New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Tsukimi- Universal Meditation

I’m sure it has become redundant but my admiration for the breadth of independent perfume Dawn Spencer Hurwitz never flags. If you need evidence just look at the number of top 25 perfumes of 2017 lists her DSH Perfumes brand made. Then look and see that they are different perfumes from her prodigious output. I was with everyone else in naming one of her perfumes “Best of 2017” but I also was attracted to a particular series she released this year; the Haiku Series.

It seems like when Ms. Hurwitz works with a Japanese aesthetic at the forefront that it is what appeals to me most, too. In the spring she began the Haiku series with Gekkou Hanami which captured the cherry blossoms under moonlight. It is among the best work Ms. Hurwitz has done and was my choice as the fifth best perfume of 2017. The second Haiku was Tsukiyo-en capturing a moonlit Japanese garden in summer. The third Haiku which was for autumn, Tsukimi, arrived in the fall; but the pattern was already full for the end of the year. So now I’m finally getting around to writing about it.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Tsukimi is subtitled “Moon Gazing” continuing the moonlight theme of the previous Haiku. It is inspired by the autumn festival in Japan where you gaze at the moon. It is a meditative kind of gaze which Ms. Hurwitz turns into a more meditative style of perfume it centers around a resinous central accord of CO2 extracted frankincense and oppopanax. This is the full moon upon which the rest of the perfume gazes.

Ms. Hurwitz has constructed the Japanese wooden shrine accord in other scents inspired by that region. It consists of cedar and hinoki along with sandalwood to make it less raw. It is a place to sit and cross your legs while breathing in deep breaths. What you experience in the first breath is a mixture of light floral, amyris and rosewater. A creamy peach skin accord provides a lilting fruity floral effect. Fig intensifies the fruity character. The frankincense and oppopanax come together as a focal point quickly after that. From there it is a series of different spices and musks both botanical and synthetic which bring you to a final accord around vetiver and benzoin.

Tsukimi has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Tsukimi reminds me very much of a previous release in Ms. Hurwitz’s perfumed Japanese shrine, Bancha. Tsukimi has the same beautifully calming effect as that earlier perfume does for me. In preparing to write this I wore it for the second time on a single digit moonlit night recently. As I looked up into the vault of the sky Tsukimi gave me scent to meditate on the universe. Which is a glorious place to enter 2018.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Chataignes du Bois- Urban Christmas

It is this time of year when I get reminders of time passing by. Most of them come via those update letters which accompany Holiday cards as you find out the young child you last saw has graduated law school. A much more pleasant reminder of the passing days comes courtesy of independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Every year since 2000 she releases a Holiday perfume; for 2017 the release is called DSH Perfumes Chataignes du Bois.

Chataignes are chestnuts and this perfume strongly reminded me of my first Holiday season running around Manhattan. In 1984 I had just started my first real job in September. One of my best friends from college was living in the City and I could go in and spend the weekend. It was an ideal situation for a young man. I was looking forward to the Season in the City because I knew there would be amazing things to see from Rockefeller Plaza to the Empire State building lit up in red and green. My friend and I drank it all in as I dragged him all over experiencing everything we could. If there was a scent to the city streets during those days, it was the street vendors roasting chestnuts. As we waited to cross streets or were running somewhere to catch something the predominant smell was chestnuts roasting. Whenever I smell it I am immediately transported in my mind to December on 5th Avenue. Which was exactly what happened when I sniffed Chataignes du Bois.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ms. Hurwitz has become very textured within the accords she creates and the chestnut accord at the heart of Chataignes du Bois is one of her most accomplished. When I talk about smelling chestnuts on street vendor carts I am also talking about there being a charred undertone which goes with that. Ms. Hurwitz captures that by using the pure chestnut and wrapping it in burnt sugar which provides the char and the sweetener. The dual woods of cedar and sandalwood provide the promised bois in the name. Stitching it together is a gorgeous co2 frankincense and patchouli. It gives the scent of resins and earth for everything to grow in.

