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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DSH Perfumes Part Three: The Dance Of Attraction

By Donna

In part two of this series I explored some perfumes that were abstract, creative, unisex, and even hard to conceptualize as fragrances intended to be worn on the skin. This chapter is about perfumes intended to seduce and beguile the senses and those more easily defined by traditional categories. Even so, this group of fragrances contains its own surprises and delights.

Among the Floral perfumes of DSH one caught my eye right away – Madonna Lily. As many people know, the Lily is my favorite flower, but a really good Lily perfume is rare indeed. If it’s not done right it can be overwhelming, since it has a strongly indolic quality masked by intense sweetness and is easily mishandled. This version of a Lily scent is wonderfully tender and natural, and its cool beauty is exactly what one would want in a summer scent. When it opens it has a very soft aroma, not as cold or as strong as Serge Lutens Un Lys, my gold standard for Lily perfumes. This one also has a touch of vanilla, so there is an initial similarity. As it develops, however, the Ylang-Ylang comes to the fore with its penetrating sweetness and changes the character of the scent. There is also something in it called “Kenya Lily” and I am not sure exactly what that is, though I suspect it is probably a Crinum, an amazingly fragrant Amaryllis relative found in Africa that has a very lily-like appearance; I can’t think what else it would be since there are no true Lilies native to that continent. Anyway, the Kenya Lily is a very bright, intense note, more highly pitched than the true White Lily (French Lily) and it is quite lovely. The coolness of Jonquil and the green of Galbanum keep the whole thing subdued and elegant. This would be a great scent for people who like the idea of a lily perfume but are afraid it would be too heady or strong. This perfume remains gentle and ladylike throughout its development, and it is another that I would recommend without reservation for hot weather. Full list of notes: Bergamot, Muguet, Spice notes, French Lily, Jonquil, Kenya Lily, Ylang-Ylang, Galbanum, Vanilla Absolute, Violet Leaf Absolute.

Speaking of heat, another floral in this line is the very tropical (no, there is no coconut in it, so calm down) Padme Lotus. It is a humid and languorous fragrance but not heavy at all; rather it is fresh and dewy; its damp and sensual quality is more like the mist that lingers after a warm rain and not in the least oppressive. This is one of my favorites of all in this line, and it is a true delight. It opens with a fresh burst of orange notes, Osmanthus (something I can’t get enough of) and the teasingly dry twist of Tagetes (Marigold), then begins to expand into a lush garden of Lotus, amplified by the presence of Rose – you can’t really smell that by itself, as it is used expertly to create the roundness and dimension but remains in the background. This perfume is watery, yes, but not marine; as it is not beachy, metallic or ozonic, nor is it the thin “aquatic” type so prevalent in modern mass-market fragrances. It is a deep, restful pool of pure spring water, source of the vibrant life that springs forth from it. I can see the dragonflies dancing and the jewel-colored frogs leaping from pad to pad on the barely rippled surface. I could lose myself in the depths of it on a hot summer night when sleep is impossible and only the calming breath of flowers blooming in the night can bring relief. Notes: Blood Orange, Moroccan Neroli, Osmanthus, Tagetes, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Pink Lotus, White Lotus Absolute, Brazilian Vetiver, Tamil Nadu Sandalwood, Violet Leaf Absolute.

Just as charming is Gelsomino (subtitled “Italian Journey No. 5,” as there are several other fragrant tributes to Italy in the DSH repertoire.) This is an innocent Jasmine perfume, without any dirtiness or heavily indolic character. Instead it is a mild, breezy fragrance that would be very suitable for a bride or a young girl. It does not have that piercing banana-like sweetness typical of so many Jasmine scents. I found it to be a calming sort of scent, something to wear when a refuge from urban life is urgently required. Indeed, it is meant to evoke the warmth and slower pace of Mediterranean life, and succeeds admirably. Opening with Bergamot, Bitter Orange and Violet, its heart notes are Broom Absolute, Jasminum Grandiflorum, and Italian Neroli, and it finishes with Amber, Brazilian Vetiver, Honey Beeswax, Moss, Musk, Sandalwood and Vanilla. (It smells much lighter than the base notes would seem to indicate.)

