ABOUT THE HOUSE: “Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is a true underground force in niche perfumery. DSH, as she is called by her devoted following, has been working with aromatics for nearly 30 years, and is a pioneer of the American indie perfumery movement. She has developed many innovative concept perfumes and worked with top designers to consult and create exclusive perfumes. “Art Projects”, is a concept line that she has been creating in her studio for the past few years combining a synesthetic approach to perfume design and creating aroma-art expressions for Denver Art Museum, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA), the Dairy Center for the Arts and her own exhibitions.…”
On offer DSH makes available revolving perfume standards (hardly ‘standard’), heirloom elixirs on a limited basis, and various size bottles and changing offerings, check their current site for recommendations, and even the latest on the Art Scent Museum. Also, please do also take some time to view Dawn’s paintings as well.
HOUSE: DSH Perfumes
NOSE: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
Hinoki (86%): Soft of a lemon chiffon buttered essence. Still in lies a depth that is incredibly painterly. I also get cinnamon though unlisted as a note. That could easily be the actual star here, the hinoki bark. It’s exciting to experience this one as the note has often escaped me in a handful of fragrances I’ve experienced over the years. In this perfume oil its undeniable, luminous, and has an undulating resinous spice all of its own natural making. This smells like Summer camp in the elapsing moments of the season, trees rich in sap and emitting the lightest sweetness into the morning air enriched with dew and raw earth.
Notes: amber, sandalwood, patchouli, cedar, hinoki, incense, lemon, rosewood, white oak
Manroot (2020, 88%): Wow, this is unexpected, and so incredibly dry. This conjures a duality between the inside and out for me. On one hand I’m in the garden, close to the vegetal roots, and leaves and growth. On the second hand I’m suddenly in a department store – something that breathes a sense of newness. I honestly do not know where else I’ve smelled this sort of aroma. Perhaps its the strangely hallucinatory combination of three ‘A’ notes: ambergris, ambrette seed, angelica. I’m not kidding, what an unusual accord, and I very much like the way this casts a certain sense of spectral light. This spice is so fleeting, but it’s there, and I get this vague wax shell style accord, that and freshly pressed linens. Is it the ginseng that is throwing me into this conceptual awakening? In some way it’s a bit of an olfactory umami sensation that comes through. If a perfume brings up so many questions and curiosities, it has certainly fulfilled its purpose.
Notes: ambergris, sandalwood, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, rose otto, carrot greens, ambrette seed, costus, iris, ginseng, grandiflorum jasmine, oakmoss, immortelle, vetiver, iris, angelica, orris root, turmeric, violet, white pepper
Cuir et Champignon (2009, 85%): When I saw the breakdown I was slightly intimidated by the combination, but I shouldn’t have been, save for the awesome environmental flora/fauna. The clove and accompanying spice accord really uplifts thisnin a special way. This takes from some of the age-old hippy trophy cabinet of elixirs and updates it for a generation of hipsters, and the rest of us as well, of course. Deep amber honey matched with a smooth leather note seem to give this an outer gloss that comes off like a most enchanted crushed velvet. It’s earthy but modern, reminding me slightly of a work by Nadia Z, but to be honest I like this much more. The overall feel of the fragrance is balmy and warmhearted with the most rooted and somewhat removed bitter/sweetness.
Notes: bergamot, castoreum, capes, civet, clary sage, clove bud, galbanum, guaiacwood, hiba, cedar, honey, vetiver, leather, neroli, orris, peru balsam, sandalwood, tobacco, tuberose, chamomile
Become the Shaman (2017, 92%): Oh. Yes. I’ll have what she, he and they are having. This speaks to my soul. It’s a perfect commingling of woody spirits and a sly vanilla bean. There’s a smoky impression in its woodland whispers that projects into the subconscious. A centering scent. The most meditative of the lot, this perfume has an edgeless, carefree quality that will appeal to those looking for a very personal fragrance that celebrates the quietude of the forest.
