For the past week, we've been coping with a heat wave in my part of the world. Most of my perfumes suddenly felt too smotheringly heavy and sweet, the olfactory equivalent of fluffy sweaters — I couldn't stand to have them anywhere near my skin. There are a few tried-and-trusted exceptions that I turn to every August, of course: 4711, Diptyque L'Ombre dans L'Eau, Clarins Eau des Jardins. This week I also sampled two recent releases from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, named Kaleidoscope and Wasabi Shiso. Both belong to the house's Eau Fraiche/Eau de Cologne series.
Kaleidoscope is described as "a juicy and swirling, deliciously succulent ‘vegetable gourmand,’ citrus to floral, eau fraiche scent" with notes of neroli, green mandarin, lemon, pink grapefruit, orange flower, lettuce, citrus leaves, white flowers, rose de mai, sambac jasmine, grandiflorum jasmine, pink pepper, orris root, guaicwood, sandalwood and vetiver. The notes blend in ways that become more than the sum of their parts: the pepper and green notes combine to suggest tomato leaves, and the citrus notes are made earthy and complex by the surrounding woods.
To me, Kaleidoscope feels like a walk through a farmers market where freshly picked fruits and vegetables are being sold alongside wildflowers. I wore it to an actual farmers market last weekend, where it was a perfect fit. Since it's an Eau Fraiche, it's light and not long-lasting. That's fine, though, because it seems to cut right through the hot, humid air and provide me with a brief respite. I can always re-apply!
Wasabi Shiso is "an unusual vegetal green and citrus scent in the eau de cologne style with a modern twist of piquant spiciness" with a composition of wasabi, green tea, sandalwood, yuzu, green grass, cucumber, bergamot, coriander, holy basil and absinthe. It is very unusual, and it's another good summer fragrance, thanks to the clever way it captures the hot/cool effect of certain herbs and spices. Just like its namesakes, Wasabi Shiso is sharply aromatic, but its hints of mint and grass balance out its pungency.
With its very green (almost bitter) citrus notes and its soapy coriander, Wasabi Shiso feels more typically "masculine" than Kaleidoscope. As it evolves, its definitely not a "clean" green-tea scent — it has a smooth and subtle dirty side. It lasts longer on my skin than Kaleidoscope, although it's still definitely a cologne concentration.
While wearing these two scents over the past week, I've been remembering the mid- to late-1990s, when fragrances like Mottura Grass (later part of The Gap's fragrance line) and Demeter's Lettuce and Tomato were new and refreshing alternatives to mainstream perfumery. Although Kaleidoscope and Wasabi Shiso are much more complex, I've enjoyed thinking about the ongoing appeal of fragrances based on sensory experiences that we don't traditionally associate with "perfume." And we have so many more choices nowadays — too many, we might argue, but when options like these exist, I'm happy.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Kaleidoscope and Wasabi Shiso are sold in a variety of sizes and formats, $6 - $120. For buying information, see the listing for Dawn Spencer Hurwitz under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is Farmers Market 020 [cropped] by Britt Reints via Wikimedia Commons.