Perfume Review – Dior Mitzah (La Collection Privée): A Worthy Tribute To Dior’s Muse

Beijing Lama Temple


The Buddhist temple was vast and ancient, but well-tended by its many yellow and red-robed monks. Its colours gleamed lacquered Chinese red and gold; vast, bronze dragons stood guard and snarled from odd corners; and the smell of incense was in the air. Enormous bronze vats filled with it, in fact; the many, brightly coloured sticks stuck in sand and billowing out heaps of smoke. It was a religious holiday, maybe even Buddha’s birthday, that cold day in November when I visited the Yonghe Lama temple monastery in the northern part of Beijing. Throngs of people filled in the vast courtyard, holding sticks of incense, bowing and praying, and monks were everywhere.

Lama Temple, Beijing. Source: George Oze, Flickr. (Click on the photo for the Oze page showing the photo in full, amazing size.)

Lama Temple, Beijing. Source: George Oze, Flickr. (For the Flickr link and his other amazing photos of China, click on the photo.)

Beijing incense burning on Buddha's birthday. Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters via the WSJ

Beijing incense burning on Buddha’s birthday. Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters via the WSJ

Smoke curled and swirled in the air, becoming almost a wall in its own right. One portly, bald, yellow-garbed monk smiled at me and I’m pretty sure he gently tilted his shaved head towards the large bronze urns filled with fiery logs, as if to tell me to light the sticks of incense in my hands and join the crowds of worshipers. I smiled back at him, then moved past him and the phalanxes of his gentle, smiling brothers, to join the crowds looking like ants before the most gigantic, amazing Buddhist statue I have ever seen.

Beijing and its stunning Lama temple filled with flowers and incense are what come to mind when I wear the absolutely enchanting, elegant Mitzah from Dior. It is from the fashion house’s La Collection Privée line of perfumes which are sometimes called elsewhere (like Fragrantica and Surrender to Chance) La Collection Couturier. I’ll stick to Dior’s own name for the line which is exclusive to Dior boutiques (only one in the US, in Las Vegas) and to its website.  Dior’s La Collection Privée began with three perfumes but, in 2010, the company issued seven more fragrances — all intended to illustrate and celebrate the life of its founder, Christian Dior. Mitzah was one of them.

Mitzah Bricard. Original photo by Louise Dahl-Wolf. Source: Luxus.Welt.De

Mitzah Bricard. Original photo by Louise Dahl-Wolf. Source: Luxus.Welt.De

Right: Mitzah Bricard. Left: 2011 model for Dior's Mitzah makeup collection. Source:

Right: Mitzah Bricard. Left: 2011 model for Dior’s Mitzah makeup collection. Source:

The perfumes were created by Francois Demarchy, the artistic director and nose for Parfums Dior, and his goal for Mitzah was to evoke Dior’s greatest muse, Mitzah Bricard. She was a socialite with a mysterious background who always wore something in a leopard print and whose personal style was a huge influence in Dior’s New Look creations and beyond. In fact, she became Dior’s chief stylist and advisor. Mitzah, the perfume, is meant to pay “tribute” both to her role in Dior’s creations and to Ms. Bricard herself as “an extremely sensual woman, with a divinely chic allure and captivating presence.”

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

According to the Australian Perfume Junkies, Mitzah is going to be discontinued next month, sometime in March 2013. If that is true, then it’s an enormous shame as Mitzah is an incredibly beautiful labdanum, incense and spiced rose oriental perfume whose richness comes with huge delicacy and a surprising airiness. My personal taste veers towards for the opulently opaque, the resinously heavy, the really baroque, or the ultra-feminine and, yet, there is something about this lightweight perfume that makes me actually want to buy one of the giant bottles (more on that later) right away, even if only to split it with friends.

[UPDATE – 3/2/2013: I just spoke with the Dior Beauty Stylist, Karina Lake, at the Dior Las Vegas boutique. The perfume is NOT being discontinued from either the Dior website or from actual free-standing Dior boutiques. She just returned from Paris and a training session at Dior Beauty; she is adamant that the perfume is permanent. It is, however, being removed temporarily from Dior shops in department stores, such as Neiman Marcus, Galleries Lafayette, and the like. Apparently, Dior rotates out 6 of their Privée fragrances at a time in such venues, to make way for others in the collection. That is what is happening to Mitzah. However, Mitzah will remain continuously on the website and at their actual shops.]

[Update as of 5/16/13: Dior seems to have changed their mind. The perfume IS being discontinued after all, along with Vetiver. You can read the full details here.]

