mardi 13 juillet 2010

The Mystery of Musk: Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Musk Eau Natural

In her blog, Dawns Spencer Hurwitz yields two bits of information that hold the key to her submission for The Mystery of Musk, Musk Eau Natural, a fragrance she admits is fairly atypical of her style. One is that she thought the list of musk-related materials provided by Anya McCoy was restrictive. As a result, Musk Eau Natural is possibly the truest musk of the bunch.

Another is that as she composed Musk Eau Natural, she was also working on a series of Egyptian perfumes for an exhibition at the Denver Art Museum. And it shows. With its saturated, almost medicinal aromatic opening, Musk Eau Natural is less of a perfume than it is an archaic potion, the missing link between an aphrodisiac brew and the Guerlains of the Art Deco period which inspired Dawn. As she herself underlines in her blog, the Art Deco era was indeed swept by one of Europe’s period bouts of Egyptomania, fired up, this time, by the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. But it was also, more significantly, a time when perfumers renewed their acquaintance with the balms and resins of Oriental perfumery: as though the sleek lines of the flapper’s shift dresses, their cropped bobs and naked limbs called for more elaborate ornamentation to compensate – hence the stylized embroideries, heavy makeup and heady, come-hither fragrances of the period.

But if Musk Eau Natural references the animalic interwar-period scents, it is only in their drydown. There is very little verticality to the fragrance: the intensely aromatic, herbaceous, almost anisic top notes burn off quickly, after which the scent is essentially overtaken by the muskiness angelica develops after its initial green/woody phase and the amber monologue of labdanum – in fact, the scent is so saturated by those two power players that the listed ambrette, rose, jasmine sambac, sandalwood, patchouli, oud, cumin and vetiver, are practically absorbed – wrapped in the honeyed animal fattiness of beeswax. A touch of costus, with its soft dirty hair and sheep wool notes, further welds Musk Eau Natural to the flesh. And there it lies, intimate, sweet and faintly fatty, as though exuded by the skin of some resin-eating hetaera. Musk Eau Natural is the scent of a forgotten age where women anointed themselves ritually in preparation for love. If it were presented in oil form, I’d rub it on my breasts and under my arms, then let a few drops wind their way where they would… And I’d save a few for Isis.

Musk Eau Natural, as well as three variations on the theme, is available on Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s website in a limited edition of 20 bottles each.

P.S. I’m shamefully late in reviewing the remaining Mystery of Musk scents. My apologies to all the perfumers who are waiting for reviews, as well as to Anya McCoy and Elena Vosnaki who went through the considerable trouble of organizing this operation. I’ll be moving through the collection in the coming weeks.

P.P.S. You still have until Sunday to leave a comment on the Mystery 6T scent (see the previous post) offered by WaftbyCarol, to get a chance to win one of the only 22 bottles ever produced of this unknown fragrance from the Webber estate.

Illustration: Girl with Parrot by Pierre Bonnard.

14 commentaires:

  1. I enjoyed this one, but honestly, it was a little overwhelming in the heat. I saved a few drops to try in winter, when I think I'll appreciate it more! It's well-made, and an interesting interpretation of the project.

  2. Well, your review was the last straw - I just purchased a bottle unsniffed. I hope I like it! It sounds right up my alley, if I follow your review. ;-)

  3. Marla, I agree that this whole musk experiment was a bit unseasonable -- could be another reason why I'm running so late on it. I can rock the most opulent tropical florals in the heat, but musk is not something I usually turn to.

  4. Elizabeth, I hope you like it too! It's such a responsibility when a review prompts an un-sniffed purchase...

  5. This one sounds intriguing, not least because of what you describe as its lack of verticality. I'm going through a phase at the moment where I'm seriously beginning to question the validity (or, to be more precise, the usefulness) of the classic 'top/middle/base' model, so perhaps I ought to try to find some scents that don't make any effort to follow the 'three act structure'.

  6. Gorgeous review of this !

    Yes, it's been outrageously warm and humid- rather early this year-
    For many of us in the Western Hemisphere ;-0

    I frankly adore this scent , and have put it everywhere you suggest...
    And then some .

    Bises ;-)

  7. Oh, my. I'm going to need a sniff of this. I still don't feel like I've found "my" musk (Musc Rav doesn't count -- it's all cinnamon on me), but I love the sound of all that resin-y goodness.

  8. After smelling bad, the second thing I consider a major failure in perfumes is when they lack a progression.
    All basenotes 'fumes (usually most things called Amber XY, Musc YZ, Vanilla XYZ) as well as all top or heart notes fragrances (so many mainstream and even more niche fragrances I won't bother mentioning) are like a booooring conversation... which is worse than a bad one, if you ask me.
    But it is my very personal opinion, and I know Amber XY, Musc YZ, Vanilla XYZ are usually bestsellers in most perfume lines.
    What I love about my favorite Malles, Guerlains and Chanels is that they bring me on a reckless and unpredictable drive, from top to bottom, that leaves my knees weak and my heart pounding...with love.

    BTW, your reviews become more entertaining each day!J'aime!!!

  9. Persolaise, a lot of contemporary perfumes have very little evolution (NR for Her being a case in point), but in general it's a matter of giving customers what they want: a perfume that doesn't "trick" them by changing on them.
    In this case it's more because the bulk of the composition is taken up by base notes, I believe.

  10. Amy, what, still haven't encountered the great MKK? That's pretty much the truest rendition of Tonkin musk. This one plays on other resin-animal notes, but it's very soft and beautiful.

  11. Zazie, in the conference I saw, Jean-Claude Ellena spoke about two different types of consumers: the ones who considered the perfume "tricked" them if it changed over the course of the day, and the ones who wanted a perfume to reflect their many moods, which would be more evolutive.
    It must be particularly difficult to structure the latter using all naturals, and of course if you're going for a "true" musk, you're going to stick to the base notes.
    I would see this one in a body oil, which would work well with the spirit of the composition. Perhaps a few drops in jojoba oil would do the trick?

  12. D, if you're talking about a potion, less a perfume... I'll have to try it! ;)