We've had weird weather here this summer. Most of June was cold and rainy and more like April than June. At the end of the month, things finally shaped up, and the normal June weather — perfect warm sunny days with almost no humidity, followed by perfect clear and cool nights — hung around right through the middle of July. In that sort of weather, there's no need to pack away your fall and winter favorites: you can wear any perfume you like.
Then just when I'd been lulled into complacency, summer started first thing yesterday morning, and with a vengeance: hot, humid, generally nasty, with the added thrill of a late afternoon thunderstorm. The Estée Lauder Jasmine White Moss I was wearing happily the week before? No way would I have worn that yesterday. So. Here are four unisex fragrances from the indie house of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. Three greens, one citrus, and all four can make it through the nastiest summer heat.
Wasabi Shiso (Essence Oils collection)
Does a fragrance with wasabi + shiso sound good to you? I'm guessing that if it does, you'll love this, and if it doesn't, you won't, because it sounded perfect to me and the perfume smells pretty much exactly like it sounds. From the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz website:
Whoosh! What a rush we get from this Autumn's scent, Wasabi Shiso! It's green, peppery-freshness (the wasabi) and unusual fruit-like leaf note (shiso) give our new creation true originality.
I can vouch for the Whoosh! — I first tried Wasabi Shiso when I was just starting to recover from a long bout of respiratory illness, and the opening is a wonderful way to clear your sinuses (the notes: shiso accord, wasabi accord, yuzu, bergamot, holy basil, pittosporum accord, Russian rose, vetiver, elemi, sandalwood and patchouli). It's strong and green and herbal, with the wasabi adding heat and the shiso (which smells an awful lot like cilantro) adding a lovely touch of bitterness. The initial assault calms to something softer, but it stays vibrant and true to its name for a darned long time. A little offbeat, very enjoyable and a perfect green scent for summer.
Wasabi Shiso is available in a variety of formats and concentrations, including Eau de Parfum and Water-based Body Spray, prices $20 - $56.
Menthe Moderne (Parfum des Beaux Arts collection)
The Dawn Spencer Hurwitz describes Menthe Moderne as...
A modernist approach to interpreting mint in fragrance; it is wonderfully cool and fresh, but "more Green and like a garden than like chewing gum".
I don't know that I can entirely vouch for the last part — I'm not even sure it's possible to do a mint-focused fragrance that doesn't evoke chewing gum, in the same sense that almost no matter what you do with lemon, it's going to remind someone, somewhere, of cleaning products. My favorite mint fragrance, Guerlain's Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca, most certainly reminds me of chewing gum, and I have no objection to that. So Menthe Moderne starts citrusy and bright, and to me, chewing-gum-ish, but it's also soft and round; it doesn't have the same slap that you get from the rather sharp citrus opening of Herba Fresca. Menthe Moderne is also far heavier on the mint, at least in the early stages — in combination with the fir balsam, that lends a cooling feel that's perfect for humid summer days (the notes for Menthe Moderne: bergamot, lime peel, spearmint, green tea, peppermint, petitgrain, silver fir, violet, Virginia cedar).
I love the first 45 minutes or so, after that, it's paler, cleaner, milder, gentler...too much so for my tastes; I found myself wanting to reapply frequently for the fun of the top notes. In the end, I prefer my beloved Herba Fresca (anyone know if Herba Fresca has been reformulated lately? probably so), but Menthe Moderne is certainly worth a shot if you're still looking for your perfect mint, and it's apparently one of the top 10 sellers in the Parfum des Beaux Arts line.
Menthe Moderne is available in Eau de Parfum or Parfum, prices $25 - $125.
Pamplemousse (Parfum des Beaux Arts collection)
Grapefruit, as many of you are well aware, can be a difficult note on skin. This one is not only gorgeous, it's easy to wear — not a trace of cat urine or sweat anywhere. The opening is bright and cheerful and sparkling, and just slightly sweet: think lightly sugared pink grapefruit (the notes: bergamot, green mandarin, mandarin, pink and white grapefruit, neroli, lemon, pomelo, green tea and sandalwood). As it dries down, the grapefruit fades just slightly and the neroli picks up steam. Please don't be disappointed when I tell you that's pretty much the whole story — the world needs a perfect grapefruit 'solifruit', and we certainly didn't get it with Marc Jacobs Grapefruit Splash. The lasting power is very good, and especially so for something that's apparently made with 98% botanical ingredients, still, you might need a touch-up in order to make it through an 8 hour work day. This is what I'd like to have in my refrigerator, in a huge spray bottle, on the hottest summer days (with apologies to its fans, I've never really cared for 4711).
Added bonus: Pamplemousse layers beautifully with Wasabi Shiso, and undoubtedly with other things as well. Available in a variety of formats and concentrations, prices $30 - $70.
Viridian (Parfum des Beaux Arts collection)
Viridian is part of the aroma-color series, and reportedly "...embodies the concept of a rich foresty green color in aromatic form". That's a perfect description: Viridian is a darkish green, out-in-the-woods scent, made velvety plush by iris (the notes: angelica, artemisia, bergamot, celery seed, aloe accord, chrysanthemum, galbanum, orris, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, lovage, myrrh gum, patchouli and violet leaf). It isn't the bright cheerful grassy green of Miller et Bertaux's Green, green, green, green, nor is it the buried-in-bushes GREEN! of Gobin Daudé's Sous Le Buis. This is murkier, more earthy-mossy and damp, and might especially appeal to those who love the earthier renditions of iris. Lovely.
Available in Eau de Parfum and Parfum, prices $27 - $135.
For buying information, see the listing for Dawn Spencer Hurwitz under Perfume Houses.