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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Giverny in Bloom Collection- Walking with Monet

The creative collaboration between boulder, Colorado perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and the Denver Art Museum (DAM) has been a very successful one. Ms. Hurwitz is one of those perfumers who when inspired can compose amazing fragrances. The museum has provided her with the spark to fire up that imagination. She has just released her eighth collection in conjunction with the exhibit “In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age of Impressionism” which runs through October 11, 2015. For the exhibit she has created a scent experience called “The Impressionist Garden”.

dam in bloom

When you walk through “The Impressionist Garden” it is meant to transport you to painter Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. For the exhibit Ms. Hurwitz created three scents which would be wafted in the air mimicking a walk in a real garden with its pockets of different florals. Those three scents are Le Jardin Vert (The Green Garden), La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes (The Dance of Blues and Violets), and L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses (The Opera of Reds and Pinks).

the impressionist garden

The walk begins with Le Jardin Vert and it is that smell of green and growing things in the earth. This provides the foundation for the two very floral accords to come to take “root” in.  It is unapologetically green with a sharp edge to it. This comes from combining galbanum and pine needle absolute. The next stop is La Danse des Bleus et des Violettes. I love the richness of violet in a perfume but Ms. Hurwitz was designing a scent to evoke a plot of violets in Monet’s garden. That requires a more subtle bouquet. Therefore Ms. Hurwitz works with a quartet of appropriately hued florals as heliotrope, lilac, and iris join the violets in this azure waltz. The third section of this olfactory garden tour is L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses. Here are the coloratura sopranos of the garden and Ms. Hurwitz allows them to sing with gusto. Rose, peony, carnation, and jasmine are the four distinctive floral voices. This is that moment when you walk into a garden when everything is in full bloom and breathing in the air is a three-dimensional moment in itself.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

All three of these can be worn on the skin or used as room sprays. Because of the necessity of these to be constantly cycled in the air there is a straight linearity to them which makes them simpler than a typical perfume. They are quite beautiful in that they achieve Ms. Hurwitz’s desire to evoke the garden experience within the gallery in the museum.

Ms. Hurwitz did not leave us without a real perfume. Giverny in Bloom combines aspects of the three fragrances in the exhibit. It recreates the walk through the gallery with a green set of top notes, a blue set of heart notes, and a rose colored base. Giverny in Bloom opens with the same sharp green accord of galbanum and pine needle absolute.  I admired this by itself in Le Jardin Vert but as part of Giveny in Bloom it carries downward into the heart and combines with the same set of blue florals. The green and the blue form a striking garden accord throughout much of the early development. In the end the bombastic quartet of rose, peony, carnation and jasmine run roughshod over the green and the blue. It turns Giverny in Bloom into a proper Retro Nouveau fragrance as it feels like an older classic floral perfume.

Giverny in Bloom has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Once again Ms. Hurwitz has produced a fabulous collection of fragrance. The three scents of the exhibit combine to form an excellent Retro Nouveau floral perfume in Giverny in Bloom. They made me feel as if I was walking with Monet as he surveyed his garden in search of subjects for his next painting.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Fleuriste- Chilled Carnation

Perfumers are inspired by almost everything. One of the things which always puts a smile on my face is when a perfumer and I share a fondness for an everyday smell. When a perfumer chooses to re-create that it can seem as if it is too common. I find these to be the opposite because if the perfume takes me to that place I believe it has done its job. The latest fragrance to achieve that for me is DSH Perfumes Fleuriste.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and I share a love of carnations. Her Oeillets Rouges is one of the best carnation perfumes which evokes the spicy clove-like quality of the flower. For Fleuriste Ms. Hurwitz wanted something more modern. So she decided to head to the florists fridge. That smell when you walk into a florist’s refrigerator and you breathe in the chilled air infused with the smell of the flowers and a hint of the green leaves sitting in their water filled buckets. I would say it is one of the more recognizable smells of everyday life out there. Fleuriste begins at the florist’s but ends at home where the carnations you purchased are now free to expansively perfume the room they are placed in.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

When I walk into the florist’s refrigerated room the first smell which hits me is the green of the leaves and the cold water. The floral smells are well muted by the chill in the air. Ms. Hurwitz opens Fleuriste with that mix of green leaves, water and chill. The opening half-hour or so is the time spent choosing your bouquet. As you walk home with your wrapped carnations you start to feel them opening up. In the early moments the carnation is barely there by the time it gets up to speed in the heart it begins to slowly burst to life. Ms. Hurwitz adds in grace notes of neroli and jasmine to provide a more rounded floral experience. The spicy quality of the carnation is much attenuated throughout the heart. Once the carnation is allowed to truly flower Ms. Hurwitz provides a foundation of ambergris to evoke the water in the vase. It provides a different type of wateriness to what came previously in the top notes. By the end the carnation has grown in presence; no longer chilled and shy but provocatively powerful.

Fleuriste has 10-12 hour longevity in the Eau de Parfum concentration and above average sillage.

