Pandora: Outside of the box. A new natural perfume by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

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There was a heavy container - some say it was a box, others describe it as a jar. It doesn't matter, really. What's important is that it held things in. The lid was heavy,  I imagine, with the weight of it all. When she opened it, she didn't expect what happened. Some say she deserved it, but others whisper that they thought it would happen all along and that it ended up being a good thing. 

The brief was specific: all-natural ingredients - and only certain ones at that. The perfumer, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, looked at this list of modern naturals and, despite the limitations, decided to reconceive the traditional mouuse de saxe formula. Not exactly picking the low fruit! The resultant scent, the one I received to test, is 97.5% natural.

Out of the box came horrible, awful things. Jealousy. Hatred. Crime. Fear. Insanity. Greed. Lies. Some say these evils were accompanied by a terrible smell, but I can't say for certain.

Mousse de Saxe: A perfume base created with "geranium, licorice, leather, iodine and vanillin" according to perfume house Caron, who has used it in many of their creations. Perfume historian Octavian Coifan describes it this way: "The formula works like the classic 19th fougère perfume: a citrus bergamot top, a geranium rosy heart, a strong dose of coumarine and sweet notes, and a woody base with sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, methyl ionone, some spicy clove notes, a nitro musk note and a small jasmine-ylang facet - but no aromatic lavender note. The presence of an anise note combined with the general sweetness and the smoky IBQ might give a licorice effect."

She had so much. Beautiful. Talented. Creative. Bold. Curious. As with many like her, she may not have realized how much she really had. One she had let it all out of the box, I'm sure some people thought it would be all over. Maybe she did, too. How wrong... 

This scent, Pandora, is classic. In it, you get the great vintage flavor of a classic base, mousse de saxe, some traditional notes - bergamot at the top, rose, jasmine in the middle-  and other notes often thought of as "retro": aldehydes, ambergris, and that beautiful oakmoss! So as you see, Pandora is classic. And it's modern. Check out the ozone and peppers (so 2011!). Breathe in the green tea absolute. Experience the modern (read: not Indian) sandalwoods from Australia and Africa. Pandora is classic and it's modern. It's the perfect melding of the two, actually.
As with many things, if you focus on the bad you'll miss the good. Once the box was open, once everything was out, it was easy to focus on the bad. There was fear, anger and, I'm guessing, a little tinge of loneliness. A second look, though, showed that there was another result - the one I suspect she would cling to.

The first thing I smell is the oakmoss. It's always the oakmoss that I smell first when it's there, though it so rarely is these days. Oakmoss was the base of so many fine perfumes -before its use was limited so stridently by IFRA. Smelling it, my nose always passes a message to my brain: VINTAGE! CLASSIC! SEXY! And so it is with this one. Swirling, sultry, sexy oakmoss announces its presence and sets the stage immediately. You know what's coming, and if you're into this kind of perfume your heart starts to race. 

It was given to her by Zeus as a wedding gift. She had long thought the box (or jar, whatever...) was the gift. She now realized she'd been looking at it all wrong. Despite the bad, the evil, the whole point of the thing was the hope. The truth. The gift was bringing it all out in the open and moving past the bad - leaving it to those who deserve it and focusing on the hope. I'm sure the gods are smiling.

Pandora is Dawn's first release after her removal from the Natural Perfumer's Guild. Having been freed from her limitations in this project, she transcended her original plan for this perfume. Having been freed from limitations in her professional alliances, she has transcended anything she has ever created. I told her this weekend that I think it is her best so far. I say "so far" because this scent is not her last, and I have complete confidence that she's getting more in touch with her muses. I have faith that her work is getting more complex, more beautiful. I have hope that the best is yet to come. Hope.

Odilon Redon's "Pandora"
Dawn's inspiration for the scent.
DSH Pandora:

Top: ruby fruits (botanical accord), bergamot, aldehyde, spice notes, ozone, violet leaf absolute,
davana, cassis bid, 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.

Read other reviews of this brand new scent, Pandora, here:
Enter your thoughts on what you've read here or on one of the other participating blogs, or your reflections on Pandora and her box (jug), or your thoughts on mousse de saxe or, hell, write anything you want. Each commenter will be entered into a drawing for a 3ml mini-sprayer of Pandora! The winner will be selected on Saturday, September 17.


  1. OOOOhhh...this sounds fantastic! I love DSH perfumes and this one sounds so 'me'. I would love to be in the draw=D

  2. I'm thinking how appropriate the scent and the name are for Dawn's liberation from constraints... and the scent sounds fabulous! Yes, enter me in the draw, please!

  3. Love Dawn's stuff! Not sure how I will get on with the famous Mousse de Saxe, as I didn't care much for Caron Nuit de Noel, but her retro-inspired stuff is so solid and so beckoning.

  4. You're all entered. Thanks! :)

    Mals, I am not a fan of Nuit de Noel, but will be buying a big bottle of this -- if that helps entice? If you win the contest, I'll meet you somewhere for a sniffa. I'm in Richmond. ;) (JK - I'll have Dawn mail it, though a sniffa would be fun, too!)

  5. No need to enter me, I just would like to say that this was a fabulous review, Jen! I also have a request- somewhere along the line, folks seem to have the wrong link to my blog, this is the correct one: Thank you!

  6. ok.....that was one fabulous review Jen:) I´d love to enter the draw after reading it. Thank you

  7. CM - fixed :)
    triplex - thank you. :)

  8. I'm not sure if you send to Europe, but if you do - please add me to the draw, as I would love to smell the oakmoss AND i have recently finished a paper on Redons beautiful and disturbing early lithographs. So I know at least something about the inspiration. ;)

  9. Oh that was a great review!
    I think Pandora is a great name for a perfume. A beautiful woman who combines all good and yet opens the box of all bad.

    Can I be entered in the draw? I'm dying to try it!
    (and miss you on the BN, Jen! *)

  10. Love your review! Thanks for entering me into the giveaway. :)

  11. Please, if you send to Europe, enter me in the draw :) Thanks!

    I'm not sure if I would be able to recognize oakmoss in a fragrance, because I have never tried the raw material. That's why I'd love to try Pandora. Maybe it could teach me to identify oakmoss.

  12. O.M.G.! :-D I was in rapt attention from start to finish, Jen! Of course, I have read the Pandora myth a few times but your telling of it was...WOW! Thank you for the incredible review of Pandora! I like to think that there's always room for improvement so every new design is better than the last... I hope that I can live up to such high praise! Thank you for setting the bar very high with your wonderful writing and ability to 'tell the story'. oxoxo

  13. I'm dying to try this after your statement that you think this is Dawn best so far! I'm also curious to see if I would notice the 2.5% synthetics in this.

  14. Wonderful review -- information sandwiched into the myth. :) No need to enter me in the draw.

  15. I'm glad someone mentioned truth behind the circumstances and Pandora surely sounds up to its name!

  16. *jen, I enjoyed reading your review and I look forward to trying that extraordinary perfume - one way or the other. But for now let me try it this way :) - please enter me into the draw.

  17. Soooo interesting. I have most of those ingredients at home - it would be so interesting to see how she manage to blend them. Just yesterday I was smelling muhuhu. :)

  18. I'm excited about this one. Sounds great for fall.

  19. This perfume sounds beautiful! Please enter me for the draw.

  20. This is all very new to me and this article really opened my eyes.Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

    overstock perfume


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