– a review of Esscentual Alchemy’s reinterpretation of Guerlain’s Djedi
Among perfumistas, certain things are a given. You will always want more – or different – than you have at any given time, and if you possibly can, get your perfumed paws on that elusive unicorn creature…the very rare, the super-exclusive, the myth. Some perfumes are precisely so rare, so mythical, so elevated into the stratosphere of near-unattainable that to simply own a sample is to elevate you by extension.
Few are more rare than Jacques Guerlain’s Djedi, if you can even find it at all. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1926 at the very height of the Egyptian craze that followed in the 1920s after Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamon’s tomb in 1922, it is named for a fabled magician in a story of Khufu first mentioned in the Westcar Papyrus. And all the reviews I’ve ever read have mentioned just how haunting, how strange, how utterly removed from the usual Guerlain vanilla patisserie sensibilities Djedi is, it might as well have been made by someone else entirely.
I’ve never tried Djedi that I can recall, so I’m not able to say. As serendipity would have it, it so happens I have the next best and far more obtainable thing…and that is Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy’s recreation/reinvention of this famous, strange oddity, and if Amanda’s version is anything at all like the original, all diehard perfumistas and lovers of vintage perfumes should take note, sit up and pay attention…
This is no mere ‘perfume’, no simple spin on a famous fragrance. Amanda Feeley has shown herself an eminently talented perfumer and participated in many group perfume projects including my own Devilscent Project. Lately, Amanda gave herself the creative challenge of recreating – or reinventing – some of those most beloved classics of yore, the ones we can no longer find, the ones we diehards dream about obtaining if only we could find them. When she told me about her work with Djedi, I couldn’t sit still, haunted by the specter of what I had read and thought about the original. Excited was not the word. Chypre! Animalic! Strange! Odd! I bounced around the living room, much to my former roommate’s delight, although she never did understand precisely what it was about this myth that had me bouncing off the walls…
Djedi! It was almost too good to be true…
So now I have it and wear it. Sacred Isis, this is stunning stuff.
It opens with a bitter, eerie, ghostly rose, if roses somehow had the ability to rise at a midnight hour from some underground crypt to haunt you. Haunt you it certainly does, growing ever more bitter-green by the moment as what must be vetiver (I didn’t get a list of notes) and oakmoss kick off their dust and emerge from their dry linen wrappings in all their timeless glory far more eloquently than Boris Karloff ever managed.
Bitter, yes, green, oh yes, dry as timeless desert sands, but so seamless, so elegantly restrained, as a luxurious, dark leather note emerges, I battle both my preconceptions and my meager attempts to find the words to express what I smell and no less what I feel, for as surely as I live and breathe, they really don’t make these marvels any longer. One layer, one moment at a time, Amanda’s Djedi breathes its mystery, patchouli (a definite vintage-feel patchouli), musk and civet adding their own feral growls to its power, giving the whole an edge, a force (yes, I said that!) of its own that skirts just this side of intimidation – precisely what I love most of all about chypres – that underlying breath of steel to fortify my spine. The drydown arrives after over an hour to remind me of other, later, famous chypres with their own razor edges and feline purrs, that fabulous leather/patchouli accord persisting for hours to follow on my skin.
I read in the reviews of Guerlain’s Djedi I could find that it was a perfume of sorrow and bitter mourning. Jacques Guerlain had somehow managed to add more than a little heartbreak into his creation. This version of Djedi has that characteristic in common with it, this is not something you would want to wear for a carefree, casual, happy-go-lucky day. This is a perfume of perservering in the face of all adversity, of donning your armor and claiming your true power, of cloaking yourself in a myth beyond time to soldier on through your own challenges, no matter how small – or large. Djedi the magician of the original story had the power to bring the dead back to life, severed heads or no, and this Djedi too has that undercurrent of secret power behind it, to bring you back from whatever brinks you might have found yourself upon,to stand protected and secure when the time comes to roar those demons in the face.
Amanda Feeley’s Djedi will probably make most mainstream perfume consumers run for the hills. If you dislike leather, if you hate animalic perfumes, head straight for the nearest Nile crocodile and do not pass Go. It does have that emphatic vintage feel missing from most perfumes today, which is not to say it isn’t every bit as relevant or as wondrous as anything in the superlative best of indie perfumery today.
