Scented Advent, December 22

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?

Scented Advent, December 24

Scented Advent, December 24

Happy Christmas Eve! Today is the last day of Advent, the period when Christians await the coming of the newborn Jesus on Christmas Day, so it is also the last day of my scented Advent calendar posts. I’ve had so much fun doing this! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along; thanks for joining me on this journey. Major thanks especially to the lovely reader and active perfumista who sent me the samples that I’ve used to fill my DIY fragrance Advent calendar!

My Advent SOTD is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ French Linden Blossom. Normally I would say that it is seasonally out of sync, as it is such a spring-like fragrance, but today dawned as a sunny day with temperatures expected to reach into the 60s. Quite balmy for Christmas Eve! However, not that unusual here in the Southeastern US, where people garden, and play sports like golf and tennis, through the whole winter.

Linden blossom is the blossom of “lime trees”, sometimes called “French Lime”. It’s not a scent I know in real life; in my area, when I encounter real citrus trees and their blooms, they are always orange or lemon trees, to be grown in pots that can be moved indoors (our weather is pretty balmy for wintertime, but not so balmy that the more tropical citrus trees can stay outside year-round). Update: some of my readers have clarified that the “lime trees” that are also called “linden” are not related to the limes that produce citrus. There is an excellent article about LINDEN trees here: “What Is Drifting In The Breeze?“. Thanks for the help, commenters!

Flower of linden or lime tree
Linden Blossom; image from selfsufficientish.com

All share the quality of having a light, white floral scent, and that is what I get from French Linden Blossom. When I first sprayed it, I got a hint of cucumber or melon, which surprised me until I read this on DSH Perfumes’ website: “An ethereal, almost cucumber-like floral note with sweet honey-melon nuances.” Bingo!

I’ve written before about cucumber/melon accords in fragrance: Fragrance Friday: Un Jardin Après La Mousson. Apparently they often come from the aromachemical Melonal, so I’m sure that (or something similar) is present in French Linden Blossom. The citrus notes in UJALM are said to include lime, but that refers to the citrus fruit, not the flowers and not linden. The DSH Perfumes website refers to French Linden Blossom as an accord, and that seems right to my nose — it is pretty linear. To my nose, it smells more greenish white. It’s very pleasant, but I think I would like it better in really warm weather like late spring or summer. As it dries down, it gets a bit soapy, also very pleasantly. It is a fresh, clean fragrance that one could wear anywhere. I do think it is more casual than one might choose for an evening out or special occasion, but it’s a great scent to just spritz on in the morning as a casual fragrance.

I’m very happy that my final “Scented Advent” post can focus on an independent artisan perfumer like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz! The last two years have been very hard on many small businesses and it’s important to support the perfume artists we love, who continually advance the limits of fragrance art. One way to do that is to buy directly from their websites, and right now one can use a 20% off code on Dawn’s website, light20, which I think is good through the end of December. I’m not an affiliate, just a fan!

Do you have a favorite linden blossom fragrance? And for those who celebrate them, happy Christmas Eve and Christmas! I’ll be in the kitchen, in my garden, and at church today. All our kids are home, and all’s right with the world, at least our tiny part of it. May this Christmas season usher in a time of happiness, health, peace, and goodwill for all.

Christmas tree and crèche, Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image from metmuseum.org
Perfume Chat Room, July 23

Perfume Chat Room, July 23

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, July 23, and it is my late parents’ wedding anniversary. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have read this post before, My Mother’s Last Perfume, in which I wrote a bit about their long, but not always happy, marriage. Nevertheless, I honor this day because without it, my sisters and I wouldn’t exist! And because my parents made the effort to stay married until the ends of their lives and, in their own ways, they cared for each other. Their happiest times were when they traveled together, which they loved to do; and I too love to travel with my husband, though my marriage is a much more content one than my parents’, I think.

I also have some excitement to share — I’ve been asked by an accomplished playwright in my city to collaborate with her and a composer to create a “fragrance score” for a new experimental musical they are writing! I had taken part in a playwriting group she led over several weeks, pre-pandemic, and we had talked about how fragrance could and should be used more in theater. This is such an interesting creative project, I’m very excited about the possibilities. I will be the creative director for the fragrances, of course, not the actual perfumer. We are applying for a grant to develop the production, so I hope to include in the budget some modest funds to commission some scents from a perfumer eventually. For now, I think we’ll be able to use existing scents.

What are your thoughts on combining fragrance with other arts? I love reading about Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ collaborations with the Denver Art Museum. And the ways actors can use fragrance for their own performances are also fascinating: How Performers Use Perfume.

