Scented Advent, December 22

Today’s Advent scent, by independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, is Sugar Plums. Every year, her house DSH Perfumes releases a new, limited issue holiday fragrance. (Fear not, you can still buy the prior years’ fragrances in her holiday sample sets). Sugar Plums is number 22, this year’s holiday fragrance, also particularly apropos on December 22.

Ms. Hurwitz says that Sugar Plums was inspired by her love for the ballet “The Nutcracker”, and especially the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Her description:

A dancing, celebratory plum chypre fragrance with a frangipani heart bouquet, soft cardamom & ginger spices, touches of incense, and delicious gourmand elements in the drydown. How beautiful and festive! This year’s inspiration comes from a perennial holiday favorite “The Nutcracker”. I have long loved this dreamy ballet; especially the dance of the sugar plum fairies. I have to admit that I have long considered this theme (it’s been in my notebook of ideas for years) for the dancing, dreamlike quality that the concept invokes. Sugar Plums is not really all that sweet… instead it is a celebratory swirl of rich plum, delicate spices, warming incense, and a surprising combination of gourmand elements in a classical chypre structure in the drydown. This may sound like a cacophony of elements, but it comes together beautifully to make a true holiday classic.

DSH Perfumes and Now Smell This
The Nutcracker ballet, Atlanta Ballet
Atlanta Ballet Nutcracker, 2014, Waltz of the Flowers with the Sugar Plum Fairy; image from Atlanta Ballet

Finally, a fragrance in which I can really smell the cardamom! Sometimes I see it listed as a note or accord and I just can’t detect it; that makes me sad because I love the smell of cardamom. Sugar Plums is a very beautiful fragrance, with just the right level of spice and incense. I think the gourmand aspects of the drydown, mentioned about, come from tonka bean; it seems to be combined with some patchouli, giving this modern chypre its base note that in a prior era might have been oakmoss.

Sugar Plums has a spiced fruit opening, which I believe is a combination of a plum accord with the cardamom. The incense slowly appears and rises; it is a soft, gentle incense. I’ll have to take Ms. Hurwitz’ word for it that the floral heart is frangipani; it’s beautiful but I don’t think I could have picked out frangipani as the floral accord. The cardamom and incense persist after the floral notes have receded, and they carry on right into the base notes, two of which I think are tonka and patchouli. This isn’t a sweet fragrance, though it has some sweet accords. My sample is the Voile de Parfum formulation, which is oil-based, and it lasts well on my skin, still very detectable several hours after application. I like it very much! Now I’m eager to try the rest of DSH Perfumes’ holiday fragrances.

My favorite version of The Nutcracker is the former production by the Atlanta Ballet, choreographed by John McFall, in which our daughters appeared as children for several years. I always loved the sets and costumes, which looked more Russian than Victorian, and the choreography was spectacular (ignore the advert for ticket sales, this production ended 4 years ago!):

Is going to The Nutcracker, or watching it on film, a tradition in your family? Do you have a favorite version?

4 thoughts on “Scented Advent, December 22

  1. I did ballet, tap & modern jazz until my early teens & remember going to a performance of The Nutcracker by the Royal Ballet as an outing from the dance school. Gave us a night off from the local amdram panto! As a child it was mesmerising, I wish I could remember who the dancers were, it would have been around 1970 & the RB were touring. I guess I could search the internet.
    I adore plum in perfumery, that sweet/tart note is a joy. FdB, Plum Jap, BV Velours, Floriental & Boxeuses are all in my collection. I’d love to know how the DSH Sugar Plums smells in comparison to those, if you’re familiar please

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    • I only have FdB, but I’ll try it for comparison! The Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker must have been magical. The first time I saw The Nutcracker was in New York at Lincoln Center. I think I was about 4, and we had seats at the front of one of the upper levels. My parents said I stood through the whole performance, gripping the rail, mesmerized, as you say you were.

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  2. I have vague memories of seeing it once as a child. For some reason this year I’ve been craving this song and have played it a lot, along with Carol of the Bells (unrelated, I know). Pentatonix does great covers of both.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the Nutcracker music and the ballet. I have not smelled this DSH fragrance, but it sounds delightful. Our school orchestra would always play some excerpts from the Nutcracker at our Christmas concert. My favorite was the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It has some very nice parts for the woodwinds.

    Liked by 1 person

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