Chataignes du Bois has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This year with Chataignes du Bois Ms. Hurwitz made me feel my age and remind me of my youth. A present wrapped in a perfumed bow of roasting chestnuts on an urban Christmas Day.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Tsukiyo-en- Magic by Moonlight

Especially with independent perfumers I feel there is sometimes a more personal connection which adds to the pleasure when things click. For as long as I’ve been writing about perfume independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and I have clicked. Her aesthetic along with the meticulous style of composition has always brought a lot of joy to me. Even within the collection of someone like Ms. Hurwitz there are still things which really resonate. It was only recently that I realized my very favorites are ones in which she is inspired by Japan. Bancha has always been the one which would be my “desert island” DSH Perfumes choice. Earlier this year she released the first in her Haiku series Gekkou Hanami which captures cherry blossoms in the moonlight. This has also become a favorite in a short time. In my most recent package of samples there was no doubt I was going to go straight for the latest Haiku called Tsukiyo-en.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

For this second Haiku the theme of nature under moonlight is still present. This time we are in a Japanese garden lined with bamboo as we sip tea while the moon above provides light and shadow. In Gekkou Hanami Ms. Hurwitz captures spring. Tsukiyo-en evokes the middle of summer with everything in full bloom. Walking through a garden at night is a different experience as the humidity of the day dissipates, a little bit. The scent of some of the flowers remains as memory of the daytime while the night-blooming varieties begin their ascendance. On the cusp between waxing and waning floral motifs is where Tsukiyo-en balances itself.

Our walk opens with a Japanese variant of mandarin orange called mikan. It has a bit less of the sugared effect while still being recognizably citrus. The watery green woodiness of a bamboo accord comes next. It captures the cooling of the day with a hint of dampness. The light green wood which is the focus of the accord acts as a frame for the nighttime scents to be contained within. The moonlight effect comes as certain notes seem to be caught in a moonbeam only to retreat into shadow. There is a specific herbal mint note that acts as a will o’the wisp throughout the middle phase of Tsukiyo-en. The floral notes of the garden all lilt softly and transparently. I found jasmine, champaca, violet, and rose most prominently but there were others acting similarly to the way the mint did. A delicate white tea accord provides a centering place among the flowers. It is joined by an earthy patchouli to represent the soil.

Tsukiyo-en has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Tsukiyo-en has been a perfect choice for the summer. I have spent a few nights on the deck at Chateau Colognoisseur lost in meditation; gathering in the magic by moonlight. I am hoping fall and winter have some moonlight haiku to come.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami- Midnight in the Garden of Beauty and Death


Ever since we moved to the Washington DC area we have not taken advantage of all that the area has to offer. There is one thing we have done every spring since we moved here and we do it in a way different than most. In 1912 Japan gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the United States which were planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. It took a lot of care and replacement of trees that died to keep the grove thriving; which it has. There is always a huge cherry blossom festival in the city during March and the area swells with tourists. This is where being local has its advantages as Mrs. C and I avoid the crowds by visiting after midnight on an evening with a full or near-full moon. The moonlight provides what I believe to be the perfect illumination to the spring shower of petals as they rain down with the breeze. As we sip our sake and walk through the trees we are met with the vitality of the young as they seal their attraction with kisses under the cherry trees. Mrs. C and I share a kiss of affirmation of many years of happiness. One thing which has always struck me on these evenings is the overall milieu of scents, there is an inherent delicacy as the grass, the flowers, the wood of the trees, the sake, the water, and the moonlight provide the veil over it all.

I would receive my sample of the new DSH Perfumes Gekkou Hanami a few days after this year’s visit. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz translates that to “sakura gazing in the moonlight” where she seemingly was inspired by the same thought. 

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ms. Hurwitz mentions that the Japanese reverence for the sakura cherry blossoms is they are a symbol of beauty and death. It is part of the process as the shower of the beautiful petals comes as the blossoms begin to expire over a couple weeks. Ms. Hurwitz captures the delicacy and weight of those two terms within Gekkou Hanami.

