No. 2 — a beautiful pencil-scented fragrance with an unfortunate name

I’m taking a break from my not-actually-a-blogging-hiatus here to share something interesting. You may remember my post from 2014 about the “Number Two (Pencils Shavings)” perfume from DSH Perfumes. It was designed to be a wearable essence and a scent for a room diffuser, though it never really struck me as really smelling like pencils.

Well, there’s a new pencil-scented fragrance in town, and it’s also called “No. 2,” this time from Portland-based artists Rory Sparks and Catherine Haley Epstein. They combined their love of pencils and perfume into a perfect fun project. Rory, a listener of The Erasable Podcast, was kind enough to send me a sample for review.

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The sampler spritzer of No. 2, kindly sent to me by the artist. The pencil stub is a nice touch!

I have to admit, the presentation is fantastic. My sample spritzer came wrapped with a short pencil stub to reinforce that the “No. 2” title was, in fact, referring to the pencil grade and not how people usually associate “number two” to smells.

Here’s the thing. While this scent smells distinctly different than what I remember the DSH scent to smell like (though I don’t have that vial any more to compare), it still doesn’t really smell like pencil shavings. I suspected the problem may be mine, and not the perfumes, though, so I took it into work and shared it with some coworkers.

Sure enough, I got a lot of comments about it smelling “woody” and a little “mineraly,” which I think confirmed that suspicion. My sense of smell is pretty out of tune. I blame years of bad childhood allergies and a perpetually stuffed nose and swollen sinuses.

Here’s the official description from the product page:

This scent was designed to honor the pencil. Like a pencil it is sharp, may be used as an under layer and blends in with just about everything. Yellow paint, splintered wood and metallic graphite serve as the springboards. The scent is made entirely of natural components of trees, leaves and citrus. Enjoy!

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Here’s the joint artist statement and a very cool personalized golf pencil from their ongoing art project.

If you want more information on this scent-based art project, check out Catherine Haley Epstein’s website, MindMarrow, for her project statement. And, if you want to smell like you just sharpened 50 pencils (as I did the other day), head over to her shop for various volumes and packaging options of the scent.

 

 

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Number 2 (Pencil Shavings) Perfume Review

I’m a very visual person — it’s generally hard for me to talk and write about something that I can’t see or read. I don’t usually write about music, the taste of food or drink, or other non-visual stuff.

That’s why I never thought I’d be writing about a scent — especially on a pencil blog.

One of our amazing Erasable listeners and Facebook group members, Mica Thomas*, sent Johnny and me some samples of a perfume her friend, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes, created. It’s called “#2 (Pencil Shavings)”.

That’s right — a pencil-scented perfume.

Where do I even begin? First, wow. This is right up there with the pencil/wine pairings that David Rees put in his book, How to Sharpen Pencils (when we interviewed him on Episode 15 of Erasable, he told us that was completely legit — a friend who owned a wine shop sat down with him and helped develop that section!).

After receiving a cool little package in the mail, I opened it and found some goodies from Mica.

The scent came in one of those little glass vials they pass out of perfume at a department store cosmetics counter.

The smell, though

Right after unpopping the cap, the smell was too intense to really discern any particularly woody scent. It smelled really odd — bitter, maybe, and slightly unpleasant. After applying to my skin, or to cloth, the intensity of the scent stayed for a few more seconds, and then it fades into something a bit more familiar.

As Johnny described it on the most recent episode of the podcast, it smells more like red cedar than incense cedar; more of an old fashioned pencil. I’d have to agree, though I don’t think my experience with cedar is as rich as his.

(I wish I had some kind of visual to show you here, but I don’t.) 
I feel like, though, there’s a touch of something else in it. Something more sharp or mineral-y. Graphite, maybe? After all, that’s present in the pencil shavings too. It’s not unpleasant at all — it smells a bit like being in grade school and emptying the container of shavings from the old Boston crank sharpener on the wall into the trash can.

The bottom line

Dawn says that the scent will be available as both a wearable essence and as an ambient scent in, say, a reed diffuser. I can defintiely see the latter being more popular than the former — retired elementary teachers, maybe, could scent their living room if they miss the atmosphere of their classroom.

I’d like to thank Mica and Dawn for this really interesting experience! And, of course, I’ll update this post with a link as soon as it is available for purchase in a couple weeks. In the meantime, check out the rest of Dawn’s scents on her website, DSH Perfumes.

(By the way, Mica is the general manager of a really cool company that makes and repairs guitars — by hand! — called Alembic, and they were recently featured in Rolling Stone Magazine!)