With the end of autumn and the advent of winter in the Western hemisphere, it seemed like a fitting time to cover seasonal fragrances from the American niche brand, Dasein. It is an artisanal perfume house founded by Samantha (or “Sam”) Rader in Los Angeles in 2014. According to her biography, she is “a self-taught mixed-media perfumer,” and all her fragrances are unisex, vegan eau de parfums that she hand-blends in small batches. There are four releases thus far, each named after a different season of the year. Today, I’ll take a brief look at Autumn and Winter.
Dasein describes Autumn and its notes as follows:
Dasein’s AUTUMN unisex fragrance features notes of agarwood, incense, amber, cedar, coffee and cinnamon bark. It is the ultimate in unctuous coziness. Worn well with cashmere and silk.
Autumn opens on my skin with a tsunami of spicy cinnamon Red Hot candies and a white, sweet powderiness. It is lightly layered with a Western-style “oud” that is purely synthetic and smells nothing remotely like real agarwood. On the sidelines are tiny whiffs of something vaguely smoky and dark, but none of it translates in the opening moments as either coffee, cedar, or incense.
Autumn quickly shifts. The amber appears within minutes, and resembles a simple benzoin rather than labdanum or ambergris (which wouldn’t be vegan anyway). The resin is followed by ripples of dark synthetics that smell like a generic, woody smokiness; it’s difficult to determine more than that at first because they’re drowned out by the deluge of fiery cinnamon candies. In essence, Autumn debuts on my skin as a blanket of Red Hots thinly threaded by fake “oud,” fake incense-y woodiness, and generic, generalized amber sweetness, then dusted with powderiness. That said, roughly 15 minutes into Autumn’s development, the “oud” grows stronger and takes on that Montale-like aroma of pink rubber band-aids, but it still can’t compete with the cinnamon candies or the powdered sugar.
Things change at the end of the first hour and the start of the second. The “oud” and the darker notes surge to the forefront, overtaking the Red Hots, and pushing them to the sidelines. Autumn now smells like a scratchy, abrasively smoky mix of cypriol “oud,” woody-smoky synthetics, and amber-woody aromachemicals, all covered by a light veil of cinnamon and sugary powder. I find it neither interesting nor elegant. With the exception of the Red Hots being tossed in, all of it has been done before and with greater complexity.
Autumn is a linear scent, and didn’t change significantly in the five hours that followed until I finally had enough and scrubbed it off. It simply grew smokier and more chemical in nature, irritating the back of my throat. There was an ISO E-like quality in the base, but it was overshadowed by stronger, more powerful charred wood and neo-“incense” materials. I’ve actually tested Autumn twice, and didn’t last beyond two hours the first time around because I found the scent to be so unappealing.
I generally don’t provide comparative analysis in my Reviews en Bref, but you can read Autumn’s Fragrantica page for other opinions. The two comments there at the time of this review are split: one person finds the intense cinnamon bouquet of the opening to resemble a home fragrance product in Wal-Mart, while the other loves Autumn as an “absolutely wonderful, warm-spicy woody fragrance with lots of semi-sweet cinnamon, resinous woods and a touch of coffee.” On Basenotes, the sole comment posted there at this time says “the cinnamon bark just dominates this scent” and it lacked balance. Personally, I could have dealt better with the Red Hots than with the abrasively smoky aromachemicals which eventually took over. Autumn is a total pass for me.
Winter is an eau de parfum that was released in 2014. Dasein describes the fragrance and its notes as follows:
Dasein’s WINTER unisex fragrance aims to evoke the soul of the winter season–the transition of making your way through cold forest night air into a haven of warmth and merriment with friends, which leaves you feeling wonderfully at peace. That journey is concretized in the top notes of bright conifers (spruce & pine), which shift and warm into the heart note of cardamom spice, and finally settle into a base of soft lavender.
Winter is a better fragrance than Autumn, in my opinion, and has a beautiful debut, though I ultimately scrubbed this one off, too. It opens with juicy red berries and tangy, tart fruits that are coated with fresh pine sap, then sprinkled with winter pine needles. The latter smell as crisp, aromatic, and realistic as if you’d scooped the needles straight off the forest floor, and crushed them between your fingers. The fruits resemble cassis (what Americans call blackcurrant) but there is also, for a brief instant, the aroma of blackberries and a sliver of something greener that vaguely resembles mango. My guess is that the berry note is a side-effect of a high-quality spruce essential oil. When I took AbdesSalaam Attar’s perfume course, our distillation of Italian cypress bore a surprising and distinct fruitiness because we included the tree’s green seeded cones as well.