Yuzu is the gateway to the grove. Ms. Hurwitz uses it as a tart kiss with which to enter into Gekkou Hanami. First up is the green of the grass with an accord of different green ingredients. This isn’t photorealistic it is the green blades as washed out by moonlight. It is sheer as is almost every phase in this perfume. The stage for the cherry blossoms is set by rose, lilac, and honey. Honey can be a problematic note but recently perfumers have been using it as an opaque effect upon which to float some other notes; which is what happens here. Then a triumphant cherry blossom accord arrives. All too often in a perfume based on this the perfume goes for overtly almost cough syrup sweet. That is not what you experience in a rain of cherry blossoms. What I smell both in reality and in Gekkou Hanami is the delicate sense of petals paired with the green of newly budded trees. Ms. Hurwitz captures it all as beauty has been served. For the death half of the duality she brings a base of cedar and frankincense. These are pitched with a little more strength as they tend to overwhelm the delicacy as the incense in the cedar paneled temple provides a meditative space to end upon.

Gekkou Hanami has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage.

Ms. Hurwitz has a special touch when she allows Japan to inspire her perfumery. Many of my very favorites are when she produces fragrance in this vein. Gekkou Hanami is an ephemerally beautiful piece of perfumery capturing midnight in the garden of beauty and death.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes

.-Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Become the Shaman- Creating a Protection Spell


Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my favorite people in all of perfumery. I am not alone in this. The reason I adore her is because her love of perfume is all-encompassing. The first time we met was at a Sniffapalooza. We connected as kindred spirits almost immediately and the largest portion of the weekend was the two of us discussing the perfumes we were finding along our path. Ms. Hurwitz is one of the best independent perfumers in the world. She is also as big a lover of perfume as anyone who reads this blog. There is an adage about other artists that they love their art so much they would do it for nothing. I believe that is true of Ms. Hurwitz. Fortunately, she has made a living from her passion for many years.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

One of the corollaries of this is Ms. Hurwitz will collaborate on anything she finds interesting. For almost as long as I have been writing about perfume there have been projects of one type or another and Ms. Hurwitz has participated in nearly all of them. It is my belief that she likes the challenge of most of them. Whether ingredient specific or thematic she dives in. When Michelyn Camen, Editor-in-Chief of CaFleureBon, told me of the Project Talisman effort I knew Ms. Hurwitz would participate not only because of Ms. Camen but because it is who, and what, she is.

The concept of Project Talisman was to create “eau de protection” to ward off unwanted influences. Many of the participants focused on objects, literal talismans. M. Hurwitz’s interpretation was to create a perfumed spell in which she concocted a fragrance consisting of different important civilizations in the Americas. If these ancient forces could be combined they could keep anything away. This is what comprises DSH Perfumes Become the Shaman.

The first influence comes from the Incas and their use of palo santo wood as part of a spirit purifying anointment. Ms. Hurwitz accentuates the terpene-rich core of the essential oil which provides a pine-like effect but softer. Next, she uses the Native American custom of smudging with sage and tobacco and does the same to her perfume. These twin notes swirl over the palo santo feeling like the center of the spell is deepening in power. The Aztec ingredient for magic comes from copal resin. This recapitulates some of the terpenes from the palo santo providing a bookend to that with a fresher feeling. It is like the magic spell is now giving off tiny points of light. It comes together with what Ms. Hurwitz describes as a “milkweed accord” which is a creamy vegetal scent to tie the spell together and release the energy into the world.

Become the Shaman has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I will admit while wearing Become the Shaman I had a vision of Ms. Hurwitz in her studio as magical lights swirled around her smoking brazier. The truth is more prosaic if no less powerful. A supernatural independent perfumer has again used her skill to create magic.

To read Lauryn Beer’s review of Become the Shaman on CaFleureBon follow this link.

To read my previous Project Talisman reviews of En Voyage Perfumes Figa and Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone click on the names.

