Monday, December 13, 2021

Christmas Countdown: St Lucia's Day! Celebrated With DSH Perfumes Ruby Candlelight, Maccabees, and Lumiere


Today, December 13th is St. Lucia's Day, celebrated in Sweden as well as other Nordic countries. I had always thought it was a pagan festival, bringing light to the longest day of the year, but in researching for this post I found out that actually quite the opposite is true. The day was founded to honor St. Lucy, a Christian martyr killed by the Romans in the year 304. Legend has it that St. Lucy took food to the Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs. (Have  you ever been there? It's a fascinating side trip if you ever get to Rome). She wanted to carry as much food and water as possible, so she wore a crown of candles on her head to light the way through the dark tunnels.

Today the celebration falls on the longest night of the year and is meant to bring hope and life, and to celebrate the return of light as the days will again start to become longer. In Swedish homes, the eldest daughter would dress in white and bring lussekatter (saffron bread) and coffee to the family. Each town chooses a girl to represent St. Lucia who marches in a processional with other children robed in white and wearing wreath-like crowns. Traditionally a crown of candles was worn, but in more recent times the flames are usually replaced with bulbs for obvious reasons. They wear white robes to represent purity and a red sash to signify the blood of the martyrs. 

To commemorate this day I turn to one of my favorite perfumers, nestled deep in the mountains of Boulder, Colorado, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes. Every year for the past twenty one years Dawn has created a perfume for the holiday season. Ruby Candlelight is the 2021 holiday perfume. (Spoiler alert: she sells two discovery sets featuring all these scents). Dawn had a very specific memory from her own Christmas celebrations as a child. Her mother had advent rituals, one of which was a candle holder with ruby-colored glass and a golden angel on top. When lit, the flame would send the metal angels spinning. I have seen these referred to as angel chimes. It all made a deep impression on young Dawn, and she remembers the ritual being "solemn, mysterious, and joyful".

She remembered that the candles had a raspberry scent, so she has recreated the memory with scents of raspberry blending with melted wax, as well as the ambiance of the Christmas tree scent in the background. Ruby Candlelight is a softly solemn recreation of this ritual.

The scent does open with raspberry, the note quivering alone for a moment after application. Then it is joined by the smell of wax melting as it drips down the candlesticks. The raspberry is still very quietly present, not really tart but more just incorporated into the wax smell. As the scent deepens I get the occasional whiff of a Christmas tree in the background. Ruby Candlelight wears very close to my skin, creating an aura as intimate and special as the one Dawn has remembered and recreated from all those years ago!

I was so taken with this story that I did a little searching. I remembered seeing these candelabras years ago when I was at the German Christmas markets. I couldn't find any with the ruby colored glass holders that Dawn remembered, but I've found some at World Market and Vermont Country Store, and I'm thinking I may create my own ritual with my young grandchildren!

Dawn has other Christmas scents that give the smell of candles burning, which to me are so indicative of the St. Lucia crown historically worn on this day. Maccabees was Dawn's 19th holiday scent, inspired by the celebration of Hanukkah. It came out in that golden Christmas of 2019, right before the world descended into Covid chaos!

During the Maccabean revolt in ancient times there is a story of the rededication of the temple and the lighting of the Menorah. The oil to light the lamp was only enough for one day but lasted a miraculous eight days. Maccabee remembers this occasion through a scent seeped in the smell of beeswax candles. Today's candle tapers are usually dripless, and if this is all you've experienced than you've never known the luscious honeyed waxy smell that dripping accumulating candles impart!

There is a very light resin and incense aura in the background, but on my skin it is the honeyed beeswax scent that dominates. It is worth mentioning that the honey note is not strong or sweet, but really does take on the beeswax candle smell. 

This last scent I'm including partially because of its name, Lumiere, meaning light, which has been the theme here. At the beginning of the scent a bright flash of bergamot glows like a candle flickering in the dark. Dawn always lists the notes of her perfumes, and reading this one it sounds like a delicious spice cake. There is cardomom, coffee, cinnamon leaf, coriander, boozy notes, nutmeg, hazelnut, rum, and too much more too name. So this scent does not have the candle wax accord of the two previous fragrances, but it does do a good job of juggling light and dark notes. All the warming spices notes are balanced by a glowing brightness, so you get traditional Christmas scents with the touch of luminosity which eventually smells like golden spice.

