Peonies, and Peony Fragrances

Peonies are some of my favorite flowers. I adore them.

My Sarah Bernhardt peonies - blooms six inches across!
My Sarah Bernhardt peonies – blooms six inches across!

One of my grandmothers grew them. The other grandmother adored them as well, would stop anywhere to bend and sniff the flowers. She called them “pinies,” which must have been either some Appalachian pronunciation variant, or a pronunciation specific to her mother, because no one else I know calls them that. My sister insisted on having them at her June wedding. My daughter loves them. When our sweet Hayley-dog died last summer, we planted peonies near her grave.

PinkParfait2I prefer bush (herbaceous) peonies, not the Japanese tree peonies, which look pretty but lack the delicate but pervasive sweet scent of the old-fashioned ones. I like the double-flowering type. And I prefer them in pale pink or white; the dark pink ones are attractive, but I always think the smell matches the color of the lighter pink ones. Maybe that’s simply because the ones my grandmother grew were pale pink (Sarah Bernhardt) and white (Duchesse de Nemours), but there it is, an irrational preference.

Unfortunately, you can’t dry peonies, either whole or in petals, and retain any of the lovely scent, and I presume that’s why peony accords in perfumery often can smell very synthetic. There aren’t all that many fragrances in current production that smell like real peonies, in my opinion, but every now and then one will pop up and gain my affection.

I know that peony scents are not generally loved among the perfumisti. Witness, just for example, Luca Turin’s review of Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pivoine in Perfumes: The Guide: “Like chewing tinfoil while staring at a welding arc,” and his review of Thierry Mugler Angel Pivoine as “Giant Transvestite [that would be Angel] versus Ditzy Blonde from Hell [that would be the peony component]” is hilarious. I think it’s probably safe to say that Dr. Turin has a special dislike for peony perfumes, however he may feel about the flower. And generally speaking, I see a lot of comments like “smells cheap” about many peony scents.

Duchesse de Nemours peonies.
Duchesse de Nemours peonies.

I don’t care. I’m always on the lookout for one that smells like my Sarah Bernhardts, which have a strong overtone of rose along with the more delicate peony scent, and a cool, light freshness. I’ve noticed that the few peony scents that smell most natural to me also contain some rose – and sometimes they’re marketed as “rose” scents, too! Here’s the shortlist for peony fragrances that come closest, in my opinion, to the Real Thing. Some of them are unfortunately discontinued or otherwise unavailable. (Sorry about that.)

rose de siwa fifParfums MDCI Rose de Siwa. First on the list is the one that smells closest to just-cut peonies, to me. It’s also by far the most expensive, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you buy it, because it is neither wildly original nor reasonably priced. But it’s my favorite. It has notes of litchi, peony, hawthorn, rose, violet, cedar, vetiver and musk, and was composed by Francis Kurkdjian, who has a great track record of success with me. I tested it from a sample vial, expecting a fresh rose, but got an enormous bouquet of peonies and a bit of wood in the drydown. It is basically perfect if you love garden peonies. However, I haven’t yet made up my mind to sell my firstborn in order to buy a bottle.

(Kidding. Kidding kidding kidding. Of course, whoever bought my firstborn would have to fork over for two more years of college, and I don’t see that happening.)

dsh peonyDSH Perfumes Peony. This is a close second, and far less expensive. Lovely stuff. It is perhaps less rosy and more green, but it’s beautiful and the drydown is pleasantly woody. I’ve never smelled a DSH fragrance that smelled synthetic in the least, and this one is very nice.

peony & mossJo Malone Peony & Moss. This one was a limited edition in the “London Blooms” series, composed by Christine Nagel, and the bottles were gorgeous. (See? BOTTLE SO PRETTY.) Wish I’d bought one while it was still available. The notes for it included blackcurrant, green leaves, ivy, peony and moss, and it smelled very green to me. I like that. (Jo Malone is currently producing Peony & Blush Suede, which I haven’t smelled, but I hear that it’s quite pleasant.)

VS pink, fragranticaVictoria’s Secret Pink. I don’t mean Pink Beach or Pink Thong or whatever the heck VS is currently marketing, or even their newer version of Pink, which is not the same as the original early-2000s version in the conical bottle. It’s a green floral with notes of artemisia, juniper berries, mandarin oranges, violet leaf, bergamot, peony, freesia, neroli, muguet, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, and vetiver. It was composed by Annie Buzantian and is more green than any of the others I’ve listed here, even the DSH. Still very pretty, though.

Not included on this list are a number of fragrances with “peony” in the name (including the L’Occitane peony fragrances and Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine), because they don’t smell real to me. Also not included is a really nice fragrance, Penhaligon’s Peoneve – not because it doesn’t smell natural, but because it smells of jammy rose to me with not a peony petal in the mix. Another one I didn’t include was Parfums DelRae Coup del Foudre, because while it is absolutely gorgeously peony-rose for an hour, after that it shrinks down to the skin in a marked manner, and the sudden disappearing act annoys me.

Donna (“Flora”) who reviews for Perfume-Smellin’ Things, has in private conversation recommended Ellen Tracy Peony/Rose. That one is also unfortunately discontinued and I haven’t smelled it, but at this writing you can buy the gift set of perfume and lotion on Amazon for about $27. Donna likes her perfumes lush and trés femme, and we have a lot of overlap in our tastes. The notes list includes peony, rose, and gardenia.

One more I’d like to try is Parfums de Nicolaï Rose Pivoine, which I seem to remember was recommended to me by Blacknall at A Perfume Blog, and has notes of red fruits, rose oil and absolute, geranium, chamomile, woody notes and musk. I am a little concerned about the geranium, which often seems a little screechy to me. But it’s PdN, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and try it when I get the opportunity. (Incidentally, PdN is now listed on Fragrantica as Nicolaï Parfumeur Createur. Which, okay, it’s their company and they can play with the name. I keep wanting to say PdN, though.)

I also hear that Ann Gerard Rose Cut is a lovely fresh rose with peony, but haven’t smelled that one either. Please do comment if you’ve tried it.

Are you a peony fan? Please share your favorite peony fragrances!

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Mini-Review Roundup, Sept. 19, 2014

roundupYee-haw!!! A mini-review roundup again, after, like, months.

Guerlain Vol de Nuit (modern EdT, from Surrender to Chance) – after a brief hit of galbanum, this smells like… um… nothing, really. Musty nothing. I keep spraying it multiple times, trying to find it, but it is so pale it’s like it doesn’t WANT to be found. The notes list and descriptions I’ve read say that this is supposed to be a woody oriental. The only thing I can call it is confusing.  I’ve heard that the current version isn’t good (see Victoria’s comparisons of vintage and current Guerlains at Bois de Jasmin), but I assumed it was another one of those “compared to the old stuff it’s terrible.” Boy, they weren’t kidding. It’s awful. Doesn’t even smell like a Guerlain to me, whatever that means. (Notes: bergamot, galbanum, petit grain, jasmine, daffodil, spices, iris, vanilla, amber and woody notes.)

