Donna Karan Black Cashmere fragrance review

Donna Karan Black Cashmere, original packaging

Winter arrived late this year, but for the past week or so it has been making up for lost time. It is bitter cold, and outside my window, last night's snowfall is being swirled around by a vicious wind. It is the sort of day when nothing but an oriental will do: hence today's scent, Donna Karan Black Cashmere. Black Cashmere launched in 2002, and was Donna Karan's sixth fragrance release for women. It was created by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux (who also worked on the recent Donna Karan Gold), and the notes include saffron, masala spices, white pepper, clove, nutmeg, pimento berries, broom flower, patchouli, rose, incense, wengue wood, bois de miel, labdanum.

The first blast of Black Cashmere is a little rough: lots of raw, cedar-y wood, lots of pepper, a rush of warm spices. It takes its time settling down; after 20 minutes or so it has finally smoothed out into the velvety-soft sort of thing you'd expect from the name. Velvety soft, of course, could as easily describe Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist, but this is another kind of soft altogether, being neither plush nor girly nor pink.

The dry down smells like a judiciously spiced sandalwood incense. The patchouli adds earthy undertones and a faint sweetness, still, it is more dry than not. Likewise, it is mysterious and dark, but not overly so: it is more soothing than brooding, and it doesn't quite reach the gothic heights of some incense-heavy fragrances. It is decidedly sexy, and I should think anyone, male or female, could wear it.

Donna Karan Black Cashmere

Black Cashmere is a distinctive scent, and not one that you'd assume would have widespread commercial appeal. One can easily imagine it being launched with its now-discontinued cousin Chaos as a haute couture release with very limited distribution and a higher price tag, as in the Armani Privé or Hermessence lines. Happily, the price is in fact quite reasonable; a 50 ml bottle of Eau de Parfum retails for $52, and you can shave a few dollars off if you look around at the online fragrance discounters.

Note: image via Images de Parfums.

Update: Donna Karan Black Cashmere is now part of the Donna Karan Collection; the packaging shown above is no longer used.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Black Cashmere is such an unconventional scent. Did it ever win any awards? Must find out.

  2. Anonymous says:


    thank you, so much for reviewing one of my top ten. I love incense perfumes. This is one I never plan to run out of. I fear it might be discontinued, so I am constantly trolling eBay looking for great deals on it. Black Cashmere is not for everyone, easily fitting the niche catagory. As you say male or female can wear it. I never get questioning glances when I wear it. But who cares; I wear what ever I like.


  3. Anonymous says:

    I'm pretty sure it didn't get a Fifi, at least, not in the US. But don't know what else it might have won…

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is interesting how often people mention that they are afraid it will get discontinued…and it is easy to see why it might be in jeopardy. It would be a shame to see it go, in fact, would rather see Chaos released again in some limited form. As a niche release, Black Cashmere would easily end up as a cult classic, so it is almost too bad it has to compete for attention on department store counters.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I so agree with your comment about its haute couture feel. (Unsurprisingly, I love it.) I think that in general, the DK scents are very well done and seem to fit together, even the ones I don't like very much. (Be Delicious seems out of place, though.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I like this one very much, but strangely, don't *love”. I think it is because, as you said, it is a little rough. But on a day like today, it's definitely what the doctor ordered :-)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Funny you should review this one. It has only just recently come across my radar and I've been very interested in sampling it. Your review has me even more intrigued.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,

    Thanks for your excellent review.

    From that very first day I smelled it in New York City, Black Cashmere became my absolute favourite ever.

    I've never been in front of a million dollars in cash (and guess I'll never will), but I guess these should smell of Black Cashmere! It's smells mre expensive than it actually is.

    However, I agree it's not one that you'd assume would have widespread commercial appeal.

    It would be a pity if it just gets discontinued.

