Archive for November, 2010

December Holiday Eau de Parfum

This is just a little quickie… to say I have finally, officially launched  DECEMBER at the site as well as the HOLIDAY Collection boxes and Sampler Sets.  Although I didn’t manage to get my newsletter out to everyone mentioning the *Thank You / Holiday Sale* before CYBER MONDAY, I am happy to say that I have updated the site before the stroke of twelve. (I guess I can’t have everything…)  Hurray, Hurray!!  It’s the HOLIDAYS! (Can you tell I love Yuletide?)

Sending happy MONDAY vibes to everyone!  Let’s have an awesome week.

*AD* ps: in case you are new to the blog: our sale code is Holiday10  ~ enjoy!

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winter moon

After yesterday’s cold snap, I’m seriously getting into the Holiday mood and feeling like I can begin to enjoy the dark mystery of winter…with a little help.  Maybe you have wondered why I create a new Holiday fragrance every year?  Well, because I need it; I need to focus on the positive things about heading into winter and celebrate it.  It’s a psychological thing that gets me through the cold and darkness and back to the light in Spring.  There’s a parallel with the archetypal ‘going into the labyrinth’ that while it’s important work to do, it’s not comfortable.  This is kind of how I feel about Winter, even though I wouldn’t want to live anywhere that doesn’t go through all of the seasons.  Scent is the key; it is the one thing that transforms something uncomfortable into something not only acceptable but joyous.  So, I create a perfume to help me feel that joy of the season…and for me, it works.  Today, ‘December’, my new Holiday fragrance is launching on the site and it’s filled with nostalgia; of walking in the woods looking for our Christmas tree when I was a child, of making pomanders in school and making gingerbread with my Grandmother.  It even has a base of sacred incense, frankincense and myrrh, that reminds me of advent, which my mother always celebrated.  There is something about ‘December’ that gives me a sense of being close to home, even though I am not (close to where I grew up, that is).  I know this feeling will help get me through the Winter ahead.

winter solstice moon

Another bit of imagery that continues to inspire me is a full moon and its magical light, especially during the Winter months.  It is something I actually look forward to.  This weeks full moon has been INTENSE if you have noticed and wow!  it’s been huge and beautiful.  I have created some of my favorite winter perfumes with this theme (I thought I’d mention two, but, oh, there are more… way more. Maybe that will be for another post) : Inner Sanctum, with its woody moss, incense and rose and Minuit, that’s all about the winter moon with silver fir, carnation, spice, labdanum and again, moss.  The richness of these perfumes keep me warm when I am cold and something about the fact that when it is SO dark, completely without Summer’s benevolence that I feel brought down to my core.  I feel alive and grateful for it.  I’ll close my eyes and just inhale the beauty that can only come in this kind of solemn space.  Maybe that is what Winter is for..metaphorically, speaking.    (Well…  Who knew I would wax so philosophically today? )

Here is one more image to share that always springs to my mind when I am in this particular space and getting ‘deep’ with things…It’s chilly but so evocative.

caspar david friedrich

I am wishing you a wonderful “Black Friday” and the official start to the Holiday Season!

ps: (*AD) don’t forget that our annual Holiday / Thank you sale is on right now at the site: 20% off all orders until Dec.13, with member code: holiday10.

photo info:

*winter solstice moon found at this site: thank you, *love caspar david friedrich and his gothic imagery found here, *winter moon image found here

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This is just a little quickie post.  (It’s already been a jam-packed week so far and it’s only Monday!)  For now, I’d like to show you the lovely Mata Hari presentation bottle (in case you haven’t seen it at the site yet).  I LOVE this fabulous bottle … it so perfectly fits the fragrance.

Yeah…I’m in love.

Also, here’s the winners of the Holiday Sampler set  drawing:

* Anita

* Lucy

* Martina

Winners, please email me with your address so I can send the sets to you.  (dsh@dshperfumes.com)   Get ready to be in the Holiday mood and everyone, have a great Thanksgiving week!

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sugar plums

We’ve been working like elves these days at the Studio getting ready for the holidays… planning and now producing our creations.  This Autumn has been chock full of great new releases and we’ve even planned just one more before we bid adieu to 2010.  Our annual Holiday fragrance will launch on the site November 26 (aka  Black Friday).  It’s a little early for its namesake: December, but I don’t think that anyone will mind.

December evokes for me many of the best ‘smells’ of the season: pomanders, gingerbread, the long walk in the woods to find the perfect Christmas tree, and traditional incense (I call it gnostic incense) made of frankincense and myrrh.  You might think that having so many elements in one fragrance would be chaotic but they really do work together and weave a story as magical as this time of year.  (*AD: December will be available in the Essense Studio Collection at the site.)

