The holiday season has wound down and we're more than a week into January, but I'm still catching up on late 2019 in many areas of my life. This effort includes a trial of MaccaBees, the nineteenth annual Holiday scent from indie perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Referring to the Maccabean Revolt and the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, MaccaBees "celebrates the candles, and the oil, that have illuminated our world for thousands of years, as well as the light and warmth within us that they represent." Its name is also a play on "bees," hinting at the beeswax used for candles and the beeswax and honey notes in this fragrance.
Maccabees also features notes of vanilla, frankincense, cedar, immortelle, myrrh, opoponax, oud in addition to the honey and beeswax, resulting a fragrance that slowly unfolds like "light overcoming the darkness," just like the narrative that inspired it. Its opening is strong in immortelle, a note that often makes me think of dirtied-up maple syrup. Its beeswax accord has a smoky facet, an apt evocation of a lit candle. Then we get an oak-y wood heart, roughened slightly by the oud. For this phase, which lasts about an hour, I admire MaccaBees without quite loving it — I just don't tend to wear earthy-woods fragrances. MaccaBees's dry down, however, meshes more with my personal tastes. Its base is all soft, vanillic resins, honey, a touch of musk and gently warmed beeswax, as though the candle has settled down to burn lower. MaccaBees has above-average longevity: it lasted throughout the workday on my arms.
Sometimes I'm secretly tired of hearing about scent/memory link (the so-called Proust phenomenon), but MaccaBees does trigger a very specific remembrance for me. It gives me flashbacks to a South Jersey antique store that my mother and I used to visit frequently when I was a child. It was sprawling space crammed with old furniture, where I also happened to see (and smell) handcrafted candles for the first time in my life. MaccaBees's heart and dry down make me think about that store's mingled smells: those beeswax tapers, the abundant old wood of the surrounding furniture and the polish that the proprietor used to clean and condition all those antique chairs and tables and cupboards. (I just did a search and realized that the polish is still available; it's called Old Craftsmen's Lemon Oil with Bees Wax Wood Furniture Polish and it still has the label I remember, with an illustration of a beehive.)
Although this memory is purely secular and not tied to any particular season, it does evoke my sense of mingled security and wonder in that familiar shop. And since my mother regularly purchased furniture there, as well as bottles of Old Craftsmen's polish, those smells often accompanied us back to our house. Although it might not be exactly the association that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz intended, I'm left with a feeling of "comfort, safety, and a deep sense of home," so I don't think she'd mind.
Have you recently tried any honey-inspired fragrances that you've enjoyed? Did they spark any memories for you? Feel free to comment!
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz MaccaBees is available (year-round!) as Voile de Parfum ($80 for 30 ml or $145 for 60 ml). Sample vials and other formats are also available. For buying information, see the listing for Dawn Spencer Hurwitz under Perfume Houses. For more information see the website.