    Regards, R.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Agree on the Be Delicious…but hopefully, it is bankrolling the continued production of Black Cashmere, and so I am rooting for its success :-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    It is rough, and I didn't care for it nearly so much when I first tried it a few years back. It has definitely grown on me.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Do try it, it is really an unusual scent for a mainstream release, and if you can find Chaos, that is worth trying too!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Completely agree — you could put it in that Armani Prive bottle, and people would pay $180 for it, no questions asked. In fact, I'd say it is a more interesting scent in many ways than Armani Bois d'Encens, but no doubt there are those who would fight me on that.

  13. Anonymous says:

    R, you are brilliant! That's exactly what Lauder should do, i.e., re-package BC and Chaos, especially Chaos, to be sold like the Hermessences.

    Of course, you would get a major discount for your idea. :)


  14. Anonymous says:

    I think that DK went niche routine with its Essences, which to me were parts of Black Cashmere. I love your idea!

  15. Anonymous says:

    A whole incense series, maybe? Everybody else is doing these multi-bottle releases, and I guess DK did her share with the Essence collection, but I didn't find those nearly as interesting as BC or Chaos. Will be waiting for that “major discount”, LOL…

  16. Anonymous says:

    V, we must have been commenting at the same time; just said something to R above about the Essences :-)

  17. Anonymous says:

    I tried to love this perfume when it was launched but I just couldn't get it to work for me. I found it to be quite like Alexander McQueen's Kingdom, which I love, so all was not lost! I am very excited to smell the new Donna Karan Gold, I can't seem to find it anywhere yet. I think in your review you said it wasn't fully to your taste but it was extremely pretty and I love lillies and amber so fingers crossed it will work for me.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This is clearly a great fragrance, and I do like it a lot, although it has a waxy note on me that stops it from being one of my favorites. Do you get that, and/or do you know what causes it? In any case, I prefer Chaos (which IS one of my great favorites), although I will always own BC as well.

  19. Anonymous says:

    This is a scent I admire more than wear (although I used to wear it quite frequently). I agree w/ what you that it is indeed more interesting than Bois d'Encens and I would be horrified to see it d/ced if only because I'm always very happy for every interesting scent that holds its own in the mainstream market. I continue to light candles to the fragrance gods for the rerelease of Chaos.

  20. Anonymous says:

    That is odd that you can't find Gold, I thought it was everywhere by now. I think it is a lovely scent, but when I reviewed it, lots of the commenters did not agree with me :-)

  21. Anonymous says:

    I read seen other references to that “waxy note”, and must admit that I don't get it, whatever it is, or just don't recognize it as waxy(?)

  22. Anonymous says:

    Have to say that a re-release of Chaos seems massively unlikely, doesn't it? But it would be nice, and is certainly worth lighting a candle for :-)

  23. Anonymous says:

    It must be a skin-chemisty thing, then. I'm pretty sure you would recognize it; it smells just like candle wax.

  24. Anonymous says:

    BC is in my top 10 of all time. I keep a stock, just in case. It's the only DK that I love, other than Chaos. On my skin, it smells amazingly like Idole, but it lasts longer. Everyone here is right. I'd pay a lot more for this gem.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Interesting, will have to try it next to Idole, I hadn't thought of it.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I live in the UK and was told 4 months ago by the London Donna Karan store that Black Cashmere was being discontinued. It is my second favourite perfume (my first being Chaos, whose loss I mourn on a daily basis!!) Is it possible that it has only been discontinued in the UK? And can anyone help me with fragrances that are similar to Black Cashmere, Chaos or Bvlgari Black? I would love some help from other perfume lovers on what to look out for in relation to perfumes like these. I have only just discovered this site and think it is amazing!!! Everyone's comments are so interesting and really show a love of perfume!!

  27. Anonymous says:

    I don't usually trust SAs who say something is discontinued…they usually only know that they won't be carrying it anymore. But I have never been able to get information from the DK customer service line in the US, they only know the clothes, not the scents, so I can't think where to confirm that it is still in production, sorry!