I want to again express my thanks to Michelyn Camen and the perfumers for allowing me to play along on the Project Talisman project. It was a great pleasure.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Dark Moon- Nights of Wine and Chocolate

This coming weekend is that moment when I finally can take a moment to kick back and relax. There are no more parties to attend. No more special meals to prepare. No more places to be; other than on my sofa. This is the weekend where I sit with a bottle of wine, junk food and never get out of my sweatpants. Perhaps my favorite combination of post-holiday cocooning sustenance is a deep red wine and an even deeper dark chocolate. This year it is going to be a selection of Spanish Ribera del Duero reds along with a 15-piece box of dark chocolate confections from our local chocolatier Artisan Confections. This is the smell of recovery. Now I’m not sure independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz agrees with me but her Holiday release for 2016 is a red wine and chocolate gourmand called Dark Moon.

Dark Moon is the sixteenth Holiday release from Ms. Hurwitz. On her website, she describes it as a “chocolate chypre”. The foundation is most certainly chypre but she is leaving out something which really allows Dark Moon to stand out; her red wine accord. In the perfume description she names two; “fragrant wine” and “madeira”. It is the latter accord which I found to be particularly pleasant within the overall structure.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Dark Moon opens with a dry dark chocolate which forms the nucleus of Dark Moon. She uses nutmeg to give a bit of traditional seasonal cheer while also using black pepper for bite. Then her madeira accord comes out. Madeira is a dry sweet wine. The accord is also dry and sweet which harmonizes with the chocolate providing deep thought about sweetness that isn’t the typical pastry gourmand territory. To this a subtle floral bouquet of rose flits through before heading for the promised chypre base. In this chypre accord Ms. Hurwitz takes brown oakmoss, fossilized amber, and labdanum to form something with depth to match the chocolate and madeira. Throughout the later going there are flares of other resins but for the majority of its time on my skin Dark Moon is wine, chocolate, and chypre.

Dark Moon has 6-8 hour longevity and little sillage.

The Madeira accord is the reason to check out Dark Moon because you will not find anything like it elsewhere. It is another example of the joy of independent perfumery. It is also sort of interesting that Dark Moon has a kind of vintage feel even though it is a gourmand which has only been around for as a fragrance style for twenty-five years. I think it comes from the chypre accord but that doesn’t always impart that vibe to me. I look forward to putting up my feet this weekend, pour a glass, grab a square of chocolate and anoint myself with Dark Moon.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Axis Mundi- After the Burn

Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz still manages to surprise me after all these years. When I eagerly received the package of her four Autumn releases for DSH Perfumes I looked through the names Chinchilla, Vert et Noir, Souvenir de Malmaison, and Axis Mundi. They all carried varying degrees of interest. Chinchilla is a fur coat clad woman, musk and fur colliding. Vert et Noir a watery fruity vetiver which tickled my sense of odd hybrids. Souvenir de Malmaison reminded me too much of the great work Ms. Hurwitz did with the Monet inspired creations of the previous year. Plus, La Belle Saison from earlier this year is an unbeatable floral in my estimation. Which left Axis Mundi.

Axis Mundi is described on the website as, “The ritual censer is lit filled with the most beautiful and costly incense….The smoke rises and releases the sweet and lightly charred aroma.” What Ms. Hurwitz has created is one of the most fragile soft incense fragrances I have ever encountered.


Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

She lives up to her words of using costly versions of incense. Three exquisite resin sources form the axle around which Axis Mundi spins. One is a CO2 distillation of Frankincense. The best frankincense has a slightly silvery quality along with the resins. The CO2 distillation reduces that metallic nature dramatically. The second is an Indian distillation of cedarwood and the resin of the indigenous Sal tree to form Choya Ral. Choya Ral makes a magic trick out of taking cedar and in the combination with the Sal tree turns it into a leather accord impregnated with incense. The final ingredient is Bakul Attar. This is also a leathery co-distillation of bakul flowers and sandalwood. The Bakul Attar is a transparent floral leather. Ms. Hurwitz has combined these three ingredients into a fabulous resinous nucleus.

