Hi there Posse. Recently I introduced you all to a new business called American Perfumer. The name says it all. Independent Artisan American Perfumers being put on display so you can find a large selection of them in one spot. Genius! From that initial post I was inspired to meet some of the people behind the perfume brands that are for sale at American Perfumer. They all get the same 10 questions so we can see how they differ and how they are similar. After I will give you a quick review of one or two of their perfumes. Today let’s meet Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes.
DSH Perfumes: American Perfumer Interviews
What do you recall of your families fragrances as you grew up
My mother, and grandmother were total Avon women when I was growing up. (So, lots of rose, lily of the valley, and aldehydes). Grandmother did deviate to ‘White Shoulders” de Evyan periodically, and dabbled in “Vanderbilt” by Gloria Vanderbilt in the 80’s, but “Cotillion” and “Somewhere” by Avon were her staples. My mom did wear a green sporty chypre (“Ariane” by Avon) for awhile in the 70’s but once the BIG fruity florals of the 80’s came, she was onto designer perfumes (mostly “Poison” by Dior). A great aunt, however, was an “Emeraude” de Coty, and d’Orsay soliflore wearer. She wore rich oriental – chypre fragrances which always wore powdery on her skin.
My father always smelled of oak moss and musk when I was a kid. He wore the old version of “Aqua Velva”… such a child of the ’50’s. I think my deep love of oak moss might have come from him.
Where is your dream vacation spot?
My favorite place: Venice. I’ve been there many times, but it’s my eternal love.
How do you like to start your day?
Once I have gotten my son to school and get to the studio in the morning, my ideal way to start the day is with tea and meditation. Sometimes I feel very compelled to get right to work, but if I can, meditation in the morning light of the studio is sublime and really sets a great path for the rest of the day.
Tell us about your life, family, business or career before perfume?
I started designing perfume while I was still in Art School. I was on a different trajectory then: I was planning on working towards being an art professor at university and a painter full time. But I loved what I was doing with perfume and clearly saw it as art form from the very beginning, so it’s never felt like giving up on art for me. I was just diving deeper into an under appreciated art form. Then I graduated and had student loans to pay… and I knew that I could make a living at perfume as I had already started developing a clientele.
Sarah Horowitz and I were both graduating in the same year and were also colleagues at the same perfumery. It wasn’t long after graduation that we decided to start our own company. That was the start of our journey into perfume business. So, for me ( for us?) there was no before perfume. We jumped headlong into the fragrance world and stayed; helping pioneer the artisan movement in the US.
How did you find yourself in perfumery
Quite by accident, really. When I was at BU studying art I needed many part time jobs to keep going. As luck would have it I met someone, who knew someone who was looking to fill a position at a small bespoke perfumery in Boston. I had no experience in fragrance, or even retail, but I convinced them to take a chance on me. They did and I proved to be good at it. In fact, I fell in love with fragrance design, perfume history, and through the process of learning materials realized that I had synesthesia (I didn’t know what it was called then but I certainly did notice the phenomenon happening). Then there was graduation and the realization of life after university and well, you already know that part of the story. 🙂 Now here I am, still madly in love with fragrance design nearly 30 years later. Cool.
What is your favourite perfume note and why?
Oh goodness… I feel as though I have a new favorite every few months! There are SO many new, natural as well as synthetic materials becoming available to the artisan perfumer that it’s like being in Willy Wonka’s factory of delights. But as I mentioned earlier, oakmoss is one of my everlasting loves. It’s rich, earthy, smoky, deep, tenacious, sometimes sweet, sometimes mineral, sometimes smoky-woody qualities make it a permanent NEED for me. And then there’s labdanum. And castoreum. Rose, orris, jasmine(s), osmanthus (!) , tuberose… oh the list goes on. (You can see how I have so many perfumes that I need to create : I have sooo many loves). LOL.
How did you decide on your companies name, what is its relevance?