    Running late right now, but will be back later with some other perfume recs for you, and thanks for the very kind words about my site.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Ok, here are a few suggestions for things you might want to try:

    Juozas Statkevicius (reviewed this today)

    L'Artisan Tea for Two

    Comme des Garcons Eau de Parfum (original)

    Armani Prive Bois d'Encens

    Eau d'Italie Paestum Rose

    Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka

  29. Anonymous says:

    I'm on a perfume discovery campaign and have been buying decants of ones you all have reviewed for me. So far Black Cashmere is my favorite…hands down. I wore Cinnabar since it came out in 1978 and added Obession ayear ago. My chemistry seems to be odd, perhaps because of meds I take ? Don't know. But the Black Cashmere settles in to a warm, incense yet clean smell on my body. I “feel” good wearing it. I love anything that is spicy and warm and this is but not too warm and not too spicy. I seldom find scents that my chemisty won't turn to skunk juice….but I lucked out with Black Cashmere, It's lovely from appliation right thru drydown. Mmmmm. Love it, Thanks for the reviews all…they help a LOT!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I wanted to add something. When I was a small child my best friends mother wore TIGRESS. It was cloying and overpowering but it was her signature scent. When the Black Cashmere got to a midway point I had memories of Tigress only a MUCH softer version of it. Kinda like someone turned the Tigress into a soft fluffy kitten but the similarity was still there. At dry down it became even softer and cleaner smelling on me. I really do love this scent.

  31. Anonymous says:

    So glad you like it! The more the merrier :-)

  32. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions – I will try these out in case the inevitable happens and BC is discontinued! I'm glad to see I'm not the only person who appreciates perfumes that are a little bit different – I was starting to get a bit paranoid when every scent I like was discontinued!!!

  33. Anonymous says:

    Keeping my fingers crossed that BC stays in production, but just in case, hope you'll find another you love soon :-)

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hi Siobhan

    I'm new to this site and don't know how to contact you regarding Black Cashmere. If you send me a pm via the Make Up Alley site I'm on there with the same username. :)

  35. Anonymous says:

    Just today received my first bottle of BC (ordered unsniffed), and I must say it is wonderful. I know others swoon for the saffron top note, but I much prefer this when it mellows and takes on its “skin scent” quality. On my skin, it smells like warm Indian cooking spices baking on hot sand – surprisingly, it doesn't remind me of incense. I spritzed a bit of this under my current love, Black Orchid, with interesting results! I'd love to find an incense perfume that smells like Nag Champa. Any suggestions?

  36. Anonymous says:

    Oh, what an interesting layering combo! Will have to try that.

    I'm sorry to say I've never smelled “real” Nag Champa. You probably know Monyette Paris is supposed to have Nag Champa? But it is so sweet. This might be a good question for Kevin, he knows incense way better than I do.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for reminding me of Monyette Paris! I'll have to search it out. I just hope it's not super sweet. Love to hear Kevin's opinion, too.

    And…the longer I'm wearing the BC under Black Orchid, the more I like the combination. They seem to complete one other, if that makes sense. Cashmere tones down some of the sweetness of Orchid (and amps up the spice), and the Orchid adds a creamy richness to the Cashmere. Interesting!

  38. Anonymous says:

    You'll have to let me know what you think, but I find it pretty darned sweet. And tropical — lots of gardenia, lots of vanilla.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, gardenia is tough for me to pull off. I'll let you know, though – thanks!

  40. Anonymous says:

    I'm panicking. Black Cashmere is starting to disappear from online stores and department stores that were still carrying not too long ago. Sephora no longer carries it, Nordstrom–no. I checked several online discount perfume stores and it was “unavailable” or sold out until I found it on Perfume Shop (needless to say, I got myself a bottle because I love love love BC!). It's also still available on Donna Karan's website.

    Just thought I'd warn you that it looks like our fear of it being discontinued *might* be on the horizon!!


  41. Anonymous says:

    M, don't know what to say — people are always panicking about BC. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed :-)

  42. Anonymous says:

    Well. at least it's available on the Donna Karan website. Her original frag is available there too–perhaps that's a good sign that maybe she won't discontinue?