One thing I need to mention is by the final stages of Fleuriste the modern vibe of the early going in the refrigerated room has given way to a vintage style floral. The tonal shift from top to base is one of the aspects which makes Fleuriste a standout. Ms. Hurwitz has combined her love of vintage fragrances with the smells of the everyday to make a perfume which is uncommonly good.

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

Mark Behnke

DSH Perfumes 101- Five to Get You Started

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One of the great things about the early days of perfume blogging was that they were introducing small lines to their readers. It was 2006 when I was doing my daily read of Now Smell This when Robin introduced me to perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and her brand DSH Perfumes. Reading that review of Cimabue I ordered a whole lot of samples. Ms. Hurwitz is one of those people in perfumery who has me looking forward to whatever she is doing next. If you have never tried any of her perfumes here are five suggestions on where to start.

Cimabue– Based on that review this was the first perfume by Ms. Hurwitz I tried. I am pretty sure I had never tried a full-on saffron in a fragrance at the point I tried Cimabue. Ms. Hurwitz not only introduced me to the note she set it atop a pyramid of spices on a foundation of vanilla and sandalwood. When I look to perfume to act as a comforting safety blanket Cimabue is one of the few which fits that bill for me.

Viridian– Ms. Hurwitz has had a longtime association with the Denver Art Museum. Many of her most interesting fragrances are the result of that collaboration. The first of these projects happened in November of 2007 and was called the CHROMA Collection. Of the ten perfumes she made for this Viridian is the most vibrant. Ms. Hurwitz wanted a deep green and she seemingly employs every green shade on the perfumer’s organ. The mix turns into a trip down the pine tree lined road to the Emerald City on a galbanum bricked road.

Sienna– I love cinnamon in perfume but there are only a few which do it well. Also part of the CHROMA Collection Ms. Hurwitz places the cinnamon on top of one of my favorite accords she has ever created, a steamed basmati rice. This feels like opening a rice steamer and having cinnamon rise up to you in a humid cloud. It settles on to a honeyed wood base note but it is that steamy spicy opening which makes Sienna unforgettable.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Bancha– My favorite of everything Ms. Hurwitz has ever done. I remember thinking this would be her take on green tea fragrances which were all the rage in 2010 when this was released. Bancha is instead one of my cherished spring stalwarts. From a citrus opening phase to a brilliantly chosen basil at the heart which marries the floral and coniferous notes through to a spirit centering sandalwood base Bancha is perfection.

Mata Hari– Ms. Hurwitz has been a ready participant in the numerous projects which have proliferated over the years. In 2010 there was a project via The Natural Perfumers Guild called Outlaw Perfume. The concept was to use the list of IFRA banned ingredients to create “outlaw” fragrances. By the very nature of the project Ms. Hurwitz took the opportunity to make a perfume the way they used to make them. Ms. Hurwitz designs an animalic chypre that oozes sensuality and intrigue. An intensely floral heart gives way to a carnal base of musk, civet, and leather. Ms. Hurwitz has spent years studying the great perfumes of the past. Mata Hari shows what a good student she was.

Along with Andy Tauer it is Ms. Hurwitz who is responsible for my love of independent perfumery. They were the figurative mother and father who introduced me to this world of fragrance that existed away from the store counter. Ms. Hurwitz is one of the true treasures of the independent perfume community and these five are a great place to start your own discovery.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles which I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes The Brilliant Collection- A History of Scent and Sparkle

One of the best perfumed collaborations of the past few years has been the work perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has done in conjunction with various exhibits at the Denver Art Museum. For these shows she creates a collection of perfumes to go with what is being displayed. This time the exhibit which inspired the perfume is “Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century”. Perhaps more than any exhibit she has been asked to make accompanying scents for this one tickles two of Ms. Hurwitz’s creative zones. The idea of capturing jewels as fragrance is a long standing inspiration for perfumers. Ms. Hurwitz is also a jewelry designer herself. I know that the history of both of her creative outlets has always been a foundation for her to create contemporaneously. For The Brilliant Collection both sets of design skills as perfumer and jeweler come together. Three of the four perfumes are inspired by pieces and the women who wore them from the exhibit. The fourth is a bit of fantasy but still remains on theme.

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Deco Diamonds was inspired by the Flamingo Brooch seen above worn by Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.  Ms. Hurwitz goes with the set of hairspray aldehydes cut with galbanum and peach. This all leads into a white flower fusillade of indoles with jasmine, gardenia, and tuberose providing deep floral flares. It all ends on a chypre base of oakmoss, vetiver, civet, and ambergris. All together Deco Diamonds delivers on having a real Art Deco feel. Ms. Hurwitz knows how to channel the great perfumes of the 1920’s as she creates new perfumes nearly 100 years later.

