As this singular formula dries down, I smell ritualistic hoodoo and hex muttered over muddy, pine-crackling fire. You can almost feel smoke in your eyes as prayers roll off tongues to gods and monsters. Underlying the intense verdant smouldering is a pretty obsessive carnivorous hickory note, as if meat were cooking somewhere, animal fats dropped into the fire. It’s a disconcerting effect to say the least, a hint of sacrifice mixed with devout religious observance. Like Norne by Slumberhouse, D.S. & Durga’s Mississippi Medicine is another very different and audacious assault on olfaction. Deeply complex, symbolic and full of archaic wonder.
I really love this quirky and erudite Brooklyn-based niche brand. Founded by the graceful and modish husband and wife team of David and Kavi Moltz, D.S. & Durga has established themselves as one of the most intriguing and innovative perfume houses in recent years. David is the perfumer and creator of the houses perceptive and atmospheric formulae. Kavi is the architect of the brand’s design, bottles, packaging etc. But you get the impression reading interviews with this gifted couple how symbiotic their relationship is and how much they feed off each other’s artistic and creative processes.
David & Kavi Moltz
D.S.& Durga is very much a house steeped in the romance of Americana and the beauty of wordsmithery. I was drawn to the names of the fragrances and the sheer beauty of the brand’s illustrations, bottles and artistic website. So much consideration has been put into how the fragrances are perceived. When you enter the D.S.& Durga world you participate in an lost history, one where cowboys roam lazy dry plains, grass burns in the night, lonely fiddles drawl in the darkness, fur-trappers haul beaver pelts, arrows fly, dresses snag in Siberian snow and ritual incantations are muttered over mud and flame.
The brand was founded in 2007 making small batches of scented produce for friends and family. Indeed the boxes proudly proclaim small batch handmade olfactory tonics and aromatic formulations. There is something calm and collected about the Moltzs, they have a strong sense of self-belief and have managed to walk that somewhat difficult line between personal indulgence and artistic expression with understated aplomb. The creation of the fragrances involves huge amounts of research in raw materials, influences and I think uniquely – atmosphere. There is a feel of painters and sculptors at work. Images of David Moltz in his leather apron over crisp white shirt, dipping his nose to vials, bottles and beakers against walls covered in sketches, notes, paintings and swatches are more akin to snapshots of painters working in lofts in the 70s and 80s. The scents reek of hidden passions and obsessions. Drops of history and storytelling swirled into grasses, resins, smoke and wild flowers. Names like Bowmakers, Cowboy Grass, Burning Barbershop, Silent Grove, Spent Musket Oil, Boston Ivy, Siberian Snow and Freetrapper instantly conjure up the most evocative scents capes.
I think sometimes fragrance houses forget how powerful a name can be, how much of a psychological pull it can exert on a potential wearer. Of course the juice matters, but romancing and seducing your audience with thought-provoking and cinematic names is something many brands neglect to their cost. David and Kavi Moltz have thought long and hard about how to present their precious brand and it shows. It oozes personality. There is a cool, must-have vibe to it, but not in an irritating hipster way that seems to permeate so many small-scale operations. The roots of the brand lie in 2007 Brooklyn as the US economy struggled with debt and the shadows and collapses of large scale manufacturing processes. In Brooklyn there was a resurgence of interest in all aspects of artisanal work, pushing and developing craft skills to provide a quality product be it skincare, scent, leather, furniture, glass or chocolate.
David Moltz’s deep connection to the bones of fragrance go back to winning a bottle of Pierre Cardin cologne in a summer camp raffle when he was a boy. There is music in his blood and he moved in New York in 2002. Kavi studied architecture in LA and design in Holland, but travelled extensively as a child. She met David after returning to New York to start work as an architect. The brand started privately, concocting formulae for friends, small batches of very precise perfumes and colognes. This artisanal approach, in keeping with the ethos of the time and their milieu was to inform everything they would do. Kavi realised she could utilise her artistic and architectural skills to contain and design the products the couple were producing. The bottles and packaging are very distinctive utilising elegant lines, just the right amount of historical reference and a simple strong clear flacon that highlights the delicate shades of bottled juice.