Anyone who has read my “White Floral Queen” series knows that I have a special fondness for Tuberose, the epitome of tropical white flowers. The DSH version, Tubereuse, does not disappoint. It has an intensely sweet and concentrated aroma, reminding me somewhat of Montale Intense Tiare without the coconut. Instead, the sweetness of the Tuberose is boosted here by Mimosa, Beeswax and Heliotrope. Let me just say that this does not seem to make it either overly honeyed (though that’s not a fault for me!) or powdery either, just delicious. The woody base just increases its appeal and makes it even more long lasting. Extremely sexy, this is a no-holds-barred Tuberose for the woman who really revels in white flower perfumes - and her own magnetism, since this scent will draw others into her personal orbit. All I can say is: count me in. The notes are as follows: Citron Accord, Mimosa, Tuberose, Tuberose Absolute, French Beeswax, Heliotrope, Himalayan Cedar, and Tamil Nadu Sandalwood.

Last of the florals but most certainly not least is Cielle. This fragrance is actually a reworking of the first Jasmine scent DSH did. But it’s not only Jasmine that surrounds the wearer like a heavenly cloud - it’s Mimosa, and it’s gorgeous. This is not a powdery or almond-like perfume, despite the presence of both Acacia and Mimosa, nor does it have the elegantly wan melancholy aspect of Une Fleur de Cassie. The other florals in it plus Bergamot give it a fresh immediacy that I found to be captivating. I am an ardent fan of Stephanotis and I don’t think it’s used enough these days, and its use in this perfume elevated the scent to a new level for me. It is very soft without being too sweet or girlish; an ageless beauty that’s easy to wear. Like the other lighter DSH florals it can be reapplied as it fades throughout the day. Some may find the fleeting quality to be a fault, and I guess it could be considered one if you prefer scents with more lasting power. I like to refresh my perfume if I have the chance, which admittedly is hard to do in an office environment. At home I do it freely, and Cielle is perfect for that little indulgence. The composition includes Bergamot, Clementine, Moroccan Neroli, Cassie (Acacia) Absolute, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Stephanotis, True Mimosa Absolute, Ambrette Seed, Australian Sandalwood, Labdanum and Oppopanax.

Well, what’s a captivatingly feminine perfume without a masculine counterpart? DSH has created several of these, and though they are nominally meant for men, they don’t necessarily scream it out like so many commercial scents do. (If you are looking for something like a Drakkar Noir style you will need to continue your search elsewhere.) They are often listed in several categories on the Web site, in fact. I would certainly wear the ones I tried without hesitation.

Seven for men is so named for “the number of mystery...the unseen...of magic… The union of the spirit and the body.” It contains several ingredients associated with Eastern rituals, both spiritual and medicinal. I found this to be a very happy, upbeat fragrance, warm and open. It is leafy and herbal yet not overtly green; it is the essence of herbs baking in the sun, punched up with zesty citrus notes and finishing with patchouli and dry incense. Casual enough for a “surfer dude”, it is nonetheless fairly well behaved since the patchouli, while emphatic, stays quite close to the skin with minimal sillage. However, it is an insistent and long lasting presence, along with the Sandalwood, so this one’s for patch lovers only. The full list of notes is Bergamot, Holy Basil, Laurel Leaf, Lime Peel, Petitgrain, Pink Grapefruit, Chinese Geranium, Marjoram, Mountain Sage, Sandalwood, Spruce, Brazilian Vetiver, East Indian Patchouli, Incense notes, Musk and Tree Moss.

One of the few DSH scents that really does seem to be made especially for men, Michelangelo is kind of like Smucker’s® jam; this is one of those “with a name like that, it’s got to be good” fragrances. Fortunately it is very good indeed. Refined and subtle, it is as well-bred a masculine scent as I have ever tried. It goes on with a slight breath of warm herbal sweetness mixed with a bracing pine note, and quickly simmers down to a gently balsamic skin scent. At first I thought it was going to disappear on me it got so quiet, which I found surprising in a men’s fragrance; they usually have enough woods and resins in them to be tenacious. Once it got to the drydown, it really stuck around, with the wood and light tobacco finish lingering all day. No patchouli, no lavender, no vanilla, no heavy spice in this, nothing loud or obvious at all, just a pleasingly manly and somewhat serious scent that really grew on me the longer I wore it, and I really wished that I had a willing man around as a test subject – I suspect that this really comes alive when it encounters male skin chemistry. Notes include Bergamot, Clary Sage, Laurel Leaf, Lemon, Origanum (oregano), Pine Needle, Labdanum, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Olibanum (frankincense), Palma Rosa, Peru Balsam, Spice Notes, Ambergris, Atlas Cedarwood, Brazilian Vetiver, Brown Oakmoss, Himalayan Cedar, Myrrh Gum and Tobacco Absolute.

