Monday, January 22, 2018

The Best Carnation Scents To Wear In Cold Weather

When winter comes I typically put away all my floral perfumes which tend to be concentrated in the white flower category. I take advantage of being able to wear chypres and heavy oriental fragrances which just don't work so well in one-hundred-degree weather. It was very cold here in North Texas over Christmas and I noticed my daughter in law smelling wonderfully of carnation. I keep a little bottle of Dianthus by Etro on a toiletry tray in the guest bath. I hate the furnace belting out heat so my house is always, shall we say, a bit chilly. The brightness of the carnation bloomed beautifully against the chill air, almost giving the florist freezer effect of carnation flower arrangements. I decided to test all my carnation fragrances and see if they all stood up as well to the cold weather.

Christian legend says that the carnation originated when Mary was moved to tears as she saw Jesus carrying the cross, and where her tears fell, red carnations sprang from the earth. Leonardo da Vinci painted a portrait in 1480 called The Madonna of the Carnation, in which the infant Jesus reaches for a carnation in his mother's hand, foretelling the event of the crucifixion.  

In Victorian times carnations could relay unspoken messages to an admirer. Red meant yes!, a white and red striped carnation meant I can't be with you, and yellow sent the sad message of no! 

Carnation is often thought of as old fashioned, maybe because of its powdery notes, but I've always loved it. Even in flower arrangements it has the reputation of being a cheap filler flower. Today my local grocery offers a large and varied selection of flowers for bouquets but twenty five years ago the choice was either roses or carnations. Often the carnations had been dyed ghastly colors and eventually the beautiful smell was bred out of them, I suppose in the interest of hardiness.

Dianthus Etro is what my memory is of the perfect carnation scent from when I was a little girl. There was a time that if you bought a little bouquet of carnations they would scent your whole house with their fresh presence and I have found that some floral distributors have returned to breeding scented carnations, realizing that scent is the flowers greatest gift. Dianthus is fairly one dimensional but it smells like the freshest, prettiest carnation ever. It does have a slightly powdery element but that is not its strongest quality. If you want realistic carnation you can't do much better than this. Disclaimer on this review and several others here; my bottles have been around for over five years so I don't know if any changes in formulations have taken place.

L'Artisan Oeillet Sauvage is another light take on the carnation scent and although I own a bottle, I find that I prefer the Etro for its spicy realistic notes. There is just a moment of alcohol scent in the initial spray but it disappears quickly. The carnation is softer and a little peppery, without that full-on rush of refreshing, nose clearing carnation scent. Notes of lily and ylang ylang provide a sweetness and temper the spiciness that can be found in carnation. The perfumer is Anne Flipo who has created several scents for L'Artisan. The initial release was, I believe, a limited edition and it got rave reviews. It was reissued and that is the series I have. Some people said the formulation had changed but others thought it was the same. I don't have an opinion as I didn't try the initial release. It is readily available at perfume discounters.

Prada Infusion d'Oeillet is another more transparent take on the carnation, although for the Prada Infusion line, it is one of the heavier hitters. The pale pink juice in the handsome Prada bottles is pretty alluring and if you like carnation you will definitely like this scent. I reviewed it fully here.

Miller Harris Fleur Oriental was released in 2000 and it uses carnation as the heart note for the oriental scent, cushioning it in a bed of vanilla and amber for a creamy base. The powdery note of carnation is further enhanced by a healthy dose of heliotrope. This is a softly romantic scent and a very pretty take on using carnation as a main note, but not a soliflore.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes is always curiously exploring new areas of scent and when something captures her interest she goes all in, exploring it from various aspects. Right now the scent of fur has captured her imagination but when I first became aware of Dawn's work about ten years ago she had been exploring different takes on carnation fragrances. Some are not in production anymore but she picked the best to survive, Oeillets Rouges (red carnations). This is the rich deep scent of carnation with a touch of clove, and a light touch of honey and ambergris give it a deep and lasting edge. This one is particularly unisex. Fleuriste was launched in 2015 and in a review here I said the following, "Fleuriste brings back that lovely memory of opening the refrigerated door and being engulfed in that exquisite smell of fresh carnations." Although either could be worn at any time I would say that Oeillets Rouges is for night wear and the freshness of Fleuriste lends itself to daytime wear. Lastly, DSH's Souvenir de Malmaison combines carnation with rose, spice and amber for a luxurious floriental. Dawn's appreciation for the carnation is evident in her scented creations and one of these three is sure to fulfill your search for a carnation scent. 

