Good things have a gestalt and a scent all their own. A boy when he comes inside from the cold, tree sap, bow resin; leather boots and tack. The construction of a perfume is quite similar to that of a short story . Each is born from an intensely personal place of memories, predilections, fascinations and yearnings. These are then placed on some sort of setting, a landscape in which the activities of all our characters occur. Here they foible and fall and bump into one another, which get us to the middle of the story, where peppery notes of action and disruption give the whole thing texture and body, meaning and movement. Things clop along as they should until some sort of climax is reached, and afterwards, a sticky dry-down, the moral of the story being what lingers long after.
Many of the individuals I know with the best noses are also great writers. They understand the nuances and turns of phrase that give a piece depth and verve. They know what it takes to get characters and chemicals standing up on their own to become as tangible as any other reality. They go through many revisions and drafts, the scent collections and absolutes of a perfumer being not dissimilar from a writer’s collection of convoluted chicken-scratch notebooks. Sketches of stories, some with potential, others less so, but all valuable, because perhaps they could be used somewhere else.
At their core writers and perfumers work within the same craft. Both are distillers. Writers of the human experience, and perfumers of molecules. Both are called to reveal some universal truth in their work, or at the very least, to offer a respite from the world and how it is into an artistic composition of how it could be.
It is not surprising then that my favorite perfumes are handmade by a young couple who came to their craft honestly and unexpectedly. David Seth Moltz and Kavi Moltz started their small-batch perfume company from their Brooklyn apartment. The sophistication of their scents is the same as those cooked up by the most veteran of perfumers. Between them, their vast and varied experiences make for a line that is all the more inventive and impressive.
There are a few DS & Durga scents I love with a particular strength and constancy. Coriander is sparkling, savory, and bright, with notes of geranium, juniper and cubeb. Bowmakers, with notes of mahogany, leather, and animalic amber is feminine and fierce. Perhaps I should not even be writing about them as each is slowly handmade and therefore the more individuals clamoring for them could limit the assurance that I will be able to place my yearly order.
My absolute favorite is men’s fragrance, a woody fougere type — Burning Barbershop. This one is deep — smoky, woodsy, slightly boozy and very, very burnt. There’s an oak-aged and caramelized vanilla at the dry-down evocative of rye whiskey from the bottom of a glass — sweet and hoppy, intensely warming. Marked by tonic-like top notes, resinous olibanum, burnt hay and whispy prairie grasses it is a scent that smells of rugged, unrefined virility.
There’s a hint of lavender tonic, conjuring up memories of my father before he left for work most mornings, somewhat harried and half-shaven. There are cooling notes of spruce and pine mixed with a medicinal and mossy hemlock. I smell and remember early spring mornings spent running along the creek, trips to the outskirts of Austin amidst the weedy and fragrant ground cover of the Texas Hill Country. Fittingly; the perfume itself is a resinous and rich chartreuse color. Sap-like in it’s viscosity, masculine and strong, intense and polarizing. Not intended for women yet I wear it religiously despite.