I became so fascinated with the beautiful ceremony of St. Lucia's Day while writing about it here. I have two youtube videos explaining the celebration more. The first is a two-minute version showing the procession into the church with participants singing the St. Lucia song. These brave girls, with real candles flaming on their heads!

The second is a "St. Lucia day primer for dummies" with lots of interesting facts and history.

I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to St. Lucia's Day and to DSH Perfumes!

Top photo Pinterest images. Perfume samples are my own.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Christmas Countdown: bdk parfums Gris Charnel

When I bought my bottle of Gris Charnel this summer, I knew I would be playing a waiting game. I loved the scent, but for me it was definitely a fragrance that needed the snap of colder weather. Well, I've been waiting through an unseasonably warm autumn, but finally temperatures are dropping and I can give this one some wear and appreciation!

bdk parfums hit the perfume world with a big splash about a year ago. I participated in a very Covid-inspired trend, the ZOOM masterclass, to try various scents online with their brand ambassador and the lovely Josie from Osswald NYC. All the scents were nice in one way or the other, but the one that definitely impressed me the most was Gris Charnel

Over past Christmas seasons I have written posts about perfumes that feel silvery and festive as suits the season. You will find those here and here. Gris is French for gray, and if you are someone who gets color sensations when you try perfume, Gris Charnel imparts the colors of gray and silver. I was so excited to find another one of these scents that give the sensation of cold air going up the nose and make you feel the need to go grab a sweater, that I failed to realize one of the main notes. fig. Fig is a favorite note of mine, but one I usually associate more with summer scents. Once I knew it was there it was obvious, but I was so caught up in the warmth, the spice, the cooling feeling it imparted, that I was too busy swooning to dissect notes.

The opening has notes of fig, black tea, and cardomom. At this time of year this brings to mind the wonderful but brief time we lived in Scotland, and feasting on fine Christmas dinners at old mansions converted to restaurants with fireplaces roaring and snow blanketed fields. At this time of year a Christmas pudding was the grand finale to a magnificent feast. (I won't get into the technical differences between Christmas pudding and figgy pudding, but the Christmas carol with the refrain, "now bring me a figgy pudding," was a favorite with my young children). I have taken a trip down memory lane, one of the best pleasures that smell can impart, but suffice it to say the opening of Gris Charnel feels warm, cozy, and intimate. It also reminds me of the delicious spicy and fruity smell of this fragrant treat. Go here for a recipe.

 Heart notes in Gris Charnel include iris and bourbon vetiver. I think the iris note is part of what gives me the chilly effect in this perfume. I was not familiar with bourbon vetiver, just the ordinary stuff, so I looked it up. It is described as smoky, woody, earthy, and rich, which probably explains the slight dry smoke I smell after the perfume has been on my skin for awhile.

Sandalwood and tonka bean are the base notes, but they make their presence known much earlier. The sandalwood displays as creamy, which is further emphasized by the tonka's warm rum and vanilla scented presence.  I think what makes this scent work so well for me is the back and forth between chilly notes (iris) and warm notes (fig), and spicy notes (cardomom) and sweet notes (tonka). They all balance each other out with perfection.

This scent eventually becomes a "your skin but better" scent. In all honesty I love this scent enough to wear it anytime of year, but now is the time for it to really shine.

Top photo my own. I bought my bottle of bdk Gris Charnel. Opinions are my own.


Monday, December 6, 2021

Christmas Countdown: Franck Boclet Fir Balsam

Is there anything more symbolic of the Christmas season than bedecked Christmas trees with softly glowing lights? Although I no longer have a live tree in the house, I do my best to replicate their smell which is so indicative of Christmas. Many turn to scents of fir and pine trees in the winter to bring to mind a walk through crisply cold woods, but these scents seem especially apropos at Christmas. One such contender is Franck Boclet Fir Balsam

Fir Balsam opens with notes of red berries, artemisia, and cardomom. The artemisia has a bitter green smell, but it is savory and appealing. The cardomom adds more spiciness. The middle notes are fir balsam, patchouli, and rose. The fresh outdoor smell of the fir tree is the most prevalent smell, and the patchouli adds a bit of earthiness. The smell of the fir balsam is subtle and not at all overpowering.

