Donna Karan Black Cashmere : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

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 multicolored 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.

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 psine.net.

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32 Comments

  • Christina H.: I have this fragrance due to be delivered Friday. I bought this unsniffed but it sounded so wonderful and now I feel re-affirmed that after reading this wonderfully, descriptive review, I have made a fantastic choice. Thank you once again for such wonderful writing. I appreciate your reviews each morning! November 10, 2005 at 8:00am Reply

  • Judith (lilybp): As always, a beautiful review! I do like Black Cashmere–although I prefer the dearly departed Chaos. On me at least, BC has a waxy quality that seems a bit odd. Neverthess, I wear and enjoy it, especially as the weather gets colder. I’m on an incense kick lately–so I’m pleased to see that you (and your reviews) seem to be as well! November 10, 2005 at 8:08am Reply

  • Tania: I used to have a lotion of this that I loved. This, along with Bulgari Black, alerted me to the interesting proposition that fragrance wasn’t necessarily about pretty flowers. I never wear Black Cashmere any more, but I still give it a fond spritz in the store. It struck me the first time I ever tried it as aggressively strange, butch, like it would put an adam’s apple on me if I wore it. But now, if you can imagine, I find it actually calming. My initial, newbie’s impression was of a scent made for being kidnapped by pirates. My impression now is of a scent made for making out with a boy. Interesting how experience changes us. ;) November 10, 2005 at 9:26am Reply

  • linda: I love Chaos and I hoard 2 bottles of it. I haven’t tried Black Cashmere though. Your evocative review makes me to run over to my local Sephora during my lunch hour. :-) November 10, 2005 at 9:28am Reply

  • Katie: Ah, saffron – no wonder you like it, heh. Have you ever met a saffron you don’t like? (I’m curious!) November 10, 2005 at 10:35am Reply

  • parislondres: Hi V! I tried this a while ago and may need to revisit this soon.
    However, I do remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by it. November 10, 2005 at 11:31am Reply

  • Robin: Like N, I tried this and found it too much — might need to revisit it. I do agree that Donna Karan generally does much more interesting scents than other mainstream designers, although Be Delicious is not among my favorites. November 10, 2005 at 11:42am Reply

  • mreenymo: One of my favorite fragrances from the nineties was Donna Karan NY, the parfum. It was wonderful. All leather and Egyptian lily, sultry and sleek.

    I loved Cashmere Mist, too. They body products are wonderful.

    I have a small decant of BC. I don’t know why, given the fact that I have loved some of her other fragrances, I don’t want to test this one. I suppose I will when the mood is right. :)

    Hugs! November 10, 2005 at 1:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, thank you! I am glad that you are enjoying them. I find incense quite appealing in general, and Black Cashmere explores the theme really well. I hope that you will also be pleased with it. November 10, 2005 at 2:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, thank you. I am definitely on an incense kick, given the change in weather and the desire to put on something warm and comforting. Incense is always comforting. I also like Chaos, but BC is another fantastic composition. November 10, 2005 at 2:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I had a very similar reaction to it when I first tried it. Revisiting it later, I was struck by the fact that it no longer felt inaccessible. It is definitely dark and rich, but not at all aggressive. November 10, 2005 at 2:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, if you like Chaos, chances are that you will enjoy Black Cashmere too. Lucky you for stocking up well on Chaos. I saw a mini on one of the perfume discount websites for around $60. November 10, 2005 at 2:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, saffron here does not seem to be particularly obvious, since incense dominates the composition. However, I do like the note in general. I do not like DSH Cimabue, which I was sure I would love. However, it is just too sweet on me. November 10, 2005 at 2:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: N, it is indeed rather dark and potent. A small spray more than suffices for me. However, I tend to reach for it only in the cold weather for this reason. November 10, 2005 at 2:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, it dries down quite soft on me, without darkness that seems to overtake the composition initially. I would be curious what you think after you revisit it, since you seem to like incense. November 10, 2005 at 2:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, yes, I understand. One needs to be in the right mood for some things.

