DSH and More

Unfinished business — first, for anyone who’s wondered what I look like — here’s a photo of me, as you can see I’m not really a 65-year-old man.  This is my new short hair cut, it was quite long, several of you asked what it looked like.  There’s a slightly different version of this photo in yesterday’s makeup post if you want to see my snazzy lipstick.  That white stuff on my coat and hair is snow — Diva took this of me on Saturday in the middle of the blizzard.  I think I look like I’m ready to tear somebody at Guerlain a new one, don’t I?  Musette says I look a little feral, and I know she means that in a nice way.

Second — as we all suspected, I am an idiot about Beyonce’s Heat fragrance.  It is, indeed, a fruity, insipid musk; I must have had something (God knows what) on my hands that gave it that skank, and don’t you dare start typing nasty things into comments.  The musk in the drydown is that same sour-fresh musk that I hate in large quantities in, say, some of the JLo fragrances.

I got a couple samples of new Dawn Spencer Hurwitz stuff in the mail (thanks, secret friend!) and so I got to try Kohl Gris, which seems to be making its way through the perfumista circuit the same way a couple other DSH scents like Mahjoun and Cimabue did.

As quoted from the DSH website, “Kohl Gris is the scent of the smoky eye; sexy, seductive and smoldering. Built on a classical base of ambergris, Kohl Gris wafts in sensuality and spicy smoke.”  Notes, also from the website: Bergamot, Black Pepper, Black Pine, Clove Leaf, Centifolia Rose Absolute, Egyptian Jasmine Absolute, Esprit de Lavande, Ambergris, Australian Sandalwood, Brown Oakmoss, Clove Tobacco, Labdanum, Olibanum (Frankincense), Orris.

Given my makeup post yesterday, a “smoky-eye” fragrance seemed like the perfect review choice for today.

As you might expect from that list of notes, it opens spicy and peppery – and with quite a bit of lavender.  At that point it seems to me to be a darkish, stormy purple-gray.  Then it becomes quite sweet, sweeter than I’d expected, the florals accenting the way that incense scents can sometimes be quite sweetly resinous; I assume this is the ambergris (which so far as I know is synthetic, in case the mere idea freaks you out) along with the labdanum.  I’d had hopes for the sandalwood, given my current sandalwood search, but I’d describe this as more resiny/incense/spice than woods.

How do I feel about Kohl Gris?  I don’t know.  I can’t decide whether it’s beautiful and I like it, or whether it’s too ambery/rosy/lavender and I don’t.  However, given that I’ve sprayed it on seven or eight different days to try to make that determination, it is clearly interesting, which is more than I can say about any number of other scents I smell in a week.

Next up: E’pices d’Hiver, the first in “an all botanical collection of fine perfumes.”  (Does that mean all natural?  I have no idea.)  Notes are: Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Citrus Oils, Coriander Seed, Davana, Pink Peppercorn, Star Anise, Cinnamon Bark, Clove Bud, Grandiflorum Jasmine, Moroccan Rose Absolute, Nutmeg, Spice Notes, Ambrette Seed, Labdanum, Siam Benzoin, Tolu Balsam, Tonka Bean, True Arabian Myrrh, Vanilla Absolute.

This would be a classic DSH spicefest, which you probably either love or loathe.  Interestingly, this one has to sit on my skin for about five minutes, during which it’s very light, before it starts to bloom.  Like, say, Mahjoun or Sienna, there isn’t a ton of development – lots and lots of spices, not especially sweet, I particularly love the first half hour when the bitter orange is quite prominent.  There’s nothing pomander-ish about it; it’s fresh, not dusty.   More complex than Sienna (which is an ode to cinnamon) and less ornate than Cimabue, it’s a nice interplay between juicy citrus and pungent kitchen spices.

I actually used a Posse post awhile back to gather feedback on DSH’s huge (and somewhat confusing) inventory and website.   Among other things that happened after that feedback, they now offer smaller sizes in almost all their scents.  Also, heeding the pleas of potential customers who were just looking for someplace to start, she came up with sampler sets (Holiday Favorites, Hidden Gems, etc.) , which I think is a great way to meet a line.   I grabbed the Top Ten list here, for anyone familiar (or not) with the line, who might be curious: Cimabue, Jitterbug, Mahjoun, Nourouz, Cardamom & Khyphi, DSH Special Formula X, Au Lait, Rose Vert, Wild Fig, Ashram and dirtyROSE. ** All in EdP format.  (This is available as a sampler set.)