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Soie Rouge is listed as a fruity floral carnation. Again, I am going by an older sample so maybe the notes of pineapple, dried fruits, and apricot have lost their power. What I get is the standard carnation opening with the powdery notes of heliotrope emphasizing that aspect of carnation. This was one of the more powdery scents I tried so depending on your like or dislike for powdery scents, consider yourself warned. 

Fujit Amor by Jul Et Mad Paris is a fairly new creation from 2017 and features a most unusual interpretation of the carnation note, unlike any of the scents above. The inspiration is Rodin's statue Fujit Amor, two straining bodies captured in marble. The carnation is meant to represent the marble's cool touch, but warm and spicy notes of elemi, ginger, pink pepper, and  cinnamon portray the lovers' passion. An unusual combination of carnation and lavender is featured, two notes which on their own can be stingingly sharp and crisp, but here they blend to form a rather sweet and soft mixture which I can still smell on my skin the next day. I won a sample of this perfume after reading a review by Gail Gross on Cafleurebon and the sample was provided by Indigo Perfumery. Thank you to both Cafleurebon and Indigo Perfumery for making this review possible.

Carnation is the birth flower for January babies. There are many choices here, from a perfect scent copy of the flower to an unusual blend featuring the note. Anyone with a fondness for the scent of carnation should find something here to please.

Carnation photos are vintage clip art. Kitten and carnation photo from a painting by Leon Charles Huber.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Look Back at 2017; A Look Forward to 2018

I do not do a list of "best of" fragrances at the end of the year (although I love reading them) for two simple reasons. I did not get to test even a small percentage of the new perfume introductions this year, and my blog is more about scent memories or scents of place.  Lists that I enjoyed this year include:
Cafleurebon - Read their editor picks here
Colognoisseur - Read his best of here
Kafkaesque - For a list of perfumes you've never heard of but will now want, read here

Instead I am looking back at the year through my own personal lens, mainly what experiences my love of scent led me to this year. First and foremost was an interview I was able to do with master perfumer Francis Kurkdjian here. Besides the obvious thrill of speaking to this talented man I had two very specific gains. First, I went out of my comfort zone by just showing up at my local Neiman Marcus and requesting an interview, and Mr. Kurkdjian couldn't have been more gracious. For you extroverts out there this may sound like no big deal but for me it was a bold move. Secondly, after our interview turned more personal, I mentioned I had a trip planned to Spain where Mr. Kurkdjian likes to spend time. He recommended the area of Los Pueblos Blancos, specifically  Ronda, which I added to our itenary. It led to this review and added huge enjoyment to our trip as we would have never found this place left to our own devices.

The idea of fragrance as an art form continues to grow. I'm not in New York or London where there have been exhibits of this kind, but I was lucky enough to attend the Lush Gorilla Perfumes Vol. IV exhibit when it came to Dallas. I reviewed my experience here. It was fascinating to see an exploration of perfume expressed in both art installations and scented memories, and the theme of home vs. homelessness was a poignant one. I hope to be in the right place at the right time in 2018 to experience something like this again.

Looking back I see that my most often reviewed niche perfumeries were Zoologist Perfumes and DSH Perfumes. As I expressed here I am a longtime fan of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz perfumes and she has had an amazing spurt of creativity in 2017. Zoologist Perfumes continues to surprise me with its creativity and I look forward to seeing what perfumers Victor Wong will work with in 2018.  Mr. Wong seems to be a strong creative director by drawing very interesting work from the various perfumers who have worked with him. I must admit that these were some of the funnest reviews for me to write because the perfumes are often so unusual and one of my favorites was Bat which I wrote about almost a year ago here.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to record my combined love of travel and scent, two things that have always been intertwined for me. I realize these travel inspired perfume reviews are not for everyone, but that makes me appreciate all the more those of you who do me the honor of reading my pieces from time to time. My favorite travel inspired series of articles this year were a trip to India, which made me drag out many old favorites, and which I began writing about here. A short trip to Indonesia was creative inspiration (such a fascinating country!) and I started writing about that here. Lastly a summer trip to Spain inspired a whole new series of fragrance reviews which I wrote about here. 