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Rubis Rose was inspired by the necklace above given to Elizabeth Taylor by Mike Todd. When he gave it to La Liz she had no mirror so she leaned over the pool to see the reflection. The perfume is more of a study of just the rubies as Ms. Hurwitz equates rose with the red gemstone. She pairs her rose with a deep raspberry note sticking with the red theme. It is those two notes which predominate throughout most of Rubis Rose’s development. There is a bit of pink pepper on top and there is a bit more incense and gaiac in the base. This is more evocative of the lavender-eyed beauty than any of the perfumes which bear her name.

cartier sapphire

Jacinthe de Sapphir was inspired by a flawless blue sapphire worn by Queen Marie of Romania in 1922. As with Rubis Rose Ms. Hurwitz is working on a perfume equivalent of matching colors. This time she is using hyacinth as the central note. The opening is the smell of fresh earth just after the winter thaw as spring finally takes hold. Then like a time-lapse film she zooms us forward a few weeks to the hyacinth in full bloom accompanied by rose de mai, tuberose, and narcissus. This is a deeply mesmerizing floral that feels like you are falling in to that sapphire pictured above. A balsamic finish with some civet added rounds it off perfectly.

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Gold Smoke by etafaz

Fumee D’Or is what Ms. Hurwitz imagines a Paris goldsmith’s workshop should smell like. This is my favorite of the four because Ms. Hurwitz pulls together a disparate number of some of my favorite materials. On top a leather accord is combined with the more metallic aldehydes. The early going has an almost dangerous sensuality to it making me think this goldsmith has an interesting private life. The core of the leather accord is a huge amount of birch tar. This is a throwback to the great leather perfumes of the past. She them picks a skanky jasmine to pick up the lascivious leather from the top notes. She finally brings it home with civet in the base. There is never a moment during this where it doesn’t feel like Fumee D’Or is not oozing a kind of unctuous carnality. This is the least evocative of jewelry but I think that was what Ms. Hurwitz was going for.

All four of The Brilliant Collection perfumes have 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

As she has done in the past Ms. Hurwitz has provided a fantastic scented tour through an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. The Brilliant Collection lives up to its name on every level.  

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes Peace, Love, and Perfume- Serious Fun

I think there are times I probably attach too much importance to the business of perfume. It is why I am glad there are opportunities to shake off the self-important stance and remember that perfume is fun. An ongoing opportunity for me to do this has been The PLP Project created to celebrate the third anniversary of the Facebook group Peace-Love-Perfume, or in this world of abbreviated terms, PLP. The originator and ringmaster of the group, Carlos J. Powell, reached out to a number of perfumers to create a perfume. One of the perfumers he contacted was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. He gave her a simple brief for each of three perfumes, one for each word in the group name. He asked for Peace to be “a meditative incense fragrance.” Love to be “a sexy animalic fragrance.” Perfume to be “a traditional cologne with a twist on the concept.” Ms. Hurwitz loves these kind of open-ended concepts and I suspect it is because she has fun just letting it rip. One of the things I admire about her is that while these might have a bit more light-heartedness to them they are never anything less than perfumes with Ms. Hurwitz’s consummate skill on display.

plp project

When asked for a meditative incense fragrance as Peace Ms. Hurwitz decides she isn’t just going to rely on the classics like frankincense and myrrh. Nope she throws in a bit of Laotian oud, Bakul attar, and Choya Ral. On top a bit of green champaca leaf and a pairing of rose de mai and orris adds some floralcy but this is the promised incense fragrance. My only quibble is with it being meditative. Peace is a resin lover’s house party. It is so full of interesting resins and combinations I am sure I could never just contemplate a single point while wearing this. It is just like the best gatherings with way too many interesting people around you can’t stop for fear you might miss something. Each time I wore Peace the resins presented themselves slightly differently and that increased my enjoyment immensely.

When Ms. Hurwitz is asked for an animalic fragrance as she was for Love I know I am in for something memorable. Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent a lot of time talking about the great perfumes of the past. When asked to go animalic I knew she would be thinking about those classics. As she did with Peace she makes sure Love is not going to be lacking and so she takes musk, civet, castoreum, and ambergris which are the foundation of those mid-twentieth century perfumes and then twists it with a combination of more contemporary botanical animalics, ambrette, labdanum, and hyracium. This is all matched with a fantastic indolic jasmine and gardenia. This is so over-the-top it reminded me of Norma Desmond and a line she never said, “I am big. It’s the perfume that got small.” Love does feel a bit like an unearthed relic of a few decades ago but it is a delightful riff on perfume from that time period as only a student of those perfumes could accomplish.

dsh_goldroom

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As regular readers know I love this renaissance of cologne we are currently in. By asking Ms. Hurwitz to deliver a twisted cologne in Perfume I was very excited.  The first twist begins by using a large dose of rhubarb paired with grapefruit. There is a wonderful synergy between these two notes but the real twist comes when she soaks them in a jigger of cognac. This rapidly flows in to an herbal heart of basil paired with fruit and a jasmine-like pittosporum. The transition from the top to the heart is not as abrupt as it might sound. Ms. Hurwitz has smoothed the transition out so it is more gradual than it might seem. Ambrette and vetiver provide a traditional finish to Perfume but there were plenty of twists and turns before allowing us to catch our breath at the end.

Peace and Love are extrait strength and last for 12-14 hours on my skin with minimal sillage. Perfume lasts for 6-8 hours with average sillage.

All three perfumes show Ms. Hurwitz at her best taking a very broad brief and composing three perfumes with a joyful abandon which permeates every moment of Peace, Love, and Perfume.

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

Mark Behnke