Monday, September 12, 2016

DSH Perfumes: Chinchilla, Kaleidoscope, Mahjoun, Firefly, Vanille Botanique, Nourouz

Every now and then, a bucket list wish gets to be crossed off. This week, I had the honorable pleasure of being able to visit DSH (Dawn Spencer Hurwitz) Perfumes' shop, the Essense Studio, in Boulder, Colorado. (Link to the website: )

She greeted me when I entered, and when I explained that a friend had gotten me into niche/indie perfumes several years ago and I was there to find something for her, Dawn (I hope she doesn't mind me calling her that) seemed immediately interested in helping me find The Fragrance.

Here's something to note about this amazing perfumer: She is nice, like SUPER nice. She not only took a lot of time out of her day, but we chatted and it quickly felt like I was in the company of not just a friend but someone who actually likes and cares about people (not just being nice for a sale).

She took time listening to me, and as I described what my friend liked, we also talked a little about what I liked, and pretty soon we had a pile of sniff cards on the table. Not too long after that, I realized that a bottle wouldn't do--I needed to take samples, and lots of them.

Quick note: There is something a little scary about ordering samples online. Samples can take the stress away from buying a bottle untested, but sometimes it can still feel like throwing darts at a mirror in the dark. Being in the shop and able to sniff anything I wanted was a beautiful experience. Comparing notes on the website to what I found in person was fascinating for me. Things I probably never would have grabbed online were ones that I HAD to have samples of in person, and things I probably would have felt I needed to grab online were ones I passed up in person. Having the experience of BEING there was wonderful, and I do highly recommend an experience like what I had. However, if you can't do something like that, this reinforced to me that if you can get as many samples of someone's perfume you should. You will probably fall in love with something your brain told you wouldn't like.

It was also wonderful to listen to Dawn talk about her process and what made her interested in making certain lines or certain perfumes. It felt like Christmas.

But then it got better.

My friend likes animalic perfumes. Get it rough and dirty, and she is all over having them on her. To be fair, they also smell amazing on her (too often animalics go straight to serious stank on me). As Dawn and I talked about my friend and that I would like to, but often can't, wear animalic fragrances, Dawn said she had something in back she wanted me to try. It is a new perfume about to be released, called Chinchilla, that was based off of the scent of warm and clean furry critters. Was I interested? Absolutely. Even more so after she mentioned that it also has a honey note. (Honey is a Must Try for me, every time, even though it often can go into urine on me.) (Note: I did not ask DSH's permission if I could review the perfume. So, this may be a really big secret I'm letting out of the bag--if so you didn't hear it from me.)

So, she put some of the extrait on my skin, and then we sniffed, then waited, then sniffed some more.

Oh. My. Word. Y'all, Chinchilla is amaaaaazing. If you can't wear animalic fragrances but want to try one this is the one for you. If you love animalic fragrances but want to expand, this is the one for you. If you like honey, if you like soft, if you like comfort and home and happiness, this is going to be for you.

My official review of Chinchilla: (reminder this is the extrait, so the EDP may be a little different. Your mileage may vary.) Also note: this isn't out yet, so there are no notes to list from the website. So, if there are notes of death in here, I don't know it. And frankly I don't care. It's that good.

In the vial: it all comes at me at once--a lemony honey, a rounded old worldness (like old perfume from the old world), a soft cuddly nuzzle of freshly washed small animal fur. Something lightly greenly acidic. It smells good, a mix, compelling, intriguing my brain, making me want to know what this is.

On my skin: the honey pops. This is liquid delicious golden sunshine honey. Rounded. Rich, Perfect on a morning to drop into tea, and just watch the sun catch the gold of it as it slides from the spoon to the teacup. Immediately behind that comes that old world, classic perfume fragrance. It's a little cuddly, a little vampy, intriguing. Then the furry/fuzzy comes in. I really don't know how perfumers do this (probably a mix of this and that), but I truly admire and adore when a perfume has a texture. This one does. It's fuzzy. Soft. Cuddly. It reminds me of when my birds take a bath and have just finished drying off and preening and I stick my nose right in their feathers at their belly. I just want to nuzzle them, soak up that fresh softness. This reminds me of that. I completely get the small furry clean animal feel here, and I love it.

As it continues to dry, this shifts a lot, but wraps around itself and on my skin in a luxurious way--evocative of a critter lazing in the sun, then stretching--arching the back, the legs, the body in a decadent display of utter contentment.

There is a bit of that sharpness that comes through from the old world perfume vibe (not sure what that is--seems a bit chypre-esque, and very glamorous). And you know what? This perfume is sexy. It's all rawwwwrrrr pet me so I can snuggle with you, but I may be tempted to bite you because I smell so good. This also has a sheets freshly ironed feel to me. It's soft and crisp. It's full of contrasts, that should feel sharp, but instead are soothing.