I hope to be a little more prolific in 2018 but I will probably continue to write about perfumes that stir forgotten memories or fragrances that speak to me of place, rather than just blog about new scents as there are so many people who do that better than I can. I wish everyone a safe New Year's Eve as it's icy even here in North Texas, and may we all find at least one new scented love in 2018.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

REDUX: Silver Bells: Sparkling Perfumes To Wear This Christmas Holiday


I have had a busy month and have not kept up with reviewing but I hate to enter Christmas without a post. This is a re-post from last year and to date, it is the most read piece from my blog. I'm not sure why but I do love the picture from Dominique Corbasson. Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season to all!

Something about cold weather and the holidays makes me love wearing aldehyde perfumes. They are as sparkling and as effervescent as a fine dry champagne. They are crisp and chilly like a walk through Central Park in December. They feel dressy and special as befitting holiday parties and events, and go perfectly with gowns in satin or velvet, bedazzled heels, and sparkly earrings for ladies or the perfect outrageous cravat for the gents.

Aldehyde perfumes were popular in the 1960s but they gradually fell out of favor as a more natural approach to perfumes became popular in the 1990s, at least these are my memories. When I was a twenty-something I found strong aldehyde perfumes overbearing and obnoxious. I probably would have used the term "old lady perfumes" when describing them. But as the years ticked by and life experiences gained, somewhere along the way I changed my mind. Suddenly they seemed complex and mature compared to my everyday perfumes. There are many other bloggers that could tell you about the chemical process in aldehyde perfumes that cause the whoosh effect when the sprayed perfume hits the skin. I can't tell you why it happens but only that I love that rush of scent and that sensation of walking through a door into the cold chill of a winter day, the dry frigid air stinging your face and eyes. Some compare aldehydes to the pop of a champagne bottle and the fizz of the bubbles. My favorite time of year to wear these perfumes is in the cold weather when the perfume's amplified notes are muted by winter's chill and the notes feel sharp, silvery, and almost metallic, thus the reminder of silver bells in the song.

Clinique Wrappings was introduced in 1990 as only the second addition to the brand's line, twenty years after the debut of their first perfume Aromatics Elixir. Imagine these two strong take- no-prisoners perfumes and the gutsy statement that makes about how different the perfume market was then. Who knew that in less than a decade Clinique would be introducing the bland Happy and it's yearly flankers; meanwhile the Wrappings is rarely available on the Clinique counter or is hidden away like the relative that makes a bit of a scene after too much holiday tipple. If you want Wrappings you need to grab it around Christmas when Clinique makes it available. I must admit I forget about Wrappings every year until Christmas, when its name is subliminally triggered as I begin to wrap presents to put under the tree. Then when I spray it I am reminded why it is the perfect scent for this time of year. That rush that smells like frigid air. The green that smells like silvery fir needles laced with snow. Mind you, it's not a pine scented perfume, just very green. But at the beginning of the perfume's life on my skin it conjures the image of walking through a frozen forest, pine needles glistening with frozen ice glitter. Wrappings sparkles with aldehydes. There are a whole host of notes in this perfume but as was the custom of the era, no particular notes stand out. It is more a melange of floral and woody notes that eventually becomes more of a green chypre fragrance when the fizzy giddiness recedes.

A most traditional choice of perfume featuring aldehydes would be Chanel No. 5, but I prefer Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere.  As much as I'd like to wear the original for the grande dame she is, it comes off screechy and shrill on my skin. I find the Eau Premiere to have that champagne sparkle and pop without the bitter acrid edge of the original. This one is floral with heart notes of jasmin and rose. My bottle is from the original 2007 introduction of the perfume. It was reintroduced in 2015 and I am uncertain what changes if any were made to the formula. I don't think there has ever been a more perfect "little black dress" perfume created than the Chanel No. 5 in its various guises, and the Eau Premiere in particular makes me feel like I'm in my finery holding a bubbling glass of Tattingers.

DSH Perfumes Deco Diamonds was created by perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz as one of four perfumes to conceptually illustrate an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in 2014, Brilliant: Cartier in the Twentieth Century. Dawn has had several collaborations with the museum and this one attempted to capture the luxury and sparkle of the Cartier jewels in the exhibit. Deco Diamonds specifically was created as a tribute to the Cartier diamonds worn by the Duchess of Windsor. The copy on the DSH website says, "She was bold, stylish, hard and a force to be reckoned with. Deco Diamonds mirrors this ferocity in a most beautitful way."

