New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Violettes de L’Aube- Purple Dawn

There are many things about Colognoisseur HQ which make me happy. One of them is a patch of wild violets which grow along the property line for about ten yards. When I let the dogs out in the morning, I often follow them on their morning ablutions. In the summer I tend to head back towards the violet patch. Since our poodles tend to like to wake me up around dawn, I will be observing a shade of different purples spotted with dew. DSH Perfumes Violettes de L’Aube captures this in a stunning violet solitaire.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

This is one of independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s “Violet Trio”. Of the three it is the one which wants to be the most realistic. There are few solitaires which attempt to get this real. Ms. Hurwitz captures the flower, the dew, and the dirt it grows in. She achieves it through a series of intricate accords.

Violettes de L’Aube painted by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

It begins with a humid summer morning as she mixes the green of clover, a set of ozonic notes, and ambrette. This is the scent of daybreak. The ambrette provides a little humidity. The clover is a smart surrogate for grass. The rest is that hazy morning light.

This brings us to the violet accord. She uses a lot of violet, but I think there is almost as much iris. Together they make a hyper-real violet scent. She then uses petrichor to coat it in droplets of dew. Violet leaf and vetiver form a green underpinning of leafiness.

The base accord is the slightly damp dirt they grow in. The iris helps here as the rhizome meets the use of geosmin to form the accord of dark soil. As all three accords come together it is what my patch of violets smells like first thing in the morning.

Violettes de L’Aube has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage in the Voile de Parfum concentration I tested.

I usually try not to compare other perfumes but this one constantly had me thinking of another dewy floral; Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant. She captures lilac after a spring rainstorm right down to the ground it grows in. Violettes de L’Aube is its contemporary. In this case Ms. Hurwitz produces a spectacular purple (D)awn. (pun intended)

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Zoologist Snowy Owl- The Quiet of Snow

If you’ve ever done any snow shoeing or cross-country skiing you’ve probably noticed something. The way the snow adds a sonic damper to the world. When you’re out trekking through a wintry landscape there is a quietness to things. Whenever I stop for a drink of water that quiet never fails to soothe me. it is part of the reason I’m out moving through the cold. To find a world where things are reduced to a few elements. Zoologist Snowy Owl celebrates this.

Victor Wong

I have been excited about this before I heard the name of the animal because two of my favorite people in independent perfumery were teaming up. Zoologist founder-creative director Victor Wong and perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz are my idea of a dream team. I have given both my year-end awards multiple times. They exhibit everything I think is right about this sector. They are passionate perfume lovers who make perfume it is as simple as that.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

I was curious to see what animal they would work together on. The Snowy Owl seemed perfect for a fragrance meant to capture that quiet of snow I spoke of. Ms. Hurwitz is based in Boulder, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. This experience can be found just outside her front door. Together they create a beautiful contemplative winter inspired perfume.

I wondered what the snow accord would be made of. When I first smelled it on receiving my sample, I thought it was perfect at capturing the watery nature of snow melting in winter sunshine. When I turned my focus on what made this up, I found two ingredients that are not on my favorites list. Ms. Hurwitz uses Calone and mint with an assist from muguet and coconut water. The first two ingredients I mentioned are part of so many pedestrian fragrances I am amazed at their use here. The watery melon-like quality of the Calone is given lift through the mint. The muguet adds a soft floral verdancy while the coconut water adds the dampness. It is a compelling opening.

It gets better as galbanum gives the green of the muguet a boost. Orris adds an earthy piece while an austere frankincense recapitulates the cold air. It ends up coalescing around a musky base built around ambrette and civet. The woods are represented via cedar and oakmoss. Once it is all in place a soft scent of silence appears.

Snowy Owl has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Snowy Owl feels like a partner to last year’s Musk Deer in the way they project a softness. This has more of a wintry bite, but I would still describe it as soft. There was a point in every day I was out in the winter woods where the sun informed me it was time to turn for home. Most of the time I did that with the desire for more time to spend outside in the stillness. Now Snowy Owl brings the quiet of snow home to me.

Disclosure: this review is based on a sample supplied by Zoologist Perfumes.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reivew DSH Perfumes Poplars and Planes- Here and Now

As I mentioned when naming Dawn Spencer Hurwitz the 2020 Queen of Perfume there is no way I will ever be able to communicate what a year she had. The dilemma has been which to write about. Regular readers will know that her isolation/meditation series connected with both nose and soul. The perfumes there reached deep into my psyche. Even though I am slighting much other worthy work I feel like I should review the last one in this collection DSH Perfumes Poplars and Planes.

