I Don't Know What by D.S. & Durga


When I first came across fragrances by D.S. & Durga, I was immediately intrigued. For one thing the packaging seemed "architectural". The plain white and black punctuated a plain beige reminiscent of brown paper bags. The packaging also reminded me of old Vinyl record covers (I do collect a fair few jazz ones. I like the warmer tones that only a vinyl record can give).


I saved up to purchase one. It was a difficult choice, but I chose "I Don't Know What" in the end. I think I might have been attracted to the play on the common French saying: "je ne sais quoi". I thought the name was so clever, and displayed a higher intelligence and greater level of wit of D.S. & Durga.


I purchased mine from Mecca Cosmetica in Australia.



Please note: I have done quite a fair few fragrance reviews on my Instagram page @teacupofmakeup_luxe. I am slowly migrating those to my "Fragrance Story" on this website.


Disclaimer: All of the photos here (unless otherwise credited) are taken by me. You cannot use them without obtaining my written permission first. These are my personal views and I do not any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message.

A bit about the house of D.S. & Durga


The Fragrance house of D.S. & Durga is based in NYC and beginning in 2007 and launched officially in 2008. It was borne out of a chance meeting on the streets of NYC. They started off creating holiday aftershaves for friends, and then moved on to perfumes (an amusing side note to their story is they say it is because they realised that nobody shaved in 2007).


As I learn more and more about D.S. & Durga, the more "SUPER COOL" (pronounced the French way - oh so try hard I know).


They have a stand alone store in SOHO, NYC. D.S. & Durga is described as a "niche" or "artisan" fragrance brand.

The D.S. is David Seth Moltz, a musician (I can't seem to find out what kind of music but I would suspect rock or jazz?) from New England, USA. He first became interested in fragrances when he won a bottle of Pierre Cardin at a camp raffle (source: their "liner notes" which I will talk about below). He moved to NYC in 2002. He is a self-taught


The "Durga" is Kavi Ahuja, an architect by trade (this explains the "architectural" style of the packaging), was born in NYC and is well-traveled. They describe her as "never been able to shake the goth spirit buried in her bones". The word "Durga" is often associated with a Hindu Warrior Goddess. Perhaps she chose this to represent her side of D.S. & Durga.


The two creators are married.


What I really admire with all my heart is the argument by Moltz that trade or craft of perfumery is dying. In an article on Culturedmag.com entitled "Artist David Seth Moltz of D.S. & Durga argues for the art of scent" Moltz states that "there are more astronauts in the world than there are perfumers,”. When I read that statement, I felt a pain in my heart and a strong pull at my heartstrings.


I couldn't agree more. I love fragrances for various reasons and I am finding it SO hard to find a perfumer to apprentice under (I guess this is hard being in Australia and might be easier if I lived in NYC or France). I suppose I should follow David Moltz' example and teach myself. But Still...


They create all of their fragrances in-house. They refer to their production process as recalling the "pre-industrial era". As they create everything in house and are clearly passionate about their work, they describe their process as "time consuming and low yield".


David Moltz style of creating fragrances is largely influenced by his musical background and no doubt literature (click here for source). As you read on, you should be able to understand how SUPER COOL I think D.S. & Durga are.


They also have one of the best websites I've ever come across for niche fragrance brands. Another addition to their SUPER COOL-NESS


Click here to go to their website. It is HUGELY inspirational. It is not all about stunning graphics. There is a magic in their words and the images they have chosen are very evocative and serve as a visual presentation of their work. Truly, the approach is modern artistic in the (possibly) dying art world of fragrances.


I really want to delve into the World of D.S & Durga more, but I think I will save that for when I get to review another fragrance by D.S. & Durga.


Simple Chic

The bottle has clean lines. Simple and minimalist. The label is not white, it is an off-white a bit sepia. The words are raised/embossed. It feels heavy in the hand adding a dimension of tactile to the entire sensorial experience. The cap has a surprising weightiness to it. Its all in the details. The bottle is mostly made of glass except for the nozzle (plastic I think when I tap and listen to the sound - yes, glass sounds different to plastic).


I think another reason why I have become so enamored by D.S. & Durga is that they describe each of their pieces of art through a story, much like my Fragrance Story (I promise, before I started my fragrance story, I had not yet discovered D.S. & Durga). In my chapter entitled "Preface", you can read about how I experience fragrances because of my synaesthesia. (Click here to go there)



I'll start my review of "I Don't Know What" by D.S. & Durga first without having any regard to the designers' notes. This is a unisex scents which are generally floral fresh with musky woody elements.


It is an eau de parfum. It is described in it's story (on the box) as:

"A fragrance enhancer with transparent radiance hat gives any aromatic material a certain as the French say, "I don't know what."

I was at first puzzled by this "story" but if you read further on, I think I can say that I get it now.


The first thing is sense when sniffing the nozzle is a citrus scent. Possibly rounded by a rose and warmed by some spices like sandalwood. On a blotter, it smells quite different after letting oxidise a bit.


I can still "taste" a citrus flavour - more like the rind of some citrus fruits. I start to feel warm from some spice in it that I can't quite name. There is something powdery floating above. There is a musk element. What I don't get is a sensation in my mouth (which I often do when I test fragrances). It smells "round" and "looks" like a dusky rose velvet. It "feels" velvety.


I can only identify bergamot (that citrus rind scent), vetiver, patchouli and musk. Maybe a peppery? The rest are like nothing I have come across so far. Truly "I don't know what". I can't link it to any memory other than borwsing through a Comme des Garçons boutique in Tokyo. I don't know why that memory came up. It is quite complex. Very intriguing.


D.S. & Durga's notes indicate:

  • bergamot essence

  • iso e super - an synthetic perfume ingredient (created in the 1960s) that is described as being very pleasant. Like cedarwood; ambergris; vetiver and patchouli. Apparently, there is a myth that it makes you attractive to the opposite sex. (source)

  • vetiver acetate - synthesized from vetiver which is a tropical grass native to India. Vetiver acetate is prepared by esterification (use of dry hydrogen chloride gas to create the ester) of the sesquiterpene (a process of oxidisation) alcohols isolated from vetiver oils. Vetiver acetate is meant to smell lighter than Vetiver, and more sweet, fresh, like sandalwood and peppery. (additional source)

  • civettone - another synthetic ingredient which imparts an animalic and musky scent. (source)

  • firsantol - another synthetic that is used for its sandalwood scent. (source)

  • ambrox super - another synthetic derived from ambregris. It imparts musky and wood notes and lasts quite long. It is often used in heart and base notes. (source)

(I had to look up the most of notes. The description above are linked to the source of reference I could find).


I think the use of these complex synthetic compounds is what:

... impart(s) a myriad of fragrance notes explains the "A fragrance enhancer with transparent radiance hat gives any aromatic material a certain as the French say, "I don't know what."

So I did get the key notes kinda correct with my "blind test". Hooray for me. The use of compex synthetics in "I don't know what" by D.S. & Durga does indeed have that "je ne sais quoi" factor. To me it is quite complex and hard to pin down until I researched each of the syntheic notes.


It dries down to the patchouli, sandalwood and musky notes.


The lasting time of this eau de parfum is long. On the skin, at least 20 hours. On a blotter, it is still there after airing for two days. This is because of the longevity of the synthetic notes used I think.