A Conversation with D.S. & Durga



Burning Barbershop: spearmint , lavender, burnt oil, lime, absolute, vanilla, hemlock spruce, turkish rose, hay


While most of Western culture marinates in it, the creation of perfume sort of flies under the radar—more often regarded as a commercial enterprise rather than an art form.  This is one of the many reasons why I was so excited to come across a brand that has created a beautifully scented niche for itself: D.S. & Durga, which specializes in hand crafted perfumes and colognes. The founders, Kavi Moltz and David Moltz, collaborate to create unique and multi-faceted fragrances by tincturing premium quality ingredients sourced from all over the world.  Their batches are low in yield, which is a testament to the exclusive quality of the final product.  Because I’ve always had a fascination with fragrances and odours, and because he’s responsible for creating my favourite perfume to date, I caught up with David (D.S.) to see if I could glean any tips or fun facts about creating a smell from scratch. 

How did you begin creating fragrances? Was it something you each came to separately or did you enter into it together?

I [D.S.] make the fragrances. I began making them in late 2007 for friends. Kavi had the idea to make it a company.

Do you have any formal training? Do you feel that formal training is necessary in order to pursue perfumery?

No. I’m sure it helps. But I believe you can learn anything you put your mind to.

Could you explain the basic fundamentals of creating a cologne or perfume?

I’m not sure how to answer this. It is quite an abstract process. A great perfume must have balance. Classically there are top, middle, and base notes. But there are as many ways to make perfume as there are ways to write a song or paint a picture. When you have your recipe (that is, the ratio of your fragrant materials set), you compound it together, taking great care to repeat the exact measurements needed.  That compound can then be aged for a week, two weeks, or longer.  Then the oil is macerated in pure alcohol and water.  Aged again – generally 2 weeks.  This solution is then filtered, and bottled.

Perfume, the fluid itself, is very intangible. How important then is the packaging and bottle design?

Since it’s a product that is generally sold, I think packaging is important. It frames the work and hopefully adds to the experience of sniffing the juice.


 Boston Ivy: lime distillate, english ivy, moss, hops flower, oceanwater, earth-dirt, green pepper, clover, galbanum resin


I hesitate to mention the cliche of scent and its relation to memory, but given that it’s undeniably true, are there any particular scent combinations that are very dear or nostalgic to you?

I grew up by the ocean. The salt in the air, the smell of boat gasoline in the water, and the musty-fresh (paradoxical) smell of wet shells all bring me back. Pine woods from behind my parents house and the smoky smell of winter air are scents from my youth that I love as well. I don’ t shy away from using these at all. It’s only cliched when it’s half-baked in flowery perfume copy.

Is there a right or wrong way to apply perfume/cologne?

You shouldn’t rub it lest you burn off the top notes too quickly. Unless it’s an oil. I spray one or two pumps on my wrist and tap gently to my neck.


Italian Citrus: cold pressed lemon, green mandarin, copaiba balsam, chinotto, violet leaf, musk ambrette, blood orange, incense, oakmoss

What are some of the positive aspects of being an independent company in a massively commercial market? Are you hoping to expand or would you prefer to remain small and to continue making small batches?

We’re always expanding and happy to do so. What’s really different about our company is that the perfumer co-owns the company and arranges it all to be made. Most people use one of the big houses (or work for them). I make the recipe, source the oils, and have it made with my own materials. We have total control over all stages of production. I think customers appreciate that there are only 3 people in the company and that everything is made by us.


Cowboy Grass: rosewood, sagebrush, vetyver, wild thyme, basil, grass, bergamot, rose otto, ambergris


What are some of the main ways in which your creations differ from synthetic perfumes and colognes?

We use both synthetics and naturals. Our perfumes are unique in that they are heavily researched pseudo-historical stories that I bring to life in scent. I try to make accords of real objects and places. I love to use rare and strange raw material and explain what you are smelling and why I made it (in the descriptions, notes, website, etc).

I think Siberian Snow is just about the best thing I’ve ever smelled. Are its notes–wintergreen mint, styrax, amber etc.— actual ingredients, or are notes simply descriptors referring to aromas that result from the blending of other separate ingredients?

Thanks! That’s very kind. Those notes are generally in there. The suggestive words, objects, concepts, and plants that don’t yield their fragrance are created with real materials. Amber however is a perfume term that describes warm vanillic or spicy resins. In the case of Siberian snow, the amber is benzoin, styrax, and a few other materials.


Sir: bergamot, rose absolutes, oak moss, grapefruit, jasmine grandiflorum, patchouli, mandarin, benzoin, labdaunum


Are any of your creations the result of a happy accident?

Yes. Sometimes you put things together and something crazy comes about. Bowmakers came to me when I put together a woody accord that smelled like opening a violin case.

Can a fragrance have a personality? Do some fragrances have trouble getting along?

Certain materials don’t work well together. It’s up to the perfumer to figure out how to balance contrasts. I find it hard to put smokey notes with watery ones. But in Pale Grey Mountain, Small Black Lake in the HYLNDS line, I did this by tempering both ends of the spectrum with waxy notes from certain wood extracts.

What’s your favourite smell?

All smells are interesting.