Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When memory is a seeing eye: DSH Pandora

The first time I sprayed, I smelled dust.  Book dust.  No, something that had been pressed between the pages of a favorite volume that was older than me.

As it evolved, it bloomed into something more alive, as the dust faded, and one of those just above skin auric clouds appeared, a blended floral, with a something that drew me in -- that something having the same allure as some of my vintage chypres, but not being just that.

I was enchanted, and I didn't even know by what.  Whatever it was, if this was Trouble, I had Hope for a long and happy future with it.

The tradition of pressing leaves into a book to preserve them is relatively familiar.  The idea being that you can preserve at least a portion of that which is destined to become past, to be history.  But are you familiar with "Bible leaf," a.k.a. costmary?  Costmary used to be a basic kitchen garden plant, and its longish, somewhat wide leaves were pressed between the pages of bibles to help church goers stay awake during an all-day service.  In other words, what was pressed between the pages, an intentionally gathered waft, was placed not for rememberance, but for bringing one into the moment.  A moment which, of course, you were supposed to pay attention to so you could remember it later.

not costmary, from the project described at Create by Maria Apostolou

I, and others, have discussed the idea of scents that seem to hover just above your skin before.  In my ruminations, I put their place in space somewhere between "sillage" and "skin scent."  They appear not in someone's wake, and not by burying your nose in and snorfling.  They are in some ways my favorite presence, one which does not announce itself in advance, but one which still manages to exist off of skin.

Pandora pulls the nifty trick of maintaining that aura, and having a skin snorfle, too.  I love this.  This is my favorite way of thinking of people, with the immediately registered, the something you learn when you gain closer access, and the limited glimpses of something deep and private.  Open the book, find the pressed leaf, catch a first whiff memory impression, scratch the surface and it comes to life.

Costmary is a perennial that should be renewed by division every few years, since the old plant becomes bare at the center. Dig up small plants that pop up in the garden, or this plant could become a weedy pest.

Gardeners know that most perennials need division in order to be rejuvenated.  A classic sign of a perennial that is in need of attention is that the clump dies out in the middle, the newer shoots/roots taking on life even as the original section lets go of it.

In a way, I feel that what Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has managed to do with Pandora is to take a division from an existing plant and bring it back to life in a new setting, and that in doing so, the the plant takes on a new character.

When I go in for the snorfle, as I pass the opening whiff of dry opening the book, enter the floral cloud above my skin, and extract a hit of the depths beneath, I do NOT smell my beloved vintage chypres.  Not Coty, not Millot, not any particular one.  Not even that something, exactly.  But, I *do* find that the style of attraction that pulls me in is just the same -- the happiness of the Coty, the greenness of the Millot.  Pandora is, however, its own something.

And it is lovely.

What is this Pandora?  Plucked from the past, plonked into the present, for me it is a journey that starts with memory and puts me very much in this moment, with all the palimpsest layers of reading backward through a written and virtual herbal, and then again being woken up and finding yourself here, now, not in the midst of a sermon, but a moderately rich floral bouquet that needs to not be too loud so that you can appreciate the background -- plant based, leafywoodyslightlyhumusy, not exactly chypre not exactly amber.

If you haven't guessed, I like it.  

costmary, image from Women Who Run With Delphiniums
Do you want to play with Pandora?  DSH Perfumes has offered to share a 3ml sample to a reader.  Comment here to register your interest.  Drawing will held on Tuesday, September 27, at noon U.S. central time.  

Because how often do you see THAT as the time and or time zone???  Plus, it's a new moon.

  (moonset over the westernmost Great Lakes region, that is)


Bellatrix said...

What an interesting review.
Love how you compared it.
Thanks for the draw.

Anonymous said...

Are non-US persons eligible?

If we are, can I be in the draw, Please? Pandora is getting a lot of love in the perfume blogs and I'm very curious about how I'd find it too.

cheerio from Anna in bright-and-breezy Edinburgh.

ScentScelf said...

Bellatrix, Anna, you're both in. No shipping restrictions. :)

Good luck!

Isa said...

I'd love to be entered in the draw. Thank you!
I'm very intrigued by this perfume. I love amber, but chypres are difficult to me sometimes.

Anonymous said...

The more I read about DSH's Pandora the more intrigued I am. I loved how you describe its auric cloud vs sillage and how it's great for "snorfling" too.
Very interesting to learn about costmary too.
Thanks for the draw opportunity.

-- Lindaloo

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for this hauntingly beautiful review of Pandora! I am still glowing with gratitude...

ScentScelf said...

Hello, Isa, Hello, Lindaloo,

You're both in.

Isa, I know chypres strike those who don't get along with them as "harsh"--they want something with more warmth, and/or less unrepentant plant. If you do win this one, I'll be curious to hear how it ends up playing for you.

Lindaloo, glad the aura vs. sillage description resounded for you. "Snorfling" is a happy pasttime, when a perfume allows me to indulge that way. ;) You're welcome, and good luck.

ScentScelf said...


The reviews are always earned. My perceptions might not line up with others, but I'm straight up with what I get and feel.

Pandora was/is a beautiful thing, one of those rarities that allowed me both limbic and intellectual pleasure.

a.k.a. Warum said...

