Italian Journey – Review: DSH The Italian Splendor Collection Part I

Ideally timed before my travels to Italy, I received samples of The Italian Splendor Collection by the talented and prolific perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.

Comprising six perfumes, each inspired by one Italian city, this collection had my heart and nose from the start. I love Italy after all. And so does DSH obviously, because she managed to capture its essence in liquid form.

Dawn created these six scents for the Denver Art Museum’s “Cities of Splendor: A journey through Renaissance Italy” Exhibit in 2011.

“The ITALIAN SPLENDOR collection brings the glory and richness of the greatest cities and art of Italian Renaissance to life in fragrant form. “– DSH

The first two perfumes of the collection take us over the Alps into northern Italy with Alba and to the city of Milan with Adoration.

Alba (from Across the Alps) is a creamy delight of white alpine flowers, orange blossoms, olive flower and white truffle;

Alba includes notes of lemon, bitter almond, bergamot, elderflower, bigarade, orange blossom, olive flower, jasmine, white rose, jonquil, sandalwood, heliotrope, cedarwood and white truffle.

Alba smells lovely. Starting citrus-y and a little bitter, the intensely sweet and rich base comes through almost immediately. An opulent heart of innocent white flowers (the jonquil note comes through very beautifully at first, later jasmine is dominant) sits on a sumptuous base of heliotrope-sweetened wood. The white truffle note interested me as soon as I read about it, but I can’t say I can identify it. The base is a very well-rounded and smooth whole, where nothing stands out particularly.

Alba is a delightful mix of bitter and sweet. Especially in the early stages this is not a shy scent, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming either. Alba, like a globe, seems to slowly revolve on an axis, presenting slightly different facets every time I smell my hand.

Alba was inspired by woven tapestries of Belguim, France and Renaissance Italy and the texture and multi-colored intricacies of those works of art are very well represented in the perfume. I really like it. Alba is an EdP and lasts very well on me, sillage is minimal, but though close to the skin Alba is powerful and beautiful.


Adoration (Milan) a classic golden incense with a heart of rose and a touch of smoke;

Adoration includes notes of angelica, rosewood, immortelle, galbanum resin, frankincese, myrrh gum, sandalwood, cedarwood, madonna lily, red rose, Bulgarian rose, labdanum, vanilla and exotic woods.

Adoration – representing the city of Milan – was inspired by Bonifacio Bembo’s work Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1455-1460) and the city’s great wealth and influence.

Adoration smells of incense and myrrh, the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus. A smooth, cool incense lies over the entire fragrance like a veil through which we smell a heart of rose and lily. The base is resinous and balsam-y, woody and a little sweet.

Adoration evokes images of old churches, the smell of burning candles, air thick with incense, flowers on the altar, old wooden pews worn smooth with time. Adoration is comforting to me, a safe place, a familiar place, thanks to my catholic upbringing.

Adoration is meditative, slow, calm and deep. It offers sanctuary.

Both perfumes are rich, multi-layered and opulent. They convey the spirit of the renaissance, the awakening, the broadening of horizons, the appreciation of knowledge and beauty very well. I am impressed with these creations as well as emotionally touched. Those first two perfumes come highly recommended.

Watch out for the other four perfumes in the collection, in Part II and Part III this week.

Image source: Cassone Panel via,,

About Olfactoria

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27 Responses to Italian Journey – Review: DSH The Italian Splendor Collection Part I

  1. Wow, these sound just gorgeous. My last DSH sample order included one of the Italian Splendor scents (Medici), but I sent it to someone in a gift package who lives overseas instead of keeping it for myself, so I never got to try it. I figured I’d get the whole set one day, and now I’m very motivated to do it!

  2. James Dennard says:

    I agree with Carrie. These sound very good. As a student of history, one of my favorite periods to study has always been the renaissance.

