Elephant & Roses and Syconium are two very different fragrances from the Italian niche brand, Maria Candida Gentile. The former layers roses with grassy, animalic, or clean elements, while the latter covers sandalwood with figs then dunks them both in a mix of milk and honey. I’ll look at each fragrance in turn.
Put aside thoughts of punk rock and the Pixies‘ front man, Black Francis, wailing (or shrieking) “Debaser,” the group’s gritty 1989 song, and imagine instead an idyllic boat ride on the River Cam in Cambridge, England. Fig trees line the mossy riverbanks, hanging like weeping willows until their tips touch the water, lying heavy and burdened with their black fruits whose leathery, tannic smell wafts over the green waters. The river is filled with bamboo water, coconut milk, and the sap of green leaves and crushed pear stems. The last two combine to smell almost like the watercress sandwiches nibbled on daintily by punters whose boats glide gently over the serene waters on a quiet, sun-dappled, lazy Sunday afternoon. This picturesque scene is the real world of Debaser.
D.S. & Durga (hereinafter spelled without the periods as just “DS & Durga”) is a small perfume house founded in 2007 in Brooklyn, New York by David Seth Moltz (“D.S.”), a musician, and Kavi Ahuga (“Durga”), an architect. Their company website explains their artisanal approach and American inspirations:
D.S. & Durga make perfume and cologne in small batches using premium-sourced raw materials. All scents are created exclusively in-house. Some of their inspiration comes from outdated herbal wisdom, native ritual medicine, lore and legends, historical movements and Americana. The scents are the stories of prospectors, gentry, trailblazers, frontier women, drawing rooms, workbenches, cowboys – fragments of half remembered legends, movements, events, and foreign lands. […][¶]
[They started by] tincturing flowers, herbs, and spices to make aftershaves for friends. When they realized that none of their friends shaved (this was 2007, mind you), they started blending oils, resins, and plant extracts. The results were small batch perfumes and colognes, and friends loved them. Durga had an idea: she could distill her designs into the architecture of fragrances (and the packages they live in) and D.S. could write songs in scent.