New Perfume Reviews DSH Perfumes The Cannabis Culture Collection- It’s 4:20

The word collection when it comes to fragrance has been so overused that it has become meaningless. Except for the few perfume brands which actually understand the concept that a collection of perfumes should have some common theme or ingredient running through the different entries. One perfumer who continues to produce collections which are everything I could want from something called that, is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Her latest collection The Cannabis Culture Collection examines marijuana from four very different perspectives.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

As marijuana begins the long journey towards becoming legal in the United States there are two states which have voted to get ahead of the rest of the country, Washington and Colorado. Ms. Hurwitz lives in Boulder, Colorado and wanted to make a collection capturing all there is to smell about the cannabis culture which is slowly emerging into the light. The four fragrances capture different parts of the culture. The growing of it in controlled conditions in The Green House. Finding it in the wild among other growing things in Agreistic. Harvesting the buds sticky and redolent in I Love You Mary Jane. Finally smoking it up on a walk through the Colorado pine forest in Rocky Mountain High.

If you are in your mid-50’s to 60’s you came of age in an era when there were many amateur underground cannabis growers. Most of these were a rack of a few plants growing under an electronic grow-light in a small windowless room usually in a basement. Whenever I would walk into one of these I would be struck by an intensely sharp green smell paired with damp potting soil. The Green House is Ms. Hurwitz’s evocation of that accord. She uses a softly green accord to capture the sharp green quality while also evoking the humidity of the artificial growing environment. The soil accord is paired with a bit of patchouli to give it some texture. This is cannabis as it is seen by the one who grows it in secret.

I’ve also done my fair share of hiking and it was always a funny moment when I would stop for lunch among a field of wildflowers and see the distinctive seven lobed leaf waving among the color. For Agreistic Ms. Hurwitz imagines a field of lavender studded with cannabis here and there. Ms. Hurwitz chooses to use a fougere architecture for Agreistic but it has some very interesting twists. A mix of acerbic tomato leaf with juicy plum opens into a fougere heart of lavender, hay, and oakmoss. Just as you might be leaning back into the olfactory field of purple floral stalks you pillow your head on a stand of cannabis. This is a much more expansive accord than in The Green House as in Agreistic it feels like part of a natural mise en scene. This is cannabis out of the basement and in the open sunshine.

i love you mary jane

I Love You Mary Jane is the experience of picking through tight sticky buds of cannabis. If you’ve ever done that then you know the smell your fingers have after handling the buds? That is exactly what I Love You Mary Jane smells like. Ms. Hurwitz uses a fabulous assemblage of notes to form this accord most of them fruit. Grapefruit, blackberry, mango, apricot, are matched with rhubarb and blackcurrant bud. The grapefruit, blackcurrant bud, and rhubarb comprise a narcotic sourness over the lusher fruits. A bit of floralcy comes through with osmanthus and lily before patchouli brings this home. This is cannabis as it is being prepared to be smoked.

The first three fragrances deal with the smell of the growing cannabis plant. The final entry, Rocky Mountain High, is the pungent smell of it being smoked amid the high-altitude pines of the Rockies. Ms. Hurwitz has worked with some local distillers and one of those Eric Bresselsmith supplied her with a juniper oil. This is paired with chrysanthemum and together they wrap a hemp nucleus. To get the sort of stinky smell of the smoke Ms. Hurwitz adds a bit of natural skunk to add that level of reality to it all. Around all of this is a full suite of coniferous notes. This is cannabis being enjoyed in one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular vistas.

All of The Cannabis Culture Collection have 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Once again Ms. Hurwitz has produced an intriguing collection which allows a perfume lover to explore cannabis from multiple points of view. I think many will find one of them to be their favorite. I have to say that I really like all of them but if pressed I Love You Mary Jane is my favorite. Just remember it is 4:20 somewhere.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin Extrait- Sappy Sticky Bliss

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For many years I was quite a hiker. I have hiked a large amount of the Appalachian Trail as well as through some of the great National Parks out west. For someone who loves fragrance the smells of the woods while hiking was one of the joys of walking in the woods. Particularly in the US if there is a consistent base note to the smell of the great outdoors it would be pine. It seems there are pines no matter what trail I am following. Just breathing in the smell of a Christmas tree lot reminds me of being on the trail. Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz also shares my love of the woods and her new release DSH Perfumes Seve de Pin reflects that.