The notes for Mitzah, as compiled from the Dior website and Fragrantica, are as follows:

Russian coriander, Damascena Rose, spices, Sri Lankan cinnamon, vanilla, honey, labdanum, Indonesian patchouli, Somali frankincense and incense.

Mitzah opens on my skin with rich, boozy resin and incense. The resin is unbelievably captivating, rich and sweet but, in an odd dichotomy, it’s very airy. There is a raisin-y rum feeling that is also surprisingly light, but note doesn’t last long. Underlying the rich amber are a fleet of other accords: honey; chewy, dark, slightly dirty patchouli; coriander that smells woody and nutty; dusty cinnamon; and a rich, beefy, dark damask rose.

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

Labdanum compiled into a chunk. Source: Fragrantica

There is almost a chocolate-y note from the combination of the spices, the patchouli, and the labdanum. The latter is extremely luxurious and extremely balsamic. You can almost picture tear drops of resin oozing out in dark, chocolate-y ambered hues. It’s slighty animalic, but not in a musky, skanky way. Rather, it’s like dark, molten, honeyed amber with the edge of something slightly more complex, masculine, and dirty.

It’s the oddest thing: none of this is heavy! Mitzah is almost like a gauzy veil. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a rich scent, but it’s not opaque and thick. It’s never overpowering, bullying, or brazen.

Mitzah Bricard.

Mitzah Bricard.

It’s probably a bit like what Mitzah Bricard was like herself. Judging from the photos, she was distinctively stylish, and never hesitant in being a strong, commanding presence. But she was always elegant and a lady about it. Mitzah, the perfume tribute, is much the same way. I confess I’m quite fascinated by how they made ingredients smell so rich and, yet, simultaneously, feel so airy.

Twenty minutes in, the incense and frankincense notes become stronger. So, too, do the spices acting in the background as supporting players. There is a definite feel of Chanel’s fabulous Coromandel to everything. Actually, to be specific, I keep imagining Coromandel, Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1934, and Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis in a three-way triangle. I think it’s because there is a very cinnamon-chocolate feel to Mitzah. It lacks the mentholated camphor of Borneo 1834, the white cocoa powder of Coromandel, and the more gourmand, bitter chocolate aspects of Anima Dulcis, but Mitzah has a definite kindred spirit tie to different aspects of each of those perfumes. For example; the patchouli-chocolate aspects of Borneo 1834; the labdanum, incense and frankincense of Coromandel; and the sweetness, cinnamon-chocolate, incense aspects of Anima Dulcis. All this with a fair greater lightness than should be expected from a scent with such rich notes as Mitzah.

China Incense - Don Daniele at 500px Com

Incense at a Buddhist Temple. Source: Don Daniele at 500px.Com

Clearly, none of this makes Mitzah a hugely original perfume. One might easily argue, however, that there really aren’t a lot of particularly original amber and incense perfumes anyway. At least, not incredibly wearable, comfortable scents. Dior was not seeking to create an avant-garde twist on resinous, smoky ambers but to make something elegant. It not only succeeded, but it also made something that is hugely versatile. I can see myself wearing Mitzah as much with jeans and a t-shirt, as with leather pants and stilettos, a little black dress, or a suit. It would work for the office, for a date, or for a night just curled up watching a movie. I’m utterly in love with this, and I’m sorely tempted to beg some friends to split a bottle with me! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A damask rose.

A damask rose.

An hour in, the frankincense (which, to my nose, is smokier and darker than incense) and the resinous labdanum become even richer and more concentrated. The deepening amber note takes on almost a caramel quality in its sweetness. The cinnamon also starts to make an appearance, adding a faintly dusty, nutty element. And then there is the rose. My heavens! One imagines the deepest, most blood-red, baroque roses have been plucked and reduced down to concentrated nectar for a note that is as full-blooded as this one. It’s never cloying; it’s nothing like a British tea rose; and it’s almost fiery in its sensuality. But, unfortunately, it is just merely a glimmer here and there, and I would have been far happier with a touch more of it.

One might argue that Mitzah is such a superbly blended perfume that all the notes blend into one, and it would certainly be true. This has been done absolutely beautifully. But one could also argue that it is quite a linear scent — and that would be true, too. It doesn’t morph into something different in any drastic way. It is predominantly a labdanum-frankincense perfume first, second and third — and all the rest of the notes are merely incidental additions that pop up only occasionally, and never in a way that truly competes with that ambered resin and smoky frankincense. That one vein carries through from the start to the finish of the perfume — and its strength certainly gives weight to the argument that it’s basically a one-trick perfume.