Carven Ma Griffe (vintage EdT, again from Surrender to Chance). Another big hit of galbanum to start, but also a blast of decaying aldehydes, followed by moldering whitish floralish stuff and then a ton of vetiver and musk. Vetiver/musk/aldehydes seems to pop up a lot in fragrances that had their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s (Madame Rochas, Rive Gauche, Prince Matchabelli Cachet – and even in the wonderful Chanel No. 19), but I don’t like it. It bores the crap out of me. The reason I love No. 19 and like Annick Goutal Heure Exquise is the galbanum-iris-rose stuff, not the vetiver-musk. Borrrrring.  I thought I’d love this. Nope.  (Notes: aldehydes, gardenia, green notes, asafoetida, clary sage, lemon, iris, orange blossom, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, rose, labdanum, sandalwood, cinnamon, musk, benzoin, oakmoss, vetiver and styrax.)

Also, I hear that Carven has reorchestrated and rereleased this one with a “soft” rollout, no heavy advertising, but I can’t find a sample of the current version anywhere. Guess you have to live in Europe to get it, even though their recent Le Parfum is available in the US.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed my carded spray sample of Carven Le Parfum. So pretty. So, so, SO pretty. I am often just as thrilled with a just-so-pretty floral fragrance as I would be if you came up and thrust a dewy bouquet right into my arms. I’m not ashamed.

sweet-pea-0210-lIn any case, Carven Le Parfum starts off with citrus and a tart apricot note, and then quickly eases into a gentle mixed-white-floral. It is clearly a Francis Kurkdjian fragrance, which is generally a good thing from my viewpoint – I like FK’s stuff, generally. There’s some clean patchouli in it, which absolutely ruined Elie Saab Le Parfum (also composed by Kurkdjian) for me, but here it isn’t too hijacky, it’s just a support for the lovely florals to rest on.  I’d say that it skews a bit younger and more innocent than the Elie Saab, and despite the apricot, less sweet to my nose. The hyacinth is prominent to my nose, but it does also actually smell like sweet peas, which my mother used to grow up against the wood fence in our yard when I was a child. The only other sweet pea fragrance I can recollect trying was Lolita Lempicka’s Si Lolita, which was also jam-packed with pink and black peppers, but ended with a lightweight amber. That one was sweeter, and spicier, less floral in character.

I like it. If I owned this, I’d wear it. So what if it’s not groundbreaking or dramatic? It’s pretty.  Fragranticans are calling it “sweet,” but it’s real fruit as opposed to the fakey-fakey stuff I call “froot,” and as I say, not particularly what I would call sweet. No cotton candy here, though if you’re a fan of dry, woody, incensey stuff you’ll probably hate it.  (Notes: mandarin blossom, apricot, white hyacinth, sweet pea, jasmine, ylang, sandalwood, osmanthus, and Indonesian patchouli.)

Historiae Jardin De Le Notre – apparently this was an exclusive fragrance created for sale for the Domain of Chantilly at the Le Notre Gardens, and it’s no longer available. But it’s a pretty, gardeny floral that came my way as a carded sample, and I enjoyed it so I’m discussing it.  It starts out with a green-leaves accord, which slides into an attractive mixed-floral bouquet (rose, hyacinth, lily of the valley). The notes list on the card also includes gardenia, but that’s clearly delusional; I get a lot of clean jasmine out of this. It eventually goes a little screechy, but not more so than my 2006 Diorissimo; I just have less tolerance for that these days, and after three or four hours, I’m ready for something else.

DSH Perfumes Peony – this is, well, peony. Plus a bit of rose and a good bit of greenness, and it is another bundle of pretty flowers atop a tiny bit of musk to extend the florals. I like it a lot, though not quite as much as the delicate, lovely peony/fresh-rose MDCI Rose de Siwa. But I can’t afford Rose de Siwa, so if you loved that you might want to check out DSH Peony.  (Notes: peony, grass, green leaves, rose.)

Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire California Reverie OOOOOH, I said to myself upon smelling it for the first time.  Citrus floral! So pretty!  That lasted a fairly long time for this sort of light floral thing, at least about three hours, before I started getting tired of the jasmine.  (Notes: mandarin orange, neroli, jasmine sambac and frangipani, beeswax and vanilla.)  If I owned this, I’d respray every two hours for the addictively beautiful citrus-floral opening.  And then I’d kick myself for literally blowing, like, $2 a spritz.

Parfums d’Empire Corsica Furiosa – not “furiosa” at all.  Nope. It’s a pleasant herb-garden fantasy with grass and plenty of tomato leaf, and something that smells like juniper to me, as well as some light woody notes. Stays green all the way through, but it is quite light and fleeting, with minimal sillage to me.  Reading Kafkaesque’s review of it has me wondering if I *am* anosmic to ISO E Super after all, because I’m not picking up rubbing alcohol or pepper at all, and Corsica Furiosa is so light! There and gone. (Notes: mastic, lime, grass, hay, honey, moss, labdanum, mint, tomato leaf, pepper.)

I’ve also recently tested Piguet Douglas Hannant, which reminded several people (including me) of a lightened-up Fracas. Then I reacquainted myself with Fracas. I’m planning on a Throwdown for those two soon.

Enjoy the weekend! Our high school football team travels about 75 miles away for tonight’s game (WHAT were they thinking, scheduling that? Driving right past a dozen other schools? Silly), so the band isn’t going. I get a rare band-mom night off. 🙂

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Spring: An Embarrassment of Riches

 Redbud in the Morning Sun

My scent wardrobe is, like the climate in which I live, very seasonal.  We have weather distinct from one season to the next, and it can range from below 0F in winter, with snow and wind and hail, to 98F in summer, hot and practically humid enough to grow mushrooms on your skin.  The most comfortable seasons in this area tend to be spring and fall, with moderate temperatures and cool breezes and sunshine, though we certainly get plenty of rain (the average annual rainfall in my county is approximately 38 inches).

There are certain fragrances I wear at just about any time of the year, perennial go-tos.  There are other fragrances I associate with certain seasons or weathers, and I never think of wearing them at other times.  I love changing my fragrance with the season – I bring them out of the perfume cabinet and place them in the decorative hatbox on my dresser for easy access, and tenderly stow away the out-of-season back in the cabinet.  I try to wear my seasonal fragrances when they are in season, appreciating each  one like a beautiful day, though choosing among them is often a challenge.

Winter is easy: Alahine.  Ubar, Lyric, Memoir. Tiny dribble of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, if the weather is cold and damp.  Carnal Flower or La Myrrhe, if the air is so cold it turns to crystal.  Dolce Vita parfum.  Parfum Sacre. Vanille Tonka.    

Autumn is easier: Tabac Aurea, always. Champagne de Bois, Organza Indecence. Shalimar Light.  Vintage Magie Noire, if the weather is just right: cold, rainy, windy.  Smell Bent One.

Summer is easiest, with the fewest season-devoted scents: Fleur de Matin, Hanae Mori Haute Couture.  Ines de la Fressange first edition. Moschino Funny!, Rose d’Ete.