What I love about this one is that when my friend tried it, it was also amazing on her. She, the one who can wear any animalic and make it smell amazing, and I, the one who can't wear animalics because they go to rank-skank on me, have finally found one we both can wear. Full bottle worthy? Oh yes. I can easily see this being a comfort fragrance on gray and nasty days, but there's so much to this one that is also equally perfect and would be utterly fitting for a night at the opera. It's just that good. And that honey? Probably one of the better honey notes I have smelled in a long time. Mmmm!

As I continued around the shop, sniffing, trying to pin down what I like, what I'd like to try, what my friend would like, Dawn kept coming up with ideas and offering sniffs. One of those is one I immediately fell in love with. It is from the summer of 2016 collection, and has grapefruit notes in it (I love grapefruit perfumes, they are so fresh and zingy, so it's no surprise that I liked this one). The name is Kaleidoscope, and this is the review:

In the bottle: fresh, sparkly, with the grapefruit coming out to play. This is like a mix of the pith and the juice, so it has zest but also softness. The notes she included for this perfume are: lettuce, grapefruit, jasmine, mandarin, sandalwood, lemon, orange flower, pink peppercorn, and a few others.

On my skin: This opens very bright, very sparkling. It has a very fresh feel, slightly green (the lettuce maybe, it's refreshing the way cucumber is in a perfume). But the flowers follow that very quickly, and I do love the way the grapefruit and the jasmine dance together.

As this dries: this is somewhat evocative of the late 80's/early 90's softer fruity florals. This comes across on my skin as having a papayish vibe, and that in turn goes a tiny bit animalic--which is kind of fun in perfume that is supposed to be light and fresh. Dawn calls this a vegetable gourmand, and I can see where that is coming from. This is bright, fresh, light. Perfect for a stroll down at the beach, or wandering through small-town coastal shops on a summer day. It feels young. Young and hopeful and happy.

I have to add here, that when Dawn was looking for a sample vial of Kaleidoscope, she couldn't find one, so gave me a small bottle instead without charging me for it. THAT. That right there. She didn't have to do that, and I didn't expect her to. I was completely humbled and charmed by her, and I will be even more interested in her perfumes just because she's good people, and I like knowing my money is supporting good people. She has had enough publicity and reviews that she legitimately could be snobby and rude, but she isn't. I am thankful for good people.

Next, based on my love of the honey note, she recommended that I try Mahjoun. This is a perfume based on a Moroccan delicacy that includes spices, flower buds, and honey.

In the vial: Ooooooh, yeah, yummm. Spices, honey, dry dry woods all weave around together, and it combines with a pastry smell. This is decadent and delicious.

On my skin: The spices are soft baking spices that are both warming and soothing. The dry wood flirts and dances with the spices to give this a dry feel, while still also coming across as rich. The honey seems to be stronger than in Chinchilla, but it floats underneath in a lighter dance, that makes this feel lush and lighter than I expected. This feels like being in the dessert, but surrounded by every luxury.

As it continues to dry, I keep getting whiffs and flashes of a variety of things: dried oranges, a smidge of pomegranate. The pastry drops off, and the other notes keep fluidly moving and merging then dancing around each other.

One of my favorites is Tea for Two by L'Artisan. This reminds me a little of that, but the spices are softer, this is more lush, more decadent, and so totally something I want and would wear. The wafts from this are warm, calming, comforting, but when I stick my nose right into my skin, the spices are definitely holding strong (and didn't burn my sensitive skin, so yay for that!). This is a perfume that would wear well in polite company, but if someone chose to get close they would probably feel compelled to nibble. Just a little bit. Or a lot.

This is sexy, in a gourmand way. Sexy, warm, rich. Lickable. Without being sweet or sugary. Mmmmm, yes. Also full bottle worthy for me.

The next perfume is one that is labeled as masculine on the website, but I found it to be completely wearable for me (and I can be a girly girl sometimes). When I first tried this, Dawn told me that she created this based on a specific time of year for her. It builds off certain fragrances with leaves changing, and the way the air would smell where she lived, and all of the smells she remembered also wrapped around the time of year when the fireflies were at their peak. She called this a transitional perfume, and I could see why. Here is Firefly.

In the vial: I get a faint whiff of apple skin, something very dry, and not much else. (I get a lot of what comes across as the alcohol.)

On my skin: this opens with damp autumnal earth, a faint whiff of men's cologne, dry leaves, and dry smoke. Lurking underneath is a sense of caramelized apples, a sweetness that wants to come out to play.