Photo from

Base notes are benzoin, vanilla, and labdanum, a delicious mix of resins. I have tried quite a few perfumes by Franck Boclet and they all have shared the trait of being at least slightly gourmand. Here it is subtle, as is the whole scent. The deepness of the benzoin and labdanum is tempered by the addition of vanilla to lighten and sweeten. This, combined with the fir scent make a merry Christmas scent indeed! They market this scent to men, but I am very comfortable wearing it and find it very unisex pleasing. My last word on this, performance. Sometimes pine or fir scents can be overpowering. Not so, here. This is a subtle scent, and I actually wish it lasted a bit longer on me, but it is at a pretty good price point so I don't mind respraying.

Franck Boclet is a French designer of men's clothing, specializing in the colors of black and white. He refers to his style as "rock and riot". He began introducing perfumes to his brand in 2013 and now has more than 40 fragrances.

Top photo: "Stick With Me Chocolate" by Lisa Feng. Bottom Photo: Google Image. The perfume and opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

La Fleur by Livvy Presents "The Other Side of Me" (TOSUM)

 Olivia Larson of La Fleur by Livvy has released the second in her series of natural perfumes based on Impressionist artists of France, called The Other Side of Me, or TOSUM for brevity. The first perfume in the series was inspired by Monet, truly the father of the Impressionists movement, and Livvy's perfume, A Walk In Giverny, is a truly gorgeous scent representing a stroll through Monet's garden. This second fragrance is inspired by lesser known artist Frederic Bazille, who painted some of his best known works at just twenty three years of age. His career as a painter was cut short as he died on the battlefield during the Franco-Prussian war at a mere twenty eight years of age. One of his more famous paintings is shown below. Although it hardly looks revolutionary today, at the time it was considered quite daring to paint a portrait en plein aire, and in particular, to only show the subject's back.

The Pink Dress (View of Castelnau-le-Lez, Hérault) 1864 Museée D"Orsay

The Other Side of Me is an ode to the artist made in the style of a modern chypre. TOSUM opens with a bright peppery yuzu note, a little strident and bright. This starts to morph fairly quickly into a more earthy smell. As befitting a natural perfume, it smells very of nature. It is like strolling through a forest path, the leaves damp underfoot, and that funkalicious smell of nature in its decomposing state. There is a little bit of an earthy mushroom feel, although this is just an effect. Mushroom is not a note in TOSUM.

Forest Floor. Pinterest image:

This pungency is short lived on my skin but it does announce in no uncertain terms, this is a natural perfume. You just don't get these notes in synthetic fragrances. I used to live in Scotland, and this smell brings to mind the scent of many tramps through nearby woods, through trees and moss-covered rocky trails. There is a quality of dampness and fresh air. Before I continue, let me list the notes found in the perfume. 

Olivia Larson calls herself a rebel perfumer, just as the Impressionist painters were rebels in their own time. She is able to source natural organic, wild, and rare ingredients for her perfume palette. The nose for this perfume is Andrej Babicky, as it was with A Walk In Giverny.

As the perfume seemingly melts into my skin it becomes warmer and smoother, exuding a luxurious richness. The moss and leaves have melted away, and now I'm left with the impression of a woodland scene at the end of the day, when everything is dusky shadows but the sky is gilded by the last golden moments of  sunlight.

As you may determine from my description, it is hard to read the notes and get an accurate depiction of what you will smell. I think that is a special magic of natural perfumes. They really create an individual experience according to who is wearing the perfume, making it very personal.

Olivia and Andrej have created a very different but another beautiful scent to add to the Impressions Collection. 

Photos are from the perfumer's website:  Thank you to the perfumer for sending me a sample of this perfume. Opinions are my own.