Independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz still manages to surprise me after all these years. When I eagerly received the package of her four Autumn releases for DSH Perfumes I looked through the names Chinchilla, Vert et Noir, Souvenir de Malmaison, and Axis Mundi. They all carried varying degrees of interest. Chinchilla is a fur coat clad woman, musk and fur colliding. Vert et Noir a watery fruity vetiver which tickled my sense of odd hybrids. Souvenir de Malmaison reminded me too much of the great work Ms. Hurwitz did with the Monet inspired creations of the previous year. Plus, La Belle Saison from earlier this year is an unbeatable floral in my estimation. Which left Axis Mundi.
Axis Mundi is described on the website as, “The ritual censer is lit filled with the most beautiful and costly incense….The smoke rises and releases the sweet and lightly charred aroma.” What Ms. Hurwitz has created is one of the most fragile soft incense fragrances I have ever encountered.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
She lives up to her words of using costly versions of incense. Three exquisite resin sources form the axle around which Axis Mundi spins. One is a CO2 distillation of Frankincense. The best frankincense has a slightly silvery quality along with the resins. The CO2 distillation reduces that metallic nature dramatically. The second is an Indian distillation of cedarwood and the resin of the indigenous Sal tree to form Choya Ral. Choya Ral makes a magic trick out of taking cedar and in the combination with the Sal tree turns it into a leather accord impregnated with incense. The final ingredient is Bakul Attar. This is also a leathery co-distillation of bakul flowers and sandalwood. The Bakul Attar is a transparent floral leather. Ms. Hurwitz has combined these three ingredients into a fabulous resinous nucleus.
Before we get to that nucleus Ms. Hurwitz opens Axis Mundi with a combination of rose and champaca leaf. This is a floral harmonic which sets up the entry into the three resinous raw materials. When the frankincense, Bakul Attar, and Choya Ral come together the heart accord is not the moment of burning incense. It is instead the smell of the censer the next day. It is delicate instead of boisterous. It is surprising because it continually drew me in on the days I wore it for that fragility. To keep the resin party going, with a continued serenity, Ms. Hurwitz adds in precise amounts of civet, myrrh, olibanum, and benzoin. They all have slight modifying effects on the central accord but are mainly used to add a long tail onto the heart notes.
Axis Mundi has 10-12 hour longevity and very low wattage sillage.
I am so used to being subsumed in smoke with my favorite incense fragrances Ms. Hurwitz asks a different question with Axis Mundi. Is there beauty in what remains after the burn? Axis Mundi’s answer is most definitely.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by DSH Perfumes.