Notes: amyris, copal, guaiacwood, incense, milkweed, palo santo, peru balsam, cedar, tobacco, tonka bean, vanilla absolute, white sagebrush
Sweet Pine Tar (2020, 89%): In what I may have expected to bowl me over, I eat my own reasoning to ‘expect the unexpected’. This starts off incredibly delicately, near invisible, though it has a presence, even feet away. In one that includes some of my absolute favorite notes on the planet (olibanum, birch tar, balsams) this provides those rich, yet distant, wood shavings aplenty. But it stays so close to the skin, and is incredibly thoughtful of the way in which it portrays these sacred earthly ingredients. It’s a bewitching personal perfume that presents a ‘real’ spatial mood as if you are amid the evergreens, extruded of their inestimable balsamic spirit. To me this is ghostly, haunting, penetrating the psyche.
Notes: balsam fir, birch tar, bourbon vanilla, charcoal, conifer, fir needle, olibanum, labdanum, mitti attar, patchouli C02, pine moss, pine needle, terebinth, cedar
Damasq / June Roses No.2 (2021, 87%): Beautiful. A bountiful rose bouquet, a signature-style perfume that states its case for the enduring flower. It’s a Summery vintage rose garden with all the trimmings. For its huge note breakdown, it comes down to the simple stem. What a thickly rich, ebullient sillage! Stylish, classic, need I say more?
Notes: cedar, sandalwood, bergamot, cassis bud, centifolia rose absolute, clove bud, copaiba balsam, Damask rose absolute, patchouli, rose geranium, galbanum, grandiflora jasmine, beeswax, incense, labdanum, Moroccan rose absolute, musk, oppoponax, orris concrete, palma rosa, raspberry leaf absolute, damascena absolute, siam benzoin, styrax, tobacco, vanilla absolute, violet leaf absolute
New Hope (2021, 83%): A pure springtime botanical perfume that emits the soft sweetness of linden blossom, and lilac and potentially magnolia. Aside from the Damasq, this is the biggest floral in the batch. With a chorus of honey the bouquet is alive with lush garden herbal essences as well. The offering of le mystere de la grande fleurs teeters between genders and the needle ends in the androgynous in-between. This beckons for your closer inspection, and attention. Once in the heart the sheen is more translucent, air-brushed, slightly waxy at the tips, but like fine silk with a kiss of bark with its an embedded, undeniable satiny gloss.
Notes: grape hyacinth (natural) accord lilac (natural accord), neroli, bergamot, sandalwood, ambrette, orris
Floating Amongst the Stars (85%): Available for a limited time (through July 3, 2021) as an ‘heirloom elixir’ in both EDP and Extrait concentrations. The sheer fragrance brings a hushed open-air kinesthesia. It has a similar illusory quality to that of Australian perfume house Mihan Aromatics’ ‘Guilty Story’ with only two similar ingredients – and neither seem to rise to make the connection. The incense has this transparent pulsation. DSH has definitely succeeded in striking this accord that levitates just over the horizon line. It’s watery, ozonic, and just a touch earthy, bringing together most of the elements. And to be honest, I love that I got to experience this before it dissipated into the ether, as it resonates with the literal temperament of the concept herein.
Notes: aldehydes, amber, ambergris, bergamot, patchouli, frankincense C02, grandiflora jasmine, musk, orris, ozone, rose petals, space accord, stellar char, cedar
Black Viola (2021, 84%): Within this short spotlight on the house, this is likely the only fragrance that projects a definitive sweetness, at about 40% of its potential decibels. Also its the first, thus far, that has a twinge of green leafiness that stands out to me, perhaps the raspberry I’d assume. The fragrance is a walk through a special garden in Springtime. I’m thrilled to again contradict my own tastes as this by including fig and cassis has surprised even my personal palate. It’s certainly the mossy muskiness that tilts my wheels in a forward-thinking direction. If this were music it would be classic jazz, colorful and well-oiled, loose but articulate. A unique fragrance with a nod to the classic past.
Notes: ambergris, ambrette seed, cedar, sandalwood, black fig, Bulgarian rose absolute, cabernet, cassis bud, civet, rose geranium, green oak moss, mimosa, musk, myrrh gum, orris concrete, raspberry leaf, tobacco, rose otto, violet
Ghosted Dancehall (2020, podcast)