But spring?  Spring is hard.  I hate choosing in spring.  Green scents?  Violets? Lily of the valley?  Green florals, floral chypres, straight-up florals?  There are so many, and I love them all, and they all say “spring” to me in some way.

What to choose? And how to make sure nothing gets left out?  I still don’t know.  I have no real plan, I just get up and pick something to delight in.  Some favorites for spring:

Crown Perfumery Crown Bouquet – “the greenest of all flower gardens.”  A big green juicy smack of galbanum and marigold gives way to very, very tender white flowers, from a wisp of tuberose to a hint of lily of the valley.

Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete – a shifting green-and-gold symphony like sunlight dripping through green leaves.  Galbanum, green notes, narcissus, hyacinth, patchouli, moss and woods combine to create the essence of happiness for me.

Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve – this long-discontinued, much-coveted floral chypre gem gleams like good pearls.  Very elegant yet gentle, with a powdery softness due to aldehydes and oakmoss, it is a reserved and quiet pleasure.

Jacomo Silences – cool, silver-green perfection.  Contemplative, streamlined, nothing extraneous at all.  Satin ribbons of galbanum, iris, rose, oakmoss.

Penhaligon’s Violetta – simplicity itself: green leaves, purple flowers, a whisper of sandalwood.  Shy but lovely.

DSH Perfumes White Lilac – the true delight of lilac sweetness, garnished only with a handful of leaves and a sprinkling of spice.  A joyful scent.

Guerlain Chamade – the essence of romance, it slowly blooms from chilly green opening to the budding jasmine-ylang-rose heart and on to the full-blown warmth of mimosa and vanilla in the drydown.  A perfume for surrender. 

Balmain Jolie Madame, in vintage parfum – a gorgeous juxtaposition of green notes, violet and gardenia against smooth leather.  Bittersweet in the best sense.

Chanel No. 19 – the Seven-League Boots of pure beauty and empowerment.  Galbanum, iris, oakmoss, and a whiff of leather, elegance with a riding crop.

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse – Languorous and vibrant all at once, with green notes, richly sensuous white florals, spicy notes, and honey set against a slightly-mossy sandalwood background. 

Christian Dior Diorissimo – the essence of spring, in the form of lilies of the valley.  That is all.  And it is spectacular.

What’s on your spring list?

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Valentine’s Day 2012: A Dozen Roses, Bottled

The classic – some would say cliché – gift to a woman on Valentine’s Day is, of course, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a dozen red roses, and jewelry. (My teenage daughter’s boyfriend brought her a card and six red roses yesterday; she gave him a handmade card and some candy. All together now: awwww, how sweet!) I don’t like chocolate in perfume, and the idea of jeweled perfumes will have to wait for another day, so here’s a look at some rose perfumes that I love. (Also, it’s an excuse to post beautiful pictures of roses.)

I do indeed love, love fragrances in which rose plays a major part, from light and girlish ones all the way through to dark Gothic ones. So many fragrances contain at least a little bit of rose – even if you can’t smell it on its own, it’s there, making everything smell round and full. I’ll admit up front that it is very, very difficult to find a rose fragrance that smells just like a freshly-cut dewy rose, because in order to obtain rose essence, the rose petals have to be treated in some way – from steam distillation to enfleurage (which involves pressing fresh petals in fat), to the modern scientific method called distillation moléculaire – and you always get “cooked” rose, not fresh. I figure if I want fresh roses, I’ll go to the florist.

For rose perfumes, I have a stash! Some of my favorites, starting from the light and girlish end:

Continue reading Valentine’s Day 2012: A Dozen Roses, Bottled

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Perfume Review: DSH Perfumes Pandora

 

Photo from DSH Notebook

Oh, dear. I feel bad about this review… but I’m determined to be truthful. This one’s getting a lot of love from vintage-perfume fans as well as natural-perfume fans all over the perfume blogosphere: Jen at This Blog Really Stinks (who hosted the draw for the large sample I tested – thanks, Jen!), Scent Less Sensibilities, Eyeliner on a CatIndieperfumes, The Non-Blonde, EauMG, Scent Hive, Oh, True Apothecary, Scentual Soundtracks, Perfume Pharmer, Escentual Alchemy.   I love many vintage perfumes too. I like chypres, particularly if they have floral components. I am an AldeHo – if it’s got aldehydes, I’m probably going to like it.   (If I’ve missed some other reviews, please let me know.)

See, the thing is… this is the fragrance that started out as an experiment in naturals, a “modern fragrance in vintage style,” if I’ve got the story right (somebody jump in to correct me if I don’t).

I’m not typically a big fan of “all-natural.” For one thing, I think it’s silly to claim that only synthetic materials can be harmful to the body or the environment. (Oooooh, don’t get me started. The smug attitude makes me grit my teeth in rage.) From a practical standpoint, I’ve been mostly disappointed with the skin longevity of all-natural perfumes, with a couple of notable exceptions (Dawn’s own Rose Vert, and Honore des Pres Vamp a NY). I’m not one of those people who complain all over Makeup Alley that “this doesn’t last, it only stayed six hours and I had to reapply in the middle of the day,” but if I’m not getting three hours’ worth of wear at least, I’m just not interested in spending the money to buy it. I know, too, that all-naturals have different qualities – they tend to sit closer to skin, they tend to “bloom” in unexpected ways rather than lifting slowly off the skin the way fragrances underscored with synthetic materials tend to do – but they’re not qualities that make me excited. I’m always happy to give an all-natural fragrance the good old college try, and I’m willing to make a few allowances, but I’m not predisposed to prefer all-naturals.

I’ll remind you at this point that aldehydes are synthetic. And that I like them.

At some point, Dawn seems to have decided to go ahead and add a few synthetic materials that she felt made Pandora “come alive” – the aldehydes, and a small amount of ozone (unnoticeable to me, by the way). Here’s what she has to say on her blog about the project:

The “Beautiful Evil” is a quote from the story of Pandora as told by the Greek, Hesiod. She is the all gifted, all giving one, a singular woman and synonymous with Eve in many respects. It is she who opens humankind to the knowledge of good and evil and ultimately breaks the utopian ideal. With Pandora, mankind has plagues but also knowledge and maturity. She opens the door to truth and hope.

What began as an all-botanical design for a project changed direction with the addition of a subtle synthetic influence. It made all of the difference. This is also a perfume that also utilizes some new and exotic botanical materials…in Pandora, the ancient meets the 21 century.

The notes feature ruby fruits, bergamot, aldehyde, spices, ozone, violet leaf, davana, cassis bud, green and pink pepper, rose de mai, juhi jasmine, linden blossom, yerba maté, cabreuva wood, orris, green tea, mousse de saxe accord, cyperus, fossilized amber absolute, ambergris, patchouli, vetiver, muhuhu, sandalwood, tonka bean, oakmoss and vanilla.

(Yes, she said oakmoss. Please start breathing again.)

On my skin, Pandora has very good longevity; one spritz will last about four to five hours. There’s no indication on my small sample what concentration I have; the fragrance is available as 15ml parfum ($220, shown above), or as 4ml/10ml eau de parfum ($25/$60).  

