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

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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 Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone- Shields Up!

I have used public transportation on my commute to work for twenty-five years. From the beginning to avoid contact with those I was traveling with I threw up my metaphorical shields. In the early days that consisted of a book to hold in front of my face and headphones attached to my Walkman. I can’t see you or hear you; I am traveling through space alone. If the train was sufficiently crowded that only part of my protection could be put in place I felt exposed. It still exists in its current evolution as headphones to music on my cellphone and book or game on my iPad. In truth, this is a modern talisman meant to ward off the perceived unwanted influences outside my control. I wouldn’t have thought about that except perfumer Amber Jobin has turned it into perfume; Aether Arts Perfume Touchstone.

Amber Jobin

Ms. Jobin is one of the perfumer participating in the CaFleureBon Project Talisman. (For more on that follow this link). All the other perfumers participating looked to the past for the known items meant to ward off bad spirits. Ms. Jobin looked right in front of her and realized our cellphones are the same thing. In her words, “The cellphone has become the talisman of our age. A kind of metaphorical worry stone or touchstone if you will, we can’t keep our hands off of it.” It is this kind of thinking which makes these projects as enjoyable as they are for me. Michelyn Camen, the Editor-in-Chief at CaFleureBon, asked for “eau de protection” Ms. Jobin translates that into “cellphone perfume”.

Michelyn Camen EIC of CaFleureBon and I at the 2017 Perfumed Plume Awards

Where Ms. Jobin turned for inspiration were the materials, glass and metal; followed by the signal itself sent out over the air. This results in a perfume of dualities as the ethereal and the corporeal form the two sides of Touchstone.

Ms. Jobin employs a set of aldehydes to provide both qualities in the early moments. Aldehydes can have a metallic glint married to an ozonic quality. The use of them in the early moments sets up the signals emanating from the metallic cellphone case. Then a mineralic accord around a geosmin-like note provides a clean stony façade. Each bottle of Touchstone has a small quartz crystal which is mean to be the vibrating heart of our technology. The mineralic aspect of the accord supplies that for this perfume. It would be easy to say this grounds the fragrance but in reality it releases it. It opens up the aldehydes’ expansiveness and provides solidity to the metallic aspects.

Touchstone has 8-10 hour longevity and wears very close to the skin as it is at extrait strength.

While I was wearing Touchstone on my way to work I felt like I had an extra set of shields in place. It really was an “eau de protection”. Touchstone is exactly what something like Project Talisman is meant to do; allow fragrance to open our eyes.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Aether Arts Perfume.

To read Robert Herrmann’s review of Touchstone on CaFleureBon follow this link.

To read my review of En Voyage Perfumes Figa the first Project Talisman I reviewed follow this link.

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.

dsh_smelling

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 Review Sonoma Scent Studio Yin & Ylang- Harmony of Collaboration

One of the reasons independent perfumers are often independent perfumers is they want to do everything from concept to cologne. It is always interesting when these very singular people collaborate with anyone on a new fragrance. Sometimes it allows everyone involved to gain new insights into the creative process. For the latest release from Sonoma Scent Studio, Yin & Ylang, two of my favorite people in perfumery combined to create something true to both of their aesthetics but the combination is something multiplicative rather than additive.

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Michelyn Camen

Michelyn Camen, my editor-in-chief when I worked at CaFleureBon, approached Laurie Erickson the woman behind Sonoma Scent Studio with a concept and a name to go with it. Ms. Camen wanted to see ylang-ylang have a starring role in a fragrance and she wanted to call it Yin & Ylang. The yin she wanted to mirror “soft skin comfort” and the yang to carry “bold sensuality”. Ms. Erickson would take this brief and accept the challenge of working with an ylang-ylang keynote and also capturing the ancient meanings of yin and yang. The result is something I hope both women are very proud of as it really exemplifies the strengths both of them can bring to the creative process. (For more about that creative process here is the link to the article on CaFleureBon where they describe the back and forth which eventually produced the fragrance)

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Laurie Erickson (Photo: Avis Mandel)

Yin & Ylang opens with a bit of misdirection as Ms. Erickson combines blood orange and aldehydes which give a bit of off-kilter luminosity but it feel neither yin nor yang nor ylang. Patience is rewarded as they move into the ylang-ylang heart. An organic ylang-ylang complete oil is the ylang source. By using this as the ylang note Ms. Erickson both added some difficulty but also gave herself more inherent texture to hang other notes off of to create a desired effect. Since this was supposed to reflect yin, and soft, the ylang is swathed in jasmine and tuberose. These notes add support while simultaneously softening some of the earthier aspects. She adds a bit of lactone and beeswax to add another layer of pliancy to the yin. The ylang is also still around to form the yang part of things as we move into the base where we find sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, and leather. Those earthy aspects that were subdued in the heart arise in the base to create the bold sensuality asked for in the brief.

Yin & Ylang has 6-8 hours of longevity and modest sillage.

After working with Ms. Camen for five years to say she is always creating new concepts is underselling her ability to cut to the truth of what she wants. I’ve known Ms. Erickson for almost as long and her brand DNA is strong in almost everything she creates. Yin & Ylang is an accurate reflection of both women’s collective inventiveness. I can only hope that they continue to work together from time to time as this certainly seems like the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Mark Behnke