March 4, 2012

Dabney Rose – the heart of a flower: Hyacinth Flower Crème & Solid Perfumes

Dabney Rose is herself the essence of an independent perfumer, the kind that grows her own flowers and distills their essences herself, practicing the ancient art of enfleurage to draw out their perfumes, and presenting them to us in limited edition batches, seasonally made. Yes, each season she makes her perfume crèmes from that year’s crop, and when they are gone there are no more till the next year.

Right now I am enjoying the exquisite Hyacinth crème, which is made of the incredibly piercing beauty of the hyacinth blossoms themselves. This is the closest thing imaginable to having a fully blooming hyacinth in the room with you, with the advantage that you can apply it to your own skin and so emanate this fragrance yourself. Fully natural and handmade, the perfume is fugitive, as such things are, but will last on the skin close to an hour, and blending with your own skin’s moisture the celestial air creates an aura that ushers you into the core of what fragrance is. As it fades the perfume becomes rounder and rounder. This can even become part of the enjoyment as you may notice the scent of your own skin coming through more and more, as time diminishes the hyacinth in soft increments. The utter poetic romance of it is enough to bring tears to your eyes, if you are at all susceptible to the implications.

All this requires full and exclusive attention. You must be in a quiet place without other perfumes nearby, to get the full beauty of this perfume’s effect.

I must say I have tried it when not at home, and had other distracting olfactory things going on around me, as there usually are, such as food, conversation, and other perfumes, and found I could not capture it. This is the perfect fragrance experience for quiet times at home, becoming practically meditative in the mindfulness it requires to reveal the full experience.


Dabney Rose makes multiple note solid perfumes too. Amberleah was made  in honor of her grandmother’s honeymoon in the Middle East, inspired by a recipe she found for Baklava in an old book: ghee, fresh dates, frankincense, nutmeg, cardamom, labdanum, gold dust, orange blossom. The perfume notes listed are: sweet resins, vanilla and caramel, honey and orange flower,
“simmered in ghee until radiant”.

I find the caramel very present at the start, then quickly folded under the cover of honey and vanilla, with an uplifting tang from the bright orange flower. This is a seriously aromatic solid perfume substance, yet still subtle, softly evolving over time, melding well with personal skin scent, as smoothed by the buttery tone of the emollient.

Vagabond is initially quite smoky, with burnt cedar, and the powdered dust of the desert, something for a sophisticated cowboy or a lady who likes to wear blue cambric and plaid for horseback rides. It seems like the perfect scent for horseback or even a Western escort for a caravan transporting the treasures of the ancient world.

Ancient Nile is based on a recipe for the ancient Egyptian perfume known as Kyphi, considered most suitable for evening. I tried it spread out over a larger area of the inside skin of my forearm. This is a very softened incense, with a hint of cassia/cinnamon, resins, woods, and a herbal tone blended into the emollient base, creating a warm relaxing veil of scent over the skin. This was considered by the ancient world to be a spiritual and medicinal substance, customarily burned in  incense form at dusk, and carefully made by combining the aromatic ingredients in a special order while prayers and sacred texts were recited. It was considered for thousands of years and still is by aromatherapists to be inherently beneficial to breathe in this perfume composition.  I find it becomes more like a floral chypre over time as it develops on the skin, soothing and more and more subtle.  It is believed to restore vitality.


It is obvious that Dabney Rose has a deeply personal relationship with her fragrance materials. She cultivates the florals, and performs all the tasks required to draw out their fragrance,  including removing the stamens by hand as they may impart a slight bitterness, photographing the blooms for the sake of her own memory and to share with others online.  If you follow her on Twitter you will receive updates as to the state of her garden and greenhouse through the seasons.


She has created a personal world of calm natural beauty to share with the rest of us through these artisanal fragrances.

They can be sampled or purchased directly from the site, and the full sizes are well priced at $25 for Hyacinth creme and $55 for the solid perfumes.

Images from the Dabney Rose site.

Music to enjoy perfume by (Theo Bleckmann):
Douce Dame Jolie  - in honor of  the almost Medieval worship of flowers these fragrances reveal

3 comments:

Anu said...

How incredibly inspiring Dabney! I know you are grateful for such blessing! Continued success and I am looking forward to experiencing your creations.

Shelley said...

You have so successfully captured the essence of Dabney and her exquisite botanicals in this lovely article. She embodies the spiritual and the artisnal and her perfumes and cremes are gorgeous.

Lucy said...

Thank you Anu and Shelley --

It is amazing how she can coax the fragrance out of a flower and plant isn't it? I so look forward to the next creations. That close relationship to her own plants and true green thumb show through and we are the beneficiaries.