Perfume in the Time of Coronavirus

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I am a generally happy person. The current coronavirus pandemic has worn away at that. I like to be informed but this time the more I learned the bluer I felt. Over the last few days I’ve unplugged from the news streams except for watching the local and national news for an hour. It has helped. The other thing that has helped is my love for perfume.

To fill up the time I’ve been working in the perfume vault. I am surprised at how much beauty there is to be found. I shouldn’t be, I write about it every day. On those shelves are history lessons, trips to faraway places, exceptional artistic visions; all of which are fascinating. I’ve been allowing myself the luxury of letting scent take me away.

I have spent some of my time getting lost in my favorite perfume house, Patou. The Art Deco bottles seem appropriate as we enter this century’s own 20’s. The great Joy was created in 1925. I was struck by the way that perfume seems timeless. It is what a floral perfume should be at any time.

I turned to the Japanese inspired perfumes by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz for serenity. My favorite perfume by one of my favorite perfumers is her Bancha. I usually demur when asked to name a single perfume when asked what is the one I like best. Bancha is one which is unequivocal in my affection. I always wear Bancha on the first day of spring. The same sense of tranquility and hope descended upon me with each breath I took as it does every year. It is especially appropriate now.

Alessandro Brun, Me, Riccardo Tedeschi (l. to r.)

I hadn’t thought about what a great collection the Masque Milano perfumes have become until I spent an afternoon with them covering different patches of skin. It is such a varied collection that I smelled like a pile-up on the perfume interstate. Yet there is a real sense of vision now that there are several perfumes to examine. Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi are in the midst of creating perfume which will stand the test of time. To spend this time with them has been illuminating.

I decided to go around the world while sitting at my desk. Perfumes took me to every continent all while never leaving the house.

I’ve never had the best answer when asked why I have so much perfume. Maybe I was just waiting for a time when all that I enjoy can be there as emotional support. I think those days have arrived. Perfume in the time of coronavirus will be what gets me through.

Mark Behnke

DSH Perfumes 101- Five to Get You Started

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One of the great things about the early days of perfume blogging was that they were introducing small lines to their readers. It was 2006 when I was doing my daily read of Now Smell This when Robin introduced me to perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and her brand DSH Perfumes. Reading that review of Cimabue I ordered a whole lot of samples. Ms. Hurwitz is one of those people in perfumery who has me looking forward to whatever she is doing next. If you have never tried any of her perfumes here are five suggestions on where to start.

Cimabue– Based on that review this was the first perfume by Ms. Hurwitz I tried. I am pretty sure I had never tried a full-on saffron in a fragrance at the point I tried Cimabue. Ms. Hurwitz not only introduced me to the note she set it atop a pyramid of spices on a foundation of vanilla and sandalwood. When I look to perfume to act as a comforting safety blanket Cimabue is one of the few which fits that bill for me.

Viridian– Ms. Hurwitz has had a longtime association with the Denver Art Museum. Many of her most interesting fragrances are the result of that collaboration. The first of these projects happened in November of 2007 and was called the CHROMA Collection. Of the ten perfumes she made for this Viridian is the most vibrant. Ms. Hurwitz wanted a deep green and she seemingly employs every green shade on the perfumer’s organ. The mix turns into a trip down the pine tree lined road to the Emerald City on a galbanum bricked road.

Sienna– I love cinnamon in perfume but there are only a few which do it well. Also part of the CHROMA Collection Ms. Hurwitz places the cinnamon on top of one of my favorite accords she has ever created, a steamed basmati rice. This feels like opening a rice steamer and having cinnamon rise up to you in a humid cloud. It settles on to a honeyed wood base note but it is that steamy spicy opening which makes Sienna unforgettable.

DSH

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Bancha– My favorite of everything Ms. Hurwitz has ever done. I remember thinking this would be her take on green tea fragrances which were all the rage in 2010 when this was released. Bancha is instead one of my cherished spring stalwarts. From a citrus opening phase to a brilliantly chosen basil at the heart which marries the floral and coniferous notes through to a spirit centering sandalwood base Bancha is perfection.

Mata Hari– Ms. Hurwitz has been a ready participant in the numerous projects which have proliferated over the years. In 2010 there was a project via The Natural Perfumers Guild called Outlaw Perfume. The concept was to use the list of IFRA banned ingredients to create “outlaw” fragrances. By the very nature of the project Ms. Hurwitz took the opportunity to make a perfume the way they used to make them. Ms. Hurwitz designs an animalic chypre that oozes sensuality and intrigue. An intensely floral heart gives way to a carnal base of musk, civet, and leather. Ms. Hurwitz has spent years studying the great perfumes of the past. Mata Hari shows what a good student she was.

Along with Andy Tauer it is Ms. Hurwitz who is responsible for my love of independent perfumery. They were the figurative mother and father who introduced me to this world of fragrance that existed away from the store counter. Ms. Hurwitz is one of the true treasures of the independent perfume community and these five are a great place to start your own discovery.

Disclosure: This review based on bottles which I purchased.

Mark Behnke