Perhaps. But damn, what a stunning trick it is. In its later stages, Mitzah turns into pure honeyed perfection — sweet but still subtly tinged with that smoke. There is depth to it from the sweetness of the labdanum, and it sometimes throws in a ghostly chocolate undertone to the mix as well. At the same time, there is also a hint of the vanilla, but it is not powdered as in the dry-down to Coromandel. 

All of this occurs with perfume that is not overpowering in its sillage. Not at all. In fact, I think the elegance, airiness and moderate (to low) sillage of Mitzah would make it perfect for those who want a discreet, sexy, smoky oriental that is never obvious. On me, the sillage was moderate to strong for the first twenty minutes, but it was hardly something that could be smelled across the room. Mitzah is far too airy to be overpowering; it’s like a silken gauze on your skin. After that, it became much closer to the skin. In fact, it became a bit too damn discreet for my personal liking! By the fourth hour, I had to somewhat forcefully inhale at my arm, and I think others would have to nuzzle your neck to get a good whiff of it.

It was also a bit too evanescent for my liking. There were faint traces of it during the sixth hour and it died entirely midway during the seventh, which is too short a period of time for my liking. Yet, this is one perfume that I would not hesitate to re-spray, despite my usual dislike of having to do that. I haven’t fully comprehended why I would make so many exceptions for Mitzah — but I would. Perhaps because it is so comfortable, while still being sexy. It feels like wearing the perfect, airy, silky-soft cashmere sweater with just the hint of a silky teddy underneath.

The real problem with Mitzah is not its sillage or longevity but something else entirely: the size of the bottles. They are just enormous! The smallest bottle clocks in at 4.25 fl oz or 125 ml. Most perfumes start at 1.7 oz or 50 ml, going up to 3.4 oz or 100 ml in the large size. Mitzah’s largest bottle is an enormous 8.5 fl. oz or 450 ml! More than four times as large!

Per ounce, they are far, far cheaper than most niche or exclusive-line perfumes. The “small” bottle costs $155, so that is approximately $36 an ounce — the price of mass-market perfumes. The gigantic “large” 8.5 oz size costs $230 for $27 an ounce — far less than any perfume at Sephora or Macy’s! But, tell me seriously, how many people will ever finish an 8.5 oz bottle?! Who? Even for someone like myself whose perfume-consuming skin would require frequent re-applications during Mitzah’s moderate-to-short duration, I can’t imagine anyone ever finishing the large bottle! On the other hand, the size makes it perfect for splitting among friends which, if the story about discontinuation is true, makes Mitzah incredibly tempting.

If you are a fan of smoky ambers and orientals, I urge you to order a sample of Mitzah as soon as you can from Surrender to Chance or the Perfumed Court. Then, find a friend and go in with them for a split. It’s worth it. Oh, is that labdanum and incense worth it!

[Update as of 5/16/13: Dior seems to have changed their mind. The perfume IS being discontinued after all, along with Vetiver. You can read the full details here.]

Mitzah is available exclusively at Dior boutiques or on Dior online. In the US, it is sold only at Dior’s Las Vegas boutique [call (702) 369-6072]. However, what I would do is to call this number instead — (702) 734-1102 — and ask for Karina Lake, the Dior Beauty Stylist at the Las Vegas store. She will give you a free 5 ml mini bottle of the Dior perfume of your choice, along with 3-4 small 1 ml dab vial sample bottles. Even better, you will get free shipping and pay no tax! As noted above, Mitzah comes in two sizes: the 4.25 fl oz/125 ml costs $155, while the 8.5 fl oz/250 ml costs $230. Though New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus carry the Dior Privée line collection of perfumes, Mitzah is no longer available there.
Outside of the US, you can use the Points of Sale page on the Dior website to find a location for a Dior store near you. You can also navigate the Dior website’s International section to buy the perfume online. The problem is that the site is not very straight-forward. If you go to this page, look at the very far right to the bottom where it will say, in black, “International Version” and click on that. You should see options for Europe, Asia-Oceana, and South America. Within Europe, there are different sub-sites divided by country. The one closest to you should have Mitzah available for sale.
If you want to give Mitzah a sniff, samples are available at Surrender to Chance which is where I obtained my vial. Prices start at $3.00 for a 1 ml vial. If you’re interested in trying the whole Privée line, Surrender to Chance sells all 13 fragrances in a sampler set for $35.99. Samples are also available at The Perfumed Court, but not at Luckyscent.