The first thing I smell is a cheerfully intense herbal-tea note (if you were worried about the red berries, fear not) under a bright haze of aldehydes. There’s an immediate suggestion that you might accidentally have gotten hold of some vintage Miss Dior, what with the moss and the dry iris in there, and there’s a very old-fashioned air to this stage of the scent. It’s an incredibly layered scent; it contains a lot of notes I can’t identify other than to call them “woody” and “herbal.” Earthy, foresty, and vintage – it’s very pleasant.

A little while later, Pandora segues into a warmer, woody-chypre sort of fragrance with a hint of spice here and there, and I begin to like it a lot less. It’s still layered and complex, but this is not the kind of thing that pleases me. It reminds me somewhat of vintage Magie Noire, but drier and less green, without Magie Noire’s opulent floral heart. There are florals in Pandora – I smell jasmine, definitely, and a bit of rose – but they are not the focus. Instead the focus is on the woody notes and moss.

Eventually the oriental/mousse de saxe base begins to float up through the woody notes, and this is where I have to start gritting my teeth. It’s strikingly reminiscent of several scents that I really dislike: Opium, Youth Dew, Caron Nuit de Noel. Whatever accord it is that those scents have in common, it’s popping up in Pandora, both cloyingly sweet and oily-dusty. It makes the back of my throat ache and I find it unpleasant. But that’s me, my personal taste, and if you like the perfumes I just mentioned you won’t be bothered by it at all.

Pandora is an exceedingly intelligent-smelling perfume, a swirling pastiche of woods and herbs and amber, lightened with a few glints of aldehydes and fruit, a cornucopia of fragrance materials. It is, truly, a vintage-inspired modern fragrance, and if this sort of thing seems up your alley, I suggest that you go get a sample from the DSH website, post-haste! Buy a bottle! Now! Support independent perfumery! (The parfum bottle, by the way, is Drop. Dead. Gorgeous. So elegant – and I do love the beautiful mossy green color of the liquid inside.)

Thing is, Pandora is beautiful… and I do not like it.  This fragrance is not my style, but that doesn’t stop me from recognizing its obvious excellence. A large part of it is natural, and there is something wonderful and solid and complex about natural ingredients. Too, it’s put together in such a way as to create a seamless, smooth, and yet distinctive and bold perfume. Kudos to DSH Perfumes.

My great thanks to Dawn for making the sample available and to Jen at This Blog Really Stinks for hosting the drawing. It is a joy to know that somebody is still making perfume with brains!

Pandora sample on my dresser, next to a tube of Revlon Certainly Red and my favorite garnet-and-pearl drop earrings.

I am happy to be able to pass on this sample to a commenter on this post. It’s a spray sample, approximately 3ml with about 2ml (possibly more) remaining, plenty of perfume left for testing and enjoying! Since it’s a small sample, I’m opening up the draw to commenters outside the US.

To enter the drawing, please let me know if you like any of the other fragrances I mentioned in comparison to Pandora in the review: Miss Dior, Magie Noire, Opium, Youth Dew, Nuit de Noel. Which is your favorite? Do you have any special memories associated with these, either worn by you or a loved one?

Draw will be open until Friday night, October 28, at midnight Eastern Standard Time.  DRAW IS NOW CLOSED.

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Perfume Reviews: Coty Chypre (reissued) edt and DSH Chypre oil

Coty Chypre, first released in 1917, was a stunningly successful fragrance that immediately began to influence perfumery, and is still influencing it. While it wasn’t the first chypre fragrance released (there were at least two others on the market, released circa 1909), it was the one that caught everyone’s attention. Countless words have been written about the impact of Chypre, and so I won’t belabor the point but will point you toward some excellent articles on the subject. Briefly, it is based on an accord of bergamot, oakmoss, and labdanum, along with florals and woody notes such as patchouli and sandalwood, and all chypre-type fragrances have these components.

For more on the impact, history, and structure of Chypre, read this post by Victoria at Bois de Jasmin.  Also, Elena at Perfume Shrine has a whole series discussing the chypre genre which is well worth reading, as well as a review of Coty Chypre written by Denise of Grain de Musc.

Coty stopped producing Chypre sometime in the 1960s, so far as I can tell, and then reissued it in 1986, along with two other older fragrances, La Rose Jacqueminot and Les Muses, as eau de toilette. I have two samples of Coty Chypre, both of the 1980s reissue but from different sources. They are quite similar. Both are dabber samples, so I haven’t been able to experience Chypre sprayed.

The Coty starts out with that indefinably “old-lady” vibe, which for me evokes my great-aunt’s dressing table. Aunt Leacy was the wife of a dairy farmer/minister, the sister of my grandmother Sarah Lou, and it’s hard for me to imagine a relative’s house, other than my grandmother Nell’s, more welcoming and enjoyable for a kid. I loved visiting her. There is a definite face-powder note to the Coty scent – not surprising perhaps when you realize that for years Coty scented their loose face powder with Chypre – and there is a dry dustiness to even the topnotes, which have probably lost their citrusy power by now.

From the beginning, I smell that powdery oakmoss and the ghost of something vaguely citrus (which we all know was once bergamot). Under that is a very blended, classical heart of rose and jasmine, and I’d swear there’s just a hint of cool, satiny iris in the mix too. Occasionally I get a waft of a sweet floral note that could be ylang-ylang, but not every time I wear it. On skin, Coty Chypre stays in this rose-jasmine-moss mode for about two hours before getting even more comfortable, with that powdered moss gradually becoming less powdery and more alive. The labdanum is well-mannered, which isn’t always the case, and it mostly serves to warm up the moss to create a lovely gentle smell that stays close to the skin.

It lasts about three hours on me, quite light, but, as always with fragrances that aren’t fresh from the perfumer, age and storage could have affected its strength and longevity adversely. Having read Luca Turin’s assessment of Coty Chypre, I was surprised to find it an extremely wearable scent, relaxed and quietly confident. Here’s what he has to say, from the review of Guerlain Mitsouko (which I freely admit right now that I do not like without knowing why):

[Mitsouko is] an improvement on Francois Coty’s Chypre, released… two years earlier. Chypre… is brilliant, but it does have a big-boned, bad-tempered Joan Crawford feel to it, and was a fragrance in whose company you could never entirely rest your weight.

I still have not smelled the original formula of Coty Chypre, which is said to have been bold, modern, and surprising. But I do like the reissued Coty Chypre. It is cool and smooth and self-possessed, and I enjoy wearing it. What it reminds me most of is a sample of vintage Miss Dior parfum (thanks, Tamara!), which smells to me both of face powder and of intimacy, of dressing up and of the smell of skin at a near distance.

Read more reviews of Coty Chypre at The Non-Blonde, Yesterday’s Perfume, Olfactarama, Suzanne’s Perfume Journal (Eiderdown Press), and Perfume Fountain(Know of any other reviews?  Share, please!)

However, given my surprise at enjoying the reissued Coty, I have to mention that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ recreation of Coty Chypre simply stunned me. It is elemental, a natural force that buffets me with emotion.