Where the other three perfumes took me back to significant points in my life Poplars and Planes is a fragrance of my here and now. Every morning I take the poodles on a walk through the woods behind our house. As the seasons change so does the scent profile of my surroundings. I am so familiar with it I think I could identify the season blindfolded. There is a moment just as fall is ending before the winter takes hold where these woods have the scent of the dead leaves while the woods regain their ascendancy over the greenery. This tends to happen just before the Holidays begin. Ms. Hurwitz has seemingly encountered the same on her walks all the way across the country. This is what Poplars and Planes is all about.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Before we go too much further the “planes” are not the machines which fly in the sky. It is the variant name for the sycamore tree. Which makes it if you desire accuracy, poplars and sycamores. You must admit the chosen name rolls off the tongue more elegantly. When I was wearing this, I recognized a lot of different woody pieces to this. I got kind of giggly thinking about this as “tree soup”. It is another example of Ms. Hurwitz’s talent at blending disparate pieces into a coherent beauty.

In the first moment there is a reminder of the spring just past as mandarin, leafy notes, and petitgrain create the sunny near past. From here is when the trees begin to take over. Early on it is the lightness of cedar and elemi given a shroud of austere frankincense. It gives a crisp fall morning feel which slowly gets filled in with a set of balsamic ingredients providing depth. Patchouli represents the decaying leaves on the floor of the forest. The promised planes arrive through an accord of oakwood and oakmoss. There is a gorgeous autumnal sun accord of hay, honey, and beeswax which reminds me of sunrise in my local woods.

Poplars and Planes has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Every other isolation/meditation took me inward and to the past. Poplars and Planes reminded me that the present is equally beautiful if you but take the time to take it in.

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

Mark Behnke

The Perfumers Who Saved Christmas

Back in March when I wrote an editorial on “Perfume in the Time of Coronavirus” I was enjoying the quarantine. I expected it to end in a few months. I was taking the opportunity to enjoy my favorite perfumes with abandon. Each one gave me a shot of needed joy.

As we got to the summer and I was still inside I needed a different kind of booster through fragrance. That came as I spent ten days participating in the Pierre Benard Challenge. This was a big change in perspective for me as I hadn’t examined my connection to scent as deeply. I’m always looking for new things to try. For two weeks I stopped and smelled the world.

Then we got to the fall and the end was not in sight. It was wearing on my mental state. I felt like things would never return to normal. Then a magical thing happened courtesy of some of my favorite independent perfumers. They got me out of my funk because their new releases connected with great memories of my past. I was no longer hemmed in by the four walls of my house.

Frassai El Descanso reminded me of my first cross-country drive as I experienced the wheat fields of the prairie.

DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal brought me back to when I discovered a coping mechanism as a child.

Aether Arts Perfume Dia de Muerto had me trick or treating on a tropical S. Florida night.

Maher Olfactive Orris Forest had me hopping over rocks on a hike through the forest.

DSH Perfumes Adrenaline and Scorched Earth put me back on the hiking trail in Yellowstone.

Maher Olfactive Tempo Rubato reminded me of a music lesson in a St. Louis jazz club.

Masque Milano Le Donne di Masque Madeleine had me sitting at a tearoom with cakes and hot chocolate.

Imaginary Authors A Whiff of Wafflecone had me in a specialty ice cream shoppe

DSH Perfumes Couverture d’Hiver had the Florida boy remembering his first New England snowstorm.

All of these and more took me out of my quarantine and into the world through the trigger of perfume. It isn’t the design of a perfumer to make their customer find joy through memory. Although it isn’t an undesired side effect.

Now that we do see the beginning of the end, I am full of hope for the next year. If it weren’t for Irina Burlakova, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Amber Jobin, Shawn Maher, Fanny Bal, and Josh Meyer this would have been a dreary Holiday season. They were the perfumers who saved Christmas for me.

