The Carlyle Goes Smell-o-Rama

Kavi and David Moltz, the married couple behind the fragrance house D.S. & Durga, have earned a following among hip millennials and assorted celebrities (Alia Shawkat, Mindy Kaling, Aubrey Plaza) for their experiments in olfactory simulacra. The brand specializes in perfumes and candles that mimic offbeat phenomena: “Burning Barbershop” smells like charred beard oil and Barbicide; “Concrete After Lightning” evokes wet asphalt.

Recently, the Carlyle hotel reached out to the couple, both in their early forties, with a challenge: create an array of “wet amenities” (hospitality-industry lingo for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash) inspired by the hotel’s honeysuckle soap (a “dry amenity” that management has no plans to change). The Moltzes accepted. They live in a Bed-Stuy brownstone, and once a year they stash their two kids with the grandparents and splurge on a Carlyle staycation. This tradition began after their neighbor Hamilton Leithauser (best known as the singer in the band the Walkmen) took up an annual residency at the hotel’s Café Carlyle.

“On the last night of Ham’s shows, we always go to his artist’s suite for a party,” David said, seated in a velvet wingback chair in a Carlyle suite. Tall and blond, with the short-cropped beard favored by Vikings and Skarsgårds, he was wearing a navy blazer with a gold silk pocket square and unscuffed white sneakers. “Last time I brought cigars. Like, we were crushing cigars in there. And the wives were, like, ‘Dude, what the fuck? Those stink!’ ”

Kavi didn’t think the Carlyle minded. She is petite, of Indian descent, with long black hair, claret lipstick, and patent-leather platform loafers. “Like, they can’t say it’s O.K., but it’s, like, they want stuff to be happening within these walls.”

Seated on a windowsill, she was buzzing about a star sighting in the lobby. “I saw Bill fucking Murray downstairs,” she said, kicking her feet back and forth like a girl on a swing. She was wearing a baggy vintage Dior blazer in a shade she called “Carlyle yellow.”

“It’s not quite Carlyle yellow,” David said, noting that the hotel’s upholstery was closer to dandelion.

Kavi rolled her eyes: “Whatever.”

The Moltzes met in 2007, outside a bar on the Lower East Side. David was working as a waiter at a vegan restaurant. Kavi was a junior employee at an architecture firm. Shortly into their relationship, David started noodling around with tinctures and oils to create his own fragrances. (He is a self-taught “nose.”) Kavi designed the bottles and logo. (“D.S.” comes from David’s first two initials; “Durga,” a Hindu goddess, was David’s pet name for his wife.) In 2008, they launched their business, and two years later they married. “We had no idea what we were doing,” Kavi said. “We thought it was an art project.” The perfume gained a cult following (David Beckham is said to wear “Cowboy Grass”), and the business moved to a large space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The brand now has stores in Williamsburg and SoHo, and will open a Los Angeles location in May.

When the Carlyle asked for a wet-amenities scent, the Moltzes upped the ante. They would make the honeysuckle-y liquids in teeny tubes for the in-room toilette, they said, and also wanted to launch a Carlyle perfume to be sold in the lobby, on their Web site, and at Bergdorf Goodman. (The scent launches this week.) David set to work. His first inspiration was linden blossoms. “I always make these studies of flowers, walking around New York,” he said. “Then there had to be citrus.” He spritzed a paper strip with the perfume and waved it in the air. “Then I really wanted to smell that kind of Old World, international sophistication, so you have that sandalwood-y, rose-y thing going on. The description is like a who’s who of perfume materials, so you take the most famous ingredients and put them together, like people hanging out downstairs at the bar. It’s a very uptown scent.”

The couple decided that it was time for a cocktail and headed down to the hotel’s Bemelmans Bar, lately clogged with Gen Z-ers, thanks to TikTok. Once seated at a table by the piano, they ordered a bottle of champagne and asked the waiter to bring a tray of the bar’s special cheese crackers. “I’d buy them in bulk if I could,” Kavi said, then whispered, “Don’t you think they probably come from Costco?”

They ruminated on the power of fragrance. “When I was six years old, I won a bottle of Pierre Cardin in a camp raffle,” David said. “And I fell in love with fragrances right then and there.”

Kavi said, “When we met, I was wearing Comme des Garçons Odeur 71. They don’t make it anymore.”

David closed his eyes and inhaled: “It smelled like hot light bulbs.” ♦

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