All that glitters: The Brilliant Collection by DSH Perfumes
Once again, a collaboration between perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and the Denver Art Museum has resulted in a stunning group of fragrances. I always look forward to these art project launches from DSH Perfumes; Dawn's reservoir of creativity seems to have no limits. The Brilliant collection ties in with the DAM exhibit celebrating Cartier's storied history of jewelry making. All the more intimidating, the company also makes some very good fragrances, so this quartet had to distance itself from Cartier's own perfumes and make the fragrances all about the jewels – and what jewels they are!
Starting off with a bang, Deco Diamonds is a tour de force, a seamlessly abstract beauty that brings to mind the kind of bold statement jewelry one might wear to a Black and White Ball – the men in elegant tuxedos and the women in sleek draped gowns embellished with feathers and sequins, and dripping with diamond necklaces, bracelets and rings, maybe a headband or two. Eventually this glittering aldehydic fragrance reveals its heart of jasmine and other white flowers, reminding me of one of Dawn's early perfumes that is no longer made, the gorgeously tender jasmine and mimosa Cielle. Deco Diamonds is a perfume from another world, not tied to the earth; if Cielle was a wisp of cloud in a blue sky, this is a jet trail, soaring bright and pure and streamlined toward the sun.
In sharp contrast to Deco Diamonds, Fumée d'Or is a fantasy perfume in the sepia tones of a movie about the past, a whimsical imagining of what a goldsmith's shop in Paris might smell like; if this is the scent of such a place, I would want to live there and never leave. The overall impressions is warm and close, like entering a mysterious place on a brisk day and being enveloped in heat, the animal heft of human bodies and not-quite-familiar aromas. What is that languid, sweet smoke arising from the cauldron? Why do the dust motes dancing by the window sparkle so? What is that strange smell, like leather and metal somehow blended together? This “olde curiosity shoppe” of a fragrance will keep you guessing all day long.
Rubies are one of the most sought after of all gems, and I predict that the fragrance devoted to them, Rubis Rosé, will be equally admired. If roses that smell of raspberries are your thing, this is the one. It is rich and dense like the best of the old garden roses, such as the purple-red Bourbon 'Madame Isaac Pereire' which is justly famous for its redolent raspberry scent. I would not call this a “jammy” rose perfume, because although it is fruity, it is so in a fresh and realistic way. Anyone who is not familiar with antique roses might doubt that a living flower can smell like this, but this plush, velvety aroma is exactly what is found in such a rose, and it comes as close as anything I have smelled to the incomparable perfume of the voluptuous old roses I love best of all.
All of the perfumes in the collection are good, but one of them has captured my heart like no other – the stunning Jacinthe de Sapphir. The distinctive aroma of the hyacinth flower is one of my favorite smells in the world, but I have very rarely had the sensation of inhaling a perfume and feeling transported in time and place to a spring garden where the colorful hyacinth spikes give off their unique perfume, rich and intense yet not sweet in the way of most flowers, a green and airy scent with the chill of earth and winter still upon them. It even has that elusive, shifting character of the flower, dancing away and then coming back to tease the nose when you think it's gone for good. Of course this one is nominally in honor of precious sapphires, but it really an homage to this beloved garden bloom. This is the closest thing I have experienced to the exquisite hyacinth note in my favorite perfume of all time, Vacances by Jean Patou, and that's saying a lot coming from me. In the dead of winter, here is the ultimate breath of spring.
Image credits: Vintage Cartier diamond engagement ring via glambistro.com, original source unknown. Seventeenth century engraving of a goldsmith's shop via wikipedia.org, in the public domain. Blue hyacinth via gallery.hd.org's Multimedia Gallery, free download photo by Damon Hart-Davis, effects by Donna.
Disclosure: The samples I tested for this review were given to me by DSH Perfumes.