That’s a VERY fun question for me. Since I have a tendency to have multiple names… 🙂 My ‘parent’ company name is Parfum des Beaux Arts, LLC but I do business as DSH Perfumes. My studio is called “The Essense Studio”. So, there’s three already. You can probably notice that I like referencing the artist’s life with the names I choose: the “Beaux Arts” in France are the fine arts ( painting, drawing, sculpture, design etc) as well as interior design and I believe, architecture. I think of perfume design in these terms so it seemed fitting to name my company with these concepts in mind. And I chose to make it a French name to pay homage to the French perfumery tradition, plus, I feel it’s very beautiful to look at on the page.
The Essense Studio is named for the first perfumery in Boston, “Essense” but as it’s my olfactory art studio, The Essense Studio. DSH Perfumes came about organically: It’s just what everyone in the online fragrance community kept calling me and referring to my work as : DSH Perfumes. It stuck, and I ran with it.
What was the last novel or biography you read (current if appropriate)?
I’m currently reading “The Purple Diaries of Mary Astor”. I’m a BIG classic movie lover and I listen to “You Must Remember This” podcast. The host does such extensive research that I find out about all kinds of amazing books and movies. (Plus she and her staff are hilarious when acting out scenes). Before that it was the autobiography of Errol Flynn; another risqué book from classic Hollywood.
Hypothetically: If you had to pick a Signature Perfume that you didn’t create, what and why?
I don’t know that I could narrow it down to one, but three maybe? Here goes:
“Jicky” de Guerlain: It has for me the perfect balance of fresh eau de cologne aspects, richness and even vanilla without being too sweet, and an animal bite.
“Madrigal” de Molinard: It is soft and ambery – floral sweet in perfect proportions. There is the beeswax-y mimosa to jasmine note that perfects melds with the oak moss and ambergris in the dry down. I find it very soothing, and again, not too sweet.
“Chypre” de Coty: I have a bottle of this magical perfume from the 30’s and although I don’t really wear it I. LOVE. IT. SO. It is a holy grail perfume for me.
Who are your fragrant heroes?
I’m sure you can guess some: Jacques Guerlain, and Francois Coty, of course, but Edmond Roudnitska is a paramount fragrance hero for me. I feel that he was a fragrance poet, and perfectly understood the aesthetic concerns that compel perfumers to create; to strive to give fragrant voice to their souls.
Thanks Dawn for letting us see a little into your head and heart.
You can buy DSH Perfumes at American Perfumer
Colorado by DSH Perfumes
Top – bergamot, lemon essence (distilled juice!), leafy green accord, Colorado blue spruce, Tunisian neroli.
Heart – Egyptian jasmine absolute, immortelle absolute, oak co2, black spruce, Australian sandalwood, Texas cedar.
Base – Ponderosa pine bark, Ponderosa pine amber accord, pinemoss absolute, fir Balsam, tolu Balsam, fossil amber, cade.
This is the Limited Edition, signed fragrance made expressly for American Perfumer. Only 50 bottles, ever.
OMG! Eye lollingly good opening of woods, sap and resins. The smell of being in a forest surrounded by trees, mainly pine. Above all the woodland smells there is a maple syrup accord. Freaking genius. Colorado is warm and sweet and thick, luscious. Resinous and clean smelling, like a wooden house lovingly tended with lashings of beeswax and the cold fluffy char smell of a dead fire.
Because Dawn is SO GOOD at the green accords and florals I forget that she does this treacle like woods thing so brilliantly too.
AMAZING! You must try Colorado.
Cuir et Champignon by DSH Perfumes
Leather and mushrooms! Sign me up. Here Dawn shows her mastery over the dark arts. Leather, cloves, honey and castoreum drizzled over a bouquet of white flowers and woods. Spicy, deep and sizzling hot. This is what I imagine the Temple of Doom would smell like.
Wasabi Shiso by DSH Perfumes
Ahhhh, sharp green leaves, cool sting of wasabi and that unmistakable soapy scent of coriander and bean sprouts (not in the notes but SO there). Wasabi Shiso smells almost exactly like the base of Jin’s favourite Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.
Portia also writes for Australian Perfume Junkies