I have always had a hard time sitting still. As a child it was the one thing which my teachers had a hard time dealing with. My mother tried many ways to help me find a way to be less fidgety. One of the more creative ways and one which has stuck with me happened when I was 11.
We drove to a beautiful Japanese garden in Miami. Sitting in an open wooden pavilion was a man I was introduced to as Mr. Shimada. My mother asked me to spend an hour with him and left. He walked back to a low table which had some paper on it and a steaming cast-iron teapot. He motioned me to sit opposite him. He offered me a cup of green tea while he prepared his own. His smelled like no tea I had ever encountered before. It was smoky and reminded me a little bit of BBQ. He handed me a sheet of paper. Then he offered me a charcoal stick as he took one himself. We then spent the next hour drawing lines with the charcoal on the paper. The rasp of the stick against the surface. Turning it for thickness of lines. I was lost in the simple activity. My mother appeared seemingly only a few minutes after she left but it had been over an hour. Mr. Shimada told me to think of my pencil at school as the charcoal and the notebook paper as the parchment. This has served me well for my entire life. When I get impatient, I start drawing lines. It allows me to stop and center.
This memory returned to me when I tried the new DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my favorites. I always look forward to receiving her packages in the mail. What happens about once a year is, she makes something much different than anything else she has. Tea and Charcoal is this year’s version of that. I laughed to myself when I saw that she called this an “isolation meditation experience”. Because when I put this on, I was back with Mr. Shimada.
One of the things I admire most about Ms. Hurwitz is her ability to create complex accords from a multitude of materials. The charcoal accord at the core of this is one of texture and depth that is remarkable. It is that feel of the weight of the stick in my hand and the rasp of it across the parchment leaving small pieces behind. I have been unsuccessful in trying to tease it apart, but I am even more fascinated because Tea and Charcoal is all-natural. That means she is forming this accord from those ingredients solely. The tea part is much easier to describe as there are primarily three; Green mate, Earl Grey, and Lapsang Souchong. That last one is what I believe Mr. Shimada was drinking the day we met.
Tea and Charcoal opens with the smoky nature of that on top. The charcoal accord appears soon after. For a while it is the smoke and the density of the carbon stick. It begins to diffuse into a thinner line on the page as the Earl Grey takes its place with its bergamot infused black tea presence. Now the stick is changed to produce a denser line as the mate tea adds a bite to the final phase. Ensuring the lesson has stuck.
Tea and Charcoal has 6-8 hour longevity in its Voile de Parfum concentration and is primarily a skin scent.
Most of my favorite perfumes from Ms. Hurwitz have had Japanese themes. Tea and Charcoal isn’t explicitly stated as being inspired by that part of the world. I probably think of it that way because I thought of my afternoon with Mr. Shimada as soon as I smelled it. Tea and Charcoal is one of the best perfumes Ms. Hurwitz has ever produced. It is a simple construct around an exquisitely complex charcoal accord. It asks you to stop and center upon its beauty.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.