That certainly includes some of my favorites.  I’ll put in a plug here for Special Formula X (I have the X-treme version in oil.)  My understanding is that it was first developed for Dawn to get a sense of how various notes might work out on a customer’s skin, depending on how they perceived X.  I like musky scents and SFX is one of my favorites.  Neither laundry-soap-musk nor dirty, it’s a warm, faintly sweet skin scent that is a perfect wallpaper scent while managing to be sexy at the same time.  Fans of DSH will likely recognize it, it seems to me it’s a familiar base in her line.

And finally, there’s Cimabue, which is how I (and many other perfumistas) met the line, a riff on L’Artisan’s Safran Troublant, only a lot spicier and more ornate, highlighting the saffron without killing me with rose, which is the problem with ST.  Cimabue is hands down my favorite saffron – and I have done some looking, believe me.  Dawn told me once that saffron and rose, a common combo, are often paired because saffron on its own can be very bitter, and needs some sort of sweeter/floral counterpoint.  While Cimabue has rose in it, I can’t pick it out.  Instead, florals like jasmine and tuberose, as well as cardamom, nutmeg, clove, and lots of vanilla, craft this saffron scent into something labeled a gourmand/oriental.  I don’t want to eat it myself, but I’m happy to smell it all day long.

On me, the oils hold up a bit longer than the EdP concentrations, although you have to give them time to set up on the skin, although I don’t have any complaints about the EdP longevity.  I think the general consensus is that Dawn also does really nice roses for those of you who love that note in fragrance.  I’ll stick with the spices and comfort scents, myself.

Sources: all DSH samples except Special Formula X-treme are private samples.  I got X-treme directly from DSH.

  • I have purse sprays of Cimabue and Nourouz and also love Special Formula X and Giardino Segreti. Additionally I have a strange fascination with Jitterbug, though I swear it has civet in and I shouldn’t like it really.

  • violetnoir says:

    Dang, woman, you are Hot, with a capital H! I love your new look. Love the hair, makeup, eyes, lips, nails and well, everything!

    Just wanted to stop by and tell ya that.


  • Joe says:

    You’re first few paragraphs are hilarious, as always. Also Diva takes a good photograph.

    I really need to explore DSH more, and I need to test drive a larger quantity of Cimabue. Not that it’s like Cimabue, but when I hear “saffron and rose,” I think immediately of Diptyque L’Eau de Tarocco, which became one of my sleeper loves of 2009. Just the other night I sniffed the top again and it really IS all that to me. Saffron, a *hint* of rose, and lots of juicy, zesty orange. A complex but easy-to-wear twist on straight-up orange cologne; it does really well sprayed.

    • March says:

      I should try the Diptyque. I hate a big rose with my saffron, and this sounds manageable. I wish more people carried Diptyque like they used to, back in the day. :(( :-w

      Diva turned her photo-skilz into a negotiation for various other things.

  • (Ms.) Christian says:

    You’ll age well with those cheekbones, March.

    I love Kohl Gris. Dawn is good with those booming resinous base notes and this one is a spicy labdanum on me. I love her “interpretation” of Vent Vert, too. It’s very close to vintage VV and it’s one of the few full bottles that I have replaced a few times.

    She also created one (can’t think of the name-too lazy to look) based on a poem about the underground. It’s atmospheric like D’Zhongka and Sienne l’Hiver and it’s very odd, long lasting and a love of mine. Several perfumers were invited to create a scent based on the poem. I think Andy Tauer created one, too, and blogged about it, but it was not one he sold.

    I think the best thing she has ever done is Hinoki. I used to layer that with Andy’s now d/c’d Orris and would think-“hell, who needs a date?! I smell amazing.” Smoky, woody-the bizness. Check it out.

  • smy says:

    Thanks for this post! It makes me want to sample some of her scents. This might sound silly but I got discouraged because I was in Boulder for a conference and tried to visit the DSH shop the following Saturday before leaving town, but it was closed (website said it opened at 10 am, which is when I got there, but it actually opened at 11 am). And then a few weeks later I got a speeding ticket in the mail via photo enforcement from the City of Boulder! They have a photo of me speeding away with a very disappointed look on my face. I should put this all behind me and just order some samples since they sound fabulous.

    • March says:

      Oh, that’s terrible! Don’t take it out on DSH … make a bad thing better and try her line sometime. Those camera-tickets annoy me beyond all reason. I think I just got one the other day…

  • Kate says:

    I’m with Style Sly, I just don’t bother with DSH although she is quite nice isn’t she? And must say, thank you for an old post on Cedre. It is all that. And its on me today. A great sunny snowy day scent. The look is great, dollface!