Deco Diamonds also starts with the zoom of aldehydes which Dawn describes as "a blazing and dazzling white sparkle."  Eventually the perfume becomes even richer as intense florals of jasmine, tuberose, gardenia and honeysuckle peep through the galbanum and aldehydes. But what distinguishes this perfume and makes it quite different from the two above are the animalic notes of   civet and hyrax. These animalic notes are much more intense  than the ones found in DSH Perfumes Chinchilla, which I reviewed recently here. I enjoy the combination of the sparkling dazzle of aldehydes and the strong, almost feral agressiveness of the animalic notes, and I think it perfectly captures the spirit of the woman it was created to emulate, Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. A confident man or woman could rock this perfume but it's definitely not for the timid.

These three perfumes for me capture the essence of bustling city sidewalks, window displays brimming with holiday scenes and people carrying an excess of packages to soon be transformed to gifts under the tree. They also give me a sense of cool, silvery metal, thus the tie in with the song below, the original Silver Bells from the 1951 motion picture The Lemon Drop Kid.

Disclaimer: In reading up on aldehydes and their use in perfumes several said that comparing their use to adding sparkle and fizz was an amateurish take, and that the notes can often be soapy or waxy. I am in no way an expert but can only state my opinions, and what I get from the aldehydes is described as best I can in the above reviews.

Top photo Dominique Corbasson. Tree photo Google image.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Countdown: Dasein Fragrance Winter and Winter Nights

Winter Wonderland by Curious Bumblebee

Dasein Winter opens with an extremely fresh blue spruce and pine scent that makes me feel I've been dropped deep in an old forest, the branches laden with heavy snow. Or perhaps at the very least I am  at a fresh Christmas tree stand. There is an invigorating chill to this woody scent which feels cleansing and refreshing. Don't think room spray when you hear pine. There is a realistic freshness which makes you imagine the branches and the prickly stiff green needles. Lavender is listed as a note and usually I can pick lavender out easily but here it blends into the pine and spruce notes, adding an herbal oomph. There is something very peaceful and calming about this scent to me. I only wish that rush of freshness lasted a little longer, it is so stunning. Afterwards the scent settles down and softens, on me becoming more of a personal scent. After a few hours there is a faint honeyed sweetness that I sometimes get with lavender but the slight fragrance of the conifers is still present.

A Winter Forest Night by Moonlight by Lorinda Christene

Dasein Winter Nights is also a woody aromatic and although it is a very different scent from Winter, it continues with the same quiet contemplative air of stillness. Winter Nights has the forest element but the strongest scent is that of a fire smoldering somewhere nearby in the forest, perhaps from a chimney of some hidden cabin.  If you've been fortunate enough in life to be in a forest sitting in front of a campfire, you know the contentment and pleasure to be found there. In fact, I would go so far as to say if every child, rich or poor, could be exposed to nature and develop a love for the outdoors it would go a long way towards healing many of the problems we see  in society today. But I'm rambling. The point is that the scent provokes feelings of quiet well being. Notes listed are coastal forest, driftwood bonfire, cardamom tea, lavender, and wild musk. The campfire smell is the strongest scent initially but as the scent sits on my skin the forest note becomes more obvious, followed by the cardamom tea and lavender. Winter Nights changes quite a lot after several hours wear. The smokiness has disappeared and it has smoothed to a soft and pretty musky scent

Sam Rader, the perfumer and owner of Dasein Fragrances created both of these scents but Winter Nights was in a collaboration with Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors perfume. Ms. Rader's brief bio on the website mentions that her inspiration for starting Dasein was sniffing the air of Big Sur. This inspiration to bottle nature certainly shows in these two perfumes as they bring to mind memories of enjoying the great outdoors. The fragrances are available at Dasein Fragrance or Twisted Lily.

Here's a little Christmas music to get you in the mood for these fragrances.

The samples were purchased by myself from Twisted Lily.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Christmas Countdown: The Much Maligned Mugler Womanity

In a recent poll over at Fragrantica, Thierry Mugler Womanity was voted the eighth worst fragrance of all time. It was introduced in 2010 so evidently "of all time" has a relatively short band width. In this list it sits next to Angel, its more successful sister fragrance and possibly one of the most successful fragrance introductions of the 1990's. What this says to  me is that Thierry Mugler is not afraid to take chances and push boundaries when creating a new fragrance. Yes, Womanity is definitely different in the world of fig-based fragrances, and even now when I spray the  perfume, sometimes my initial reaction is a wrinkle of the nose. Eventually though the scent melds with my skin and becomes very moreish.