Caveat: before you go rushing off to the DSH Perfumes website to order it, I have to give you the sad news that it is discontinued. I’m so sorry to even bring it up, but it’s so amazing that I simply can’t not write about it.

I have DSH Chypre in oil format and of course have only dabbed it. But that’s fine in this case. I often feel that oils are not a good format for me, because what I gain in longevity I give up in sillage, and my preference really depends on what kind of fragrance it is. Florals in oil format are frequently too quiet and wear too close to the skin for me (and you might remember I’m not a fan of big sillage!). But Dawn’s Chypre in oil is just about perfect: it has body, it has depth, and just a bit of waft.

The notes, so far as I managed to jot them down before Chypre disappeared from the DSH website (and I make no promises that these are correct or complete), are thus: bergamot, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, labdanum, patchouli, musk.

The DSH Chypre is, presumably, based on an older formula of Coty Chypre, since it bears very little relation to the 80s reissue I’ve smelled. And it is indeed bold, uncompromising, and starkly contrasted, a good counterpart to the strange Cubist and Fauvist art of the early 20th century. DSH’s version starts out with a strongly aromatic, resiny bergamot, under which I can immediately smell the labdanum like a sustained bass note. After a few moments, I begin to smell rose and jasmine as well as the bitter citrus and labdanum. This phase continues for some time, and if I sniff carefully I seem to pick up hints of a creamy, ripe floral note that reminds me of ylang-ylang, as well as a small bit of powdery cool iris. This is definitely not a powdery scent, however, keeping it miles away from the reissued Coty, even after the oakmoss note sort of sliiiiides stealthily into the picture. There is a bitter, earthy, yet lively character to DSH Chypre, and I would never in a million years call this thing “pretty.”

Yet it’s compelling. It’s one of those scents that grabs me by the base of the spine and yanks, saying to me, “You know you’re human, right? You know you’re a creature and you won’t live forever, right? Well, while you’re still around, get going. Live a little. No, I’ll rephrase that: live a lot.”

After several hours all I can smell is that soft, ambery labdanum, with perhaps a bit of musk, and it is almost edibly delicious. This is the only stage that my family seems to enjoy. Gaze said, “Vanilla? Amber? Almost something you could eat. Nice.” Before it gets to this stage, noses wrinkle and children leave the room. I think my family’s unevolved. Or maybe I am, given the brute power of DSH Chypre. Not that it’s beastly or animalic in any way that I can tell – I rather like civet, in small doses, and I tend to be pretty sensitive to some musks smelling dirty – it’s just… raw and untamed and lacking in parlor manners.

Which is just fine with me.  I’ve been wearing this thing all summer, intoxicated by its elemental appeal.

Top image of reissued Coty Chypre from Eiderdown Press.  Lower image of vintage Coty Chypre from Perfume Fountain.  Image of labdanum resin from Labdanum-shop.

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DSH Perfumes Tribute Week: mini-reviews

http://www.flickr.com/photos/snflwrgddss23/2755522466/

Okay, so if you read perfume blogs or are a member of a perfumista group on Facebook, you’ve probably heard that  DSH Perfumes’ membership in the Natural Perfumers Guild was summarily revoked.  I’m not going into much detail, but the Guild’s complaint seems to be that since not every single one of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ offerings are 100% natural with no synthetics, the Guild would no longer allow her to continue as a Perfumer member.  I suppose that it’s the prerogative of a voluntary group like the NPG to come up with limitations on their producer membership.  I was just appalled at the manner in which the membership was withdrawn.  (See here and here for a few of the blog posts on the subject.)

Dawn’s work actually contains a very high percentage of natural ingredients, but she does use some synthetic items such as musk and woods materials in small amounts in some of her items, and she was very careful to only use the Guild’s imagery for the items that are completely botanical.  It always seemed very clear to me which ones were and which were not congruent with the Guild’s outlines.  You can read her explanation of her “Naturals” collection at the top of the page hereI admit that I am not very interested in investigating, much less purchasing, fragrance on the advertised basis of 100% natural.  I never have been, to be honest: all-naturals tend to last less long on my scent-eating skin, and I tend to be a little skeptical of the idea that Synthetics Are Bad For You.  It’s not that I mind an all-natural perfume, it’s just that there has to be something intrinsically wonderful about it before I’ll consider spending my limited perfume bucks on one. 

DSH Perfumes was one of the very first independent perfumeries that I explored upon becoming interested in perfume, and while I haven’t loved every single thing I’ve tried from the website, it’s had an excellent success rate with me.  The website is indeed a candy store full of goodies everywhere you turn!  I’ve heard some frustration from other customers about the website itself being difficult to navigate, and I would probably have to agree: it’s slow, it’s difficult to search, it covers many many products.  BUT.  In my opinion, the task is definitely worthwhile.  The site is divided into two major segments, the Parfums de Beaux Arts portion being more complex and high-art-focused, and the Essense Oils portion being more concerned with simpler fare.  I’ve had good luck with items from both segments.  I’ve particularly enjoyed samples from the Essense Vintage Collection, duplicates of long-gone or reformulated wonders such as Coty Chypre, Millot Crepe de Chine, and Prince Matchabelli Golden Autumn.  (Sadly, the Vintage Collection will be phased out over time, as Dawn focuses more on her special projects and stocks dwindle.  The truly stunning Chypre is already sold out.)

Despite my whining about 100% natural fragrances not suiting me, there are several of Dawn’s that have impressed me with excellent quality.  Rose Vert is simply gorgeous from beginning to end, and the run goes a surprisingly long time on my skin; the eau de parfum lasts about six hours on me.  Three Kings, while not being my favorite type of fragrance (it’s a woody-resiny, earthy concoction), is coherent and long-lasting and highly evocative.

So I’m spending my mornings this week in DSH Perfumes scents, in honor of the talented Ms. Spencer Hurwitz, and thought I’d share some mini-reviews of some noteworthy fragrances.  Wording in green is directly from the DSH website.

From the Essense Oils segment of the website (all of these items were tested in oil formulation, though sometimes they are available as edp or water-based spray):

Duplicate of Faberge Aphrodisia:  “A spicy oriental classic with a rich gorgeous heart and an animalic quality in the drydown.” Bergamot, neroli, Bulgarian rose absolute, carnation, jasmine, ylang-ylang, ambergris, Brazilian vetiver, moss, musk.  Aphrodisia is really lovely in the heart, an opulent floral bouquet over an ambery base.  Eventually it goes in the direction of Youth Dew (my personal Kiss of Death), so it’s not for me.