While we’ve been in full Holiday mode, we’ve also been getting our special gift ideas ready.  The new perfume solids (in some of our best-selling scents:  Cimabue, Piment et Chocolat, Cafe Noir, Tubereuse and Winter White) have already been a smash hit since we introduced then at our anniversary party at the beginning of the month and now we have another awesome holiday gift idea: the HOLIDAY collection box.  Maybe you didn’t know about our holiday series but we’ve released a special holiday perfume every year since 2000!  This new collection is the best of the best, so 6 EdP mini flasks in one box of Winter White, Hanukah Cannelle, Twelfth Night, Lumiére, Nourouz and our newest, December.  I love the collection boxes so much!  I find they make the perfect gift simply because you are giving more than one scent… there’s always something inside to please anyone.  (Plus, the mini bottles are so cute!   And perfect for travel.  I actually carried around the bottle for YEARS in my handbag before I started using them, just because I loved it so much and wanted to find a use for it.  Now look at me go with these little beauties!)  Oh yes, and we’ll also have sampler vial sets of the full Holiday collection which includes: Festive, Twelfth Night, Cathedral, Winter White, Marzipan, Ma Folie de Noel, Lumiére, Silver Fir, Hanukah Cannelle and Nourouz.

While I’m on this subject, I should tell you all the news as we get close to Thanksgiving.  So here goes:

* We’re having a Holiday party  / Open House at the ESSENSE STUDIO on December 11 from noon to 7:30 pm. I hope that everyone who will be in or around Boulder on December 11 will come and get festive with us!

* Our annual Thank You / Holiday Sale will start on Friday, November 26 (Black Friday, aka the day after Thanksgiving)!  It’s our way of saying thank you to our devoted clients and lovers of fragrance for making this year a great one and continuing to support fragrant art form.  So we’re offering 20% off at the Studio and online, using member code “holiday10” at check out.  (The Holiday sale will run from November 26 – December 13).  So, start making your lists!

In case you’re not sure what to get your loved ones for the Holidays, DSH has been so fortunate to be included in some wonderful blogs gift guides : alliamaredhead, scenthive and indieperfumes…  These are some fabulous blogs that you should check out regularly, anyway, if you don’t already.  I love them!

So, it’s off to the Studio today for more stocking up and mixing more batches of perfumes.  We’ll be filling little bottles and making Holiday Collection boxes today.

Wishing you a deliciously fragrant weekend~

ps: I’m inspired!  I’d like to do a drawing for 3 Holiday sampler vial sets to get in the mood!  Please leave a comment to enter… drawing open until the end of  November 21.  Good luck everyone!

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greta garbo as mata hari (1931)

Well, the our project has launched and I’m already racing to finish the next phase of Holiday projects.  I haven’t forgotten my new love, however.  She is still firmly in my heart and on my mind.  You know, I had this one drive home from the studio when I thought of over five REALLY good ideas (well I thought they were at the time) to illustrate the project but by the time I got home, I had forgotten to write them down, thinking that they were so memorable that I would, of course, just remember them.  Of course, I did not.  Except for Mata Hari.  And as the weeks went by and I wracked my brain to remember what I forgot, Mata Hari stayed with me.  The seduction had already begun.  In fact, the story of Mata Hari had enthralled me years ago when I first saw the fabulous Greta Grabo movie Mata Hari.  (I am a HUGE Greta Grabo fan!!!  And what an OUTLAW she was… a woman in pants in public!?!  But, I digress.)   I wanted every single outfit Adrian had created for her; especially the velvet and jewels dress with the fabulous skull-cap and the all black velvet number she goes off to the firing squad in.  She was captivating.

fabulous Adrian outfit no.1

I was also really struck by the fictional Mata / Greta ‘s infatuation with the seductive, erotic orchid in whose ‘pouch’?  (labia?) she hid her coded messages as double agent.    It reminded me of the true to life fascination with orchids and their exoticism / eroticism of the late Victorian and early 20th Century eras.   Hmmm… I think I’m on to something: there are many classic perfumes from the 1900’s to 1910’s that mention orchid as a main heart note ingredient.  Now this is a good place to start.   We know that orchid notes are conventionally ‘fantasy’ notes, somewhat based on olfactive research on the flowers but at that time, many of the orchid accords were rich blends of heady florals, oriental balsams and resins and pure imagination.  So, this was the first accord that made it’s way into my consciousness for my perfume Mata Hari, the Vintage Orchid.