    • Olfactoria says:

      The renaissance is so interesting, I always loved to read about it too, although I don’t know nearly
      enough.. 😉

      • jedennard says:

        I started off mainly interested in Greco-Roman and American history. But the Renaissance grabbed my attention quickly. So many talented and intelligent people were doing their thinking and crafting at the same time in Italy. Very inspiring to research.

  3. Sigrun says:

    These perfumes sound great! I love the fact that there is a white truffle note in Alba. I’ve been curious about DSH for a while now, but I could really need some help as there are so many to choose from. Do you have any recommendations for where to start sampling? Does she have any “figurehead frags” that can be said to represent her work? Or some “must trys”?

    • Olfactoria says:

      Hi Sigrun, Dawn’s selection is indeed a bit overwhelming in size. I can only say what I started with and liked, I have not sampled the entire range. Mata Hari was my first DSH and it is an amazingly beautiful, full-bodied chypre. It was LE though and I am not sure it is still available (can’t check right now). Must-try is Cimabue, Dawns version of a saffron-rose gourmand. It is beautiful. Generally I recommend taking a look at the sampler packs she offers, like the Italian collection. I think Dawn does very good chypre and green scents, Vert pour Madame is a recent addition and certainly worth a sniff. Also for the colder season, her christmas scents are very, very nice! She does a new one every year and they are available in a set.

      • Sigrun says:

        Thank you so much, those all sound wonderful! Yes, sampler packs seem to be a smart choice. Often when I order perfume I find that the stuff I think I’ll like is predictable and boring and some crazy extra that I never thought of getting myself ends up being my favourite 🙂

  4. Tara says:

    Wow, perfect timing! I’ve never tried any DSH (yet!) but I especially like the sound of Adoration, “a veil through which we smell a heart of rose and lily”, beautiful.

  5. masha7 says:

    I liked her colors collection based on acrylic paints (since I paint with acrylics, this was double-fun!)- Viridian is at truly unique green, and though I found Quin Violet not exactly wearable, it was definitely unique! Cimabue is lovely and spicy. I’d like to try Adoration, sounds like something I’d enjoy. Bancha has a lot of love in the blogs, but it was actually too bitter for me. The sampler set I must try, if it’s still around, is the one she did for the Egypt exhibition in Denver, she studied old texts carefully and worked with some great scholars in the field.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I liked Viridian a lot and Celadon as well, lovely greens.
      The Egyptian scents are very interesting, but nothing I’d really wear, but great to smell now and again. 🙂

  6. Suzanne says:

    These both sound divine, but your description of Alba with its mix of bitter and sweet elements is the one that really intrigues me. The thought of lemon, bitter almond, and sweet white florals seems so Italian and so right! (Gosh, and how perfect that you get to enjoy these in the country that inspired them…you’re a smart planner, Birgit!)

    • Olfactoria says:

      It was a stroke of luck, that Dawn sent these in time, I am very happy with both the perfumes and the fact that I can wear them here.
      Both Alba and Adoration are beautiful, the whole set of six very worth looking into.

  7. Lavanya says:

    These sound lovely. I really must try Dawn’s scents (have been eyeing Cimabue for a while). I especially love the sound of Adoration- incense, rose and smoke- I usually love that combination!

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  10. Thank you so much for this wonderful introduction to my Italian Splendor Collection! 🙂 As I am sure you can tell, I love these designs and I LOVE ITALY! And of course, the Renaissance period as well as the magnificent pieces of art that inspired the collection in the DAM exhibition. I really love how you *got* Alba, which I feel is the most subtle of the scents. I am always so happy to be traveling with Olfactoria!

    • Olfactoria says:

      Thank you for sending those wonderful perfumes, Dawn!
      I am intrigued with all of them, but if I had to pick, I’d say Alba is my favorite. Medici too – okay, don’t make me pick! 😉

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  12. Lavanya says:

    Birgit- the scents that you reviewed – are they the EDPs or perfume? Thanks!

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