My Favorite Things: Chestnut

It isn’t Christmas without Nat King Cole singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” If you’re walking in New York City the smell of roasting chestnuts from the street vendors is part of the cold weather milieu. When it comes to chestnut being a keynote in a fragrance there are not a lot of them. Although I do have five which can be my scented companion to the smooth vocals of Mr. Cole.

There are two chestnuts roasting perfumes on this list. The first is Maison Martin Margiela Replica: By The Fireplace. Perfumer Marie Salamagne keeps the cade wood smoke to a minimum while weaving a cozy accord of chestnut warmed with clove and vanilla. It comes together as a fragrance equivalent of a snuggly cashmere blanket.

The other one is DSH Perfumes Chataignes du Bois which was Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Holiday perfume in 2017. She produced a full-spectrum chestnut effect as she combined multiple sources to form an uber-chestnut accord. What endears it to me is there is a burnt sugar accord underneath it all which takes me back to winter nights running around NYC.

Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has used chestnut in two different perfumes for L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Mechant Loup was one of M. Duchaufour’s earliest perfumes for the brand in 1997. The core of this perfume is a nutty accord of chestnut and hazelnut coated in honey. It was one of the first nutty perfumes I fell for although I was resistant to its charms at first. The nuts and honey are powerful but if you give it time a gorgeous use of myrrh turns the Big Bad Wolf into a puppy.

Twenty years later M. Duchaufour returned to chestnut with Noir Exquis. Meant to capture a café encounter in Paris over coffee and pastries the chestnut is candied to represent the baked goods. The coffee is nicely realized. What makes this different is his use of a maple syrup accord which makes it all sweeter than I expected. There are days I want to slow down for a pastry and a coffee, Noir Exquis allows me to do it in a decaffeinated low-calorie way.

Etat Libre D’Orange Fat Electrician is the most interesting use of chestnut in a perfume. Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu wanted this to be a different interpretation of vetiver. To achieve that he used chestnut to amplify the nutty facets of vetiver. This is one of my favorite vetiver perfumes because of how successful he was. He takes that nuttier vetiver and wraps it in vanilla and myrrh for a completely unique vetiver fragrance because of the chestnut.

If you want some chestnuts on your skin instead of the fire these five will do the job.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review DSH Perfumes Chataignes du Bois- Urban Christmas

It is this time of year when I get reminders of time passing by. Most of them come via those update letters which accompany Holiday cards as you find out the young child you last saw has graduated law school. A much more pleasant reminder of the passing days comes courtesy of independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Every year since 2000 she releases a Holiday perfume; for 2017 the release is called DSH Perfumes Chataignes du Bois.

Chataignes are chestnuts and this perfume strongly reminded me of my first Holiday season running around Manhattan. In 1984 I had just started my first real job in September. One of my best friends from college was living in the City and I could go in and spend the weekend. It was an ideal situation for a young man. I was looking forward to the Season in the City because I knew there would be amazing things to see from Rockefeller Plaza to the Empire State building lit up in red and green. My friend and I drank it all in as I dragged him all over experiencing everything we could. If there was a scent to the city streets during those days, it was the street vendors roasting chestnuts. As we waited to cross streets or were running somewhere to catch something the predominant smell was chestnuts roasting. Whenever I smell it I am immediately transported in my mind to December on 5th Avenue. Which was exactly what happened when I sniffed Chataignes du Bois.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

Ms. Hurwitz has become very textured within the accords she creates and the chestnut accord at the heart of Chataignes du Bois is one of her most accomplished. When I talk about smelling chestnuts on street vendor carts I am also talking about there being a charred undertone which goes with that. Ms. Hurwitz captures that by using the pure chestnut and wrapping it in burnt sugar which provides the char and the sweetener. The dual woods of cedar and sandalwood provide the promised bois in the name. Stitching it together is a gorgeous co2 frankincense and patchouli. It gives the scent of resins and earth for everything to grow in.

Chataignes du Bois has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

This year with Chataignes du Bois Ms. Hurwitz made me feel my age and remind me of my youth. A present wrapped in a perfumed bow of roasting chestnuts on an urban Christmas Day.

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

Mark Behnke