It's always been a bit of an odd duck with its chainmaille cap, looking to me like the girl who came to the dance trying to look really hip and everyone else went for the classic little black dress style. And the name Womanity has an awkward pretentiousness. It differentiates itself from other fig perfumes which concentrate on emphasizing dryness, coconut aspects, or pair fig with vanilla. On my skin there is a slight aquatic note in the opening, yet it doesn't scream beach perfume. Next there is a sliver of fresh coconut, and before I can absorb that it changes to roasted coconut, and then that note disappears. All these rather weird smells begin to merge with the fig into a non-sweet gourmand, if that is not a totally contradictory phrase. There is a salty phase courtesy of the caviar note, and this lingers throughout the life of the perfume.

My family lived in Scotland in the 1990's. I loved my introduction to British Christmas customs. I say British, because the celebration of Christmas was banned in Scotland for 400 years. This dates back to Oliver Cromwell, the original Mr. Grinch, and his edict of the Reformation. After about fifteen years the British had enough of this nonsense and overthrew the edict but the poor Scots continued to be held by the law for another 400 years, until the late 1950's. The Scots began to celebrate Christmas and Boxing Day, but the biggest celebration is their own, Hogmanay, a four day celebration of the New Year. To be in a Scottish pub for a group sing along of Auld Lang Syne is as good of a description of personal bliss as any. There were some differences in the Christmas dishes as compared to my American version of the holiday. The Yule log was a favorite and one of my personal favorites, was figgy pudding.

I will never forget my three then seven-year-olds singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas in their school Christmas performance. When the class got to the line, "We won't go until we've got some, so bring it out here," their voices rang with ardent fervor and they couldn't help grinning at the inherent naughtiness of it. They are darling little cakes but I must say they taste infinitely better at a three hundred year old Scottish inn with fireplace roaring and the hills outside covered in a white blanket, only broken by the line of the stone fences, than in the steamy Christmases I've experienced in Singapore or the subdued cold of Texas winters.

All this brings me to Womanity. Many reviewers on Fragrantica mention how it smells like salty water on skin and they love it as a summer perfume. While I can definitely see how they might interpret the notes this way, I prefer my summer figs to be dry and austere like Diptyque Philosykos. I prefer saving Womanity for autumn and winter wear and at Christmas if always reminds me of figgy pudding. It is not exactly gourmand; it could definitely be a lot sweeter with fig as a note. Its caviar salty note paired with fig makes Womanity seem almost crunchy and dense, like figgy pudding. Ultimately on my skin it coalesces into a warm and savory fig perfume, which turns into a musky skin scent the longer it's on my skin. The sillage and length of wear is very good, like most Mugler's.

This will always be a polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it perfume. It's just too different to appeal to everyone. Looking at Fragrantica reviews, a few of my favorite dislikes:
VioletBlack: "Ashtray, salt, watermelon."
BettyNoir: "It smells like food and crumbs. Who on earth is buying this vile mixture?"
Adrienne99: "Cold, metallic, heartless. Makes me feel physically sick, stomach turns."

But there are also many who love it:
ktyhan: "Reminds me of Diana Krall's voice, cool and sexy."

How do you feel about Womanity?  Have you worn it?

We all have our fragrant memories that fire up the neurotransmitters and allow us to relive moments in time, and for me Thierry Mugler Womanity equals figgy pudding. Below is a rendition of this old Christmas tune.

Note: My review is based on my personal bottle which is about five years.

Photos are Google images. video.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The DSH Perfumes I'm Wearing This Autumn

I have been a big fan of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, the prolific perfumer working out of Boulder, Colorado, for a long time. In my saved mail folder the earliest order I can find is dated 2010, but looking at the order I know I had been a customer a few years before that. The DSH Perfume site can be a bit overwhelming for the newbie, there are so many perfumes on offer. I have some older bottles and samples that have been discontinued since I originally ordered. I have a special box, photo below, where I keep all my DSH samples. It's a bit embarrassing how many sample vials there are, and I may have to upgrade to a larger box soon. For those of you unfamiliar with Dawn's perfumes, here are a few of my old favorites that are in my daily wear rotation this fall.

