When I first dabbed Dianne Brill Eau de Parfum on my skin, I thought, this really reminds me of something. I tore to my perfume cabinet and looked at the bottles. What could it be? Something insistently spicy and a little astringent. Something with tobacco, maybe, and I definitely smelled coriander. I sniffed Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque and Chergui and dismissed them. L'Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two? No. Then I picked up a decant and lit on the answer: Kenzo Jungle L'Eléphant. Dianne Brill is nearly a dead ringer for L'Eléphant.
According to Chandler Burr's review in the New York Times, Dianne Brill worked closely with Valérie Garnuch in developing the Dianne Brill fragrance. She wanted the fragrance to reflect the smell of an old piece of leather, a discontinued Kiehl's body oil, wood from a construction site, sticky figs, a cigar box, and nutmeg (which Brill said reminded her of the smell of sweaty bodies at a disco in Mustique). Dianne Brill Eau de Parfum debuted in September 2008.
What I smell is an aggressively spicy-woody scent with an acidic chemical note that cuts through it. Dried fruit opens the fragrance, but it quickly disappears — or is plowed under — as a stampede of coriander, cinnamon, and cloves takes over. It's not completely a gourmand fragrance. I do smell the construction site wood that Brill references. I think it's pressure treated, the kind of wood that's shot through with chemicals to keep it from rotting. And a boozy tobacco note is threaded through the fragrance, too. Hours later, the sharp chemical note wears out and the dried figs reappear, settling in with a vanilla, wood, and spicy warmth.
I've been intrigued with Dianne Brill since I read her book, Boobs, Boys, and High Heels. I don't remember a lot of specifics from the book, except that if you aren't bone thin, embrace it, and wear a rubber dress from time to time. Without industrial strength Spanx I'm getting nowhere near a rubber dress, but I love Brill's attitude. The Dianne Brill fragrance has a lot of attitude, too, but not the attitude I'd expect. If someone asked me to guess the sort of fragrance she'd design, I'd say it would be the scent of old-fashioned make-up with a vodka tonic and nylon accord. I never would have expected all the globe-trotting spice and wood and tobacco. For the unexpectedness of her fragrance, I admire Dianne Brill.
But, it isn't entirely original. Kenzo Jungle L'Eléphant, after all, came out twelve years earlier, pioneering a dry, assertive spice scent with slashing astringent accord. With L'Eléphant, the acrid note mimics the dry African savannah and seems to make sense. Chandler Burr translates the same note in Dianne Brill as the chemical scent of amyl nitrite poppers that were popular during Brill's heyday in the 1980s. But amyl nitrite and coriander? I don't get it.
Both Dianne Brill and L'Eléphant are insistent enough that it takes a strong personality and a light application of scent to make sure that you rather than your perfume shows up for cocktails first. For many people, me included, it may be easier to appreciate Dianne Brill as an interesting, rather than wearable, fragrance. That's not bad — in fact, it's refreshing. But that means that for me a small decant is plenty.
When it comes down to it, I do slightly prefer Dianne Brill to L'Eléphant for Dianne Brill's rounded fruit opening and finish. Still, Kenzo Jungle L'Eléphant is half the price online, and for the frequency that I'd wear it, L'Eléphant is more than good enough for me.
Dianne Brill Eau de Parfum is available at Beautyhabit for $96 for 50 ml packaged in an adorable cigar box. It's also available in bath and shower milk and in Eau de Parfum body cream.