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Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake – An Irish story - May 2, 2018

Mourne Mountains, County Down, Northern Ireland, Ardfern, January 2010 Wikimedia Commons

Good perfumers are like good writers or good artists, they have their personal style, their own stamp, which differentiates their work and elevates it far above the crowd.  David Seth Moltz of D.S. & Durga, the big little niche brand in Brooklyn, NY, is a perfect example. His thing is story-telling, stories about a place or a time or a people (Mississippi Medicine) told through scents, and which conjure a lost world.

Inspired after reading The Wanderings of Oisin, the poem about the Irish warrior-poet by William Butler Yeats, David got hooked on Celtic and Norse mythology, which naturally led to his research of rare and obscure plant extracts of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Travelling there to experience the sources for himself, he climbed mountains, walked moors, glens and seashores, visited ancient sites and shrines, absorbing the grandeur and raw scents of the living landscapes.

The result was the HYLNDS collection of five fragrances launched in 2014. They are what he describes as “atmospheric” scents, as each one tells the story of a Celtic landscape. Spirit of the Glen which I’ve written about, conveys the magic he experienced around Speyside in the north-east Scottish Highlands. This scent totally captures the landscape, the rocks, the flowers, the moss, the earth, the rain, the mist, the mountains, the rivers, all wrapped inside the distinctive aroma of The Glenlivet single malt whiskey, because one is made from the other. You can watch David's video about this here.

Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is set in Northern Ireland, on a mythical mountain in Armagh, the land of Oisin the Warrior.   

David Moltz lists the opening note as fog-on-stone and the closing notes as coastal air and chilled water, so I knew that Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake was definitely going to be atmospheric in a very special way. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m alone and transported to a silent landscape, sound muffled by fingers of fog which creep up the craggy sides of the low pale grey mountain, alternately hiding then revealing bracken, heather, lichens, scraggy pines, stone. The scent is damp, green and peppery with a cold metallic sensation in the first whiffs, warming slightly with herbs and wood resins, then offering a hairsbreadth of sweet tender florals from watery violets and pink purslane in the heart.

Wet grey rocks waft the unmistakable scent of orris root. The fog parts and the view below is awe-inspiring, a mystical scene. A small black lake, beechwoods, and in the distance the shores of the northern sea. The base is an accord of woods and whiffs of smoke, and the soft accord of lake water, seashore and fog droplets weaves through it all, natural, pure, refreshing and comforting. There’s a sense of solitude that is humbling, a sense of being in the presence of something much greater than yourself, a very strong sense of being connected and part of a continuum.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking I’ve gone off the rails and this is way over the top. All this in a perfume?  But this is truly what a good perfumer can do - take aromatic cues from a specific place and create the beauty of a lost or mythical world so that it feels very real.  

David Seth Moltz of D.S. & Durga is a really good perfumer and I recommend you make a point of visiting his Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake. No matter if you’re man or woman, if you crave a good story, a brief journey to solitude and quiet beauty, it’s a good place to start.

Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Note: Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake was nominated as Indie Fragrance of the Year 2014 by the International Fragrance Foundation.