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November 10, 2005

Fragrance Review: Donna Karan Black Cashmere


Among fashion houses, Donna Karan never fails to offer one successful and unusual fragrance after another. Her Cashmere Mist indeed evokes a feeling of touching warm fabric that clings softly to the skin. Be Delicious Men ornaments a baked apple with delicately roasted coffee and bittersweet citrus. Chaos (released in 1996, now discontinued) was my introduction to the beauty of a saffron note folded into the luminous richness of spices and incense that comprise its elegant oriental composition.

In some ways, Black Cashmere is not unlike Chaos, a dense tapestry of multicoloured threads that results in the illusion of darkness. Underscoring the composition is a smooth mélange of sandalwood and cedar. Created by Rodrigo Flores-Roux in 2003, Black Cashmere is a fragrance about the sensuality of incense. Interspersed with jewel-like vibrancy of spices, its warmth captivates and seduces. ...

Resinous incense tinged with charcoal darkness is a leitmotif of the composition. The intensity of the initial accord obscures the nuances and quite successfully conjures a vision of absolute darkness. Yet, just like when eyes begin to identify shapes of objects in the dark room, the olfactory veil begins to slip. At first, cardamom dispels the darkness with its shimmer. Then, the spice notes begin to undulate out of the balsamic richness more rapidly, revealing a lacy pattern of cinnamon and clove.

As the composition develops, the resinous quality melts away, revealing a voluptuous base of woods. Incense provides a beautiful bridge from the peppery top to the sweet base notes. On the one hand, its dryness foils gently the warmth of pepper, and on another, the pine-like brightness of incense harmonizes with the creamy woods. Marked by a subtle rosy nuance, the base notes present a muted contrast to the glowing cinders effect of incense in the heart. While darkness still pervades the composition, it has a quality of a tender, yet passionate embrace.

Notes include saffron, clove, rose, white pepper, Ethiopian incense, vanilla, amber, patchouli, African wenge wood. Available from various retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus, as well as online discount stores like Perfumebay and Perfumemart.

Wenge, a dark African wood, is also featured in Donna Karan Essence, a collection of oils for layering that has debuted in October of 2005. The quarter also includes lavender, jasmine, and labdanum.

Black Cashmere advertisement from



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