On the other hand, if you’re anything like me and many, many perfumeoholics I know, start a petition to have this made as soon as you can. Guerlain’s Djedi may be lost forevermore, thanks to IFRA restrictions, a tendency to play to the lowest common denominators and commercial interests, but thank all the Gods of time and timeless Egypt, we have Esscentual Alchemy and Amanda Feeley to restore our hopes that artistry really does exist, and even unobtainable, mythical perfumes can be resurrected or reinvented from beyond time, and when they are and you can wear them, you too shall rise like a Phoenix to burn again, burning through all those myths of life itself and even of your life, too – all those myths beyond time.
I didn’t receive a list of notes for Esscentual Alchemy’s ‘Djedi’, but Helg of Perfume Shrine gives the notes of Guerlain’s Djedi as: Rose, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, leather, civet and patchouli.
For reviews of the fabled Guerlian Djedi, I highly recommend Perfume Shrine’s, Dimitri’s of Sorcery of Scent, and Yesterday’s Perfume.
Esscentual Alchemy’s all-natural perfumes can be found here. Read the original story of Khufu & The Magician here.
Disclosure: A sample was made for review by Amanda Feeley of Esscentual Alchemy. For which I thank her from the bottom of my chypre/leather/oakmoss/vintage loving heart.
20 thoughts on “A Myth Beyond Time”
My thanks 🙂 This is a gorgeous piece, and I am so glad you have enjoyed it. Djedi means – “He who endures”
In my research, I discovered that Djedi were great warriors who had mastered the Kundalini energy, and was what George Lucas based the Jedi on in his films (Note the similar spelling 😉 )
As I pondered the phrase He who endures, it got me to thinking that humans create things to endure, so that we are remembered after we are gone. Embalming was a way of doing that. Embalming is creating permanence out of Impermanence. A wedge in the timestream, break in the chaos of the Universe. A lasting mark when all else has fallen away – crumbled into dust.
And I think that perfume is like that too. To bring something to life that will remain after the hands that composed it, is long gone.
Thank you so much.
PS ~ No Mummies were injured in the making of this perfume 😉
Any time! ❤
Oh wow! Amanda is always ahead of the curve and so full of interesting ideas. Having smelled her Devilscent perfumes I can only imagine what her interpretation of this myth would be like!
What I love about vintage fragrance is the research (almost archeological at times), the romance, the sadness that pervades each fragrance. Although tiny and expensive decants of the original JG formulation can be found online, I believe some things in life should reside in the imagination because they allow us to continue dreaming. Sometimes that more important than wakefulness itself.
I’m not sure I agree with you there, Maggie. I think that as we become more interested in perfume, we should also know what it once was and did, which is why I think Amanda’s initiative is so important. And even so, her creations are very much part of the present and future – since they’re interpretations more than literal recreations.
I have one of those tiny and expensive decants of the original Djedi, so will have to try Amanda’s version and compare the two. My recollection is that some of the top notes seemed to be missing from the decant (so much for wakefulness), but I can imagine what they might have been.
Thank you, Ellen! Now, even I have an inkling. Some day, I hope to sniff the original, too!
I have it on today! I found a little left that someone gave me in a shoebox. I put it on today and am enjoying it tremendously!!
Lucky you, Gloria! I hope to be able to do that too, some day! 🙂
Fascinating to read this, Sheila. I’d never pondered Djedi before, simply because I knew it was a long-gone perfume and not something I’d ever run across. How cool to learn that it’s been resurrected, in a sense, by Ms. Feely. Brava!
You should try this if you can, Suzanne! Knowing something of our mutual love of chypres, I suspect you might be surprised…;)
What is the actual name of her fragrance?
Amada decided to name it “Hokkabaz”, and it can be found in sample and full bottle form here:
Is this now available, or will it be shortly? Despite being somewhat scared of your description of the fragrance 🙂 I’ve got to try it at some point!
Indeed it is, Kandice, and YOU can try it, too! Just click this link:
Thanks so much – I can’t wait to try it!
Don’t forget to let me know what you think! 🙂
What a wonderful and beautiful post that left me yearning to smell both. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine to be able to smell some of these perfumes at the time of their releases. In the meanwhile, I will content myself with the hard work of others. Thanks for the introduction to Amanda’s work!
Anytime, BaconBiscuit, anytime! 🙂