Mirabella has a vintage feel. On the DSH website it is listed as both a floriental and a chypre and I would say both are true. Every time I review one of Dawn's fragrances I mention the large list of notes listed in full on her website and this one is no exception. Of all these varied notes the one that stands out the most to me is the spiced plum. This isn't a big fruity floral but reads quiet and dignified on my skin. It hums rather than sings. The florals blend to a muted chorus in the background. I do pick out a leathery touch of osmanthus. The fruit in this perfume is dry rather than overripe. If I had to do a short description of this it would be: Quiet Beauty.

Jacques Linard still life

 Le Smoking it must be said is "le smoking" hot! I love this sophisticated scent that starts out with bitter green notes and then evolves into a chypre. Several years ago Dawn created a set of perfumes called the YSL Retrospective Collection in conjunction with an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum which highlighted Yves Saint Laurent's long and creative career. Dawn chose to highlight outfits specific to an era but in scented form, and Le Smoking was a tribute to YSL's first tuxedo for women. There is a note of blond tabac which smells wonderful when worn in cool weather. This is a gender bending fragrance, just like the outfit is illustrates. My only complaint is I wish it was stronger on my skin because I adore this one.

I have written about another favorite, Kohl Gris, here. Every holiday season Dawn creates a new scent and Kohl Gris was 2009's entry, meant to illustrate the color charcoal grey as well as to refer to smoky kohl-lined eyes. The base of this scent is ambergris but I get spicy notes of clove and a refreshing pine. This is a favorite scent to wear at Christmas but I wear it earlier to get in the mood.

Cafe Noir is another one I've written about before but I can't leave it out as it's my favorite coffee scented perfume, and coffee is the essence of fall weather, right? I am going to copy myself as I have already expressed my love for the scent here. "I have no desire to smell like a mug of Starbucks brew but DSH Perfumes Cafe Noir doesn't disappoint. It is a much more sophisticated and multifaceted perfume than one might expect from a coffee-centered perfume. On the DSH website the perfume is described as an oriental that harmonizes notes of spices, wood, resins, and florals with the beloved black coffee note. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's perfumes always have a long list of notes and this one is no exception. This perfume feels rich, sophisticated and embracing. Notes of bergamot add brightness to the labdanum, benzoin, and balsam. Cinnamon adds spicy heat and a touch of vanilla smooths and sweetens. I occasionally smell a sliver of green, more a thread than a note. This is a delicious brew which uses the idea of coffee as a jumping off point, then expands on this by adding lots of luscious notes."

I am old enough to remember the original YSL Opium perfume which still exists along with various flankers. In the above mentioned YSL Retrospective for the Denver Art Museum, Dawn created a scent called Euphorisme d'Opium which was a lighter rendition of the eau de toilette version. Customers asked for a take on the parfum original and Fou d'Opium was born. It is an animalic spicy oriental, just like the original but without the shrieking notes that some experience with today's version. It has the beauty and depth but does wear quieter, at least on me, than the YSL version. It's a beautiful trip down memory lane.

Jerry Hall in an ad for the original YSL Opium.

Lastly let me mention Chinchilla, which I have already described here. It is a floriental that manages to be both cozy and sexy, and it's the perfect lazy day scent to wear when cuddled under a blanket, watching a tv marathon or reading a book, and sipping on a mug of tea.

This is just a starting point; the DSH Perfumes website has a huge variety of perfumes as well as sample kits, including one featuring holiday scents. You can click on each perfume's description to follow the link to the website. And by the way, these are all wearable for men and women.

My box of DSH samples!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

D.S. & Durga El Cosmico

D.S. & Durga El Cosmico, created in 2015 for sale exclusively at the provisions store of the iconic far West Texas hotel cum campground by the same name, is now available to the public. You no longer have to travel to the back of beyond (although you should) to buy this perfume, but can find it both at the D.S. & Durga website as well as the usual retailers who carry the line. This perfume came about when Brooklyn Perfumer David Seth Moltz was intrigued by the idea of desert scents, plant life in the desert, and in fact the idea of minimalism. Paths crossed with Liz Lambert, hotelier and owner of El Cosmico, a campground in the high Chihuahuan Desert outside of the quirky little town of Marfa. El Cosmico sits a mile or so out of Marfa and offers tents, yurts, teepees, and old reconditioned metal trailers for the night, or you can come and pitch your own tent. It attracts modern day hippies, wandering artists, nature gypsies, or just normal folk in search of an experience out of the ordinary. For some the stay is a bit of a lark while for others it may be a weekend of soul rejuvenation. 

