Wednesday, December 18, 2013

DSH Parfums de Beaux Arts -Passport a Paris (from Passport to Paris Collection): fragrance review

The Passport to Paris Collection is a trio of perfumes exploring the fin de siècle (that is, the 19th century's prolonged swan song) which perfumer and painter Dawn Spencer Hurwitz produced in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum celebrating La Belle Epoque. Passport à Paris, primus inter pares, is Dawn's homage to the growling fougères of the late 19th century, namely Guerlain's Jicky and Houbigant's Fougère Royale; in a way closer to the real thing than one would expect, especially since the slimming regime the former has gone through via the rationing of civet. Indeed experiencing  Passport à Paris I'm left with the agonizing realization that this is the kind of perfumery we have been lamenting for lost, only we haven't quite understood that its salvation can only come through artisanship and a rebellious spirit coming not from the Old World, but from the New one.

Fittingly, the fragrance was inspired by a famous painting from the late 19th century, the eerily alienating, ennui filled Beach at Tourville by Claude Monet. In it a world of repressions the simple beachside pleasures are encapsulated with a silent tension (a sort of oil painting rendition of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence), faces like a smear of paint, an impressionistic image of boredom or unfulfilled desires. In a way the perfume genre that got invented with the thrashing of the powerful new synthetics is a rebellious antithesis to that same ennui.

I'm not in the habit of oooh-ing and aaah-ing as I walk about the rooms in my home, but to my amazement I found myself doing just that (to the incredulous gaze of my significant other) as I had sprayed my wrists and neck with Dawn's magnificent animalic perfume Passport à Paris. Lovers of vintage Jicky, please take note. This is good stuff. This is amazing stuff. No hyperbole. A bit more lemony, citrusy up top maybe than the Guerlain classic, especially in the modern form, but soon opening to a gorgeous meowling heart of lavender, dark jasmine and rich civet paste, smooth, hay-like and plush thanks to the conspiracy of vanillin and coumarin, an orientalized unisex more than just a masculine trope reminiscent of shaving cream (if that's your idea of fougère, that's not it by a mile).
Passport à Paris is also tremendously lasting on the skin and, really, just beautiful.

I'm of the belief that too many words cheapen the experience of savoring a sensual pleasure for yourself; a bit of "analysis-paralysis", if you will. So I'm leaving you with one directive and one directive only: try it. Like, right now!

Notes for Parfums de Beaux Arts Passport à Paris:
Lemon, bergamot, French lavender, rosewood, mandarin, grandiflorum jasmine, Bulgarian rose, orris root CO2, Clover, Australian sandalwood, amber, vanillin, coumarin, ambergris, East Indian patchouli, civet

Available in the DSH e-boutique (samples start at just 5$)

In the interests of disclosure I was sent a sample by the perfumer. 


  1. ohhhhh. i do so want to try this, & any others in the group! it sounds just beautiful!

  2. I really love everything I have tried of Dawn's. This one will go on my must-try list--asap! (First have to finish my Christmas shopping...but then...!)

  3. NFS,

    two words:
    MUST TRY. :-)

  4. Queen,

    you can look forward to a nice haul in January. :-)

  5. OK, I'm sold :-) I think Dawn's a genius anyway, your review just builds on that premise.

  6. Fiordiligi19:26

    You won't be surprised to hear that I have already ordered some!

    You have just confirmed that I made the right decision; I can always trust your wonderful reviews!

    Joyeux Noel xx

  7. I love this concise yet totally abandoned review. I will have to try to see if I can get this! Thanks so much! as always, you are great at what you do!


  8. Damn you Royal Mail and your ridiculous postal restrictions! I really want to try some of the DSHs. Have to find a mule.

  9. Anonymous11:09

    I love some of the DSH Perfumes too - especially Cimabue and Ruba'iyat.I've tried about 6 now in samples

    I'm in the UK, so can't get the larger eau de parfum versions, so I bought the Cimabue lotion, solid perfume and small vial of oil, which feels really indulgent and comforting at this time of year so I recommend those.

    I agree the postal restrictions are ridiculous. A registered professional perfume company should surely be able to post perfume overseas!

  10. Since I cannot find a bottle of my revered Jicky edt vintage or vintage extrait without mortgaging my house, this sounds like a suitable replacement! I'm so excited to try this one. I've been eyeing PaP for a while and was wondering how it smelled. You make it sound irresistible. A sample is now on order. Great review!

  11. R,

    I think you will like it! ;-)

  12. D dearest,

    ah, you're one smart lady, this is gorgeous stuff (and so very Guerlain-like), you will fully enjoy it, I'm sure!
    Thanks for the kind words :-)

  13. jean,

    awww, you flatter me, thank you!!

    I believe Dawn has samples at the ready, do drop a line if you have any trouble.

  14. Sabine,

    you can say that again….I'm sorry. Hope you do find a way!

  15. Rosestrang,

    from what I hear it's the getting things OUT of UK that is problematic, not getting things IN for some reason (reverse problem that Oz and NZ have). It all is too annoying. I'm sure there will be decanters that will be able to bypass the ridiculous restrictions in some way. ;-) Or ask Dawn to use a courier service (ouch on shipping, I know!)

  16. King,

    thanks for the compliment!
    Yeah, I am certain that all the disgruntled modern J buyers will be thrilled to find a replacement.


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