In the minutes that follow, the fruit notes are momentarily buried under growing waves of sap and pine, resulting in a truly authentic, wonderful sense of winter. There is a quietly camphorous and mentholated quality to the bouquet in the opening moments, a chilliness and brisk freshness that evokes a snowy landscape perfectly. Trailing the pine is a cool but creamy lavender. It never bears the dreaded, pungently medicinal, bracing aroma of the dried plant; this is something softer and creamier. Yet, it is also just fresh and aromatic enough to avoid being purely akin to lavender ice-cream. For the most part, though, Winter’s opening is a naturalistic, brisk, outdoorsy bouquet that is centered primarily on chilled pine needles and aromatic sap with only a light sprinkling of sweet, creamy lavender atop a thin layer of berry fruitiness.
Winter quickly changes. A hint of spiciness and a sweetened, golden warmth appear after 5 minutes, juxtaposed next to the almost icy, mentholated, winter chilliness in a nice, carefully balanced, and completely natural way. That said, Winter is rapidly growing fruitier and sweeter, taking on a candied quality that suffuses the cooler, brisker elements. Less than 15 minutes in, Winter has suddenly turned into sugar-spun pine needles layered with sweet sap, a cassis berry compote, and lightly spiced, creamy lavender ice-cream. Rather than snow falling on the bouquet, there is a sense of powdered sugar mixed with a pinch of cardamom. To my regret, the chilly, mentholated, outdoorsy elements are weakening significantly by the minute, while the lavender and cassis are growing more dominant.
By the end of the first hour and the start of the second, Winter is a purely gourmand take on the forest landscape. The driving note is crystallized lavender whose sugared coating is mixed with a touch of cardamom. It still bears an undertone of creaminess, but it’s candied above all else. Trailing closely behind is a mix of equally sugared pine needles and now sweetened cassis. The sap remains, but it no longer a distinct, powerful element in its own right and is generally subsumed within the pine needles and the various forms of sweetness.
In essence, Winter is now the gourmand, lavendery cousin to Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince. That’s the perfume created by Bertrand Duchaufour for the owners of Fragrantica, and it’s centered primarily on pine needles, fir, and cassis, though there are other elements in the first few hours as well. Dasein’s Winter smells as though Enchanted Forest had been stripped to its basic core, amplified with heavy amounts of lavender, then turned gourmand.
Unlike Enchanted Forest, however, snow no longer falls on Dasein’s Winter, only sugar, alas. It’s cloying and painfully sweet for my tastes. Regular readers know I have a low threshold for excessive sweetness, and Winter exceeds it by leaps and bounds. I felt as though I had a heavy layer of sugar coating the back of my throat after 3 hours. By the time the 5th hour rolled around, I smelt almost entirely of sugar-encrusted lavender smudged at the edges with tiny dabs of sugar-encrusted pine needles and sugared cassis. I gave up, and scrubbed it off.
On Fragrantica, all the reviews for Winter at this time are extremely positive. In fact, a few people seemed to love it from the first sniff. Many of them seem to have a love for gourmand fragrances, though, so you should keep that in mind. One person who calls Winter “an absolute gem” and loves it actually says flat-out that sugar seems to be an important, distinct part of the scent. “Jovian” writes:
there is another very important element at play here. If I was blind testing ‘Winter’ I would have said that sugar was an included accord – white, refined, possibly powdered/icing sugar.
He or she also notes “the coniferous medley rapidly takes a back seat” in favour of “a lavender cream dessert” with some cardamom, and that view was shared by another commentator who wrote that Winter was “like cardamom iced cream! A delicious and naturalistic cardamom with chilly sweet cream.”
For one of my readers, “rp6969,” Winter was an exception to his usual lavender issues, and he writes in part:
This truly was love at first sniff! One sniff, one dab, and five minutes later I ordered a full bottle. Normally I stay far away from anything with lavender in it. However, the lavender in Winter is soft and lovely with none of the medicinal or soapy aspects that normally I object to. Light, crisp freshness of pine needles, as if they were crushed between your fingers, warmed up by cardamom with a subtle background of ethereal, sheer lavender. It will remind some of Christmas but I can see myself wearing this at any time of year.
On Basenotes, two of the three reviews there at this time are positive and echo much of the same things said on Fragrantica, but the dissenting voice had mixed feelings about Winter because of the dominating nature of the cardamom on his skin. “Odysseusm” writes, in large part:
the cardamom dominates and wipes out the coniferous and lavender notes. Caradmom is a nice, aromatic spice in itself. But it wasn’t why I sought out this scent. The note gives a foody aspect. And this I find a bit hackneyed — it is possible to walk through a cool forest without munching on Christmas cake. [¶] Conifers are brief, acceptable but not outstanding. Lavender is also acceptably camphoraceous but that too is brief. [¶] The scent is not terrible, it is cool and spicy at the same time.
If you love both wintery gourmands and lavender that has a candied or ice-cream quality to it, then you should give Winter a sniff for yourself. I don’t think you should expect a long-lasting and significant amount of chilly notes, either pine or sap, from start to finish, though. And I must emphasize that Winter is intensely sweet. If you have an aversion to such scents, you may have difficulties.