Friday, September 28, 2007

Ma Folie de Noel by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz : Perfume Review

Do you remember how easily reality could change into enchanted playgrounds when you were a child? Do you remember how the air itself in an old cellar could suddenly assume presence, cold and damp, smelling of something far away, possibly touched by wizardry? Creatures would lurk in shadows and treasures untold were waiting to be discovered in long disused drawers. With no adults around to break the spell, nothing was ordinary and everything was potentially magical. The portals to other worlds were there all the time, their smells and textures enhanced tenfold. True magic, better than any novel, better than any dream; Russet velvets and gold coins, smells of dust and dried flowers and furs in the closet, fruits and nuts in a basket that may or may not have been made of wax, spiderwebs sparkling with dew and countless colorful buttons in an intricate box saved by grandma... all magic, all toys, all props for the wondrous worlds only a child’s fantasies could create. Do you remember? I had forgotten... And then my sample packet from DSH arrived and I felt drawn into this time-warp, only to emerge on the other side almost tearful for the witchcraft lost in time. I’ve fallen in love with these scents, so unlike anything else I’ve ever smelled, so unlike every other perfume that fits my adult world perfectly. These are scents that enable the wearer to suspend belief, bend reality, bring back the magic. They are a bit in fact, like wearing a fairytale.

Her scents make me smile, they make me curious, willing to explore like a child. They make me forget about time constraints, they re-introduce me to a world full of enchantments. They evoke memories and feelings. From the moment I started sampling them I have been overwhelmed by my own excitement and I’ve regretted not discovering them sooner. The scents I have sampled so far are not ones I can imagine wearing with a sharp suit, as I would for example something by Sisley. I did mean it when I said that these scents are unlike anything that perfectly fits my adult world. They are softer around the edges; they are moments in time, the part of a cloud where the sun breaks through, a memory, a strange object out of a treasure chest. I cherish them. There are so many things that I can wear with high heels and a crisp white shirt and so few that make my heart feel this long-lost delight with everyday beauty.

The first DSH fragrance I have chosen to review is Ma Folie de Noel, a scent that perfectly describes the wistfulness so many of the samples evoked inside me. In fact, it is a scent that coincidentally also describes Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s own nostalgic childhood experiences, being an amalgam of Holiday scents from her past. I can’t say that it conjures similar Christmassy memories for me too – my own Christmases were filled with very different smells: spice, cinnamon, cloves, icing sugar, almonds, orange rinds and myriads of traditional Greek delights. This fragrance has nevertheless touched me with its beauty, even though the name does not fit my own view of the winter holidays. Ma Folie de Noel opens with a very prominent anis note of remarkable beauty. It does not feel thick or heavy, but transparent and watery, like a mist. Then slowly, it becomes candied, like boiled anis sweets. There is a certain chocolate undertone there, and indeed, every time I wear Ma Folie de Noel, this stage makes me think of eating good dark chocolate with lovely, crunchy, tiny anis-candy fragments in it. As the chocolate disappears, the anis remains for a while still, this time with a peculiar, nutty vein running through it. The scent intensifies, gaining momentum, becoming warmer and spicier as time goes by. Smelling close, I can clearly discern the base on which it is built – a lovingly built tier of resinous musk. It feels as though the base notes are flowing upwards, permeating the ceiling through the mezzanine. The anis note now entirely gone, we enter the most luxurious phase of this perfume. A gentlemen’s club, with the light smell of vanilla-scented cigarette smoke lingering in the air, desks topped with buttery leather and unfinished glasses of Rémy Martin Cognac littering the small round tables. I love how the boozy smell of cognac and vanilla smoke enfolds my skin... There is a certain masculine sense there, that makes me want to bury my nose in my own skin – I find it immensely comforting and sexy at the same time. I also find it strange that in this stage I perceive the opoponax as smelling of wonderful, sweet leather when combined with the cognac and vanilla. Is it just me? But I digress... The anis is resurrected in the drydown, this time very light, understated and tame. It flows seamlessly through as the cognac note dissipates, smelling faintly of the lightly aniseedic flavor raisin pips impart when crushed. It is now that the opoponax note truly shows its beauty. It is dark and sweet and ever so lightly smoky, blending gorgeously with the smell of the skin itself. It positively enhances the skin’s own scent, creating an ultra-seductive musky murmur. It imbues the skin with warmth, a veil of saturated darkness, lit from within with joyous flames. If I could only describe the feeling it gives me, it would be that of a happy winter heart. It is the feel of my skin, finding warmth under a cashmere-silk blend sweater, snug under a soft leather jacket, walking the silent wintry streets in the arms of my loved one. If I could describe the perfect occasion instead, it would be in front of the fireplace on a cold snowy night. This has definitely become my favorite comfort/sexiness blend. I must have it – I don’t think the sample is going to last me through the month, let alone winter.

Vintage buttons courtesy of
Picture of Anis de Flavigny candy courtesy of
Image of winter night, courtesy of, made by Shahram Razavi.


Dust Glitter and Vapor said...

What a beautiful and evocative review!
I love the smell of cognac, I'm going to have to try this.

Hugs and good wishes to you!

Linda said...

Dear Divina,
This was so lovely that I've made a copy and put it in my commonplace book. I remember playing with boxes of buttons, bits of lace and ribbons, "tidying" them into their different textures and colours, while having a little conversation with myself, as a small child. I've been reading about DSH online now as I don't know anything about her, and was fascinated by her ethos. The fragrances seem vey reasonable and I might order a box of samples! You have made me yearn for the wnter holidays...

Divina said...

Hello, hello! I think you will find it delicious! Unless of course anis is an issue! I agree with you completely - the smell of cognac is absolutely wonderful.

Divina said...

Oh Linda, do you know I wonder how much this comment means to me? It has touched my heart so much. It is so strange - this is not the first time this happens: Just when I need it the most, you leave me a comment that completely changes my mood, having me smiling from ear to ear, with my heart swelling with happiness.

I know what you mean about the winter holidays - I have been yearning for them myself the last few days. I daydream constantly, without any clear plans yet..but I daydream of the atmosphere, the sounds, the smells...

Anonymous said...

I love winter, and right winter skin products help me feel confident about my appeal!