Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Field Trip: DSH Perfumes' Essence Studio

I purchased this.
This was a gift.
Gift with purchase "GWP" samples.

Today, my sister and I made a trip to DSH Perfumes' Essence Studio. I first purchased from DSH years and years ago. It was probably two or three years after I first purchased from DSH that they opened a storefront called The Essence Studio. I was so excited when I saw that it was based in Boulder, Colorado, as I work in downtown Boulder and live relatively close. I've always intended to visit The Essence Studio, but never got around to it. My sister and I had plans to spend today bumming around Boulder together, so we put a visit to The Essence Studio on our itinerary.

DSH's Essence Studio is situated in an unassuming little building adjacent to a shared art studio. When we walked into The Essence Studio, the first thing I noticed was how small it is, yet very cozy. In the back of the main room is a curtain-covered door leading into the room where Dawn Spencer Hurowitz (her initials are where the company name "DSH" is derived), the owner of DSH Perfumes, creates all of her fragrances. 

If you look closely at the reflection in the mirror on the vanity in the center of the photo,
you will see my sister's back as she leans over to sniff something. 

Almost every surface in the little store is covered with bottles and vials of scents of all types, from eau de parfum (EDP), to eau de toilette (EDT), to essence oils, and more. 

The two sets of shelving units below are where my sister and I spent the majority of our time sniffing and testing. It seemed that most of the scents we both went crazy about were on these shelves.

The Essence Studio has a series of single notes that were really lovely. I loved smelling each single note and noting how it's different from other perfume companies' single notes. Tuberose, for example, was fragrant and fresh without the cloying headiness that often accompanies tuberose single notes. 

The shelf in the below photo had a number of essence oil testers. My sister and I were both drawn to this shelf, as we've both preferred to wear perfume oils over other forms of fragrance.

My sister peeked her head into the perfume laboratory, and asked the manager, Mary, if she could take a picture. I jumped in and asked if I could take one, too, or if it was proprietary, as I know a lot of perfume artists consider their laboratories their intellectual properties and "for eyes only." I was surprised when Mary said it was okay for us to take photos, so I quickly snapped a picture. I think this was my favorite part of the visit to The Essence Studio. I love seeing where people's creative processes take place; it makes wearing the end product even more unique than it would be otherwise. I only wish I could sit in the room when Dawn is there bringing her amazing fragrances to life!

The manager, Mary, was incredibly patient as my sister and I stuck our noses in practically every bottle we could find. When our noses "gave out" from fragrance overload and we had trouble differentiating one scent from another, she told us a trick of the trade that I'd never heard before: when you need to "refresh" your sense of smell, smell your own body to reset your nose to neutral. I asked if that was more effective than sniffing coffee beans, and she said it is. Your nose is the most familiar with your own body's fragrance, and recognizes your own scent as a sort of neutral ground. So sniffing yourself is the best way to set your nose back to zero and start smelling things afresh again. So if you catch me at the perfume wall at Sephora with my nose down my shirt, that's all I'm doing--resetting my nose so I can smell more fragrances!

Mary was very accommodating and allowed me to take her photo. She was helpful, insightful, and incredibly friendly. I am delighted that she was there to guide us through our sensory experience.

In the end, I settled on four scents (plus two samples) to take home with me. There was an EDP of a scent called Cardamom & Khyphi that I discovered not long after entering the shop and which I kept returning to. Sweet and spicy cardamom is one of my favorite fragrance notes, and I love rich incense notes that are less smoky and ashy and more resinous. Thus, when I encountered Cardamom & Khyphi, I was pretty much in scent heaven. The EDP version was out of my price range, so I asked if they had this scent in perfume oil. Mary said she thought they had discontinued the essence oils for this particular scent, but she was pretty sure they had a bottle in stock somewhere. She walked over to a cabinet and found one right away. It was about 1/3 of the price of the EDP, which was more in my price range, so I snapped it right up. Right now, DSH Perfumes is having a 15% off sale, too, which made it an even more attractive price. (If purchasing online, use code "solstice14" for 15% off. The sale is good until July 7, 2014.) 

In addition, there were a number of one-off reduced-price perfumes for sale. Dawn Spencer Hurowitz designs custom signature scents for clients. Sometimes in the process, a scent she has created is rejected. So as not to waste the product, it is bottled and sold as a one-off scent. There were three that I couldn't stop going back to--Softly Sweet, Summer Song, and Sweet Heather. Sweet Heather was my favorite among everything I tried today. I had a birthday a couple of days ago, and for her birthday gift, my sister purchased these three one-off perfume oils for me, which just tickles me pink. I will think of her with fondness every time I wear one of these perfumes. 

Finally, I was sent home with two free samples with my purchase. I selected two scents called Ma Plus Belle Histoire d'Amour and Ashram

I will review each of these six scents in another post later this week. 

I'm really glad my sister and I took the time to visit DSH Perfumes' Essence Studio today. It was a really interesting and fun experience to see the studio, to peek into the laboratory, to discuss perfume with the manager, and of course, to smell perfume until our noses practically fell off.

The Essence Studio may be small and unassuming, but it is a class act. Dawn Spencer Hurowitz has designed custom perfumes for quite a few celebrities whose names you'd recognize--she's not just a local artisan, but truly a world-renowned perfume artist. You can read more about her experience as a perfumer here

If you don't live in Colorado but want to experience DSH Perfumes yourself, don't despair! You may buy DSH Perfumes online. If you're new to perfume and/or aren't comfortable purchasing perfume based on reading a note list, you may purchase individual samples or sample sets to try before you buy. 

For those of you located in Colorado or who are coming through Boulder, you may find The Essence Studio at this address:

The Essence Studio
4593 N. Broadway
Studio D-120
Boulder, CO  80304

If you love perfume and have the opportunity to visit The Essence Studio, I would highly recommend setting aside an hour in your schedule to spend time browsing and sniffing and sampling. It's a fun experience, and you may very well find your perfect signature scent. 


  1. This sounds like a wonderful experience! So glad you shared :)

    1. Thanks, Phyrra! It really was a great way to relax and unwind.

  2. Sounds like you had a blast. I remember when Ulta first opened where I grew up and I was confused by the canisters of coffee beans near the perfumes. I rarely see that anywhere anymore.

    1. When I do see coffee beans near perfume counters, they're usually old beans without much/any fragrance to clear the nose. I'm always surprised when I encounter a place that thoughtfully puts out fresh coffee beans for their customers' use.

  3. I bet you wanted to live there!!! Thanks for the review. I will have to make a trek there very soon.