The first ten seconds of Cuir et Champignon are scary stuff. Smoky, meaty, salty and very carnal. I've been a vegetarian for years now, so wearing a brisket is as appealing to me as cooking and eating it. But before I have a chance to say "tofurky", it becomes clear that this Dawn Spencer Hurwitz creation is, indeed, a perfume. A very fine one, actually.
To those new to American indie perfumes, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is a perfume artist who lives and works in Boulder, Colorado. Her Parfums des Beaux Arts line is among the most interesting and original I've come across, without compromising beauty and accessibility. Cuir et Chamignon was released this fall and has already won some fans. You can count me among them.
Once the grill and BBQ sauce go away I'm left with leather. Smooth and warm, as dry as they come with a hint of smoke. Cuir et Chamignon is just animalic enough to keep things sexy, but also surprisingly elegant. There's a floral note there that to me is better and has more bite than in Chanel's Cuir de Russie (definitely smoother than the current Les Exclusifs EDT formulation). It adds just a tiny amount of sweetness, which works to give it that lovely "perfuminess" and prevent the fragrance from becoming a hide soup.
A look at the official note list explains how DSH has managed to create the luxurious feel and old world charm of Cuir et Champignon:
Top notes: Bergamot, Clary Sage, Galbanum, Neroli, Wild Chamomile
Middle notes: Cepes (mushroom absolute), Clove Bud, Gardenia, Honey, Orris, Sandalwood, Tuberose Absolute
Base notes: Castoreum, Civet, Guiacwood, Hiba Cedarwood, Indonesian Vetiver, Leather, Peru Balsam, Tobacco Absolute
The perfume is rich and thick. It wears like a favorite winter coat that got a little wet in the rain and caught a waft of smoke from the hearth. It's a lot more romantic than champignons or even cepes (porcini mushrooms) suggest. The sillage is noticeable even after a few hours and longevity is excellent.
Cuir et Champignon by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz ($40 0.25oz EDP. Other sizes and concentrations available) can be found at dshperfumes.com. There's a 20% discount with code HOLIDAY10 until December 13th. The sample for this review was sent by the perfumer.
Photo: Angela Dunn by Lincoln Clarkes, London 1988 from Killerbeesting on tumblr (please note the photograph collection is NSFW)