Fragrance Reviews DSH Perfumes: Animal, Vegetable, Floral, Spiritual...

DSH Perfumes: Animal, Vegetable, Floral, Spiritual...

02/16/17 09:58:28 (5 comments)

by: Jodi Battershell, Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison, Ida Meister, John Biebel

perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz sniffing a glass perfume bottle stopper

DSH Perfumes has many fans among our Fragrantica staff (and among our Fragrantica members!). With well over 200 perfumes now in our database (14 of which were released in 2016 alone), the talented and prolific Dawn Spencer Hurwitz truly has something to offer everyone. If her extensive back catalog doesn't include what you're looking for, I'm confident she can craft it for you if you tell her what it is. She has a remarkable ability to capture the essence of something—a thought, an image, a mood, words, music—in fragrant form. Never one to rest on her laurels, she utilizes her creativity to maximum effect, developing new projects for herself and accepting commissions or collaborations to keep the creative juice (and jus!) flowing.

Several of us tried a group of new Fall and Winter releases from DSH at the same time. As we did with our 2016 articles on the DSH Chroma Collection (Part 1 and Part 2), we're collaborating to bring you multiple perspectives about these very diverse scents in a single article.—Jodi Battershell


By:  Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

Although I'm not typically a fan of chypres, Dawn has a way with dry, earthy and mossy aromas that I find not just intriguing, but intoxicating. Like her Rendezvous from earlier this year (reviewed by Ida HERE), Chinchilla is a scent that on paper, I would probably overlook. On my skin however, the fine ingredients sing and this retro-animalic offers a by turns floral, honeyed and musky experience.

A glamorous woman from the 1920s wearing a chinchilla coat

Named for the infamous fur of the Andean rodent, Dawn intended the fragrance to evoke a bygone era, a night of dancing at a Grand Hotel. The old world opulence is immediately perceivable as rarely does one experience this kind of aroma these days. That being said, I was immediately reminded of Rabanne's superb 1985 masterpiece La Nuit, with its similar focus on honey, oakmoss, civet, musk and rose. For that matter this would likely suit lovers of fragrances like Diva, Knowing, Cabochard, Teatro all Scalla, or Picasso.

In Chinchilla, the honey is the star; as it settles, an earthy, ambery musk emerges, almost leathery. The florals here are a gentle rose and a clovey carnation. Though the aroma opens with a punch, it quickly settles to a low-sillage skinscent, but then again I only used a tiny amount of my sample. I can only imagine what it might be like to wear this a little more luxuriously on a chilly night, and the way in which it might indeed wrap its wearer in a warm coat of aroma.


By: Jodi Battershell

She does so many things well, but I really think Dawn has a special talent for green notes, from the juiciest cucumber to the driest vetiver and any verdant variation in between. Vert et Noir ("Green and Black") was part of the Eau Fraiche collection DSH released in 2016 (Ida reviewed the other two scents in the collection, Kaleidoscope and Wasabi Shiso, HERE). All three fragrances emphasized vegetable notes but took the theme in three very different directions.

a green and black basketball

With a surprising inspiration (her son's green and black basketball, of all things!), Dawn has spun us a salad of lettuce, celery and cucumber, enhanced it with sweet melon and a pleasant vetiver, then dressed it with black pepper and black licorice. Citrus notes serve as a grilled lemon squeezed over our fresh romaine to enhance its crispness. Musk gives the fragrance a little salty skin aroma but mostly extends the longevity of the precious greens and contrasting spices.

This is such an unusual fragrance that I can think of no other comparable fragrances except another DSH release, Albino (A Study in White), which utilized raspberry, rhubarb, basil and vetiver to conjure a green garden aroma. Vert et Noir skews masculine, despite the supporting traditionally "feminine" floral notes of jasmine, freesia and cyclamen. So many green fragrances for women take a turn towards the floral, whereas the men's green fragrances go herbal. The vegetable overtones in Vert et Noir offer a nice alternative for men or women looking for a different kind of green.

The effect of so many cool notes on top of other cool notes was surely a delight on warmer days, but wearing Vert et Noir in the chilly gray of winter puts a spring in my step, too. Fragrances like this are a pleasure to use any time of year and are excellent for office wear and casual occasions. Vert et Noir goes on loud but settles in 30 minutes or so to a fresh, crisp green aura that will brighten your day. 


By: Ida Meister

Josephine de Beauharnais decided to purchase a dilapidated large estate and rundown manor house in April of 1799 for her husband [then General Napoléon Bonaparte] and herself while he was overseas fighting his Egyptian Campaign. Malmaison was in ruin and required a massively expensive overhaul in order to be at all habitable;  it wasn't exactly 'bon marché' to begin with. When Napoléon returned, he was simply furious.

a portrait of Empress Josephine by ean Louis Victor Viger du Vigneau

The Empress Josephine, by Jean Louis Victor Viger du Vigneau

What was to become a national treasure, a personal respite, and the Château de Malmaison—all 150 acres of it—appeared no more than a misery.

