Perfume Pen Pals: D.S. and Durga Burning Barbershop


I grew up across the street from a cranky old woman named Mable. My memory of her kinky dyed black hair and perpetual scowl brings to mind Gene Simmons, and vice versa, so when I see Gene on TV, I can almost imagine growing up across the street from him.

Cranky old Mable.

My mother would warn me to stay away from Mable, that she didn't like children, or noise, or anyone walking on her grass, so I'd sit against the garage and watch Mom venture over to Mable's/Gene's for chats. Mable was very suspicious and those chats often involved her theories concerning nefarious political plots. She was convinced, for example, that the government was speeding up the clocks to get rid of all the old people.

Which is a perfect segue to D.S. & Durga. The company's fragrance line is featured in every glossy magazine and it's no wonder: its marketing is brilliant. The scents come with clever illustrations and stories, ones that are surprisingly compatible with the perfumes, which are all smart, nicely crafted, good-smelling and a bit too carefully conceived.

Several in the line are rather dry, owning to their Americana themes, and are distinguishable from each other only by a touch more sweetness here or an extra dose of birch tar there. They not only don't stand out among bolder examples of the genre (Tauer Perfumes L'Air du Desert Marocain, Le Labo Patchouli 24, Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline), they barely stand out among each other.

I suppose my favorite is Burning Barbershop. As its story goes, the perfume was inspired by a bottle of shaving tonics left over from a Westlake, NY, barbershop fire in 1891. Clever. So much so that the perfume somehow smells better when you think of the story. Which means I need to remember the story so when someone says, "You smell...smoky," I can say, "You don't know the half of it!" And then give them the whole made-up history.

Considering all the perfumes I own, you'd think I wouldn't have the time for this kind of commitment. (There was certainly no D.S. & Durga-shaped hole in my collection.) But it turns out I do have the time. Because I've been memorizing the stories, wearing the perfumes, repeating the stories, and getting everything else done, too.

D.S. & Durga is, once and for all, proof that the government isn't speeding up the clocks.

More proof? I was in my 30s when Mable finally passed away and while she never revealed her exact age (what's the point of counting when time is distorted?), she was easily over 100.



  1. Dear Studly Dan: My e-mail to Durga about getting samples of their products:

    Howdy Folks:

    Just checked out your new Website. It is WONDERFUL!!!!!~ GOD BLESS YOU and I hope that you become so successful you can't stand it!!!!!~ If possible, could you please add a little note somewhere on your website as to how you can obtain samples and the prices of the samples. Just a polite recommendation. Thank you.

    Take care and THANK YOU for sending me the courtesy HEADS-UP e-mail. I will forward it to a ton of people at work.

    Respectfully yours,

    I did, however, get a bottle of the Osmanthus cologne and I get a lot of comments from strangers when I wear it. Just last Saturday, I got a polite comment from the State Store Owner as I was checking out as I was wearing Durga's Osmanthus.

    Here is their reply to me:


    Thank you very much for your interest in D.S. & Durga.

    Due to a heavy volume of orders, we are not selling sample kits at this time. We are a business of only 2 people at this point & I personally have to fill, seal, & label each sample vial before packaging & shipping. The process is time consuming & messy!

    I am sorry for the inconvenience.


    Dan - If I can recommend these fragrances from their site. These fragrances are AWESOME and I can assure you, people will talk when you wear them. They are as follows:

    1. Obviously, OSMANTHUS [Now, I do not think they carry it any more]. You could e-mail them and ask. They may whip up a batch for you.
    2. Boston Ivy [This one is real clean, green and outstanding. My 2nd ABSOLUTE favorite. Great Comments from strangers]
    3. Freetrapper [Very, very nice]
    4. Cowboy Grass [Just wonderful. Gets me in a good mood.]

    The "Burning Barbershop" was a littl' too freaky-deaky for me, however, I can see how that would appeal to some men. It literally smells like a burnt out barbershop. A real smoky talc powder.

    Here is their story and they are LOVELY people!!!~

    Hi, Katie!!!!!~

    Respectfully yours,


    1. Byron, Part of your story is missing. If you couldn't acquire samples, how did you manage to try so many of their fragrances?

      It sounds like I went down a different path. I picked the more extreme ones: Burning Barbershop, Bowmakers and Mississippi Medicine. All we have in common is Boston Ivy, which, I agree, is a very nice green scent.

      Does Freetrapper smell like beaver secretions? Wait. Don't answer that if you don't want to.

    2. Dan: This is bizarre. When I first heard of them a couple of years ago from just cruising around on the web. I contacted them and asked them for samples. They were very lovely, and sent me several samples. However, as of the date of that e-mail referenced above, they no longer provide samples. I really lucked out. By-the-by, No, Freetapper does not smell like a beaver. It is quite nice. With the stuff I have tried, I do not think I will go back to their site. It was nice initially, but the fragrances just lack something. I do not know what it is. I will use up the product I have and move on. Have an ultra-groovy weekend, k~

      Respectfully yours,

  2. Dan it is always a treat to read over Katie's shoulder your notes to her. Now with this review (great by the way) you have put me upon a quest. There must be an old burned bottle of cologne lying around my neighborhood from the earthquake and fire of 1906? Maybe something Clark Gable wore just before the old Paradise Club on the Barbary Coast caught fire and Jeannette MacDonald burst into song to help rebuild San Francisco. If it is out there I am going to find it. Oh and Katie, thank you for letting me peek at your private correspondence. You are so sweet to share.

    1. Thanks Lanier. You should see my emails to Katie on the economic crisis in Greece. Alas, the Internet can only contain so much information. (At least that's what Katie tells me.)

  3. Dan, How might one get in contact with you?

    1. Paul, The best way is to open a pie shop on my street and wait for me to come in. (I love pie.)

      Though that's probably not best for you. For you, this Blogger thingy attaches to a gmail account, which hadn't been visible but now it is. You can just click on my name. Though, again, my neighborhood could really use some good pie.

  4. Yay! We missed you, Dan. I hesitated to say that because I didn't want to create any weird feelings of guilt or obligation by saying that. But yay! We missed you.


  5. Yes Nora, as much as missing me, it's heartwarming that you seem to know me. "Guilt," "obligation," "weird," those are MY words!

  6. Hi Dan,

    Katie's review of Creed Original Vetiver (great review, but the way) drew me in this morning and I just saw your post about the D.S and Durga line. I was in Merz Apothecary yesterday and noticed the D.S. and Durga line, but walked past those unfamiliar bottles to spray Eucris instead. (I know, it doesn't have to be either/or, both is always an option). Thanks to your great review, I'll now have to make my way back to Merz before I leave Chicago to see if I can sniff some of the D.S. and Durga scents. Why do I always gain knowledge just AFTER it would be useful to have it?

    1. Randy, That you'll have time to go back to Merz to sample D.S. and Durga is the important part, I'm convinced. The scents are fine, but that line is truly about emphasizing that the clocks are correct. Maybe even a little slow.

      Let us know if any of them grab your attention.