La Fete Nouvelle: “A country gathering amongst soft flowers and sun warmed plain grasses. This is a moment in time for sharing and enjoyment… a simple celebration of the day.” Bitter almond, fresh mown hay, lavender flower, American sweet grass, green wheat, toasted rice, sandalwood, tonka bean, treemoss, vanilla.  I ordered this sample because I’ve been  looking for an almondy scent something like the almond butter cream I use on my rough skin spots.  I somehow missed the mention of lavender (it often gives me headaches), and I wasn’t expecting this lovely gentle thing to come out of the vial.  It smells like the summers of my childhood: grass, flowers,and a faint cocoa-butter sweetness like warm skin with a trace of old-school suntan lotion.   It is beautiful.  Also, this is the first time a so-called “hay” note in perfume has actually smelled anything even close to real fresh mown hay; usually the note is too sweet and not grassy enough – or too green, and not sweet enough.  This is Just Right on Goldilocks’ scale, although I still wouldn’t say this is a primarily-hay scent because of the creaminess.   Nevertheless: summer in a bottle.  I misted up from nostalgia.

Au Lait (a milk scent): “sweet dreams: a touch of warm milk before bedtime… what could be more cozy? Au Lait is a sweet milky skin scent that leaves your skin smelling fresh and creamy-sweet in the drydown.” Sweet cream, French vanilla, tonka bean, warm milk, ambrette seed, buttercreme accord, Special Formula X (a soft musky accord).  This one made me giggle.  It was a freebie tossed in with a recent order, not something I would have chosen on my own, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.  Au Lait smells pretty much the same all the way through to me, sweet and nutty and milky with a hint of coconut, and it reminds me of nothing so much as a Zagnut bar!  As a kid, I was highly allergic to chocolate and absolutely forbidden to eat it by my mother, because it made me sniffly and snotty-nosed.  I would have to turn over my plastic pumpkin to my dad after trick-or-treating so he could cull all the chocolate candy out of it, which still makes me pout and stamp my foot (these days, I just eat the darn chocolate and then go take a Sudafed).  But then, I had to content myself with non-chocolate candy, and I was always happy to see a Zagnut bar in my Halloween stash.  Composed largely of peanut butter, sugar wafers, milk solids, and toasted coconut, Zagnut was a nutty-milky crunch, and one of my favorites.  I never see them in the stores anymore…

Duplicate of Coty Chypre (no longer available, so I don’t have access to the website’s description and I’m winging it here!): Bergamot, lemon, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, labdanum, patchouli, probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.  I’m planning to review the DSH version alongside the 1970s-80s rerelease from Coty, so all I’ll say here is that Chypre blew my flipping doors off.  It smells elemental and wild and earthy, and it stirs me in ways I’d never imagined – and I’m not all that huge a chypre fan!

Still of Gina Lollobrigida as Queen Sheba, from asiawelcome.com

Duplicate of Judith Muller Bat Sheba“A green aldehydic floral with a heady, honey-waxy feel in its heart and a rich, earthy, animalic drydown.”  Aldehydes, bergamot, galbanum, hyacinth, Bulgarian rose absolute, honey, jasmine, ambergris, Brazilian vetiver, civet, moss, sandalwood, vanillaWhoa, mama.  If there was ever a perfume that smelled like Gina Lollobrigida, here it is.  Completely, openly, ridiculously sexy, with a rose heart so opulent and sweet and ripe that you might just faint from its voluptuousness, and a drydown that’s just to die for, with sandalwood and moss being prominent to my nose.  Gorgeous.  It really stinks that I have nowhere to wear this thing… otherwise I would wear it a lot.  It has a big presence, even dabbed from a vial of oil!  I have not smelled the original, but Barbara at Yesterday’s Perfume and Gaia at The Non-Blonde were very complimentary, and it sounds as if the DSH version is quite up  to the quality of the original va-va-voom scent.

From the Parfums de Beaux Arts segment of the website (tested in edp, except for 1000 Lilies as parfum):

Vert pour Madame:.  I expected to love VpM.  I didn’t.  It is wonderfully constructed, seamless, and beautiful, but it did not sing to me the way I had wanted it to.  I’m not sure whether it was more floral or less floral than I had wanted, or whether perhaps it out-sophisticated me (certainly possible).   Both Donna at Perfume-Smellin’ Things and Tarleisio at Scent Less Scentibilities loved it and can tell its praises more eloquently than I can, so go read their reviews and sigh with pleasure. 

(Natural) Rose Vert edp: “In a dream, I am lost in fields of roses. They are dew-drenched and velvety against my skin. Their rich scent pervades my waking hours with remembrances of deep red and green.” Citrus oils, Bulgarian rose absolute, centifolia rose absolute, damask rose absolute, Moroccan rose absolute, Turkish rose otto, treemoss.  This one is described as “100% Botanical,” and I wasn’t expecting it to last on me the way it does.  It is truly, truly beautiful.  I love me some rose perfumes, but there is something in this one that sends my heart sailing on the breeze.  It starts out with a blend of citrus, including lemon and bergamot and something else I can’t identify – maybe lime?  After that, there’s a good long ride on a magic carpet of roses.  Dawn says “deep red and green,” but to me they’re a mix of sunny yellow, red, and all shades of pink.  You know how sometimes rose scents can go a little sour and screechy?  This one never does.  It does have a tanginess to it, but it’s a glowy citrus tang rather than a mean rose sour.  I don’t really smell the moss on its own; Rose Vert sustains its roses all the way to the end.   More reviews: Donna at PST (brief), The Non-Blonde.

(Natural) Oeillets Rouges: “A charming and playful perfume of red carnations in full bloom… joyful as a day in May.” Bergamot, green peppercorn, nutmeg, carnation absolute, French red carnation, honey beeswax, amber, ambergris, myrrh gum, vanilla.    Carnations are my birth month flower, and I happen to love them.  One of the reasons I got into perfume was to find one that smelled like real carnations, and believe you me, I have smelled a lot of carnation fragrances.  Some of them I enjoy very much (the lamented, austere Floris Malmaison, Guerlain’s flirty, creamy Terracotta Voile d’Ete, L’Artisan’s discontinued Oeillet Sauvage, and the delicately pretty Fragonard Billet Doux).  Others are absolutely dreadful on me, all soapy and bitter and horrid (Caron Bellodgia, L’Air du Temps, Ava Luxe Oeillet Rouge, Comme de Garcons).  Oeillet Rouges, though, is perfect: green and dewy, floral, spicy and sweet.  It has a smoothness and grace, despite the spicy notes, that keep it fresh instead of dusty and cloying.  I suspect that many aromamaterials that are supposedly carnation don’t play well with me, but carnation absolute – of course, the expensive stuff! – is Da Bomb.   My very, very favorite carnation fragrance ever (I have a sample of Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet coming to me at some point, but it will have to go a long way to beat Oeillets Rouges).   Another mention: Donna at PST.  (Image link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mscaprikell/6105173/ ) 