Josephine longed so for gardens! Her native Martinique was so lush. She built an orangérie for her beloved pineapples, an immense coal-heated greenhouse for exotic plants. Her rose gardens became legendary: Pierre-Joseph Redouté traveled from Belgium to paint and immortalize her lilies and roses. And carnations: she loved them as well.

Napoléon and Josephine may have divorced—but she remained at Malmaison until her death in 1814. After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoléon retired there in 1815 before his inevitable exile.

A carnation illustration by Redoute

Floris of London created a very beautiful carnation soliflore named Malmaison in 1830; it was formally resurrected in 1999 although it had been clearly reformulated several times prior to that. Like many earlier Floris perfumes, it was genteel in nature, with a spicy creaminess grounded in a softly woody musk; it had lost some of its subtlety, then was discontinued.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz pays homage to the carnation via so many dear perfumes: Fleuriste, Poivre, Oeillets Rouges, l'Opera des Rouges et des Roses [so redolent of the original Caron Bellodgia], Minuit, Fou d'Opium, Euphorisme d'Opium, Queen—and now, in Souvenir de Malmaison.

Souvenir comes very close to the Floris Malmaison with which I was well-acquainted in the 70s, and that is good news indeed.

Heaven knows, I adore a fine carnation perfume.

Citrus and black pepper tickle the nose, closely trailed by generously fulsome florals and fiery cinnamon and clove. Dawn always employs exquisite roses, and her carnation is a sumptuous one; ylang-ylang adds its creamy hues. Grandiflorum is my preferred jasmine, with its sweetly feral nature. It is always delighted to accompany the roses, ambergris, a fine sandalwood, cedar.

I am gratified by the abundance of botanical goodness which suffuses Souvenir. The base is ambery soft, lush with tolu, vanilla, labdanum and patchouli—all blissfully bound to one another like aromatic tapestry. 

For those of us who crave beauty combined with comfort and wearability, Souvenir de Malmaison will fit the bill marvelously.

It feels timeless, not dated.


By: John Biebel

Perfume’s name is born out of fire; through the burning of resins, the air is transformed and becomes like a message sent to the heavens. This is an offering, but also speaks volumes about the unknowable, the unseen. What was solid is now a vapor, and then invisible.DSH Perfumes explores this ancient cosmic thread in the perfume Axis Mundi (The Cosmic Center). She creates, with primarily ancient incense ingredients, an oriental perfume that could easily have emitted from censers around the Nile thousands of years ago.

Ygdrassil as a representation of Axis Mundi, a tree connecting heaven, earth and the underworld

Yggdrassil, a representation of axis mundi

And yet, in what feels like a deliberate touch of the hand, this perfume is at once contemporary. Is it because these elements have always been with us? It’s hard to know for sure, but something intriguing is bound together with elemi, amber, olibanum, agar, and myrrh. Wood and wood’s tears join into a line of smoke as that from a candle, reaching up and up. It resembles the axis mundi itself, a cosmic, unseeable structure of connection between the real world and the spirit, a kind of esoteric directional pole. Lighter touches are elicited with beautiful oddities like champa flower (or champaca), the sweet, slightly sour, delicious Indian blossom that blends beautifully with wood and incense. Delicate, ancient Amyris also adds it’s lovely touch of citrus-flowers from the torchwood tree that waft between grainy wood and golden sparkle.

Axis Mundi, despite all its heavy, dense base notes, is a remarkably airy perfume. It may be the particular note of myrrh that contributes this quality—that quiet, patient resin that bends with vanilla-like sweetness on lofty clouds. The smoke in this cosmic center appears at the very beginning then gives way to a bold center of amber, and finally a spacious armature of its former self. It burns away with a gentle rumble. A gracious and peculiarly familiar personal axis.

Thank you to DSH Perfumes for the opportunity to try these four fragrances.  All four are available in samples and a variety of sizes and formats on the official DSH Perfumes website, with international shipping offered.


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drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Well, NOW I need to try BOTH Minuit and Souvenir De Malmaison! Thanks seem to be in order.... I think. ;)


Chinchilla is one of the very finest perfumes of 2016. It is gorgeous and wraps you in a warm embrace like a fine fur stole. I've seriously gone through 3/4 of my bottle in about a month. A plush and beautiful masterpiece. I am dying to try Dawn's Rendezvous and Vanille Botanique.


@mutzi: I LOVE Minuit, one of my favorites from Dawn!


Dawn is a genius at what she does. My personal favorite is Minuit, a dark (almost black) spicy rose and, I believe, a must try for anyone.


Ooh now I want to try these esp. Chinchilla and Malmaison. I have her Scent of Hope (fb) and am always on the verge of ordering Marzipan. Dawn does have a deft hand indeed.


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