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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Modern Rite of Spring: DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame

By Donna

I have extolled the many virtues of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's fragrant creations in these page before, and now another stunner has come along to entice me. I was especially eager to try this, since I really love both green floral and chypre perfumes, and I am nothing less than enthralled by her newest release, Vert pour Madame, which was inspired by the classic green floral chypres of the past. These are actually anything but “vintage” since they smell so timeless and modern. It takes cues from fragrances like Chanel No. 19, Jil Sander 79 and the long lost beauty Deneuve. Does anyone remember that one? I do, and I still regret not buying a case of the stuff when it was still around, but that was before I knew that the chypre genre was an endangered species. (DSH actually did a re-creation of Deneuve at one time, but alas, some of the materials for it are no longer available.) Who knew that the onslaught of big eighties perfumes (some of which I love) would obliterate or at least overshadow so many great “greens,” send them into retail oblivion and usher in the backlash of “Nineties Non-Scents” where smelling like nothing in particular seemed to be the goal of many mainstream perfume buyers. Fortunately, times have changed again, and talented independent perfumers are bringing us what the mass market cannot deliver. Ms. Hurwitz has taken the best from the greats and added her own stamp with spectacular results.

The moment Vert Pour Madame hit my nose I knew it was destined for a place among the icons from which it gets its distinctive character. Galbanum is very prominent but not in the razor-sharp way it sometimes makes its entrance. I was reminded of Carven's Ma Griffe, but through a soft focus filter, as if it had melded with vintage Madame Rochas or some other floaty aldehydic floral, and indeed this composition has a generous breath of aldehydes that lifts and lightens it even more. As the galbanum's initial effect subsides, the chypre underpinnings, including civet, become apparent, but as a chypre it is more lighthearted than many of this style, a lilting spring melody shimmering with fascination as the notes dance the rites of spring. As lovely as the opening is, it gets even better when everything else chimes in, including white peach, hyacinth, orris, jonquil, muguet, Moroccan rose and jasmine sambac. This stage lasts a long time, and the combination of gorgeous florals and peach could not be more alluring. The old-school chypre base is softened and slightly sweetened with Tonka bean and one of the best musk notes I have ever smelled, and the silken drydown goes on and on, subtle yet insistent. (From the DSH Web site: “Vert pour Madame opens like a wind of Persephone and dries down to the elegance of Demeter.” Well said!)

If I were to smell this blind alongside its various inspirations, I would truly not be able to tell that it's a “modern” formula; it is utterly out of time, and to me it's the kind of perfume that should be immune to trends, so universally appealing is its evanescent grace. I simply can't imagine anyone not liking it. Some perfumes are an acquired taste, or they go through some weird phase before the wearable part finally shows up. This is simply beautiful right from the start and gets even better with time. So if you are longing for the good old days of green florals and chypres, wondering if that Yendi you saw on EBay is still any good, or you don't want to choose between your car payment and a bottle of Deneuve if you can find it, help is finally here, just in time for spring. Vert pour Madame is available on the DSH web site as Parfum extrait and Eau de Parfum, and samples are available. (The available antique presentation bottle with its delicate waist and ornate gold cap is a perfect match for the fragrance.)

Image credit: Artist Nikolai Roerich's initial sketch for the set of the first act of Igor Stravinsky's ballet ‘Le Sacre du Printemps' from

Full disclosure: My sample was given to me for testing by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to win a sample of this from Dawn and coincidentally, it arrived yesterday. It is a lovely, soft, green tinged with florals that has moderate sillage and good lasting power. It is bright, sweet (but not too) and sophisticated. I agree with you that if sniffing blind, I would think I was smelling something from yesteryear (perfectly preserved of course!) Reminds me somewhat of Bel Respiro but VPM maintains its lovely spring flower aura whereas Bel Respire veers toward the animalic in its drydown. I want to own this in both its concentrations and isn't it nice to have a fragrance offered in extrait? Ahhhh, the good old days still live on at DSH. Thanks Dawn!!

8:34 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's it, no more waiting for a "good day" to try my sample. I'm going to go put it on right now. Will report back later.

I'm not as big a fan of green chypres as you are, Donna - they really do have to be quite floral to settle down and not make me feel like I'm being stalked by, oh, my middle school librarian, irate that I haven't turned in the seven books I checked out last week... Love 19, love Silences, really enjoyed Demi-Jour, but all are very floral.

Have you smelled Mary Greenwell Plum yet? I love that stuff. It reads as slightly more modern, what with the fruity top (bergamot-peach, IMO, not all that much plum) and the delicate adornment of oakmoss rather than the big slug you get in old-school chypres. "Modern" I don't care for in general, but the white floral heart of Plum atop the gentle woody-moss drydown is beautiful.

Off to investigate Vert pour Madame...

9:44 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Anonymous, I have a feeling that this one is going to be a very popular release from DSH - as I said, it's hard to imagine anyone not liking it!

4:20 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Muse, I think you will really like it! I agree, sometimes the really green chypres such as Balmain de Balmain or J-L Scherrer can be quite severe, and I love the more floral ones equally well. Demi-Jour is so soft and romantic, even with all that oakmoss.

That Plum has been on my radar for a while, I should really try it soon. It sounds like just the thing I would like and I adore both peach and plum notes in perfume, so no matter which one dominated on my skin, it would be a good thing.

4:24 PM EDT  

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