Tuesday, December 03, 2013

DSH Perfumes- Passport a` Paris

In Woody Allen's wonderful Midnight In Paris, once Gil Pender (Owen Wilson's character) travels through time and lands in Paris of his dreams, that of the 1920s,  he meets Adriana (played by Marion Cotillard).  Adriana feels she's missed on the real Golden Age in Paris, the Belle Epoque, when Paris was truly exciting. The same magic transports Gil and Adriana to Paris of the 1890s, where they learn that  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas actually long for the Renaissance. Adriana chooses to stay in the Belle Epoque while Gil decides to go back to the 21st century and make the best of it-- in Paris. This little story, believe it or not, is also relevant to perfume. Many of us spend time and money on hunting vintage perfumes from different decades and would sell chunks of our souls for a real Guerlain, Chanel, Coty and others. Wouldn't you do everything for an original and pristine 1889 bottle of Jicky?

Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes shares this love. She has teamed with Denver Art Museum and created three fragrances inspired by the "Passport to Paris" exhibition. DSH focused on artwork from the Belle Epoque (the exhibition itself actually showcases French art from the late 1600s to early 1900), and while her "Passport a` Paris" perfume was actually inspired by a Claude Monet painting depicting an out-of-town scene, The Beach at Trouville, the result is trés Parisienne.

Passport a` Paris by DSH Perfumes is a wonderful homage to Jicky as well as to another 19th century classic, Fougere Royale by Houbigant (here's my review of the modern version). On my skin this is a true Jicky fest-- the way I know the real thing would have smelled.  Passport a` Paris is sweet, animalic, and ornate. It gets you hooked by the citrus-green-lavender opening that's zesty and vibrant yet offers enough body and personality. The perfume doesn't try very hard  to appear all that fresh and clean, though there are some classic eau de cologne elements at play here (the leafy lemon is delicious). I get a lot of lavender which stays on my skin far beyond the reign of the top notes, and descends gracefully into the vanilla-coumarin-civet madness that forms the satisfying core of the perfume.

I remember Luca Turin commenting about vintage Jicky that the real thing with all its dirty civet would have been considered unwearable and undesirable today. I can't argue with that, as I've never the 1889 original (though I have bottles from later decades that seem quite civety and are utterly gorgeous). This DSH interpretation is very wearable, though. Perhaps it's the way the perfumer has tempered the heavy(ish) oriental form on all its complex smoky ambery richness with some greenery-- that's the ferny Fougere Royale influence.

The result is a beautiful perfume that smells timeless. You can imagine the heavy Edwardian silks packed by maids for the seaside vacation with little lavender sachets keeping them fresh. But you can also walk along today's promenades wearing a breezy short dress, sandals, and a spritz of Passport a` Paris and feel sophisticated, fashionable, and most important: happy.

Notes: Notes: lemon, bergamot, French lavender, rosewood, mandarin, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, orris root, clover, Australian sandalwood, amber, vanillin, coumarin, ambergris, patchouli, and civet.

DSH Perfumes- Passport a` Paris ($63, 10ml EDP. Other sizes, concentrations, and samples also available) can be purchased from dshperfumes.com. The sample for this review was sent for my consideration by the perfumer.


  1. True confession: sometimes I click on your more obscure perfume reviews just for the beautiful pictures. Like this one ;).

  2. Dawn is such a genius perfumer. I love her collaborations with museums and galleries. Got to try this last week and it really is amazingly beautiful and, I think, destined to be a classic in its own right. It's, as you said, timeless.

  3. I must admit that although I first came to your blog via a makeup google, it's your perfume reviews that I truly love. You seem to have the language to beautifully communicate the spirit of a scent. Dawn is my favorite perfumer, and as I was reading your first paragraph it hit me that you're right. We want those elusive scents from the past, but she is making beautiful scents today in the vintage spirit.


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