Pandora by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
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By Josie Plumey
Co-Founder, creator and artist of A Dozen Roses, Sandy Cataldo, signing bottles
My grandmother was a woman who lived a life of little glamour. She raised nine children and as many grandchildren in a financially-strapped home, her days devoted to housework and cooking. Still, when I think about her, the first memory that comes to mind is not one of her dusting her curio or making me dinner. It is of her getting dressed to go to the bank or to her doctor’s office: her hair is perfectly curled in a 1940s-esque style, her clothes are starched and pressed, and she smells divine. Oh, how she smelled! - a combination of Cover Girl liquid makeup and pressed powder, and a beautiful powdery-sweet and fizzy scent.
After my grandmother died, I wondered if I would ever find anything that smelled as lovely and comforting as she. Vintage perfumes are unfortunately not my area of expertise, and I had resigned myself to the fact that the sensory memories of my grandmother were destined to fade.
Then, I smelled Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Pandora, and I was once again a toddler, sitting on the bathroom floor while I watched the near-hypnotic ritual of my grandmother’s primping.
Pandora manages to feel both vintage and modern; a truly rich and luscious chypre, it stemmed from a project whose goal was to use all-natural ingredients, some of which had only recently been made available. However, Dawn diverged from this project and added a few synthetic notes, focusing on recreating the classic Mousse de Saxe accord. The result is phenomenal. Dawn managed to capture a moment in time that I am all too grateful to have back.
The opening of Pandora is a cool mix of fizzy aldehydes and fruity greens. The first time I wore it, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the delicious airy quality of the violet leaf and bergamot. This fragrance feels fresh without smelling clean. As the heart notes develop, there is a noticeable change in the feel of the scent: it transitions from bright and playful to deep and sensuous without losing the coolness of the top notes. A beautiful rose de mai blooms on the skin, a playmate to a deviously indolic jasmine and a heady orris. The imagery in my head as I wear this fragrance is of finding a blooming garden in the middle of a dark forest.
Oh, and let me not forget the Mousse de Saxe accord: famously created for Caron Paris, its composition results in an effect that is simultaneously mossy and powdery. It gives the flowery heart notes the added feel of dark, wet earth but lends an additional sweetness to the animalic, woody base notes. The result is a drydown that is the equivalent of a cashmere sweater: plush and soft, and perfectly form-fitting. There is also a noticeable warmth that was previously not present in the fragrance.
It is easy for me to be impressed by the overwhelming beauty of Pandora. The play of the Mousse de Saxe accord and the chypre structure of the fragrance harkens back to famous vintages, while the juxtaposition of an inky chill and a velveteen caress is entirely new. At once sensual, haunting, comforting, and mysterious, Pandora is everything that one could possibly want in a fragrance. I do not hesitate to say that I believe it will become a niche classic.
I imagine that my grandmother would have loved it as much as I love it.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Pandora is 97.5% natural, and 2.5% synthetic, and the notes are as follows:
Top: ruby fruits (botanical accord), bergamot, aldehyde, spice notes, ozone, violet leaf absolute, davana, cassis bud, green and pink pepper
Heart: rose de mai absolute, juhi jasmine, linden blossom absolute, yerba maté absolute, cabreuva wood, orris co2, green tea absolute
Base: mousse de saxe accord (botanical) , cyperus, fossilized amber absolute, ambergris tincture, patchouli co2, vetiver co2, muhuhu, australian sandalwood, tonka bean absolute, oakmoss green, vanilla absolute.