The next step was to decide: Oriental?  or Chypre?  The project by it’s nature makes me lean toward any liberal use of oakmoss but there are tons of spices on the IFRA list as well.  Mata Hari was pretending to be Indonesian, of Hindu royal birth, so that sends me in the Oriental direction.  But then I had it: a fruity Chypre not only typifies the fragrance chic of the time and place (Paris c.1910-1918), but the fruits speak to Mata Hari’s sensuality while the moss and leather her prowess and sexual abandon (at the time not usually attributed to women).  Plus, it wouldn’t be difficult to fit in some oriental references to Indonesia and the Far East as well.  Perfect.

The next accord to construct was the leather.  Animalic notes can be tricky when using all botanicals to compose, but again, I went for the classical interpretation.  Based on birch tar, it’s a smoky, ‘brown’, tanned leather note more so than modern concepts of suede or black leather.

fabulous Adrian outfit no.2 (Greta Garbo with Ramon Navarro)

Another of the focus accords is lilac; notoriously elusive and usually created from synthetics.  I felt that lilac would not only pose a challenge but also speak to the ultimate feminine, the “Goddess’ energy at the heart of Mata Hari’s outrageous personality.  I worked on a relatively simple accord that I am happy with that approximates some of the aromatic signature of lilac and very much hits all of the ‘pitches’ that lilac hits but there was something about it that resembled tinctured lilacs.  It’s got an aged quality that works within the overall design but I do think that I’ll expand the concept in the future.  This is the ‘Lilac Cocktail’ accord.

I’m saving the best for last: the fruit note no.1 accord.  Peach?  Mango?  All botanical??  This accord, I must tell you, was the most fun.  Composed of citrus, florals and herbs, the fruit note is luscious and juicy with nuances of dried apricots and figs.  For me it symbolizes, well, a bustiness…all curves and feminine sexuality.

All told, Mata Hari is replete with the IFRA restricted aromatics… Here’s the list of every botanical included:  bergamot, lemon, neroli, orange blossom absolute, mandarin, tarragon, sweet &  blood orange, davana, tagettes, galbanum, carrot seed, black pepper, cassie flower absolute, mimosa absolute, jonquil absolute, orris butter, rose de mai absolute, damascena rose otto, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose absolute, ylang ylang, champaca absolute, osmanthus absolute, nutmeg, cinnamon leaf, cinnamon bark, clove bud, honey absolute, angelica root absolute, ambrette seed co2, benzoin, cistus, costus root, oakmoss absolute, peru balsam, australian sandalwood, styrax absolute, tonka bean absolute, vanilla absolute, cumin, patchouli, java vetiver, buddahwood, texas cedarwood, cassis absolute, myrrh gum, tabac absolute, and cade.

(*FYI: This list is the “full disclosure” list of ingredients.  It includes all of the notes used to create the accords as well as single notes to ‘sew’ it all together.  This means that some of the ingredients are in minute proportions, included to round out the design, not to show themselves like a parade of stars.  Others are focal points and meant to be observed.)

WOW!  Just about every bit of this design is from the restricted / banned list!  But what can I say?  I love these oils; truly and deeply.   And I know Mata Hari herself would love them, too.

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I don’t know about anyone else but for me last week was one crazy week…  Was there something in the stars? Or is it the pre-Holiday ramping up we’re all doing right now  (whether we realize it or not) ?   It might have also been the big excitement around the studio for the launch of the newest joint project with the Natural Perfumers Guild and eight bloggers, which starts TODAY!  Tah Dah: The OUTLAW Project.

The OUTLAW Project was presented to us, as perfumer members of the Guild, to create a perfume utilizing botanical perfume materials that are on the IFRA / EU restricted and / or banned list.  You might ask why we would want to do that?  Well, in the past few years more and more naturals have been singled out as ‘hazardous’ ( ie: might cause a rash or you might be allergic to it) and what we are left with is an increasing selection of synthetics to replace the naturals with.  I, personally, am not one to dis synthetics altogether as gross or whatever… I see their beauty and their value.  However, I do find that most perfumes that are composed of nearly all synthetics are poor quality, feel soul-less and flat-out don’t smell good to me.  This whole thing has sadly become a political hot button issue in many places and what seems to be the result so far is the killing off of some of our best historical classics (YSL Opium, whether you like this fragrance or not, is a masterpiece and has recently been re-formulated to exclude all of those pesky naturals on the IFRA /EU list and while some find the new fragrance pleasant, it’s not Opium…more like “Ghost of Opium”).

