Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Dune… I love everything about this fragrance Christian Dior: its unusual fresh oriental scent; its mellifluous name; and its winged bottle that fits so comfortably into the palm of my hand. One could easily write an academic thesis on this gem, first launched in 1991, and still available today in a great form. I will, however, resist this temptation. I simply would like to highlight this underrated fragrance, share why I find it breathtaking and encourage you to smell it.
Dune is vibrant and delicate, almost shockingly so given its rich notes. The difficult goal of creating a “big, softspoken” fragrance was set by Dior’s fragrance development team as it considered its next big launch in the early 1990s. Competing with Dior Poison would be hard because it became much more than a trendy idea; Poison was the quintessential smell of the 1980s. Dune had to be different, not just from Poison, but from anything else available on them market. Three perfumers—Dominique Ropion, Jean-Louis Sieuzac and Nejla Bsiri-Barbir—worked on Dune, and they succeeded. Dune is indeed a tenacious, sumptuous fragrance, but with an unusual softness.
It contains all the elements of a voluptuous oriental—creamy layers of vanilla, sandalwood, amber and musk as well as the smoky accents of incense. Nevertheless, Dune is more like a sip of lemonade, rather than a mouthful of hot chocolate. Its modern structure also defies the fragrance pyramid—Dune reveals its heart on first inhale, while the changing accents during the course of its development lend it an enchanting and interesting aura. First, it is salty and metallic, with the pronounced verdancy of green leaves, briny seaweed and mandarin peel. Then, the layer of jasmine and rose colors it softly, throwing a sweet fruity shadow over the brightness of the initial accords. The drydown is enveloping and comforting, with the dryness of moss and patchouli offsetting the warmth of amber and musk.
While Dune did not make the same splash as Poison, its legacy lives on both in fragrances that are directly inspired by it (Chanel Allure) and in compositions that rely on its technical innovations. Dune itself, however, is hardly advertised. It is available only in the Eau de Toilette concentration, minus the inevitable coterie of flankers that crowd around other Dior fragrances. Nevertheless, Dune undoubtedly deserves its place among perfume legends for its ability to speak soft and touch deeply.
Christian Dior Dune includes notes of broom, bergamot, wallflower, mandarin, lily, peony, rose, jasmine, amber, moss, musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. Available from major retailers and Dior boutiques. Today, it is sold only as Eau de Toilette.
Sample: my own 1993 bottle and a sample of current EDT from Saks.