Jitterbug Perfume: a tale of DSH Lautrec

I first sat down to write about this fragrance in December of 2014. You could say I took my sweet time.

The funny thing is, I’d forgotten I’d written it. I was deleting some ancient, irrelevant posts (because expurgating is the prerogative of the editor)… when it struck me that I wanted to write something. Over the last couple years, especially this last year, my exploration into the “new” has been mostly limited to what makes it’s way onto the Neiman’s counter (not many companies are still sending me freebies!); I’ve been busy with other things.

But this state has put me in a place to re-explore my collection, and to really discover what I truly love–not just the thrill of indulging in whatever new & exciting thing that’s captured my attention. I have learned the answer to “What do I love, day in and day out?”

I love many perfumes, but two above the rest.

Montale White Oudh, and DSH Lautrec. Let’s talk about the second.


More than a few years ago, I got a sample of Lautrec– I can’t remember all the details, but I do remember that Dawn created the fragrance to honor an anniversary for Ca Fleur Bon.

It’s an astonishing fragrance, a grand damme, a true perfume in the heavyweight style that mostly lost traction after the rise of CK One. Yet despite its obvious nod to classic perfumery, Dawn has managed to deliver an effervescent oriental.

In 2011, I decided to spend the year exploring independent and natural perfumes; during that year, I discovered naturals don’t much appeal to me. While I can appreciate them (Mandy Aftel’s Cepes & Tuberose is truly fascinating!), my nose prefers a blend of synthetic and natural ingredients. Remember, each natural “note” can have hundreds or thousands of organic molecules, while a synthetic can isolate individual molecules. I like the clarity of the mixed beast.

During this time of exploration, I came across Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, an independent perfumer out of Colorado who creates both naturals and blends. While I liked ALL of the DSH samples, I wanted to own a bottle of Lautrec from the first moment that molten liquid touched my skin; it went on my 2011 Buy List… and took nearly five years before I actually ordered my own bejeweled bottle.

It’s not cheap, but the high price tag wasn’t what dissuaded me–as the insurance tag on my perfume cabinet will attest. It was something different, and when I gaze inside my cabinet, as I have frequently over recent days in preparation for a move (just from one room to another, yet something of an ordeal), I understand. I look at bottles, beautiful bottles filled with beautiful fragrances, and what I see are memories. Much of what remains in my collection does so by having survived the most ruthless of culling; the best of the best, the most perfect specimen for every occasion. Vintage, contemporary, extraits to colognes, they have one thing in common: memories.

I spray Opus IV, and I smell the bike ride along the Columbia river in the Gorge.

I spray L’Heure Fougeuse, and I smell the hot summer day that I moved my stuff out of the apartment I shared with my ex-husband. It empowered me on that day, but today? It’s still beautiful, but I rarely wear it.

The list is endless; there’s a story for every bottle, decant, and sample in my perfume cabinet. For some time, I’ve been sticking with a small rotation (my secret!), but once again felt the stirrings every perfumista has experienced: the hunt for The One. The “You Can Only Pick One,” Jitterbug Perfume. The one to rule them all. Every perfumista starts with this search. Maybe every perfumista ends with it. Most give up trying and enjoy the ride, and they’re smarter people than me.

Finally, after being hounded for eons by every book-loving person to cross my path, I read Jitterbug Perfume. It’d been a while since I’d picked up fiction, and this fiction did not disappoint (perfume lover, read it).
The basic premise: our two main characters figure out immortality, but also figure they need a way to locate each other when in dematerialized form; perfume and immortality isn’t a new theme, and it got me thinking: which one would I choose?? What distinct, distinguishable identifier could tantalize my senses across that most mysterious veil? Meet me in the afterlife; just follow this trail of scent, I’ll be at the end of it.

The interesting thing was, I didn’t get a stirring to go find a new perfume.
I knew what it was; I remembered it. The small sample from ’11 was long gone when I tore my cabinet apart a few weeks ago looking for it. So I did what is almost the equivalent of a blind-buy: ordered it based on a (four??) years old memory.

It arrived via 2-day post on a Sunday. It always weirds me out when I get a Sunday delivery, because I’ve been trained to think that it’s impossible. But perfume and immortality and stuff.

Lautrec is golden, and it smells that way too– there’s no way for me to know what Paris during the heyday of Moulin Rouge was really like, but I can imagine it smelled like this. Art. Drugs. Sex. Ideas. Parties. Money. Decadence, and abandon, cut through with the titanium thread of intellectualism.

It’s sensuous, resinous, and distinct–no small feat in a perfume-land that has been saturated in every iteration of oriental. Lautrec does, in it’s opening moments, remind me of the best of Shalimar, though Lautrec possesses a transcendent quality where Shalimar stays firmly rooted (from your nether-regions to the earth below your feet).

If you haven’t tried Dawn’s fragrances, do.

Notes, compliments of Fragrantica
Top notes are bergamot, artemisia, passionfruit and wormwood; middle notes are cognac, moroccan rose, mimosa, orange blossom, orris root, jasmine sambac and ylang-ylang; base notes are amber, australian sandalwood, caramel, civet, indian patchouli, labdanum, moss, siam benzoin, tolu balsam and vanilla.


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