I extend my wishes to all my readers for a Merry Christmas. That I have you is another reason this Season remains merry for me.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Couverture d’Hiver- Chocolate Snow

I think a lot of us are thinking about Christmas’ past without the aid of one of Scrooge’s ghosts. If we can’t be with our loved ones, we can cast back through memory to find happiness. As someone who writes about perfume the ability of scent to trigger memories is powerful. Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has seemingly had a private line to some of my deepest. Much of her work this year has taken me back to a good memory. It seems only natural that her 2020 Holiday perfume DSH Perfumes Couverture d’Hiver completes the year doing the same.

When I moved to Connecticut for my first job the Florida boy was terrified of what the snow would be like. Driving on it. Dealing with it. I had no frame of reference. The first large snowfall came in January just after the New Year. I was a nervous wreck. I headed to the grocery store and hardware store to get what I was told I would need. As the weatherman on tv was telling me 6-8 inches I was hearing feet.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

I was living in a townhouse complex and I had become friendly with my neighbors. A recently married couple, Alex and Brenda. I was bombarding them with questions. Alex said to just sit back turn on the Christmas tree lights and eat chocolate snow. I asked what that was. He told me you take some Nestles Quik, instant coffee, vanilla, milk, and sugar. Whisk them all together and pour them over some fresh snow. Voila! It turned out to be more effective than a tranquilizer as I sat munching my bowl of frozen goodness next to the Christmas tree. This is where Couverture d’Hiver takes me back to.

This is the twentieth Holiday release from Ms. Hurwitz and she wanted to combine the scent of a snowy walk in the Rockies over a chocolate gourmand accord. Her visual is a bit more prosaic than mine but we end up in the same place of fir, snow, and chocolate.

The wintry fir and snow accord come out of the interaction of pine needle absolute and cedar for the trees. The crunchy snow is formed of ozonic notes, petrichor, and orris. Adjacent to that is a chocolate accord which tilts towards milk chocolate to me. Once it is all in place the smell of chocolate snow and fir trees take me back to my first apartment.

Couverture d’Hiver has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This is a perfume of comfort right at the end of a year we could use some. You can imagine yourself on a hike in the mountain woods with a hot cocoa in hand. Or you can join me watching the first snowfall with a bowl of chocolate snow next to the Christmas tree. You can’t choose poorly.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Adrenaline and Scorched Earth- Solo Hike

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.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and I (Back when we could hug)

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.

Mark Behnke



New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Man Root- Symphony of Roots

As a perfume lover who will wear anything the term “masculine floral” seems silly to me. It is taken seriously by the large perfume purveyors. For most of the life of modern perfumery that phrase could be most descriptive of a dirty rose or a lavender fougere. Those were floral fragrances which did not challenge the traditional notions of gender. Almost ten years ago a new floral became part of this men’s floral group, iris. A set of new perfumes used the butched up rooty side of iris over the delicate powdery side. Pairing with other manly ingredients, iris has now been added to the rotation. None of this applies to the more dedicated perfume lover; we will wear any flower any time. Which brings me to DSH Perfumes Man Root which is this concept of masculine floral taken to a different level.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Man Root is the completion of independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Iris Trilogy. Her description on her website says she wanted to make this a celebration of all the root sources in fragrance. What that produces is a perfume of unusual earthiness centered around enhancing the rhizomal nature of iris.

It begins with iris present with its doughy carroty face turned towards the wearer. Like a time lapse video other roots begin to entwine themselves around that. Turmeric, ginseng, and a vegetal green accord. The latter is dubbed a “carrot greens accord”. It has the scent of those carrot tops with soil still clinging to it. It is a delightful complement to the symphony of roots. A floral intermezzo is spearheaded by rose. This is a literal dirty rose as it is covered in earthiness. That quality is deepened through oakmoss and ambrette.

Man Root has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

The entire composition is very dry, and I was having trouble finding a way to describe it. Mrs. C asked me what I was wearing one of the days I wore this. She said it reminded her of her grandmother’s root cellar just as everything had been put into storage for the winter. Not a lot of root cellars in Florida so I had no frame of reference. Once she said it though I thought the idea of an earthen floored cellar containing roots was probably a good description. As for the masculine floral that is here but only for those who have begun to venture outside of the offerings at the mall. For those people this will be a revelation.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes L’Or(ris)- Dreamy Iris

One of the many things I enjoy about independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is this. Inspiration for the next perfume she designs comes from everywhere. Museum installations, designing jewelry, the Boulder Colorado community she lives in; if she encounters it a perfume may arise. It is why it seems pedestrian that one of her latest inspirations was a dream. It makes no difference because Ms. Hurwitz took that and created DSH Perfumes L’Or(ris).