Ms. Hurwitz has been working for years on a pine scent which would capture “the smell of the night air on my first overnight trip away from my parents…in pre-school summer camp. The trees were speaking to me all night long” I knew what she was talking about as there is a comfort of setting up camp inside a circle of sentinel pines. The smell of the wood, the soft bed of needles on the ground, and the glorious viscous sap oozing out of rents in the trunk. This is the smell of the forest’s bosom on which to rest one’s head on in peace. This is also an extremely hard smell to get right in a perfume. All too often pine fragrances smell like cleaning products or, worse, the cardboard air freshener hanging from way too many rearview mirrors. To get this right Ms. Hurwitz was going to have to find a special material with which to build her Seve de Pin around, for this she turned to Eric Bresselsmith of House of Aromatics.

DSHDawn Spencer Hurwitz

Mr. Bresselsmith travels the inter-mountain region of Utah searching for conifers damaged by weather or the depredations of humans. He co-distills many of the fruits of his labor. For Seve de Pin Ms. Hurwitz used a combination of 50-year old resin crystals dissolved in pure pinion oil. When I wax rhapsodically about the glory of independent perfumery and their tendency to use some of the most exquisite materials to build a fragrance upon; this essential oil is exactly what I am talking about. This is the heart of a pine forest, vibrant and resinous.

Having the greatest raw material in the world does not a perfume make. Ms. Hurwitz had some work in front of her to find the right set of complementary notes to display this fantastic raw ingredient in the best way. She keeps it simple by adding green facets on top and a full house of resin notes to provide the foundation upon which to build Seve de Pin.

The green accord Ms. Hurwitz employs on the top is like the wind soughing through the branches of the pine trees. It is always the first thing I smell before the rest of the pine forest milieu catches up. In Seve de Pin the same is true as after the green has made its presence known the pinion oil arises and Ms. Hurwitz uses two important grace notes to help focus this, in amyris and rose. Amyris with its slightly lemony woodiness and rose with its spicy floral aspect add an intoxicating depth as they smooth out any rough edges the pinion oil might have. It is a perfect choice. Olibanum, oppopanax, and labdanum form the resinous base on which Seve de Pin rests. These resins in combination with the pinion oil really create the smell of dried droplets of sap clinging to the trunk. When I wore Seve de Pin and it reached this part I almost felt like my fingers should’ve been sticky with sap it is so photorealistic.

I tested Seve de Pin as an extrait and it is amazingly gorgeous in this concentration. As a result it has overnight longevity and minimal sillage. This forest walk is for the wearer exclusively.

There are a group of pine perfume aficionados who have named themselves “Coneheads” and I have to imagine Seve de Pin will be as close to a Holy Grail fragrance for them as there could be. I know I will treasure my sample of extrait because it is as near and dear to me as my time walking in the woods. Seve de Pin is tonic for the forested soul.

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

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Scent of Hope- Jacques Fath Iris Gris Reincarnated

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Some of my favorite interactions in my perfume career are with independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. We have spent most of our time together walking, sniffing, and talking about perfume. We have chattered about the reality of vintage perfumes and which fragrances we think are the best ever. One we both agree belongs in that category is Jacques Fath Iris Gris. I know for myself it is the benchmark an iris fragrance has to live up to for me to think it extraordinary. Finding a bottle these days is a very expensive proposition.

One of the things I admire so much about Ms. Hurwitz is she spent the early part of her independent career reconstructing the great fragrances of the past. She is a believer in the adage that says to study an art form you must also try and reproduce it. That stage of her development is long past and now she is on the top tier of independent perfumers in the world. Earlier this year one of her clients who was fighting cancer asked Ms. Hurwitz to make an exception and to recreate Iris Gris for her. Through a happy confluence of events Ms. Hurwitz agreed. This has been named Scent of Hope.

Iris Gris_JacquesFath

Ms. Hurwitz has always let us into her creative process and for the task of making a new Iris Gris it was no different. On her blog DSH Notebook there are three parts about the whole process behind Scent of Hope and if you’re interested in the process I highly encourage you to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. The two things I took from those posts was how Ms. Hurwitz didn’t just take some of her original Iris Gris and get it analyzed. Instead she looked to two invaluable resources in the fragrant blogosphere; Barbara Herman and Octavian Coifan. Ms. Herman has been writing about perfume for many years at her blog Yesterday’s Perfume and she recently published a book “Scent and Subversion”. M. Coifan was the iconoclastic voice behind the now-defunct blog 1000 Fragrances. M. Coifan had exquisitely used his own nose to dissect Iris Gris and this gave Ms. Hurwitz a framework to start from. Ms. Herman has a way of using words to make a fragrance seem to arise from the computer screen. When I eventually try something she has described I find her description to be spot on. The second thing is Ms. Hurwitz let her nose and her client’s nose as well as their skin be their guide on when Scent of Hope was done. The scent strips were dispensed with and they let their feelings guide them to a final product.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

