Monday, March 16, 2009

Ashram & Ancient Air by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (DSH Perfumes) : Perfume Reviews

Another week into the patchouli series here on Fragrance Bouquet and it is now time to look at some oil based perfumes. Perfume oils often get bad rep due to the fact that they do not ‘project’ as much as alcohol based perfumes, meaning they do not have adequate or comparable sillage. I cannot speak for all of Dawn’s fragrances since her library of scents is extensive to say the least, but I can tell you that when it comes to the ones I’ve personally tried, sillage has never been a problem. It is true, I tend to go for the heavy-weights in her collection: the incenses, the animalics, and her lovely (oh, SO lovely) gourmands. Leaving a fragrant trail has never been a problem!

Given a wonderfully exotic name referring to peace, tranquility and enlightenment, as well as the comforting protection and safety offered within a spiritual group, Ashram draws its inspiration from Hindu traditions and manages to translate its intended message with clarity. The intense, dark amber color of the juice might serve as a warning that what is to follow is far too intense to serve its intended purpose as a meditation aid, but in reality Ashram is not only surprisingly soft, but also calming and soothing in character. Its power is subtle: despite its mellow aroma, Ashram manages to shoot an arrow straight to the heart and soul of the wearer, constantly engaging the spirit with a low, rhythmic hum instead of a loud, attention seeking song. According to the official notes, what I should be smelling first is the nag champa incense, but instead, the opening is all about the precious champaca absolute for me. The gorgeously sweet bloom awakens my senses with its beautiful floral eroticism and I would be lying if I said I haven’t wished its scent didn’t linger there alone a while longer each and every time I’ve worn my sample. Soon, it is joined by soft, round amber notes that enfold it, blending with it to create an impression that is most saliently balsamic. The champaca now wafts in and out, a higher pitched note that comes and goes, leaving an ephemeral floral message with every passing. Adding texture and character to the light, dreamy sweetness of this scent is a powdery overtone. While powder might be interpreted in many different ways in different perfumes, in this instance it adds an element of intimacy to the blend, like catching sight of a patch of naked skin. Our star note in this series, the patchouli, might not be the star of this perfume (the wondrous blend of ambers is), however, it is what gives Ashram substance. Beautifully earthy, blurring the borders between coolness and warmth, the patchouli used here is moist and sweet. It centers the composition with its gravitational pull and shines through with a wink and a smile. As time goes by, it comes more into focus, becoming ever earthier and if possible, more charming.

Who should definitely try this: Lovers of Nanadebary Pink and Fifi Chachnil wishing for that extra kick that only patchouli can offer.

Ancient Air:
I am not certain whether Dawn intended this to be worn as a perfume by itself, since the official website lists it as an “accord”, even though it does have its own name. Whatever the intention, I have to say that this would be a very difficult scent to wear on its own. I’ve had a warning given to me by the boutique owner that gave me the Inoubliable Elixir Patchouli that it was for “serious patchouli lovers only”, now it is time for me to issue the same ridiculous warning myself to you dear readers! If there is anything meant to be for serious patchouli lovers only, this is it. That is, if you are planning to wear this as is and not use it for blending purposes. Ancient Air is in a word, pungent. It is easy to think that this is a straight up patchouli scent upon first application, because initially there is such an extreme blast of patch, smelling like pure, heavy essential oil. Give it a few minutes on the skin however and you will start detecting all its complicated nuances. Ancient Air quickly becomes intensely animalic with pronounced accents of civet and ambergris. There are overtones of rose geranium as well as something sappy and green hidden in its core. Now and then it manifests a happier, exotic side, as if it has a hint of coconut hiding in its depth, but for the most part it remains dark and restless. If you hate the headshop smell, steer clear from this one! Pleasantly, I have to report that if you have the patience for it, the drydown reveals a beautiful blend of licorice and aniseed. Personally I can’t wear this on its own at all, but I do love to keep a small decant and use in my own blends, where it is not only excellent, but also economical, since just a tiny amount will definitely suffice. I love to combine it with Egyptian Musk, sandalwood and minute amounts of civet. The blend I make is absolutely animalic and yummy. Going back to the subject of sillage, a drop or two of this as is on my wrist will take over the whole house. You have been warned!

Who should try this: Hardcore patch lovers and those who are looking for an animalic patchouli cord to use in their own blends.

Images:, Flickr by Scott Robinson


Ines said...

Hey Divina
the more I read about DSH, the more I want to try all of the scents (which would be quite a feat). :) I don't expect to like them all, but after trying two - I can see that the experience would be extremely interesting and rewarding. :)

Lavender said...

Great info - I never really know much about Ashram but now I am very intrigued!

Flora said...

Ashram sound highly doable, but as for Ancient Air, not so much Patch please, though I have learned to love it,I have too many memories of the bad head shop stuff!

I have tested a number of DSH perfumes and loved most of them, but not these two. How many does she HAVE anyway?!