Axis Mundi – The World Goes ‘Round

Someday I’m going to make it to Boulder and visit Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ shop, DSH perfumes. I’ve loved her scents since I was a newbie – for one thing, it’s easy to get samples – and she’s always got something new to try. Her website’s sorted into notes and genres which makes it fun to browse. And she carries a variety of size options, which means you don’t have to throw $300 at her for a bottle you’ll never work through if you’re going to keep slutting around in perfumery.the way I do. Even her offerings that aren’t necessarily my style (intense greens, powdery scents) seem really well-done.

I’d started off with Amouage Bracken Woman (which I’ll probably review next time) and oh ho, there’s a counterpoint to DSH’s style.  Bracken is huge and green and barks at you in a really loud voice. It’s Perfume in the Grand Manner. It’s one of those weird small-plates dining experiences with a celebrity chef and a lot of flash and oddball edible foams and what have you. I’m glad I tried it, but I’m not sure how I feel about it.

DSH is …. more like dinner on the porch at a good friend’s house. This friend knows what you like, and based on that maybe she whips you up something interesting, maybe a frittata or salad with a combination of flavors you haven’t tried before, and so some parts are familiar but the whole is new and fantastic. You think back on the experience and smile.

Anyhow, I needed to switch things up so I thought I’d try Malmaison, the DSH carnation, but I grabbed the wrong sample vial, which is how I ended up falling in love with Axis Mundi.

If I were making a sample list from the DSH website, it probably wouldn’t have made it on there.   “The Axis Mundi is the cosmic center of the world; the link between Heaven and Earth… a meditative incense design filled with resinous notes and a deep, smoky background.  Perfectly unisex.” That sounds like a perfectly nice incense/amber/resin and I have standbys in that department, thanks very much.

But this? Man. I had one of those moments…. the rare flash where I lose myself in a scent and everything is color and sound.   What was I smelling? I saw bolts of scarlet and swirls of deep blue. I don’t think I moved my nose from my wrist for five minutes. I just kept smelling it, breathing in and out.

Now here’s a tipoff – look at some of the notes this scent is tagged with on DSH: amyris, bakul attar, champaca leaf, choya ral, elemi, amber, frankincense, cedar, labdanum, agarwood, Siam benzoin, myrrh, etc. etc.

No wonder I’m dying over here – look at all that smoke and wood and incense! Champaca and attars and oudh, oh my! There’s a hint of green at the top, a whiff of smoke, and then everybody else shows up – leather and resin and wood and incense, but so perfectly in sync that I wouldn’t say it’s “a leather frag” or “one of those non-churchy-incenses.” What I would say is I don’t have anything like it, and it’s made up of familiar scents put together in a way that feels totally foreign to me, in the best possible way. Axis Mundi is with me tonight while I sit in my favorite leather easy chair, listening to some sweet jazz in the dark, somewhere between awake and dreaming, between heaven and earth.


  1. Oooh, I’m gonna have to add this to my “wants” on my perfume spreadsheet! Yes, I keep a speadsheet of perfumes 😉

  2. One sniff from a sample of Axis Mundi and it went straight on my buy list. It’s gorgeous.

  3. I wouldn’t have immediately considered this one, either, but it will go on my DSH ‘want’ list!

  4. I love her site–so beautifully organized! I’d love to visit her shop but I feel like it would have to be a sleepover…

  5. Thanks so much for the beautiful review! Definitely feel you — absolutely love every DSH i have tried, and she’s really prolific on top of being a huge multitalent. Will have to try this one, and soon.

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