As a Perfumer I am horrified to consider life without rose absolute / rose otto, or jasmine, bergamot or styrax for that matter… These classic perfumery materials are fundamental to classic perfumery styles and without them, we can not practice our art.  As an artist, I will always work with materials that I have, but to be relegated to an entirely synthetic world changes everything.  And I don’t think it is for the better.  Not by a long shot.  So, the OUTLAW perfume project was born out of protest and a call to common sense and sanity when it comes to the potential risks of interacting with perfume.  A simple label should suffice (* if cigarettes can just have a warning label, why not perfume?) Plus, on the political side, seriously, we have more exposure to chemicals in food, which we completely ingest by eating, than we do from applying scent to the skin.  Oh and the chemicals I am speaking of are naturally occurring, like eugenol in cloves or terpenes in orange oil.  You could get more exposure by eating pesto (basil is on the list as well).

So, we will be outlaws: we will continue to produce perfumes outside of the confines of IFRA and the EU standards because we know that the materials we are using are not HARMFUL (to most everyone) and that a simple label suggesting caution and forethought when using the product is enough.  Also, speaking as someone with asthma and who has been tested to find that I am allergic to just about everything in nature (grasses, mold, pollen…) I know that I have to be careful in the world; people with allergies, etc know this.  So they will read the label, take it to heart and do the recommended patch test.  They will also go slow in terms of spreading something all over them before they know how it will react.  This is common sense and we will stand for that by going rogue…by being OUTLAWS.

By now, you might have read a bit about my OUTLAW perfume submission, Mata Hari, who was quite the outlaw herself.  I really liked that she was European so that I could take some influences from classic European perfume from the early 1900’s and show how integral the naturals are to the richness, quality and overall design elements of classic perfumes.  I also like that she was pretending to be Indonesian, of Hindu royalty and trained in the Temple rituals of her culture.  This inspired traditional Oriental aromatics that were also on the forbidden list.  All in all, I must have used over 20 essences on the list (*which is huge and you can see it at indieperfumes blog and also WAFT…blog), maybe more.  When creating an all botanical perfume, how can you not end up using notes that are on that list… EVERYTHING is on that list.

In this post I was going to talk more about the perfume but I ended up talking politics and the destruction of our art form.  Good.  We need to talk about this.  We are losing so much more than our history… we’re losing the opportunity to create more wonderful works on the continuum of that heritage.  Our future is at stake.   We must make a stand and become OUTLAWS.

ps: I almost forgot to list the bloggers who are partnering with the Guild to review the perfumes and talk about our project:

It’s going to be an exciting week!

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This is just a quickie post as I’m off to another installment of ‘one crazy week’ at the studio. I did want to let you all know about a draw for a 1 oz / 30 ml Cuir et Champignon that’s happening at Now Smell This today.  (It’s open to US shipping only… sorry to all my peeps elsewhere…)


Check it out and enter to win! Good luck everyone… and a gloriously fragrant day to you all~

cuir et champignon 1 oz EdP


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Mata Hari in Paris c.1910

Something has come over me this Fall… I’ve been busier than ever in my aroma studio.  I’ve not only been figuring out the Holiday special gift (have I mentioned the perfume solids?  they’re on the site right now but I’ll have to get into that in another post), but completing the Secrets of Egypt collection (hello, Sampsuchinon) plus Cuir et Champignon and Mata Hari.  Now granted, Cuir et Champignon has been a work in progress since the end of 2008 (I started designing it back then but put it down for almost two years) so that didn’t happen all at once. Mata Hari, has been a somewhat simultaneous project to C&C but couldn’t be more different.  Now that I think of it, it’s been a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for me as C&C is dusty, earthy, and somewhat intellectual whereas Mata Hari is all happening lower down; in the heart and in the body.   I can sum it up this way: Mata Hari is super sexy, luscious, and as full on top as it is on the bottom.  No one is on a diet here; we’re full on going for Babette’s Feast.  And seduction?  Oh, yeah, we’re all over that.

Mata Hari is set to officially be released on November 15 as my submission to a new project (I won’t talk about the project until the unveiling of the concept on the 15th as well) but I will say that I am super excited about it.  It’s a fruity, floral, chypre  with definite influences of some of my favorite perfumers / historical masterpieces / period perfumes from the turn of the century to the 1920’s.  I really wanted to give Mata Hari the feel of an early twentieth century perfume with all the richness and sexuality intact as well as tell a story of Mata Hari with all that she represents to the Femme Fatale icon.  This is no small feat and I hope that I have done her name justice.

