New York-based D.S. & Durga has released a large number of fragrances in a very short time; there are two feminine and two masculine perfume collections — 18 perfumes total. I finally got up the energy (and set aside a week) to wear six perfumes from the men's lines, and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and variety of the perfumes.
(vetiver, sage, white thyme)
Judging from the name, Cowboy Grass, I was expecting something a bit "tougher" and wilder. If there were any 'cowboys' in the minds of Cowboy Grass's perfumers, those boys live on a fancy rancho, not on the open range, and they are fresh out of sudsy tubs — scrubbed, shaved, and scented — their jeans, shirts and bandanas ironed to perfection. Cowboy Grass begins with a 'dusty' accord that brings to mind New Mexico — my desert area of choice; there's a hint of incense, a touch of sage-herbs-vetiver. If you've ever been in the desert and rubbed sage between your fingers or smelled creosote or burned small bundles of sage smudge sticks, you can perhaps conjure the aroma of Cowboy Grass, but its overall effect in person will be smoother, cleaner and sweeter. As the perfume dries down, it becomes more resinous-vanillic. This fragrance would wear well in any season, as long as the summer heat is dry, not humid.
(oakmoss, bergamot, orange blossom, anise, guaiac wood)
"Old men in coastal New England towns like Marblehead, MA sport red pants and smell of chypre," says D.S. & Durga — any Marblehead residents out there who can confirm this? Marblehead Reds, the chypre of the collection, opens with oakmoss-bergamot — crisp and old-fashioned; the fragrance "blooms" quickly with orange blossom and anise mingling with the mossy notes. Anise becomes more apparent during the dry-down and gives the perfume a slightly "candied" aroma (but a hint of astringency remains and keeps the fragrance from becoming too syrupy-sweet). The base of Marblehead Reds reminds me of a Brazilian rosewood soap I used to buy ages ago: it was a nice combo of menthol, patchouli and sweet, full-bodied wood notes.
(bay, nutmeg, lime, Australian sandalwood, linden blossom)
Barbados, a rich bay rum-type fragrance, opens with liquor-y, pungent bay leaf and spice (nutmeg-clove) notes; "leafy" and sweet lime peel aromas emerge quickly and linden blossom adds an unexpected floral-tart touch to the still-spicy dry-down. If old men in Marblehead, MA, wear red pants and smell of chypre, the old men where I grew up in coastal Virginia wore hats (everything from Panamas, to trilbies, to fedoras with pheasant feathers tucked inside the hatbands) and smelled of bay rum. I've never worn bay rum because I associate it with shaving/grooming and not perfume-wearing; (it also reminds me of my — dreaded — childhood Sunday school, where the minister, my teacher, and many male congregants were saturated with bay rum). Barbados is a fine bay rum fragrance, but with all the high-quality (and reasonably priced) bay rums on the market*, why create a "new" bay rum, especially one that sells for $85 for 1.3 oz.?
(tuberose, musk, leather, tonka)
$ (Money) is one of my favorite D.S. & Durga fragrances; it smells festive and dressy with delicious, crystalline tonka and musk notes and a persistent citrus-leather-floral accord drifting thru the composition. $ reminds me of the dearly departed (discontinued) Crown Perfumery Eau de Russe, but a stronger, Eau de Parfum-esque version of it. $, in my opinion, deserves a better name — it's much too refined to be symbolized by a crass dollar sign.
Clean and "wet," Vetyver's 'vetiver' must be hydroponically grown — it's never touched soil. Don't expect root-y/earthy vetiver in Vetyver, or even vetiver as you smell it in Givenchy Vetyver, Guerlain Vetiver or Chanel Sycomore; expect washed, ghostly vetiver. Vetyver opens a bit fruity, then segues into the cleanest vetiver imaginable. Though Vetyver is part of D.S. & Durga's Solos collection (fragrances built with one predominant note), I smell hints of 'butterscotch', pine, and whitest of white musks in the dry-down. Vetyver's sheerness makes it perfect for summer, and it smells "casual" — the perfect scent to wear to the beach or to a barbeque.
Simple fragrances appeal to me — in soaps, talcum powders, candles/diffusers — but I rarely wear soliflores or simple (one-note) fragrances. Juniper (from D.S. & Durga's Solos collection) is an evergreen fragrance with the punch (for a second or two) of juniper berry, the vitality of greenness (a violet leaf-like note) and the aromas of evergreen bark and wood. Juniper smells clean, fresh and sweet (and it makes my skin tingle upon application). Juniper would be great in home fragrance products or used as a base to build a fragrance upon...or layered with other fragrances.
I would happily wear any of the D.S. & Durga fragrances in this group (with the exception of Barbados — yes, we're back to SUNDAY SCHOOL again!) but $, Marblehead Reds and Cowboy Grass stand out for me. It's a good sign that I'm still interested in smelling the other 12 perfumes in D.S. & Durga's line-up. For buying information, see the listing for D.S. & Durga under Perfume Houses; samples of D.S. & Durga fragrances are available upon request directly from D.S. & Durga for $3 each.
* Michelsen's Bay Rum Cologne, Taylor of Old Bond St. Bay Rum, Royall Bay Rhum, D.R. Harris Bay Rum, St. Johns Bay Rum with Lime, Burt's Bees Bay Rum Cologne, Dominica Bay Rum
Note: top right image is Botanical illustration of Acinos arvensis by Britton, N.L., and A. Brown, 1913; Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 3: 139; via Wikimedia Commons. The next image is Braswell Congregational Holiness Church's Sunday School in 1952 available from Old Shoe Woman at flickr; some rights reserved. The last image is Juniper by khianti at flickr; some rights reserved.