    Donna Karan NY sounds wonderful. I do not suppose that it is made anymore? November 10, 2005 at 2:23pm Reply

  • linda: Wow! You are right! I just saw a 1oz bottle of the EDP for $450 here:
    http://www.perfume-bay.com/763511094523.html November 10, 2005 at 3:29pm Reply

  • linda: Wait! How about $1100?
    http://www.perfume-bay.com/5000100440.html November 10, 2005 at 3:30pm Reply

  • mreenymo: V, I really don’t know if Donna Karan NY parfum is still available. I have not looked for it for quite some time. If it is, it retails for about $185./oz, maybe more.

    If it has gone the way of Chaos, it’s probably pricier. Yikes!

    Hugs! November 10, 2005 at 4:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, that is amazingly expensive! Makes JAR seem quite reasonable. Don’t you now feel even more lucky to have a stash of Chaos? :) November 10, 2005 at 4:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, is this the one you are talking about?
    http://perfumesand.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductID=dknpr17l

    Of course, it is the EDP, not the parfum, however the prices seem to be reasonable. I can only imagine how expensive the parfum must be if originally it retailed for $185. November 10, 2005 at 4:13pm Reply

  • Tania: If the Donna Karan New York scent is the one I’m thinking of, with the odd black and gold bottle shaped like a gourd if that gourd had been imagined by Brancusi, then that’s the one I thought smelled like Band-Aids! I tried it in Bergdorf again last weekend. November 10, 2005 at 7:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, I think that I know the bottle you are talking about. I will have to stop by and smell it at some point. I am sure Saks and Macy’s will have it too. November 10, 2005 at 8:55pm Reply

  • kristen: I remember Chaos…I loved it, but at the time I thought I was too young to wear it, that it was too spicy and “mature”. By the time Black Cashmere came on the scene I felt I could pull it off. I bought it right away and I love it – but I still just spray it into the air and walk through it. On me, it’s a little too overpowering to spray directly on skin. November 11, 2005 at 4:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kristen, it can be a bit too much, although I do not perceive it like that anymore. Now, it strikes me as a balanced incense. I suppose I got used to it. November 12, 2005 at 12:10am Reply

  • Helena: It is a pleasure to read your writing even if I do not like the fragrance described. Black Cashmere is too potent even for this incense fan. Maybe, I also need to try spraying it in the air and then walking through the mist. November 12, 2005 at 11:13pm Reply

  • Tania: By the way, for everyone who finds Black Cashmere overwhelming, I do highly recommend the lotion. The quality is excellent and the fragrance takes on a softer character. November 13, 2005 at 12:19am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Helena, thank you. I think that cedar in Black Cashmere is more resinous than cedar in Bois d’Encens (which I remember you mentioned liking very much). If you already have a bottle, then try walking through the mist–it really helps to lighten its veil. November 13, 2005 at 11:31am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, thank you! I have never tried the lotion, but since I love the fragrance, I shall seek it out. I wonder if it comes in the same beautiful black bottle as the perfume. November 13, 2005 at 11:32am Reply

  • Helena: Tania, thank you for your recommendation. I often wear body lotions instead fragrances, especially if they are very strong. November 13, 2005 at 12:53pm Reply

  • Hannah: I find it interesting that reviews (in general) almost never mention the floral facet. I don’t know if it is an issue of skin chemistry, but for me it is really strong. Once I asked my friend what he thought of it and he said it ”smells like flowers”. I don’t think the floral part smells like any particular flowers, but rather some kind of floral mass. Rose and carnation definitely seem to be in there.
    On me it seems like 3 distinct facets that interact, a floral/saffron combo (which just seems blended together, like Persian icecream–which is all the lotion smells like to me.), spices (most noticeably clove, but also the pepper and cardamom. The saffron is with the floral component instead of with the spices), and incense (+Wenge wood). In the middle there is also the candle wax that Judith here mentions.
    And all of those facets are there the entire time but it smells flaming at the beginning and then is soft and fluffy ashes at the end. However, no smoke is ever present at any point. For me, at least.
    I also find it to have a very oily quality, which I also rarely see mentioned. July 12, 2014 at 1:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: What you’re getting sounds wonderful, and yes, floral notes are there. I notice them now more than I did when I first tried Black Cashmere years ago. July 14, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

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