The Milky Way over the teepees at El Cosmico, photo by Savannah Williams.

I have been to Marfa and stayed at El Cosmico and I can tell you, the perfumer really nailed it. I wrote last year about the perfume Memo Marfa and although I loved the scent, I struggled to identify it with the place I had visited. There is no such conflict with El Cosmico. The essence of the place has been captured: dry desert air, the scent of fragrant desert wood, and the feeling of big open skies.

When I first spray El Cosmico the smell reminds me of the pinion campfire that burned the night we were there, even though it was May. The desert days are hot but at night the temperature plunges to very chilly depths. We were staying in a trailer and the pile of blankets on the bed, which had looked a bit silly in the warm afternoon, were much needed that night. You are basically staying in a big metal box that turns into a refrigerator at night. The opening notes of El Cosmico are listed as desert shrubs, desert pepper, and pinion pine. Pinion pine is found in the high altitude area of the southwestern United States in dry regions where Ponderosa Pine cannot survive. Pinion wood smells of pine when burning, but it is not the pine scent of the North Woods or the Christmas tree scent of pine. It is altogether drier and parched, without the refreshing scent of the green needles.

A scene at El Cosmico from

El Cosmico's heart notes are creosote and oak, and base notes are dry sand accord, khella, and shrub wax. Creosote is a desert bush that has evolved to survive in the harsh dry climates of the American southwest. It only breathes in the cooler morning time, and as temperatures rise it stops the photosynthesis process in order to survive. Creosote contains oils that smell of pine, citrus, rosemary, and wood. Khella has a herbaceous smell. To be honest, the perfume doesn't change a whole lot while I'm wearing it. It is not a series of notes unfolding one by one, but rather the snapshot of a place. Anyone who has been to the arid deserts which exist at higher elevations will recognize the smell of the pinon pine, the bone dry woods, herbal plants able to eek out survival in the unforgiving climate, and the sense of space and fresh air. To understand the perfume I'll tell you a little more about the place it commemorates.

People come to El Cosmico for different things. Marfa is an artistic outpost in the desert and El Cosmico regularly hosts music concerts. 

Others come for the quiet and the stillness. They eschew the fancier hotel in the one-stoplight town in order to commune more closely with nature. Marfa and this area of West Texas is in a swath of the United States that has less light pollution. To be under a velvet sky studded with twinkling bright stars is to realize what an infinitesimally small part of the universe you are. This is a wonder that sadly many young people today have never experienced. There is an observatory with a huge telescope not too far away and many people come for what they call "star parties". 

Stargazers at Marfa from

Some come for the art. There's the Chinati Foundation of contemporary art and the Instagram worthy Prada, Marfa store which was built as an art installation in the desert. I talk more about Marfa and the El Cosmico campground in my post here.

My trip to far west Texas and El Cosmico was several years ago in what would turn out to be the last family vacation before our three offspring graduated college and started their own careers and lives. My husband had left a job a few months before that had been extremely trying and we made the decision to take a few months off before he would look for work again. With three children in college, some of our friends and family were worried and/or curious about the timing of this decision. When I was preparing that year's annual Christmas letter, I wanted to post this photo of my husband and son in front of the trailer we stayed in at El Cosmico with the caption, "the rumors of our downturn in fortunes has been greatly exaggerated." I thought it was funny but the idea was nixed!

At El Cosmico, 2011.

I will be upfront and say I can't separate my feelings for the experience that this perfume brings to mind from the scent itself. I can see how someone else might smell it and find it too linear or unexciting. For me, it conjures up the best memories of a trip to a place with an amazing landscape, a sense of isolation from the rumble of the everyday world, and the serenity that resulted. I think anyone who has experienced the desert southwest will recognize what the perfumer has tried to recreate.

One last note, while I was testing this perfume I went to a class my yoga studio calls Bliss that they only hold once a month. It is at night and the room is lit with twinkling strands of lights and candles. You basically hold stretch poses and there's no real work, which is bliss! The instructor comes around and adjusts your position and you realize the strength in the power of touch. It's very zen and this perfume was the perfect scent to help me enter that tranquil space.

The sample of El Cosmico was my own.