I had a hunch that I was going to get on well with the newest perfume from Puredistance, the intriguingly-named Sheiduna. It was created, as each of this luxury brand’s perfumes are, as a collaborative effort between Puredistance’s founder, Jan Ewoud Vos, and the perfumer he personally chose for the project: in this case, Cécile Zarokian, who just happens to be one of the perfumers of Amouage Epic Woman, the fragrance I’ve worn the most over the past two years, which she created with perfumers Daniel Maurel and Angeline Leporini in 2009 while an intern at the fragrance house of Robertet. (Having learned that Maurel was her mentor at Robertet is the icing on the cake for me, as his name is behind three of the most beautiful perfumes in the Amouage arsenal. In an interview with Zarokian at CaFleurBon, she pays tribute to him, noting, “He was a great teacher, very open, and I learned a lot from him”—and later mentions that he trusted her to deal with briefs from clients, which was how she landed Epic Woman as a project.)

Why do I mention all of this?

Because I often find that you can smell a signature in the style of certain perfumers—perfumers who are memorable, such as Germaine Cellier, Jean-Claude Ellena and Olivia Giacobetti, to name a few—and while I am only familiar with two of Zarokian’s creations (she has authored at least 30-some perfumes for a number of houses), I notice parallels between Amouage Epic Woman and Puredistance Sheiduna that make it tempting to say that Zarokian has a signature. There is an arresting intricacy to both her perfumes for Amouage and Puredistance: a level of complexity that denotes passion on her part, as the perfumer, and, by extension, conveys this same attribute to her perfumes, which have a passionate nature and a deep sense of romance. At the same time, the very intricacy of their structures also lends these perfumes a feeling of intelligence and an intelligent sense of self-control. I’ll attempt to explain this by the time I get to the end of my review, but let me state up front that my hunch was right. I love Sheiduna. It is a perfume that stirs one to dream of another life—perhaps the next life?—where by some divine stroke of fortune you are reincarnated as one of the world’s most singular redheads or you become the lucky partner of one. (The decision is entirely yours, and it can be any redhead you like, from Damian Lewis to Emma Stone.) For the purposes of this review, I’m choosing Jessica Chastain—she has many of the qualities I see embodied in this perfume—and again, I'll attempt to explain this connection by the time I'm done, but to get there I need to back up a moment.

What I need to tell you first is that Sheiduna is a tangerine dream of a perfume that is on a wandering path through a rose garden, somewhere warm, like Morocco, and it doesn't miss or overlook any part of this exotic landscape. Not the intermingling scent of lemons and oranges that have fallen from the trees that line its walls, nor the cool scent of mint that springs up between its stepping stones. Not even the spices the gardener has sprinkled on the foliage of the roses, nor the woody-amber aroma of his perfume that spirals around the more velvety scent of the blooms. Essentially, Sheiduna is the feminine personification of such a garden, and that is why the actress Jessica Chastain comes to mind when I smell it. Not only is she a gorgeous redhead—and so much of what I smell in Sheiduna comes across in undulating shades of orange and red, from its tangerine top-note to its rose-infused heart, as well as it tendrils of cinnamon-and-clove spice—but her approach to her vocation is marked by the same romantic intensity and sense of exploration I feel when wearing Sheiduna. A willingness to go deep into the garden. “She is known to prepare extensively for her roles," says the writer of her Wikipedia bio, who relates a number of these ways in the article. (In preparation for her role in Tree of Life, for instance, Chastain “practiced meditation, studied paintings of the Madonna, and read poems by Thomas Aquinas,” while for another role she prepared by reading graveyard poetry.)

Beautiful actresses are a dime a dozen, but Chastain is more than that. She’s 'all in,' so to speak, while also exercising a sense of  discernment and a level of sophistication about her choices, and that's why I find in her the perfect analogy for Sheiduna. Which, now that I've made it, I'll abandon so that I can describe the perfume in a more straight-forward fashion, below. 

