooth & creamy, without the sweetness of something like Floris. *Side-by-side, Santal Noble seems to have more of a harsh bite, a nastiness, than does Tam Dao. *Makes me wonder a bit if my bottle of Santal Noble is somehow fading.

    In any event, this is a fine scent, and while there are other side notes involved, it comes as close as any cologne I've sampled in emulating those things I find appealing in a sandalwood oil.

    Again, thanks to Chris, VV, and Scentemental for their fine reviews!


  14. #14
    teflondog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    San Jose, CA

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    Excellent reviews!

    I've always had a hard time distinguishing sandalwood as a note because as explained earlier, it does not smell like your typical wood. I don't consider Tam Dao nasty at all. It's more spiritual IMO and I find it to have a very relaxing and calming effect on me. Whereas cedar has the potential to be dry and pungent, the sandalwood note in it is more smooth and "wet".
    It's hard to explain but for me, Gucci PH with its prominent cedar note reminds me of something you would use to build a log cabin (rugged). Tam Dao with its sandalwood note reminds me of something you would use to build the patio of a beach house (artistic).

    I find Passage d'Enfer to have the same effect on me as Tam Dao. Both are very warm and evoke tranquility.

  15. #15

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Los Angeles

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    I love Tam Dao. I also don't get much of a dirty quality from this. Quite the contrary, there is something very clean or, rather, austere about this. It reminds me of CdG Kyoto in this regard.

    I've found that many Sandalwood scents have a coconut quality (Santal Noble, 10 Corso Como). This is completely absent in Tam Dao. This raises a question for me - what exactly is that coconut/pastry note in those scents? Is it from the sandalwood, or from something else?

  16. #16
    trumpet_guy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Default Re: KO-ed by Tam Dao

    As usual, scentemental is spot on.
    It's hard to determine the scent of a particular essential oil from smelling
    a modern fragrance in which it is used, since the perfumer is trying to achieve something
    other than a simple singular-note smell.

    I have found it enlightening to smell individual essential oils,
    such as you can find at Aveda, or other amormatherapy shops.

    Still, Tam Dao does not strike me as nasty or dirty in any way.
    Just well-rounded, well-blended sandalwood-dominated richness.
    Diptyque have done a splendid job in amassing their collection of
    fragrances and candles. Fine quality.
    Currently wearing: JF by Floris

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