For this project, the design must be all natural (no synthetics!) so creating Mata Hari presented a real challenge to pull off since most ‘fruity fruit’ notes (plum, peach, apricot, mango, melon, apple, berry etc) are just that: synthetic.    And while I have created some fruity perfumes in my time, “sweet and fruity” isn’t exactly a big theme with me, so I felt that I had to be more creative and resourceful than ever.

To start, I think that having some grasp of perfume history is important, just as knowing art history is important for all visual artists.  I believe that Ambrose Bierce had it right when he said “There’s nothing new under the sun…”; especially in the arts.   There’s always a reference to something or someone who has come before, or most often multiple reference points.  There’s not only homage but this referencing also speaks to belonging to a lineage.  Classical perfumery essentially must make these references and we are the better for it.  Hopefully.  What comes about from this kind of referencing is an aspiration to greatness: to the very best of the classical masterpieces while creating something unique as it is filtered through the artists themselves.  We’ll try.  And so I endeavor.

With Mata Hari, I realized early on that there were so many great masterpieces of the period (c.1900-1920) that I should start with a little outline to get a clear view of my ‘reference notes’; of what to keep and what to edit out.  For me, what came immediately to mind are a couple of the great Jacques Guerlain designs (L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko) as well as Francois Coty’s L’Origan and Chypre.  And while Bal a Versailles, Fete de Molyneux and Femme de Rochas are not of the period, they found their way into my consciousness and I consider them influences as well.  One commonality to note from all of these perfumes is the deliberate use of synthetics, and of course,  synthetics are the only materials unavailable to me for this design.  But beyond that, some notes did emerge again and again to form a theme: peach, orchid, lilac, jasmine, rose, benzoin, labdanum, oakmoss, leather and animal notes.  Hmmm… peach, lilac, leather and most animal notes are, for the most part, synthetic and orchid is generally a fantasy. OK.  Then it came to me…the idea to construct it in a different way than I normally do: I’ll create structured accords as the dominant notes to start with.  Yes.  I like it.

While on occasion I have created one or perhaps two ‘accord’ notes to work with in a design, I more often construct using individual notes to build my ‘sculpture’ with the concept of tying everything together to create a unified whole.  For Mata Hari, I decided to create 4 prominent accords: Fruit accord no.1: peach-apricot-mango; Vintage Orchid; Lilac Cocktail; Botanical Leather 2 and build the fragrance from this foundation weaving these four ‘swaths’ into the complete work.  Or, to think of it another way, like building an armature to then add the clay to form the figure.  With Mata Hari, the accords are the armature and the other notes fill out the figure.  What has resulted is a LUSH, rounded, full figure, FRUITY chypre that is all botanical.

Stay tuned for part 2: the accords.  And for part 3: more influences…(with Mata Hari, there’s quite a lot to go with).

Mata Hari

Wishing you a fabulous new week~~~

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It’s November already, people!  I can hardly believe how fast this year has flown by and it’s getting to be time for the Holidays.  One thing that I look forward to now, though, is 7th of November; the ESSENSE STUDIO’s anniversary date and something to celebrate.  And so we are: Tomorrow (aka Friday, November 5).  (AD): So please come down to the studio to take a sneak peek at our latest art show, new jewelry pieces, NEWEST fragrance launches, Cuir et Champignon, Sampsuchinon and Holiday Solid perfumes, plus have a little treat, some wine from Augustina’s (after 5pm) and enter to win a prize, too!

There’s even more happening at the studio these days as well.  I just got back (well almost two weeks ago now – see: re-read title…) from Sniffapalooza Fall Ball in NYC (which was an absolute blast) and the first unveiling of Cuir et Champignon and I am thrilled to say that so far, the response has been incredible for Cuir et Champignon!  Yeah – let’s here it for that mushroom thang, right?  🙂  It did get me thinking though.  So, I’m heading back in to see what other tricks I can coax out of that crazy Cepes absolute.  Will it do any other thing than earthy, brown, mushroom?  I’m going to see.  After this weekend’s festivities and the launch of the next Natural Perfumers Guild project on the 15th (you’re going to LOVE this one, but that’s for another post), I’m going to sit down and get busy sketching some concepts for exploration. This is going to be fun, too.  I’ve gotten my hands on some wonderful new materials in the past few months and haven’t had a single free moment to explore and get my ‘hands wet’ (well, “feet” doesn’t work…).   The time has almost come and I’m really excited.

Sampsuchinon 'stone' perfume solid and mini perfume

For now, I’ll leave you with this little picture of the new Sampsuchinon perfumes that are the latest release in the Secrets of Egypt Collection.  (Boy oh boy, do I have a lot to write about…)

I am wishing you a lovely Thursday~

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