How did they do? I’ll cut to the chase; fantastically well. It is only the use of a couple of modern equivalents which give away Scent of Hope’s contemporary birth. The genius of Iris Gris is the use of a particular aromachemical called aldehyde c-14 which is not an aldehyde but a different chemical class called a lactone. This lactone imparts a gauzy peach veil over the entire composition of Iris Gris and Ms. Hurwitz had to work with it in Scent of Hope. The trick is not to let the iris blunt this shimmering layer but to somehow support it as if you are looking at an iris through a peach colored scarf. If the balance is off the whole thing falls apart. Ms. Hurwitz’s previous experience studying the great perfumes had to come into play here because she manages this with what seems preternatural ease. Based on her blog posts she reached the finished product in very few mods.

I compare my bottle of Iris Gris and Scent of Hope and these are very close. The aging process has made the orris suppler in Iris Gris. In Scent of Hope it still has a lot of its chill and steel on display. What is absolutely identical is the use of aldehyde c-14 to caress and float above the iris. That is recreated perfectly. Scent of Hope lacks a bit of the animalic bite of the original mainly because those raw materials are no longer available. Even so Ms. Hurwitz has chosen a good group of modern musks to come very close. It is right here where the biggest difference between original and modern versions are apparent.

Ms. Hurwitz is a unique combination of passion and precision; both of those qualities were necessary to produce Scent of Hope successfully. This is a great iris fragrance and if you love iris you want to own this.

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

Mark Behnke

Editor’s Note: 30% of the proceeds of Scent of Hope will go to a Denver-area support center for those battling breast cancer called, “Sense of Security”.

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Metropolis- The Refined Animal

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When it comes to the perfumes I find that are supposedly targeted to me as a man I am very disappointed. With Father’s Day coming my trips to the mall have been especially dispiriting as the reps are spraying these aggressively overloaded woody fantasias or citrus cocktails more suited to the bar than my skin. I know woody or citrus is what I as a man should desire but it isn’t what defines me as a man. What I want is a fragrance that exemplifies my modern exterior but never forgets underneath there is an uncultured beast who wants to be let out from time to time. Those fragrances are few and far between and no mass-market perfume brand is going to be interested in selling something like that these days. Which is why I am always thankful for the community of independent perfumers as they don’t have to hew to the popular and can let their imagination and creativity hold sway. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my very favorite indie perfumers and her latest creation, under her DSH Perfumes label, for men called Metropolis is a spectacular example of what I want in a men’s fragrance.

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Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

On her website Ms. Hurwitz sets out what she wants Metropolis to be, “Modernism. Minimalism. An abstract masculine design with notes of brushed steel, glass, and motor oil.” She achieves all of that as Metropolis has a very modern glossy feel to it at first but later on there is a steady beat of a strong human heart beneath all of the contemporary trappings.

The brushed steel is represented by a combination of bergamot and aldehydes; a bunch of aldehydes. Very often in this kind of concentration they give off a hairspray aspect but Ms. Hurwitz chose her grouping well and it is the metallic aldehydes which are dominant. The bergamot is like the afternoon sun glinting off the surface with a single point of brightness diffused across the metallic surface. Geranium and oakmoss adds a greenish tint to it all like you’re looking at it through sunglasses. Then the glossiness gives way to something more primal as castoreum, patchouli, leather, and musk take Metropolis into something human. Ms. Hurwitz wanted this to be a motor oil accord and there are times I get a hint of that but I am more enchanted by the animalic ingredients separately and so the petroleum products never coalesce for me and I prefer it this way.

Metropolis has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

I would pay a lot of money to arm a faux sales rep to stand next to the real ones in my local department store and spritz them with Metropolis. I think they wouldn’t get a lot of takers but for those few who did stop they would be entering a brave new world of perfume appreciation. I entered Ms. Hurwitz’s world many years ago and it is still one of my favorite places to visit. Metropolis, and Ms. Hurwitz, make my kind of men’s fragrance.

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

Mark Behnke