Masterpiece – Review: DSH Perfumes Mata Hari

I worked myself into a lather many times over the irrational and plain stupid (so sue me!) restrictions of the IFRA. The emergence of The Natural Perfumer´s Guild´s Outlaw project was something I followed with delight. Take that, bureaucrats without noses!

One of these Outlaw perfumes, that got nothing but the highest praise (see for example Gaia´s review here), was Mata Hari, a perfume by American independent perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Dawn is based in Boulder, Colorado (it is so nice there, apart from the Stanley Hotel, that is ;)) and she is an amazingly talented perfumer, whose work I had the opportunity to experience recently, for the first time.

Along with the Mata Hari perfume I purchased, Dawn was so generous as to send me many samples to familiarize myself with her line. I´m only starting to get to know them, but be assured, this will not be the last review of her fragrances on this blog.

Mata Hari – the perfume, was inspired, of course, by the infamous spy and exotic dancer Mata Hari. She was portrayed in a movie from 1931 by one of my favorite actresses, Greta Garbo. Dawn, apparently drew a lot of inspiration from the great Garbo.

But what about the perfume?

Truth be told, I was hoping to not like it.

It has been produced in an extremely limited edition, only 35 mini bottles and ten 15ml bottles of perfume. To ever get my hands on it again, should I like it, would prove well nigh impossible.

But, as you can imagine, I had no such luck.

This fragrance is amazing. It is simply put, very, very good.

I can only hope that Dawn is moved to produce more of it, upon hearing the perfume community´s desperate pleas! (Although I am aware of the fact that it is probably not easy to produce a perfume with so many expensive and rare, natural ingredients.)

But on to the review now:

Mata Hari opens with a bang! There is no mistaking it. A blast of dirty, but glorious fruitiness makes you take note. This is no harmless little scent, but a PERFUME.

As it develops, the “skankiness” of the top notes fades, leaving the stage to soft – almost airy all of a sudden – floral notes of rose and lilac dipped in spices, closely followed by the green plushness and exceptional richness of oakmoss, that I never experienced in such a complexitiy before (again: I have to thank the IFRA for that). The base is a gloriously complex soft leather, lasting for at least 12 hours on me. This chypre is lush, plush, flush and full bodied.

This is how perfume should smell.

This is what perfume should be.

This is art.

And no one should dare to keep the artists from doing their work. The loss is incomprehensible.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz

I highly recommend to check out Dawn´s blog, DSH Notebook, for a very sympathetic and personal peek into the work of a perfumer.

Picture source:,,,, some rights reserved, thank you!


About Olfactoria

I'm on a journey through the world of fragrance - come with me!
This entry was posted in Chypre, DSH, Floral, Fragrance Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Masterpiece – Review: DSH Perfumes Mata Hari

  1. Victoria says:

    Sounds very intricate and interesting! Of course, its name Mata Hari is what caught my eye at first. Then I saw the photo you posted of Garbo, and it clicked–I keep associating Mata Hari with Garbo’s portrayal in that film.

  2. Stop making me want such a limited perfume! 😉
    I’m so delighted that you are able to sample some of DSH’s fragrances. So many of hers are my favorite. She does moody chypre and gourmand honey/spice scents so well. I always feel so special when I wear her blends.

    • Olfactoria says:

      DSH has great stuff! This morning I am wearing Cimabue – wow! I really like it, so cuddly!
      If you get the chance, you should try Mata Hari, I am certain you will adore it, from what little I know about you, I´m sure it´ll suit you perfectly.
      Okay, now I stop making you want such a limited perfume 😉

  3. deeHowe says:

    I’d like to second Victoria’s motion: “Stop making me want such a limited perfume!”

    One of the reasons I’ve sort of avoided these perfume projects (this one, and the Mystery of Musk, etc.) is that there is so much appeal *just* by being limited! I’d be like a bull loose in the proverbial china shop! MUST HAVE EVERYTHING!

    Ok, enough craziness. 😉

    Mati Hari was the one that most intrigued me—the combination of notes and imagery pretty much hit all the right buttons in my Lemming activator. (Release audible sigh) I’m going to have to acquire a sample of this.

    LOL. Thanks for another great review Birgit!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Yes, I know this LE thing is awful and makes us want things, we maybe wouldn´t even consider otherwise. BUT, very big BUT, Mata Hari is great, no matter what availability or other issues it has. I wouldn´t want to miss it for the world. But it makes me sad, that it is such a short lived pleasure…

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  5. DSH says:

    Hello, Olfactoria~

    I just want to thank you so much for your wonderful review of Mata Hari and for adding your voice to the outrage against the restrictions of traditional / natural fragrance materials that make all of the difference in the quality of fine fragrance. I look forward to many more passionate entries in your blog!

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