I would love to be entered in the draw, many many thanks!

I am intrigued by the way you likened the top notes of Pandora to book dust. I would love to smell and experience that.

I'm a big fan of DSH perfumes anyway and Pandora getting a big splash so to speak :)

Elisa said...

I'd love to try this! I've been sampling lots of DSH lately.

ScentScelf said...

Hi, Warum,

And so you shall be.

I'm trying to figure out what causes this dusty dryness. Of course, we've smelled similar effects before...I'm thinking, for example, Papyrus du Ciane. Not that the smell is identical, but a certain dry effect seems to be there and here...if you win the sample, I'd love to hear what you think.

::chuckle:: Yes, a big splash, indeed. Or perhaps a giant spritz?

ScentScelf said...


There's a lot to work around in the DSH catalog, isn't there? I've barely made a dent in it myself. What finally pushed me in was trying out her experiments in olfactory renderings of color, an intriguing precept.

You're in the draw!

womo531 said...

dusty books... mine mine... so I guess you had me at dusty books =)

ScentScelf said...

LOL, Womo! Okey dokey, biblioperson, you're in the draw. :)

a.k.a. Warum said...

Actually, I haven't tried Papyrus du Ciane, so thanks for a hint -- I'll try to get my paws on that one.

Vanessa said...

Vintage chypres are not so much my thing, but anything about which you wax lyrical deserves a go at least!

I do like Nouroz, but that is more fruity dust than book dust.

Vanessa said...

Hmm, and it winds up as "leafywoodyslightlyhumusy"? I am betting you mean humus as in "earthy" rather than as in the pureed chick pea variety?

ScentScelf said...

Do find it, is interesting. Vanessa there between is is a fan, too. I've gotten over my initial reaction (here on the blog as "galbanum + pinky ball"), and have become quite fond of it. That said, while Papyrus du Ciane required an adjustment period, Pandora merely raised an eyebrow even as "I like" was forming on my lips.

ScentScelf said...


Yes, no chick peas, and no chick-en of the woods (which is an alternate name for an oyster mushroom on this side of the sea, by which I mean ocean, but sea was so much fun to say whilst in the midst of a chicke[en] ramble, given a certain tuna brand).

Though I do enjoy hummus, mind you, whether straight up traditional or infused with red pepper or black olives.

What is this Nouroz of which you speak? Though I shrink slightly in fear at the mention of "fruity," the idea of dust being such intrigues me.

And now I take this moment to clarify that "dust" is light and miniscule particulate, while "mica dust" (which I have used as a descriptor for L'Ombre Fauve and Habit Rouge, for example) is bigger and has more substance, like mica chips in a rock. You knew that, of course, but just putting it out there for anybody still following along. :)

Vanessa said...

Papyrus de Ciane was a complete no-no for me, sadly, much as I admire the ingenuity of PG. Resinous but in a a mortuary kind of way. Cold and forbidding.

Nouroz, like a certain pint sized pop star, is The Scent Formerly Known As Tamarind Paprika.

ScentScelf said...

Gah! Completely backwards, I got it.

You are in the draw nonetheless. Meanwhile, I shall take my chuckling self through the interwebs in search of data on Tamarind Paprika, which sounds rather like the result of one of those "Determine Your [_____] Name" games.

Olfacta said...

I was just thinking: I'd love to try this.

ScentScelf said...

And you should. Olfacta, you're in.

Maureen said...

Wow what a great review...I just stumbled on to your blog. I want to play with Pandora. Please, Please,Please enter me!!!

ScentScelf said...

Thanks, Maureen. Glad your stumbling landed you here. :)

You are now with the others, swimming in the draw pool until next Tuesday. Will let you know!

Tammy said...

Oh, I love chypres and book dust is like unto air for me. Book dust, compost and the lovely chypre base will be a wonderful aura for me to waft as I adjust to the loss of my beloved Oxford comma.

ScentScelf said...


Hey, do my eyes deceive me? I was here earlier, and couldn't respond to a funny post at that time. Now here is this lovely missive about book dust and an Oxford comma...

It matters not, of course. Dust might be in the wind, as in not Kansas (the band, not the state, though of course the state is not without) and in my brain, but I shall not neglect to add you to the pool of participants in the draw.

I wish you luck. And offer you a tear for your beloved Oxford comma, which I also favor.

ScentScelf said...

Whoa, Nellie...

Tammy, just jumping back here to say that I found the comment to which I was referring in my reply above. You posted it to the Talk Like A Pirate / Mind Yer Emoticons piece. Ahhhhhh.

Now things are clearer for me, though I fear readers are scratching their heads. ;)

Haunani said...

Aloha to you, ScentScelf! Pandora is a hoverer? You love it? I'm in for the draw! Thank you!

ScentScelf said...

Aloha, Haunani!

It hovers! I love it! You're in! You're welcome!

queen_cupcake said...

Oh, I didn't know that about interesting! And "skin snorfle"? What a lovely expression. Please enter me in the draw & thanks!

ScentScelf said...

Queen Cupcake,

Always happy to add to the flotilla of factoid frippery. :)

You are now enjoying some time in the draw pool with the others, before the actual drawing occurs. Good luck!