Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has frequently sent me a perfume which unlocks a memory. She might as well be my therapist. One of her latest releases reminded me of a solo hike I took in Yellowstone National Park in 1993. This was one of my bucket items to start in one corner of the park and walk out the opposite corner. It was going to be the longest trek I would take by myself. It was a memorable trip throughout. As I entered the final section, I had to check in to be allowed to continue. The grizzly bears had only recently moved on from their places of hibernation. The other thing about 1993 it was five years after the largest set of fires in the park. I had walked through the charred trunks which were the tombstones of that. What awaited me was one of the most macabre visions I have ever experienced. When I entered the trail beneath the system of caves the bears had slept in it was flanked by burnt trees exuding that smell of charred wood. The remains of the caribou the bears had feasted on were scattered all around. Rib cages pointing at me with their bony fingers. To add to it I looked down at my size 12 hiking boot to see a muddy paw print that was bigger than it. Charred pines, skeletal remains, and evidence of big bears. That cold water feeling of adrenaline rushed down my spine as I breathed in the smell of the burned trees. DSH Perfumes Adrenaline and Scorched Earth reminded me of this.
Ms. Hurwitz uses Adrenaline and Scorched Earth as the final entry in the isolation/meditation series. I have found all these perfumes she has released in this collection this year to achieve that. It started as a response to being closed down because of the pandemic. Each release would remind me there were open spaces galore if I would just take a moment to isolate and meditate. For this perfume she centered it around many people’s favorite meditative scent, a cup of coffee. Specifically she wanted to build it around a cup of “cowboy coffee” loaded with sugar. The method of making coffee while hiking is a simple process of adding grounds to boiling water and then using salt to sink them to the bottom after brewing. You carefully pour out the coffee hopefully leaving the grounds behind. A lot of sugar added to it was always a great way to get me started every morning on the trail. It is this gourmand accord that is what Adrenaline and Scorched Earth is built around.
This is where the perfume begins. It has the great smell of fresh brewed coffee but for a fleeting moment there is the bitterness. A set of sweet modifiers add spoons of metaphorical sugar to blunt that. As it comes together it has the sweet and bitter duality on which you can contemplate while you sip. She keeps the sweetness just on the right side of the line, so it doesn’t become obtrusive. The scorched earth accord is a brilliant synthesis of many of the traditional smoky perfume ingredients used in small amounts. She fuses cade, birch tar, choya ral, and patchouli into a reminder of those burnt trees from my hike. The final part is a vetiver and mate tea version of green which reminded me of the life that was returning under the burnt sentinels.
Adrenaline and Scorched Earth has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I am reasonably certain most of you aren’t going to be thinking of a hike through Yellowstone. What you will encounter is a clever variation on a sweet coffee gourmand with a swirl of gentle smoke and grassy vetiver. It allowed me to escape my sofa and find myself on the trail again.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I received from DSH Perfumes.