DSH Perfumes Le Smoking: I am every perfume

Jodie Foster

The DSH line has been on my radar for many years, I could not remember however why I had not sampled any of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz creations. As you can imagine I was delighted when Dawn contacted me and offered me the chance to try her creations. At that point I remembered why I hadn’t ordered any samples myself: her catalogue is simply so large that it becomes intimidating. It is very difficult to narrow it down based on the note description, a practise I avoid. After an incredibly kind and friendly communication I asked her to send me anything she feels very proud of, anything strange or green or earthy. I received a huge number of samples that kept me busy for a long time, just to catalogue and prioritize. Somewhere among these  samples I found Le Smoking, one of Dawn’s compositions commissioned by the Denver Art Museum to complement the Yves Saint Laurent Exhibit retrospective.

It has been a very long time since I have felt so moved by a perfume. I cannot begin to describe how introspective, uplifting and deep this scent is. It is so rich in ingredients and nuances that I almost feel intimidated by the attempt to describe it. It opens with a thick green note that I perceive as a mix of galbanum and labdanum. There are many other notes in this opening accord that serve to make the green notes less bitter and perfectly balanced but the overall impression is that of deep, early autumn, ripe vegetation. As the mid phase notes begin to establish themselves, the most wonderful cigarette smoke accord laces the composition. It really smells the way cigarettes smelled when we were 12 years old and feeling envious of grown ups who were smoking. It is the idealised, platonic form of cigarette smoke. It smells elegant, sophisticated, perplex. It makes me think of Marlene Dietrich wearing a black tuxedo and smoking a cigarette pipe. But in equal measures it brings to mind beatniks and jazz clubs. The base of the composition initially appears as a rich mossy chypre and all these elements would be more than enough to make me love this perfume. And then magic happens! What smells like a modern green chypre from up close, exudes  the most beautiful classic fougère sillage since the 80’s. All the history of Yves Saint Laurent’s fashion revolution with the introduction of the feminine tuxedo, The Smoking, has been distilled through Dawn’s sensitivity and talent and the result is one of the most mysterious, eloquent and intelligent perfumes I have ever tried. A perfume that not only defies perfume classification but also laughs at its face. The same way that Yves Saint Laurent laughed at the face of gender classification in fashion with his homonymous creation.

Inside my box of DSH Perfumes treasures there many different scents, I am sure that I will be coming back to talk about several of them. It didn’t feel appropriate however to talk about any other scent in this quick sniff because Le Smoking really has to be lit with a very special spotlight. I do not want to predispose anyone with my note perception in this one, they are irrelevant. Le Smoking is a journey it I leave it up to you to tread this road and read this perfume any way you like it. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has achieved something very difficult with this creation: she has composed a scent that is sexy and intelligent in equal measures. If I find you at a time you are compiling your next to-sample list, please add this right at number one. If you are not interested in trying something new, please make an exception for this chameleonic scent. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz managed to cross a diamond with a pearl!

Notes from Parfumo: Bergamot, Blackberry, Clary sage, Galbanum, Hyacinth, Neroli, Bulgarian rose absolute, Carnation, Chinese geranium, Jasminum grandiflorum, Honey, Cannabis, Orris root, Brown oakmoss, Castoreum, Frankincense, Leather, Peru balsam, Tobacco absolute

Notes from my nose: the Quintessential Chypre, the Quintessential Fougère


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. jtd0000

    I’ve never tried the DSH line either, but now I know where I will start! I’m excited by your description of the experience, the journey of this perfume. I now feel like I know le Smoking in a way that a list of notes wouldn’t convey. I’m particularly fascinated to experience the transition you describe from chypre to fougere. As we get further away from these late 19th and early 20th century forms, I’m struck by their similarities more than their differences., and a perfume that refers to both sounds particularly interesting.

  2. Thanks for the great review. As a smoker, I’m particularly interested in this one. I have to say, the combination of the notes sounds intriguing. Would you describe this as unisex?

    • Totally! I think this was the intent if you look at the couture references of the YSL Smoking. And the lovely cigarette note is a clever play in words. If you are interested in the cigarette note do try Nobile 1942 PonteVecchio. It features a note of cigarette smoke on clean clothes that is quite unique.

  3. Christos – Dawn’s Le Smoking is incredible and falls close to my beloved Gres Cabochard. Incredibly sexy and great for a man or a woman!

    • Smelling this for the very first time was a “I have to have this perfume” moment. This is an extremely rare moment if one has already smelled hundreds of perfumes and I am sure you can relate to this.

  4. Welcome to the DSH fan club, Christos! 😉 I’m so happy you’ve finally had a chance to sample the work of one of my favorite indie perfumers – and even more delighted you liked Le Smoking so much! You have wonders in store and marvels galore to explore! xo

    • I have already spotted a few more gems but Le Smoking made me feel like smelling something that already existed in my mind, be it an old memory or something that I wished existed. This is a great feeling

  5. It sounds fascinating and I can feel your passion for it. Delighted you have found a new grail.

  6. Le Smoking isn’t my most favorite perfume from that collection (actually, it’s third) but the way you described it makes me want to try it again. Probably tomorrow I will. Wonderful review!

  7. Natalie

    The passion in your review makes me want to return to this one. I thought this whole collection by DSH was really good (but was disappointed that the museum didn’t feature it anywhere near the exhibit – can you believe it? it was hidden away in a corner of the gift shop).

    • Thanks Natalie. I think if you focus on the feminine-to-masculine transition you will understand exactly why I am so passionate about it. I think it would have been lovely for Dawn if her creations were put right next to the clothes (DSH and YSL) but let’s face it, perfume takes a very specific kind of displaying to be able to stand on its own and it is many times pushed in the corner at the back.

      • Natalie

        So true, Christos. And then there are concerns (which I am completely on board with) about the perfumes permeating these precious, archival clothes. I would have been happy to see little notes about the original YSL perfumes and Dawn’s recreations included with the displays. Regardless, it’s great that the Denver Art Museum invites her to do this.

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