(Natural) Secrets of Egypt: 1000 Lilies (Susinon) : “Susinon was a luxurious and strongly scented lily perfume that was made by the Egyptians as well as the Greeks, but the Egyptian version was thought to ‘excel most’. This fabulous fragrance was also used by Cleopatra to scent the sails of her royal barge, perfuming the air along the Nile as she sailed, proclaiming herself as Goddess and Queen. The exhaustive recipe for Susinon calls for spices and resins to first be soaked in fragrant wine and balanos oil to be prepared. When the oil ready, it is added to the spices along with 1,000 lilies. Interestingly, in our time a lily perfume would be almost exclusively worn by women, but for the ancient Egyptians, Susinon was one perfume deemed suitable for a man. * 1,000 LILIES PERFUME has been created for Denver Art Museum’s KING TUT exhibit, 2010.” Cardamom seed, cinnamon bark, fragrant wine accord, galbanum, Kenya lily, narcissus absolute, orris root, pink lotus, saffron absolute, Turkish rose otto, ylang-ylang, Australian sandalwood, honey, myrrh gum, sweet flag.  This is another one of those 100% Botanical scents, and like Rose Vert, it lasts for several hours on me.  I have parfum, and it radiates a bit less than Rose Vert edp, but this is such a scent of quiet happiness.  I can’t quite associate the way it smells to me with my idea of Cleopatra, human embodiment of the Nile and the glory of Egypt, with her grandiosity and her gold ornaments and her goddesshood.  I find the notes in 1000 Lilies difficult to pick apart; the central quality of the fragrance, in my opinion, is the lotus flower note, a watery floral quality that renders the whole thing delicate yet sturdy, like a painting on silk.  I do not smell much galbanum in it, and everything else is so well blended that what it smells of is, simply, beauty, the kind that makes you catch your breath, between ecstasy and tears.    Other reviews:  Lucy at indieperfumes, Scent Less Sensibilities (can I come back in my next writerly life as Tarleisio, pleez pleez?), Donna at PST, Patty at Perfume Posse (brief).

If you have not yet tried any of Dawn’s hauntingly beautiful fragrances, may I encourage you to do so?  You may have to persevere through the unwieldy website (currently being redesigned, as I understand), but you will be well rewarded.  Go.  I mean it, go.  Check it out.

Now.

Why are you still here reading?  Hie thee to DSH, posthaste!

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The Skinny on DSH Perfumes Special Formula X

Several of us have been wondering how to interpret this fragrance, which Ms Hurwitz uses as a diagnostic tool.  I sent an email asking for more information, and this is what Dawn has kindly sent me.   Please note that this information is copyrighted to DSH Perfumes, and I am merely sharing it. 

DSH SPECIAL FORMULA X
The formula that I developed to “test” my clients’ skin types in order to get a better impression of
their chemistry. SO many have remarked, “I love THAT… I want THAT!” that I have decided to
give it you. I feel this is my ULTIMATE skin scent! It truly (and simply) amplifies your own skin and
reflects it back as soft clean skin.
It’s YOU… only better!
Now, you can use my DSH Special Formula X at home to test your own skin (and your friends! ) to
see which skin scent you have and get a better sense of what families of fragrance are best for you.
   

How to use DSH Special Formula X to analyze your skin scent at home:

– Try ‘Formula X on your wrist or forearm.
– Notice how the scent changes from a super light, slightly musky aroma to either a more floral,
powdery, warm- woody, creamy sweet, acrid, bitter, green (grassy) or salty – musky type of scent.
(* If there is no noticeable change in the scent then you have a “neutral” skin type. This means that
you can wear most fragrance families with relative ease. You have the greatest number of choices
when finding a perfume to suit you.
(some of the most common) SKIN TYPES:

Powdery-sweet: With this skin type, be careful of perfumes that are too sweet or floral as they may
get too powdery or cloying as they wear. Fresh Citrus and green scents may be the best families of
fragrance for this skin type.

Creamy-sweet: Be careful of Gourmand and Fruity fragrances with this skin type as they may be too
sweet, syrupy and heavy. Light florals, citrus, green and ozone-marine scents are recommended for
this skin type. Spicy Orientals can also be worn.

Floral-sweet: This skin type should be careful of too heady- tropical floral scents such as Gardenia
and Tuberose. Light, fresh florals, light fruit scents, citrus and warm, oriental scents tend to work
best for you.

Woody: Woody, Conifer (piney) or too fresh scents tend to turn either dull or spiky (too sharp) on this
skin type. Warm incense, oriental, spice and citrus scents work best for this skin type. Gourmand
scents can also be worn to good effect.

Green: With this skin type, be careful of too fresh,grassy-sporty scents as well as acquatic-ozone
scents as they tend to be sharp and cloying. Soft florals, warm – woody scents and rich orientals are
recommended.

Acrid: This is a more unusual skin type, unless you are a smoker. This imparts a slightly burnt aroma
to the skin. Simple citrus scents (lemon or bergamot), deep incense, spice or woody scents are
recommended. Be careful of floral and fruity scents as they tend to ‘turn’.

Salty-musky: Light fresh citrus, green- sporty scents , conifer, woody and spicy oriental fragrances
are recommended for this skin type. Be careful when attempting an acquatic-ozone scent or fruityflorals
as they tend to overpower and become cloying.
 

Bitter-sharp: With this skin type, light fruity florals, soft musks and even sweet gourmand scents may
be best. Fresh scents, spring green florals and woody – conifer scents tend to become too sharp or intense.

 800.551.0701. www.dshperfumes.com
copyright © 2005 DSH / PARFUMS des BEAUX ARTS LLC ~ All Rights Reserved
 

Okay, this is me again.  I’m not really finding “my” skin up there on Dawn’s list.  Am I neutral?  I can’t tell, because a) in the sample vial, Special Formula X doesn’t smell like anything at all to me, and b) what it does smell like on my skin isn’t described.  What it smells like to me is clean sun-dried linens, with some florals waaaaay off in the background.  It’s a lovely quiet smell.  I suppose that the “super light, slightly musky” smell that neutral skin gets might be closest, because “Floral – soapy” is how I’d describe what I’m getting.  It could simply be a difference in semantics that’s throwing me here.  Remember that discussion on scents that smell like floral soap?  Well, it’s basically that.  
 
“Floral-sweet” isn’t quite right as to what SFX smells like, and I adore the heavy white florals that this skin type is supposed to avoid.  “Powdery-sweet” isn’t right either, and neither is “Creamy-sweet.”  In fact, it’s fairly floral but not sweet at all on me.  It could be “slightly musky,” assuming that “slightly musky” means reminiscent of laundry.  It certainly doesn’t smell like the scents that come to mind when I think of Musk – Jovan Musk for Woman, Skin Musk, or Serge Lutens Clair de Musc – SFX is much, much lighter on the musk aspect.  But I’m thinking that Neutral is closest to how SFX behaves on me than anything else.
 
What I find really interesting about this list is the categories of scents each skin type should avoid.  Again, though, I don’t see the fragrance types that bother me anywhere on the list: citrus, balsams, and herbal-woody (like the dreaded patchouli, which I would swear on a stack of Bibles feeds on my skin and grows, the way yeast feeds on sugar).
 
Anybody have any thoughts?
 
Image is “Cupide430 testing” from opacity at Flickr, some rights reserved.  Seems that the photographer was at Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, sniffing with friends (you go, girl!). 
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Tuberose Series 5: DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse

Tubéreuse is one of the three top-selling scents at indie house DSH Perfumes, which is making a name for itself among American perfume fans for well-blended, quality classical (part-synthetic) scents as well as excellent naturals-only perfumes. Nose Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s website is a lot like the candy shop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory*, stuffed to bursting with goodies of every description. I could happily get lost there.

