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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Impressions of Genius: DSH Perfumes Giverny in Bloom Collection

By Donna

Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes has recently released the results of yet another collaboration with the Denver Art Museum – her eighth! - and once again she has demonstrated why she is one of the finest perfumers in America – and the world. The Giverny In Bloom Collection that accompanies the museum's major Impressionism exhibit is a perfect rendition of the artist's vision. There are four fragrances in the collection, three of which are actually the component accords for the final finished result named Giverny In Bloom. Each one has its own special character and is color-keyed to reflect its relationship to Impressionist art and gardens. Let's walk down the paths of Claude Monet's famous garden and see what we find.

La Danse des Bleus et Des Violettes is an homage to blue and violet blossoms, and its shy and wistful character is guaranteed to charm. Rich in violets, iris and heliotrope with a touch of lilac, it is ever so soft and slightly powdery; it reminded me of the delicate paintings on bone china teacups, yet it is no relic consigned to a display cabinet; a a breath of green and true to life floral notes keep it firmly in the garden. The violet is quite prominent here but everything is swirled together and so well-balanced that nothing is at the forefront for too long as all the notes have a turn in the limelight. For those who find most violet soliflores to be too melancholy, this would be a good one to try. It is not rain-washed and sad but restful, evocative of a shady corner where one stops to sit on a bench and contemplate the surrounding garden's beauty.


The more extroverted L'Opera des Rouges et des Roses is a celebration of reds and pinks, with plump roses and peonies jostling for attention with warm, spicy carnations and almost being upstaged by a sublime note of jasmine. This is a cheerful scent, rich and sweet, spilling over with abundance and joie de vivre, a garden party in a bottle. I love these “old-fashioned” style florals and I mean that in the best possible way; perfumes with exotic woods and spices are all the rage these days, but the skill required to create a mixed media floral perfume that is both original and interesting cannot be denied.                                                                         

My favorite of the three individual accord scents and the one that to me stands alone best as a finished perfume is Le Jardin Vert. Perhaps this is because it has one of my favorite notes in it – I just can't get enough galbanum, and there is enough of it here for my “green fix” and more; oakmoss, “dirt” accord, bergamot, pine needles – you name it, my favorite green and mossy things are all included, along with the ethereal breath of linden blossoms. This is a liquid vision of all those paintings of the bridge over the pond at Giverny, with weeping willows trailing in the water and lily pads covering its surface. The cool freshness of this perfume has been most welcome during this sweltering summer, and I have reached for it several times when the mercury rose to unbearable heights. 


So, you may be wondering, what happens when all three of the base accords are combined to make the perfume called Giverny in Bloom? I really only need one word to describe it: magical. This is where the perfumer's genius reveals itself, in a thrilling symphony of scent and color that is worthy of a tribute to the master of Impressionism. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the many superb florals combined with the green, mineral, earthy and woody materials create the uncannily three-dimensional effect of a living place. Its overall character is that of a green floral, with the galbanum of Le Jardin Vert still glimmering through. I can close my eyes and imagine I am there in Monet's overflowing garden, surrounded by the sensory feast of aromas and colors, not knowing where to look next, the dizzying jumble of grass, leaves and flower scents rising in the warmth of the sun and my skin caressed by cool breezes. The alchemy of this fragrance is such that when I walked back into the room where I had sprayed it I few minutes before, I smelled strong echoes of the two grandest green florals in perfume history – Balmain's Vent Vert and Jean Patou's Vacances, the latter one being my favorite perfume of all time. The originals of those two masterpieces are sadly no more, but now Giverny In Bloom is here to bring those lost gardens back to life.

Image credits: Water-lily Pond and Weeping Willow; The Rose Walk, Giverny; and Branch of the Seine Near Giverny by Claude Monet via, all in the public domain.
Disclosure: My testing samples of the perfumes in this review were given t me by DSH Perfumes.

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

A beacon of light in the gloom: Bergamoss solid perfume by Aftelier

By Donna

Recently I was thinking about why I like chypre fragrances so much. Obviously I love the way they smell, but apart from that, the true chypres all share a common thread; they clearly owe much of their character to natural materials, and in general those materials are of good quality. From the high opening note of bergamot through the floral heart and down into the base of resins and moss, they are grounded in nature. Whether it is the animalic elegance of Miss Dior, the wistfully rosy beauty of Houbigant's , Demi-Jour or the bitter-green oakmoss overdose of Jean-Louis Scherrer, the chypre structure in all its guises owes its integrity to things that can't be made in a laboratory. (Don't even get me started with the so-called “modern chypres” that were born of necessity out of restrictions on naturals.) As much as I appreciate contemporary perfumes made into abstract works of creative art with the use of aroma chemicals, those which are made with nothing but those lack heart and soul, like a computer-generated image of a “perfect woman” whose expression is a vacuous stare and whose face is boring in its eerie symmetry. For the real deal, I reach most often for my collection of vintage chypres, made before the days of nanny states, bureaucratic overreach and multinational detergent companies acquiring perfume houses.

Now we have another entry in the genre that could easily be a throwback vintage scent, but it's an all new fragrance called Bergamoss from Aftelier Perfumes, and it is only available in solid form. Mandy Aftel wanted to make a true chypre fragrance and decided that it would work best as a solid. After testing it, I cannot disagree; it's so good I want to slather it all over myself and live in it 24/7.

Bergamoss is 100% natural, like all Aftelier perfumes, and it has the true chypre building blocks but with some unexpected companions. The exhilarating top notes of bergamot and wild sweet orange are bright and uplifting, like sunlight knifing through a dense forest canopy to reach the ground below. As the perfume warms on skin, it opens up to reveal a dreamy, expansive heart featuring ripe peach and nutmeg, a combination I have not encountered before but of which I heartily approve. This pastoral effect is heightened by the use of a most rare material called flouve, which is an absolute of a sweet grass that has a heartbreakingly beautiful aromatic character and gives the the wearer the feeling of being in a broad, romantic meadow filled with waving midsummer grasses drying into hay and interwoven with scented wildflowers. Of course, the base has plenty of real oakmoss, the cornerstone of all true chypres, along with antique civet and coumarin, the latter of which enhances the impression of the flouve. I have to say that flouve is my new perfume crush – every time I wear this fragrance I smell something different in it, as there seems to be no end to its aromatic revelations. The solid formula adds yet another dimension, with its sensuous, luxuriant feel when applied to the skin.

Bergamoss has it all – it's refreshing, bright, sweet, floral, spicy, green (literally and figuratively so), mossy, earthy, rich, animalic and profound. Classic perfume lovers rejoice; the art of the chypre is not lost, it's just living in the small studios of artisan perfumers who are keeping the flame burning.

Image credit: “Enchanted Forest” from
Disclosure: My testing sample was given to me by Aftelier Perfumes.

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