‘For Sheiduna I used a lot of naturals: starting with real and expensive rose oil, real tonka absolute (and not coumarin!), expensive real vanilla absolute, benzoin resinoide, real ambergris infusion, incense resinoide, myrrh, vetiver, patchouli, labdanum, geranium, lemon, tangerine. And of course I also used, in small quantities, some aroma chemicals, for example amberXtreme and ambroxan, the only amber woody molecules in the formula, since without them there is no perfumery!'

- Cécile Zarokian

Puredistance SHEIDUNA: The Essence of Sophistication

October 11, 2016:

I’ve never smelled a more clear-and-singing tangerine note than the one I experience in Sheiduna. Along with lemon and a geranium that introduces a cool-green minty element into the perfume’s opening accord, the tangerine start to this perfume is nose-catching in the same way that seeing a woman with gorgeous locks of flaming red hair walk by is eye-catching, or stumbling upon an unexpected garden in a city will make you pause. These notes are not only uplifting, they are breathtakingly pretty and they linger long enough that you can have an actual conversation with them before they depart and the fragrance transitions into the next stage. Some twenty minutes into its development, the scent of roses start to emerge, and they are soft, dewy expressions of rose that have a garden naturalness about them. Intertwining them are smells of gentle spices—they resemble a mixture of cinnamon, clove and coriander that are restrained rather than heavy. Rather than taking over the perfume, as spices often do, they seem to make the other notes dance and have a sense of undulation. Alongside this mix, there is the scent of arid wood that lends Sheiduna exoticism—as if its lush garden resides in a city in the Arabian desert—and this element, too, has been tempered such that it achieves this effect with as much restraint as the treatment of the roses and the spices.

What is most impressive about Cécile Zarokian’s composition is that she creates a very intricate tapestry of olfactory elements while having a great sense of balance and proportion. When I say that Sheiduna is a perfume with presence and a sense of passion, that is true: it will get you noticed. It wafts beautifully, and, as much as I use the garden reference in this review, smells womanly and perfumey rather than like something found in nature. Still, its passionate nature isn’t blowsy with a let’s-throw-all-caution-to-the-wind sensibility. Smart choices have been made here—Zarokian has exercised a deft hand with the heavy notes, an audacity with the lighter notes, and (by whatever sleight-of-hand makes such a thing possible) brings a sense of movement and breath to the entire composition. The latter allows me to smell the more nuanced aromas within Sheiduna—a low-key vetiver, with its citronella-grass-and-light-floral aroma; little puffs of vanilla that are softer than clouds.

Altogether, this is the scent of sophistication. That difficult-to-describe essence that goes beyond natural beauty is what I recognize when I see a Jessica Chastain film, and it's what I find in Sheiduna.

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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Puredistance SHEIDUNA has notes of lemon, tangerine, blackcurrant, aldehydes, Bulgarian rose essence, geranium, clove, vetiver, patchouli, amber-woody notes, incense, benzoin, myrrh, tonka bean, vanilla pods and musks. It is a perfume extrait, with a 27% concentration of perfume oils, and will be available for purchase from the Puredistance website in late October (as well as at Luckyscent.com), where the prices will likely be the same as the other Puredistance fragrances. (Currently the Puredistance extraits start at $190 for a 17.5 ml flask, with larger bottles also available.)

My review is based on a small spray bottle of Sheiduna that I received gratis from the company. It is likely I will end up purchasing a bottle of Sheiduna at some point; in the past, I have purchased flacons of Puredistance ANTONIA and Puredistance WHITE for myself.

Image credits: photograph of Jessica Chastain, top of page, is from the cover of the April 13, 2012 issue of T magazine, the style magazine of The New York Times. Photo of Paris-based, independent perfumer Cécile Zarokian was provided by Puredistance, as was the photo of the Sheiduna perfume flask and bottle.