Perfume Chat Room, January 1

Perfume Chat Room, January 1

Happy New Year, and welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, January 1, New Year’s Day, and 2020 is finally over! I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, but I am cautiously optimistic about 2021. Above all, I am so very thankful for the healthcare workers who continue to care for the ill as the pandemic continues, and all the scientific, medical, technical, and support staff who are part of that or who have created the lifesaving vaccines we now have.

So my question today is, do you have a favorite fragrance (or fragrances) that you got in 2020? It doesn’t have to be a new launch, or on anyone’s list of “best of 2020”, just one that was new to you in 2020 that you like. Or if you prefer, what fragrances are you looking forward to in 2021? I’m very eager to try Snowy Owl, which Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has created for Zoologist. Some reviewers have sampled it already and it sounds lovely, with many notes I already enjoy. I think its official launch is this February.

What about you? And did you do anything special for New Year’s Eve?

Perfume Chat Room, December 4

Perfume Chat Room, December 4

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, December 4, the first Friday of the last month of 2020. Hurray! This year has been famously destructive in many ways, but I see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. In my own religion, Christianity, the season of Advent began last Sunday, and it is one of my favorite times of the year. Not just because of preparations for holidays (with most celebrations on hold this year), but because it is a season of hope and anticipation. Many religions and cultures have some observance of this time of year, leading toward the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice when the Earth is tilted furthest away from the Sun and the day is shortest, night longest. Not surprisingly, a common theme is the emergence of light from darkness, since our winter solstice marks the end of daylight diminishing and the start of the gradual increase in light.

The season also brings with it many wonderful smells! Classic associations with this time of year are evergreens like pine and fir; spiced drinks like mulled wine and apple cider; beeswax from lit candles; incense from places of worship; sweet and spiced baked goods, often including vanilla; woody and smoky scents that recall hearth fires. I enjoy them all. Some perfumers try to create fragrances that evoke cold, like notes of snow, or ice, or frost. I was so excited in 2018 when Jo Malone had a limited edition fragrance called White Moss & Snowdrop, I thought I’d love it. Sadly, I didn’t. It was pleasant enough, but it didn’t make a big impression. My wallet was grateful! Now I’m excited at the news that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz will create a new fragrance for Zoologist, called Snowy Owl. Can’t wait to try it!

What fragrances do you enjoy at this time of year? They don’t have to be perfumes, you can list any scent!

Perfume Chat Room, November 6

Perfume Chat Room, November 6

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, November 6, and we are having a LONG election week here in the US. I’ve been pretty immersed in volunteer activities, so fragrance has been a welcome distraction when I take a break from those. On the other hand, while I spent Election Day itself taking a day off work to visit polling places as a non-partisan volunteer, to make sure voters were being helped to exercise their rights (because unfortunately, we make that quite hard in the USA), I wore Chanel No. 19, which is my “armor” scent. Luckily, no armor was needed — so many people voted early or by mail this year that the polling places were very calm and orderly. And I smelled great!

When I was not doing volunteer work, I gravitated to comfort scents like a new favorite, L’Ambre des Merveilles, or Anne Klein II. I also used Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Smudge Nebula, which she describes as an “energy-clearing sprtiz.” I love it, and you can currently get it at a reduced price from her website, including in a roll-on oil format.

Do you find yourself using more “armor” or comfort scents lately? Have you tried any “eaux de protection” like Smudge Nebula?

Voters in long line, Fall 2020; image from abcnews.go.com
Roses de Mai Marathon: L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses

Roses de Mai Marathon: L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is not only one of the most gifted American perfumers, but one of the most beloved. I’ve never had the privilege of meeting her, but I follow her doings and have bought some of her lovely offerings. It feels even more important to do so when able, to support our independent artisan perfumers. Today’s penultimate entry in the “Roses de Mai Marathon” is her creation L’Opera des Rouges et des Roses. Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, May 1

Perfume Chat Room, May 1

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is May 1, and it’s May Day! In past years, I have written a “May Muguet Marathon” series of posts Continue reading

Perfume Chat Room, March 20

Perfume Chat Room, March 20

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is March 20, and it’s been a week, as they say. Continue reading

Scent Sample Sunday: DSH Heirloom Elixirs

Scent Sample Sunday: DSH Heirloom Elixirs

My Valentine’s Day gift to myself was a subscription to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Heirloom Elixir subscription for this year, all six releases. Dawn describes the origins of the idea:

Over the past few years we’ve had multiple requests for a “Subscription Service”… one that would automatically introduce you to a new DSH Perfume on a regular basis, filled with surprise and excitement.  With our creative new collection of Limited Editions, Heirloom Elixir, we felt that this was the perfect pairing of ideas to make that request a reality.

At the end of 2019, I took advantage of her end-of-year sale and bought the 2019 Complete Collection of six fragrances she released that year. They are, in order: Continue reading