    • March says:

      Cedre, one of my recent Big Thrills (I bought a bottle too.) And I’d never tried it, because of the name. I thought it would smell like … you know … cedar. 🙂 It’s perfect on a sunny snow day.

  • springpansy says:

    Well, I have to update my comment now – I’ve been wearing the Kohl Gris for 4 hours now. I stand by my earlier comments except that I want to add that it turns into a warm, very wearable close to the skin scent – a bit of spice, a bit of amber but not too much of anything. No, it’s not her most unique scent, but you could do a lot worse for a go-to cool weather scent.

  • allabouteve says:

    Hi everybody!
    This is an off-topic (of today) question…was too late to comment on the previous post..Carter, this is a question for you!! Your fabulous mani-trick, you know, that “after-painting nails-water/oil-bath”..does the excess enamel peel off the skin if you use THOSE specific brands of base and top-coat or will it work anyway?I love to paint my short nails in Vendetta or Gondola..but always end up not doing it because it’s such a mess!If this works..you will be my new beauty-guru!!:)
    And,talking about DSH..I just have to remember to get me some samples!

  • Musette says:

    Feral is GOOD! You have that wonderful ‘terrier’ quality in your eyes – that “I’m charming and delightful and lovely but DO NOT piss me off or I will have no problem slapping you upside the head with a rock” look. Yeah, that one.

    I love that look. I would have that look, if I could. It’s more intriguing that my look, which is straight up No Fun Here, alas.

    I have a couple of DSH samps, including Jitterbug, which I think I like. I will have to try it anon. I am wearing Shocking! today which eats the heart out of anything I try to put on top of it.

    xoxo >-)

    • March says:

      Hahaha! No Fun Here! In Chicago when we met I thought you looked charming and chic and intelligent, and that I wouldn’t want to get on your bad side. Just saying.

      Shocking!!! What a perfect day for it, too. 😡

  • Style Spy says:

    First off — GAH! Great haircut! That’s the haircut I wanted, but mine is too curly and refused to look like that — it was just puffy. Bleah.

    DSH is a line I’ve never even attempted for the very reason you mention — there’s just so much of it that I don’t even know where to start. a themed sampler set would be just the ticket.

    • March says:

      Thanks. Yes, if it were very curly, I’d have to cut it much shorter or leave it much longer.

      I’m no personal friend of hers — I just happen to like various parts of their line, which I think are good value for the money. I only stumbled in there because I’d tried a couple of the “comfort” scents so I ordered up some additional samps. Her scents are, at least, categorized, and you can search by note (like rose). I’d say if you tried a sampler set, even her “most popular,” you’d know then and there whether the line offered anything for you.

  • springpansy says:

    I love the short hair – you look amazing! I put on a bit of my sample of Kohl Gris today so I could follow along with your review. I agree with you about the way it develops and while I like it, I don’t love it. At the very least, I’m sure that means that I don’t need a bottle – yay! I find the drydown, while lovely, very similar to others of hers.

    • March says:

      I’ve only tried segments of her line and agree that, if you’re wallowing in a category, like gourmand spices, the drydown can be similar, in which case you might as well pick the one or two you really like, if you’re not in love with the variants at the top. The ones I wear pretty regularly are Sienna, SFX and Cimabue, although Mahjoun is growing on me.

  • Louise says:

    Kohl Gris is a nice one, a lovely b-day gift from a lovely friend 😡 You know who you are..;)I like the smokey beginning a lot, and the middle, which goes a bit fruity, not floral on me. The drydown is pleasant, but very remniscent of several other DSHs, especially Mahjoun.

    Cardamon and Kyphi is a weird one-almost bitter at the start, then warming into a rose-based incense, very long lasting and interesting.

    Cimabue and the new Epice should have worked for me, spice hound that I am, but sadly, neither did.

    As far as Heat, well, with all due respect (been hearing that a lot lately)-I toldja so 😮

    • March says:

      Wah, I killed my Gravatar! Maybe it will come back, I think they’re cached somewhere …

      The only one I couldn’t stand was another one lots of people like, the LE from last year … what a space cadet, I just forgot the name! And I think it’s been rereleased as Nourouz. Tamarind Paprika! I like it better the second time around, I wonder if she tweaked it a little.

