A pure vision of India—Kashmiri saffron, frangipani, gardenia, yellow lotus attar, and damask rose with fine Sri Lankan sandalwood and vetiver.
A visit to a traditional perfume shop in India is a step back in time.
You are invited to sit while a salesperson brings them out one after the other, swiping oils onto your skin right from the glass stopper. More often than not, they are crammed into busy markets of crowded cities. The contrast is a reminder that beauty is all around us and can be found anywhere.
Traditional Indian perfume making should be considered a whole genre. Unique methods of extraction and indigenous plants are its hallmarks. Flowers, ambers, sandalwood, Himalayan herbs, southern spices—the diversity of plant life in India is staggering. To name a few of the most fragrant—tuberose, saffron, frangipani, kewda, ylang, gardenia, rose, cardamom, deodar, khus, mogra, motia.
The oils can come from small farms that have been growing, gathering, and distilling plants for a long time.
Cottage industries for jasmine and other oils have spawned entire villages. Attars are of particular interest to me. An attar is made by co-distilling one or more plants with sandalwood in giant alembics. It is like making a blended perfume during extraction—rather than mixing separate oils together after they are extracted.
Something alchemical happens when all the plants—gathered from hills and jungles—are all set to cook together. Attars smell like perfumes from a different age. Formulations are passed down for generations and many are unique to certain regions.
For “D.S.” I wanted to create the impression of an attar by cooking together accords of yellow lotus, gardenia (which I made from a plant I own), rose, jasmine, saffron, and vetiver all grounded in pure real deal Holyfield Sandalwood oil from Sri Lanka (one of the finest in the world as Mysore has been overharvested).
D.S. has the choicest materials and can only be produced in small batches.-D.S.
Alcohol denat, parfum (fragrance), aqua (water), benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, benzyl cinnamate, benzyl salicylate, cinnamyl alcohol, citral, citronellol, coumarin, eugenol, farnesol, geraniol, hexyl cinnamal, isoeugenol, limonene, linalool
When our fume master David creates our fragrances, he sees them in color. The throw of a particular aroma can be described in the colors it implies in the mind of one with synethesia. Vetyer can smell straw like yellow, patchouli, deep red, and so on. David is very enthusiastic about translating an idea from one discipline to another—so music, words, and ultimately color become aromas to wear on skin and in sanctuary.
Also called Plumeria, a tropical flower that loves to be where good times are had. Soft woody green tones over white flowers. Called champa in India, not to be confused with champaca which is a magnolia species.
Another flower that doesn’t give up its oil (except via old fashioned enfleurage methods that we no longer use much). I use a gardenia base I built over the course of 2 weeks—copying a blooming plant I owned in 2017 (it died in 2019). It is creamy, tropical, & multi-faceted. It recalls tropics but also Fred Astaire’s elegant lapel.
Sandalwood is complex but one of the most balanced oils with tones of milk, peach, musk, cedar, rose, coconut, and violet. A fixative, it can also disappear into the background, letting other notes shine through until hours later when it returns. Traditionally grown in Mysore, India, but over harvesting has left it out of the commercial perfumer’s pallet for about 20 years. We now use sandalwood grown sustainably elsewhere and reconstruct its aroma with molecules.