L’Or(ris) is part two of her Iris Trilogy. Part one was Iris Tuxedo which matched plum with orris butter over an animalic musk. If there is a perfume ingredient Ms. Hurwitz and I have spent the most time talking about it is probably iris. One of the reasons is because it is so malleable without losing its presence. A perfumer can take what is there in the best iris sources and choose what they want to accentuate. What makes L’Or(ris) so good is both the powdery and the rooty strike an appealing balance.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

The way Ms. Hurwitz describes her dream is this, “A beautiful iris, like an apparition, appears… its velvet petals unfurl to reveal it’s gilded edges.  The sparkling, golden iris floats, fluttering both silk and velvet, emitting its beautifully creamy, powdery, floral and yes, enigmatic, perfume.”

When orris is used it has always had a golden quality to my nose. What Ms. Hurwitz achieves is to solidify that association. It provides new perspective to the venerable ingredient.

She adds fizz to the early moments through aldehydes and a prosecco accord she has developed. This has the effect of high-quality champagne providing a golden pool of bubbles for the iris to float upon. The powdery face of iris comes first. It glides though the bubbles in a silky swoosh. Rose and jasmine come along to provide some floral support. They also serve as transitional notes as the doughy rooty part of iris is on its way. If the top accord was of golden champagne this is the gold of buttery fresh-baked bread. Using a set of woods the rhizomal nature of iris becomes the scent of rising dough under a sandalwood rolling pin. Each passage spreads out the orris into a more ethereal effect over time.

L’Or(ris) has 10-12 hour longevity in the Voile de Parfum concentration with moderate sillage.

This is the kind of iris perfume which seems natural to have come from the depths of peaceful slumber. A dreamy iris limned in bubbles of gold and flaky pastry.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Tea and Charcoal- Stop and Center


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.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

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.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reviews Scent Trunk November 2019 and December 2019- Perfumer’s Paradise (Part 2)

As I continue my exploration of the new iteration of Scent Trunk I look at their first two monthly offerings.

November 2019 by Tyler Monk

One of the themes I will touch on consistently through these reviews is the choice of keynote. Mr. Monk launched his own independent brand called Luvandus five years ago. I have not tried any of them. I don’t know whether November 2019 is an outlier or more of the same. What I do know is it is a perfume which reminds me of my morning gardening duties.

Tyler Monk

During the midsummer days, all my gardening takes place soon after sunrise. There is a pleasure to digging in the dirt to begin the day. November 2019 captures that with pennyroyal as the keynote. Readers will know of my aversion to mint in perfume. Pennyroyal is a relative of spearmint. Except it is not. It is the dirty punk cousin of spearmint who maybe hasn’t had a shower. There is the herbal aspect of mint but there are way rougher scented edges that I am not thinking of dental products when I smell it. Mr. Monk centers his perfume around that.

That punk spearmint shows up at the start. Mr. Monk begins to develop what will become a gradual increase in the earthiness overall with the addition of carrot seed. It acts as a social worker to the pennyroyal trying to clean up its act a bit using some orange soap. Anise provides its herbal licorice which finds a lovely harmony with the pennyroyal. This is where November 2019 hits its high point. That earthiness I spoke of becomes more pronounced through the base accord of tobacco, chestnut, and oud. This is that moist dirt I dig through in the morning. As the pennyroyal, anise, and tobacco find their stride November 2019 soars. November 2019 has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

December 2019 by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

If I were going to guess a perfumer who would be part of this it would be Ms. Hurwitz. She has always been excited to stretch her boundaries under different circumstances than her own DSH Perfumes brand. She has always been one of my favorites because I have seen the experimentation lead to something amazing. I suspect a part of December 2019 will be seen again in a future composition.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

The keynote she builds this perfume upon is coriander. Coriander is one of those bifocal spices, piquant and woody. Ms. Hurwitz expands upon both. Early on using hemlock, sage, and cardamom the spiciness is on top. It forms an accord of dense green foliage. Once you push through you find a heart of rose and orris adding a soft floral effect. The base coalesces around labdanum as leather, tobacco, and musk provide a partner to the woody part of coriander. December 2019 has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I’ll conclude my look at Scent Trunk with the other two samples sent to me and some closing thoughts tomorrow.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Scent Trunk.

Mark Behnke