As it dries, I get a masculine edge, but it's one that makes me think of deep skies with sleek cars riding down a dark highway. The faint caramel edge keeps holding steady, making this a bit softer and a little more sweet than I expected. I get the sense of bobbing for apples as well. This would be very spectacular on the right man, but I can also see myself wearing this on any kind of autumn day, where I am completely and utterly celebrating the season (whether cold and rainy or sunny and golden with blue blue skies). My skin devours this one though, fading it down pretty quickly within an hour. Booo!

I can't do a complete review without adding something vanilla to the mix. I do like vanilla notes, but I really like when they are deep and rich. I was wandering around the shop doing some sniffs, then stopped at one and said, "Oooh I need a sample of that!" So here is Vanille Botanique.

In the vial: Spiced vanilla with a bourbon vanilla edge. Pretty, and very promising. (Not cheap lotion vanilla.)

On my skin: This pops, and I means pop with spices (more like pepper, less like cinnamon) and comes across as dry dry dry, with a faint luscious thread weaving through. This comes across as what I can only describe as a dark cola. Syrupy, but not too sweet, warm, and definitely not a linear vanilla.

As it dries: the dark cola aspect builds around the deep dark vanilla. It threads through in a way that hints of seduction with rounded edges that fade down to snuggling under the covers after the seduction is complete. Dancing through that is a more sweet vanilla that keeps showing a bit of leg, and that loves to laugh--which adds brightness and moisture to this.

This one is very intriguing. It wears very well on my skin, but on a man this could be completely captivating, especially if paired with a tobacco or wood to keep the edges more dry.

I like vanilla that isn't all batter (although I also do have a guilty fondness for the confectionery type fragrances), and this one definitely has some hard edges and sere notes that keep this firmly away from cake batter. Having said that, it also has a nice lilting sway, a lift, a sparkling side that is really charming.

This is a vanilla for vanilla haters, but also one for vanilla lovers. It's a good balance against the sugary gourmands, but also plays very well with its sweeter side (just dialed waaay down). It has depth, but feels airy. It's warm, but isn't too in your face. It's pretty. Plain and simply a comfort pretty fragrance that doesn't scream sugar or teenybopper. It's delightful, very delightful and I'm so glad I got a chance to try this. I have a feeling I'll be getting a bottle of this one at some point, too.

The final review (for now--I have a lot more to get through in the next few days!) is Nourouz. This was a Holiday Edition perfume, and she created a Black Pomegranate note for this one that was really compelling in the shop. I hope it plays out on my skin the same way.

In the vial: this is deep, dark, fun, rich. It smells like someone created a potpourri to celebrate the holidays with, and added some extra pepper and dark spices that become almost jam like and decadent.

On my skin: Oooooh! Smoke, warm baking spices, winter fruit. This feels deep and velvety purple. This, to my nose, is playing out of the image of everything I've ever wanted the Holidays to be: baked goods, deep rich smells, decadence, and yet filled with coziness and light to ward off the darkness.

As it dries: I'm getting a candle essence from this now. It's still deep and spicy, but instead of evoking home and hearth, this now gives me the feeling of being in a beautiful church with no ceiling so you see the night sky, with lit candles, and the last note of Silent Night is hanging in the air. Serene. Deep. Beautiful.

As it continues to dry, it merges both images together to create dark velvet, comfort, serenity, and something hopeful. This is really lovely and makes me feel like I'm somehow fancier and prettier than I thought I was before I put it on. It does keep softening as it wears down, and I get more of the wax feel as it does so, but this is so pretty I would be happy to keep applying if my skin proves to want to gobble it all up.

All in all, my time at the DSH land of dreams (as I will now think of it) was very delightful. The perfumes were wonderful to wander through, the company was fantastic, and the day was just perfect. I am so glad I had a chance to really play around with her fragrances in the shop because I feel like I have a much better understanding of what she is doing, what her vision is, and what I will be able to wear from her collection (it's a lot more than I once thought). I can't wait to see what she keeps coming out with.

My next list of reviews will contain some of her Cannabis Collection. I can't wait to get to it!


  1. If television ever gets smell o' vision you would be perfect to write the commentary that David Atinborrow would later read to the masses. As usual a Picasso of words lovely lady.

  2. Oh, my, goodness...Maya! :) I had NO IDEA this post even existed as had I known, I would have thanked you ages ago. <3 For coming for a visit... for such incredibly kind words (and lovely, evocative writing), and of course, for the sneak peak at Chinchilla!
    Thank you! I love that you had a blast (I did, too!) and even more, that you felt as though you could love more than you ever expected to. That does wonders for my heart and is really what any artist most wants to hear. oxo