      • Disteza says:

        Yeah, I was one of those who was really into Tamarind Paprika–so far that’s been the only perfume from DSH that wears well on me (And I’ve tried a whole bunch). Of course, mentioning that it may have been tweaked probably means that it won’t smell so awesome on me anymore… :((
        Oh well, I’ll go console myself with my newly acquired Fleurs d’ Citronnier and see about digging out the car from under the snow.

        • March says:

          Hehe! Good purchase! I really need to buy Oranger, what is wrong with me? But I bought Miel de Bois instead, apparently it’s being discontinued and they’re serious this time.

    • Melissa says:

      I was so busy whining about Heat :-& that I forgot to comment about Kohl Gris. Which is one of my favorite DSH scents at the present time. On me, it’s smoky, resinous and sweet, but not overly so. It was perfect for the holidays and it’s still great for these snowy days. An easy-to-reach-for fragrance.

      • March says:

        I usually kill off the sweet, but I think I brought it out a bit more in this one? That middle part is a bit too sweet on me. 🙁

        Let’s see if my short-hair gravatar shows up…

  • Fernando says:

    So far, I haven’t found any of DSH’s masculine fragrances really work for me. I have to admit that her enormous list confuses me no end! Any recommendation for the guys?

    • March says:

      Auugh… I have no idea. I’m partial to the “comfort” scents. Others are partial to her roses. I’d say if you’ve tried her masculines and there isn’t a category there that appeals to you, like Orientals, maybe it’s not going to work for you?

  • Oh gosh! Here you are!! Lovely too, gorgeous skin, the new hair is great and smokey eyes seem to suit you a lot! :*

    Aside from that I also adore Cimabue (after all I devoted a whole separate review on it) I wasn’t crazy about Epices d’Hiver although I do like it, but perhaps predictably like you I love Special Formula X and agree wholeheartedly! She does some lovely things with her musks, I intend to focus on them with a bit more detail. (:-@)

    Sending you a ray of sunshine, we had gorgeous weather these past couple of days after a bout of cooooold. I even spotted a mimosa just starting to bloom!

    • March says:

      Oh, you’ve reviewed Cimabue? I have to go look. It always makes me happy, it’s such a welcome scent, particularly for me this time of year. And yes, SFX is a keeper. I look forward to your thoughts.

  • Melissa says:

    Well thank you for reminding me to tell you that I took the challenge (bait) yesterday and grabbed a bottle of Heat at Macy’s and…..THANKFULLY, spritzed it on paper! Because it immediately singed the hairs in my nose, then it reached down the back of my throat and tried to take a lung. If I had sprayed it on my hand, I swear my skin would have melted. Fruity insipid musk? Left to age in botulism laced canned peaches? Yow.

  • Rappleyea says:

    You’re gaaawgeous, March! In that photo you look like you could be the nose behind a perfume like say, Mitsouko.

    Thank you very much to the generous Carol at WAFT, I’ve sampled several of the DSH scents. Very well done, but so far haven’t found one that works for me. As you say, there are a bunch so no need to give up!

    • March says:

      I’ve blogged on DSH before, as you know. Besides Cimabue, I mostly like her gourmand comfort scents — Sienna, Au Lait, stuff like that, which I think she does really well. I’m not going to pretend they are high art, but neither is much of the other scents I’m fond of. 🙂

  • Francesca says:

    It’s the middle of the night. I’m not all there. Cimabue is from whom??? I love that Cimabue crucifix that got effed up in the late 60s Florence flood.

    • March says:

      Cimabue is another DSH. It’s worth trying if you like saffron and wish it weren’t quite so enveloped in a rose. You like spicy oriental thingies, you might like it.

  • Flora says:

    Mahjoun is my favorite DSH so far, except for all the OTHER ones I love, like Padme Lotus and American Beauty and Bancha and and and …….Cimabue I did not “get” until I tried it in the oil and then WOW. Now I adore it. Pretty sure I need to try Kohl Gris next!:x

    • March says:

      Mahjoun I was sort of on the fence about, and now I love it. Cimabue was love at first sniff. Even I have only sniffed a small part of her line, and I’ve sniffed a lot.

  • dissed says:

    I read, “Kohl Grits.” And actually attempted to make sense of it, just for a second there. Time to go to bed.

  • Scent HIve says:

    I adore Epices d’Hiver. And yes, it’s 100% botanical, all natural. It’s from her Gaia line which will only be all natural.

    As you can imagine, I’m thrilled she has so many naturals already in her line, and plans to do more.


    • March says:

      Thanks for the clarification about Hiver. I really liked it, and I wasn’t sure another one would do much for me. But the orange is great.