Before we get to that nucleus Ms. Hurwitz opens Axis Mundi with a combination of rose and champaca leaf. This is a floral harmonic which sets up the entry into the three resinous raw materials. When the frankincense, Bakul Attar, and Choya Ral come together the heart accord is not the moment of burning incense. It is instead the smell of the censer the next day. It is delicate instead of boisterous. It is surprising because it continually drew me in on the days I wore it for that fragility. To keep the resin party going, with a continued serenity, Ms. Hurwitz adds in precise amounts of civet, myrrh, olibanum, and benzoin. They all have slight modifying effects on the central accord but are mainly used to add a long tail onto the heart notes.

Axis Mundi has 10-12 hour longevity and very low wattage sillage.

I am so used to being subsumed in smoke with my favorite incense fragrances Ms. Hurwitz asks a different question with Axis Mundi. Is there beauty in what remains after the burn? Axis Mundi’s answer is most definitely.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes La Belle Saison- Dawn’s Monet

My admiration for independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is no secret. She has only a few peers within that community. I still wish I had moved to Boston a year earlier than I did so I would have found the little blending shop on Newbury St. that Ms. Hurwitz and Sarah Horowitz-Thran ran from 1992-1994. Ms. Hurwitz’s experience has only broadened as she made the move to Boulder, Colorado and founded DSH Perfumes. Ms. Hurwitz has created perfumes of all kinds inspired by almost everything. For someone who has been doing something for almost thirty years I am always pleasantly surprised when her new releases continue to push the envelope of her creativity. Her latest release DSH Perfumes La Belle Saison is another high point.


Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

If it was anyone else and I saw the words for a description of a new release say, “all-botanical lilac-centered floral perfume”, I would be concerned. One reason is there is no direct lilac extract to be used as a note. If you want lilac in a perfume the perfumer has to build an accord. The best lilac perfumes on the market are formed of synthetic and natural materials. To think that Ms. Hurwitz removed all of the synthetics in her attempt at an all-botanical lilac should give you an idea of the degree of difficulty being attempted here. An example of how smart she is, La Belle Saison is not a lilac soliflore. Ms. Hurwitz uses a selection of notes to provide an impressionistic version in lieu of realism. I would surmise her work for the Giverny in Bloom exhibit at the Denver Art Museum wherein she imagined the scents of Monet’s garden laid the foundation for La Belle Saison. This perfume carries much of Monet’s sensibilities within it.

lilas au soleil claude monet 1872

Lilas au Soleil by Claude Monet (1872)

La Belle Saison opens with that slightly vegetal green quality I associate with flower gardens when I first step into them. It carries me to the blooms. The same thing happens in La Belle Saison. Ms. Hurwitz uses cucumber, bergamot, and anise to form this accord. The cucumber carries a slightly watery quality like I am in this garden just after the sprinklers have been turned off. Out of this greenness Ms. Hurwitz constructs her lilac accord; mostly of other florals. Neroli, rose and jasmine are all noticeable at first, as themselves. Somewhere along the line Ms. Hurwitz uses acacia honey to transform these into a lilac accord. The sticky mimosa tinged sweet glow of the honey captures all of the pieces into a single accord.  Once the accord comes together I had to work hard to find the separate pieces because now La Belle Saison was all lilac. Next the moist earth is conjured into being with vetiver and ambrette. The spring milieu is complete.

La Belle Saison is an extrait with 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I am so impressed with La Belle Saison. The ultimate challenge of creating an all-botanical lilac. The artistic way it comes together. This is everything that natural perfumery can rise to. This is already at the top of my Best of 2016 list. I think there will be few to measure up to it over the next nine months.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Reveries de Paris and Fou D’Opium- Retro Nouveau Pair

The final two of the six new releases from independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz display her love of the history of perfume. I know from many personal conversations how much she admires all of the great perfumes of the past. I know there are few I have spoken with who exhibit the dedication to study the great masterpieces and be unafraid to compose something like them. DSH Perfumes Reveries de Paris and Fou D’Opium are a pair of Retro Nouveau perfumes which take their cues from that knowledge.


Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

There is a wonderful collaborative spirit within Ms. Hurwitz. When she and Michelyn Camen Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon began talking about working together on Reveries de Paris they wanted to use some classic fragrances as their starting point. The full story in Ms. Hurwitz’s words is on CaFleureBon. When I asked her about the collaboration and the influences she replied, “Specifically, Femme de Rochas, as that is what MC wore during her time in Paris.  I would also say that in the back of my mind Jolie Madame, although the scent is nothing like it, was there – mostly in the leather nuances at the dry down of Reveries, and in some ways Cabochard, even though that scent is also nothing like Reveries.  And now that I think of it, Caleche is another classic perfume that in my subconscious has an influence; that might be more influencing the "fresh flowers" heart accord that I made, but very indirectly.  The plum note in the top is purely inspired by Femme, though.”

If you need a connection to Rochas Femme, Reveries de Paris provides it in the first few seconds as that plum connects the present to the past. It is matched up with green and spicy facets to give that vintage-like feel. The heart is all about turning things more contemporary. Rose de Mai is the focal point but it is made something less innocent by a healthy dose of Boronia. It reminds me of the decaying nature of reveries that are sweet but fleeting. We get back to creating a chypre accord for the base by using castoreum and hyraceum to do the heavy lifting. Ms. Hurwitz adds in some vanilla and ambergris to give this chypre accord some interesting tweaks. Reveries de Paris is a fantastically realized Retro Nouveau construct. Reveries de Paris has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.


When Ms. Hurwitz composed Euphorisme D’Opium as part of her collection to accompany the Yves St. Laurent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum she focused on a particular part of the classic Opium. Three years later she has composed Fou D’Opium and I was curious to hear the differences between the two. She replied to that question, “When I created the Euphorisme, I was thinking more about the overt spiciness of the Eau de Toilette formulation which is a bit more piquant than the perfume formulation.  I also wanted to expand the euphoric aspects so I pushed the Ylang Ylang and Jasmine in Euphorisme.  I also added pink pepper to the top note which wasn't in the original formulation at all, as far as I was able to discover.  So the Euphorisme was meant to evoke the original formula but also be a departure.  With Fou, I was working with deciphering the Parfum formulation and wanted to just go deep, deeper, no even deeper(!) into the heart of the concept and formulation to make something as magnetic and sensuous as the original.  I focused on the more resinous richness, and the base note more in Fou. The Tolu balsam, ambers, and the animalics are way up in Fou as well as fruitier nuances with the aldehydes in the top.  This formula is for the die-hard (original) Opium fans and lovers of a strong oriental / spicy/ resinous scent.  It's seriously got EVERYTHING in it; it might be the longest, most complex formulation I've ever created and the balance had to be just right.”

I feel that Fou D’Opium is like part two of her examination of Opium. This time it is a fairly rapid development down to that study of the Orietnal base. A sprinkle of aldehydes, and we get to the floral heart of the matter. There you find Bulgarian rose, jasmine, neroli, muguet, and orris. It is nicely balanced but it might be a touch too frenetic as I had trouble with it settling down on my skin. Instead of gently coalescing around the spices the florals seemed to be much more kinetic. It does finally settle down as the balsamic suite of notes gain some traction. The combination of sandalwood and vetiver really provide the missing balance in the early going of the heart. Fou D’Opium is not as interesting to me as Euphorisme D’Opium was. Even so it is like delving into what it means to be an Oriental perfume in the 1970’s. If you love Opium it is an interesting exercise to participate in. Fou D’Opium has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Taken as a whole these six recent perfumes show that Ms. Hurwitz can successfully find her muse no matter where she looks for it.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Albino and Zeitgeist 55- Abstract History

I think one of the things I find so appealing about independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is the breadth of her designs. She has spent so much time recently making collections inspired by the Denver Art Museum or being inspired by previous vintage perfumes it can become easy to overlook that when she composes based on her own imagination the results are equally fascinating. Two of her most recent releases Albino and Zeitgeist 55 show off her ability to work in abstracts or to give us a tour through her history as a perfumer with a specific accord.


Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Albino has the subtitle “A Study in White”. There are many synesthetes who see fragrance concurrently with specific colors. I am not blessed with that ability. Even so Ms. Hurwitz was able to take me along with her vision as I found Albino to be an olfactory white out. what surprised me most was that two very traditionally green notes in rhubarb and basil actually were the ingredients which drained the color leaving something quite mesmerizing as my senses tried to find a foothold somewhere. In an e-mail I asked Ms. Hurwitz about the rhubarb and basil providing that effect and she replied, “The rhubarb is essential to giving the 'pithy' feel to the grapefruit pith accord and the basil along with an anisic nuance for me feel very white or clear or something like that…without color.  Albino is going into abstraction territory where, for me, I just start evaluating the smells based on the synesthetic experience of 'color- or no color' and texture.  The basil gave an effect that felt as 'no color' in the contact of the other ingredients and helped the tradition from the pithy top to the creamy texture in the dry down.  I also noticed that with the albino raspberry accord, the basil kept the sweetness in check while allowing some of the strange tangy-ness to stay.”

Albino opens with that albino raspberry accord which provides a berry-like tartness. This rapidly gets matched with the grapefruit pith accord which is not rind with a hint of acrid quality or full on pulp with the juiciness. It is an austere grapefruit accord. This is why the basil cuts the sweetness of the albino raspberry and the rhubarb picks up the subtle sulphurous facets of the grapefruit pith. It drags both of them back to more neutral ground. The final amount of white comes in the presence of white oak and white cognac in the base. This gives a volatile alcoholic quality matched with a sturdy desiccated woodiness. I found Albino to perfectly evoke the featureless depth a pure white field portends; even for this color blind perfume lover. Albino has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

motorcycle jacket

One of the interesting facts about Ms. Hurwitz is her beginnings took place in a DIY perfume shop she co-owned with Sarah Horowitz-Thran. There is a fanciful part of my imagination that sees that little shop on Newbury St. as one of the birthplaces of independent American perfumery. For the new release Zeitgeist 55 Ms. Hurwitz reaches all the way back to those early days as she combines three distinct leather accords together. I wanted her to comment on all three accords and she replied, “I used an early 'black leather' accord that was a best seller for me back in my Boston days and on my site in the late '90's.  It's a pure motorcycle leather accord that I made even deeper with the addition of aged oak moss.  I also created a suede note using suederal tempered with costus and woods; the costus also gives that great sebum effect, so you get something smooth and elegant with some human kinds of sweat / bedhead / salty skin.  For the more traditional leather nuances I made another accord from birch tar, castoreum, and musks (animalics in particular) to include that 'tanned hides' take on leather.  Overall, I was really trying to find the places where all of these nuanced leather smells came together and could 'segue' in to one another; the motorcycle leather, the tanned hide / horse riding leather/ the dry but supple feel of suede mixed with human smells…in the most elegant way, of course. 🙂  I wanted to make a definite statement on leather — and give a nod to the feeling of the 1950's and touch upon that undercurrent of sexuality, youth culture, and a new 'freedom' that icons like Marlon Brando and James Dean signify.”

Zeitgeist 55 starts with that smell of the black leather jacket, lovingly taken care of and fully broken in. It has a badass devil-may-care effect. It decides to go for a walk (swagger?) into the tack room where the smell of saddles takes over with the birch tar and animalic leather accord. This is the tanned leather accord. As you pick the saddle off the wall you pull out a pair of suede leather riding gloves. These are the gloves you’ve worn so many times your personal smell infuses the supple refined smell of the hide. I have to comment as Ms. Hurwitz related above the use of costus adds that smell of humanity underneath it all. It ties all three leather accord together delightfully. Zeitgeist 55 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

I’ll conclude my reviews tomorrow with the two inspired by two of the greatest perfumes ever made.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by DSH Perfumes.

Mark Behnke