At the other end of the men’s spectrum is the bold and dashing Jitterbug for Men, counterpart to the sultry women’s Jitterbug I reviewed in the first installment of this series. The guy who wears this and the one who prefers Michelangelo would probably prefer to avoid each other. Jitterbug for Men goes on rich and fruity and even reminds me a little of Ava Luxe Madeline at first with its cozy comfort, but beneath the gourmand smoothness of this perfume lies a very naughty boy indeed, who soon reveals himself. It starts out with a heavy, syrupy but rather abstract blackberry top note and deepens into a complex brew of low-pitched goodies featuring Rose, Jasmine and Clove Bud - all my favorites. When the base notes emerge, it’s jackpot time - Ambergris, Atlas Cedar, Cistus, Labdanum, Frankincense and Musk – wow! My nose was glued to my arm as much as I could manage, and I think I like it even more than the feminine version of Jitterbug. There is some Patchouli in the base but I found the musk to me far more dominant. It lasted approximately forever on my skin. I like to test the longevity of a scent by putting some on my wrist before bedtime to see what’s left in the morning. This just got better overnight. It is most likely too sweet for those who like their men’s scents to be more “manly,” but that just leaves more of this yummy stuff for the rest of us.

Next time, a visit with the “Queen of Flowers” and some DSH scents that were a little bit challenging to for me to categorize.

Image credits: Art Deco-inspired prints entitled Lady You Can’t Say No To and Eye On The Ladies by Atlanta artist Jeff Williams from



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the only DSH I own is Michelangelo, which I never thought of as particularly masculine. I do gravitate towards "masculine" scents, though, so the fact that it is considered so is not surprising. I think I must sniff some more of her work.

Thanks for the great article, as always! I always like to read your blog, even though I don't comment much at all.

12:40 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. I found Michelangelo to be very subtle, and easily a unisex fragrance. It is seamless and understated and I think anyone could wear it.

1:43 AM EST  
Blogger Kelley said...


Great reviews! You have opened up a whole new world for me. I don't think I have tried a single DSH fragrance...ever! Keep up the good work.

9:46 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Kelley! It has opened up a whole new world for me too - I never tried them before now.

Just think of how many talented niche perfumers there are whose work will never be widely known, while the stores are full of inferior products from the big companies. We perfumistas are doing our best to correct that!

10:25 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After your first post, I ordered Cafe Noir, thinking "well, maybe it's too much." I love it, and it's not too strong on me. But it IS a presence.

After your second post, I ordered more samples and now. . .

Now I'm waiting for a huge sample order, including Wasabi Shiso (who could hate that idea?) Erbe Bergamot, Something Blue and La Fete Novelle. The last one has notes that make is sound like a Holy Grail. With notes including fresh mown hay, sweetgrass, wheat and toasted rice, it seems just perfect.

Can't wait for the next installment! These are wonderful reads.

11:04 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donna -

Wonderful work - I have enjoyed all of your installments and plan on beefing up my DSH fragrances soon.

It's funny how one "misstep" with a fragrance house can sway one's opinion for awhile....when I first started collecting fragrances, I ordered (blind) something from Dawn and it was definitely NOT to my liking (my own fault for not sampling first!). I ended up giving the fragrance away and never thought twice about DSH. Your past few articles have inspired me to reinvestigate the DSH fragrance line - and I'm looking forward to SAMPLING as many as my wallet (and nose) can handle.

Thanks again for a great review,


10:38 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also want to thank you for opening a whole new world of fragrances to me via DSH. I love her Something Blue and her Menthe Moderne is absolutely fantastic! There are so many others to explore and sample--she has a real talent for what she does---Jen

11:33 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I would love to try that Michelangelo..

4:55 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Quinn, there is nothing I like more than being a perfume enabler. Cafe' Noir is a great choice! :-)

I will pass on the Wasabi Shiso (yes it's green but wasabi and I are not on speaking terms!) but the La Fete Novelle sounds both dreamy and comforting.

1:04 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thank you Marko! If only more perfumers had samples available, it makes so much sense. I hope you find a DSH scent to love.

1:06 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Jen, it has truly been an adventure for me, similar to my experience with Ava Luxe - such variety from one perfumer is amazing to me.

1:09 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, I do think Michelangelo would be better on male skin - I liked it but it didn't really come alive on me.

1:10 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks to your earlier article, I tried Ava Luxe and love the fragrances she sent me - I love the way they have a recognisable signature, you can tell they are products of one sensibility. Very keen to try DSH now. Thanks for the very comprehensive and totally mouth-watering reviews...

7:17 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Mimi, I am so glad that you have discovered Ava Luxe! I think I need to try even more of those soon. And thanks for the kind words!

11:27 PM EST  

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