Perfume Review: DSH Perfumes Tubéreuse
Date released: (I’ve sent an email to Ms. Hurwitz to ascertain)
Perfumer: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Sample provenance: directly from DSH, 2009

Subcategory: Typical buttery tuberose soliflore

The listing for Tubéreuse, in the Parfums des Beaux Arts section at the DSH website, reads like this:
“Tubéreuse (Tuberose)
Its milky white and fleshy flowers bear the secret of attraction. In India, this flower is called “Mistress of the Night:” The most sensuous and intoxicating of perfumes.
Top notes: Citron Accord, Mimosa
Middle notes: Tuberosa, Tuberose Absolute
Base notes: French Beeswax, Heliotrope, Himalayan Cedar, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood”

I first came across this perfume last spring, during my first awed wander through the website. I tested it at about the time I was also testing some of the lusher Annick Goutals (Passion, Songes, Gardenia Passion), and certainly it’s on a par, quality-wise, with the Goutal scents. It also seems to share a certain simplicity, or perhaps you’d call it transparency, with those classic AG feminines: it smells definitively of tropical flowers, with a few other notes serving as framework.

The opening is my least favorite part of the development, with a citrusy note that seems both bitter and a bit powdery.  Powdery citrus?  How can that be?, you’re wondering.  I don’t know myself – I assume that the mimosa (cassie) is the powdery bit, and the citron, or cedrat, is the bitter bit.  What it reminds me of is the dreaded Tang Dust Accord.**  I don’t get this every time – so far I’m two-for-five – but I do find it somewhat unpleasant for the fifteen minutes it lasts.

However, the Tang effect might be due to neither citron nor mimosa, but natural indoles in the tuberose itself.  Somewhere*** in PTG, Tania Sanchez refers to a “back of the throat rasp” with regards to indole.  Certainly this thing is composed of natural tuberose, a buttery-sweet-tropical thing that lolls, heavy-lidded and languid, on skin.  I’m still doing some research on the difference between tuberose essential oil and tuberose absolue (I suspect that they are extracted by different methods, and that absolue is more concentrated), but both are included in the formula.  Tuberose is really the heart of the scent, with citron and sandalwood the supportive BFFs that keep it from falling over backwards in a swoon.

Four to five hours after application, the tuberose has quieted and there is a softly woody drydown, with a hint of not-too-sweet coconut. I like coconut; this is far less beachy than, say, Bronze Goddess.  But if you hate coconut, you will probably want to avoid this scent. To me, the coconut seems in keeping with the tropical, lazy character of the tuberose, and I enjoy it.

While I was considering the fragrance – why, for example, citron rather than bergamot, or orange? – I came across the following information, and suddenly everything became quite clear: this is a hymn to India.

Citron: “In South Indian cuisine, especially Tamil cuisine, citron is widely used in pickles and preserves. In Tamil, the unripe fruit is referred to as ‘narthangai’, which is usually salted and dried to make a preserve.” (from Wikipedia)
Tamil Nadu sandalwood: the same species as Mysore sandalwood.  “Santalum album, or Indian sandalwood, is currently a threatened species and consequently very expensive. It is indigenous to South India… Sandalwood from Mysore region of Karnataka, Southern India is widely considered to be of the highest quality available. New plantations have been set up with international aid in Tamilnadu in order to avail of the economic benefits of sandalwood.” (from Wikipedia)
Coconut:  “The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera Linn.) is supposed to be one of the five legendary Devavrikshas and is eulogised as Kalpavriksha – the all giving tree – in Indian classics. All parts of the palm are used in someway or another in the daily life of the people of the west coast; the traditional coconut growing area. Its fruit is called Lakshmi Phai and is used in social and religious functions in India irrespective of whether palm is locally grown or not.”  (from http://www.bgci.org/education/1685/)

The tuberose blossom, as I found when writing my “Series Opener” post, holds a significant cultural place in India as well, being used in weddings and other religious ceremonies, as well as in personal adornment.  I’ve never been to India; now I want to go.

DSH Tubéreuse is really lovely and cohesive, an affectionate study of the flower.  Like ELPCTG, it’s not a scent you wear in a business environment.  But where TG was girly, Tubéreuse is languid and sensual – it’s every bit the carnal flower that Malle’s Carnal Flower is not.  I recommend it.

* The 1971 movie with Gene Wilder, of course.  The candy shop is the place where Charlie buys the candy bar that holds the last Golden Ticket, after the shopkeeper sings, “The Candy Man.”  I found the 2005 version, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” with Johnny Depp, weirdly wonderful too.  (Depp seems to be channeling Michael Jackson doing Carol Channing; he’s such a bizarre delight.)
** “Tang Dust Accord” refers to any component of a scent which makes the back of my throat hurt.  Background: The CEO adores Tang (the Kraft drink mix).  He actually prefers Tang to real orange juice (it’s probably because of the sugar content), and I think he’s nuts, but hey, people who live together make compromises.  But here’s the thing – I hate making Tang.  Just hate it.  No matter how I do it, whether I put the mix in first or a little water in, whether I snap the cover of the pitcher on top or not, a little mushroom cloud of Tang dust always rises up and hits me in the back of the throat.  Honestly, I can feel it in my sinuses.  Gah.  Even if he makes the Tang, or one of the kids does, I can walk through the kitchen ten minutes later and get hit with the Tang dust cloud effect. It hurts.  I hate it.  I especially hate encountering it in perfume, as I have in Lancome Magnifique, Guerlain Insolence (edp), Giorgio, and occasionally in DSH Tubéreuse. Luckily, with Tubéreuse the effect doesn’t last long.
*** If I find the page, I’ll update with a direct quote.  Edit:  Found it!  In the review of Diptyque Olene, TS gives a short chemistry lesson on indole and skatole, two chemicals found in both white flowers such as jasmine, ylang, etc., and in animal waste.  Then she explains why chemical recreations of natural white florals don’t smell right: “If you measure the amount of indole in, say, jasmine oil and make up a synthetic mix with the same amount of the pure stuff, it will smell of mothballs [indole] whereas the natural one doesn’t.  Why?  Nobody knows.  But that is the main reason why white-flower reconstitutions seldom have the back-of-the-throat rasp of the real thing.”

The Bottom Line :

Quality     A   Smells almost entirely natural; entire composition is thematic.
Grab-scale score    7, maybe 8  (Depends on whether I get TDA or not)
Short description    Tropical tuberose.
Cost   $$   1 oz. bottle of edp is $65, but you can buy a dram (4ml) of edp for $10.  Parfum is also available.
Earns compliments:  Yes, but not from people who dislike tuberose.
Scent presence:  Average (two generous dabs of edp last four to five hours).  Moderate sillage. Not an office scent, in my opinion.
Review Report:   None.  Although this scent has its fans at fragrantica, it’s not listed in the database.

Top image is from DSH Perfumes.  Center image is Rajnigandha – Tuberose (Explore) by H G M at flickr. 

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