  43. Anonymous says:

    ***RED ALERT*** OK, am now officially a member of the ever-growing group “Panicking About BC”!! I just bought a 50ml Eau de Parfum today and was astonished when I realized the salesperson handed me the LAST ONE ON THE SHELF. No 100ml, no cream, NOTHING. The only thing left was a box of body powder. She told me to write down my name and phone number in case they would receive other shipments, but she checked in her comp and said nothing came in since before Christmas… and the other Holt Renfrews had about the same amount in stock, which is, like I said, almost NADA… Maybe I should call the store manager on Monday, just to make sure… BTW, she talked about how she has some bottles of Chaos at her house and how that scent was sooooooo amazing – at least, it seems BC is pretty close. Why, oh why must everything I love get discontinued, whether it be fragrance, makeup lines or what not? So utterly frustrating. I'll keep you posted if I find out for sure that BC is being discontinued, at least in Canada. Parting words of wisdom: If you come across it, STOCK UP without a moment's hesitation!!

  44. Anonymous says:

    Truly, this is not necessarily cause for concern. It can't be a HUGE seller, and the distributor may simply be waiting for another shipment so your local stores are low on stock.

    Mind you, not saying you're necessarily wrong — just that it is really hard to tell what is happening w/o confirmation from the Donna Karan brand.

  45. Anonymous says:

    I was chatting with the SA's at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver today about Black Cashmere (it just popped up on my radar recently and i was curious whether it would work on my male skin… apparently it does!), and anyway, there looked to be adequate stocks of it and nobody gave me the “get it while you still can” spiel, so it doesn't appear to be in any imminent danger.I should have checked the price because I just assumed it'd be way up there. Oh well, the nice SA gave me samples of Armani Prive Bois d'Encens and Ambre Soie, so I did have something to console myself with when I got home. :^)

  46. Anonymous says:

    The price isn't as bad as the Armani Prives, that is for sure! Glad to hear it worked for you.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately the first fragrance by Donna Karan I smelled was Be Delicious, so I was instantly repelled from this house.
    But then I read your review.
    And there is also one fragrance “Cashemere Mist” I am duying to try but I can't find it anywhere here.
    So/ What do you think of it?
    It looks quite adequate and healthy. Usually all fragrances in white-golden-ivory-yellow-biege packages are. And the notes are just like they should be in dry woods…

  48. Anonymous says:

    Cashmere Mist is a feminine, clean, powdery woody-floral. It is pretty but “not me”. Would guess it sells much better than Black Cashmere though!

  49. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this (loving this blog – thank you New York Times for the heads-up and all you noses out there) – I love Black Cashmere but always have reservations about wearing it because it has so much personality. It was a nice cool day today so I put it on and loved smelling myself for the rest of the day! It was a long, hard, day, too, so I was happy to at least be smelling divine.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Hi and welcome! It does have lots of personality, and I guess has to be worn judiciously.

    Hope you saw elsewhere that DK BC is now discontinued? So it you're going to love it, buy another bottle now!

  51. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the heads-up! I have never loved a perfume enough to go through multiple bottles, except Joy, which I wind up having to replace because it goes rotten before I finish it. Happens alot – I forget that they age, go to put on an old fave and pewie! If I run into some BC I may pick it up, though….

  52. Anonymous says:

    Just bought this unsniffed because of the discontinuation, tried it for the first time, and am very happy! It is quite dry and spicy, which is very nice. Am wondering now if I should have got the 100 ml instead of 50… nothing like potential scarcity to cause unreasonable hoarding, eh?
    Now I'm actually looking forward to the cold and grey days that come with a San Francisco summer as an opportunity to break out the BC!

  53. Anonymous says:

    So glad it worked for you! I try not to succumb to hoarding since you never know how long it will keep, but it is a temptation. I'd like the have the BC body lotion too, but chances are that will have an even shorter shelf life.

  54. Anonymous says:

    “One can easily imagine it being launched with its now-discontinued cousin Chaos as a haute couture release with very limited distribution and a higher price tag, as in the Armani Privé or Hermessence lines. Happily, the price is in fact quite reasonable; a 50 ml bottle of Eau de Parfum retails for $52, and you can shave a few dollars off if you look around at the online fragrance discounters.”

    DKNY must have taken your advice, as I just saw both of these scents (along with Fuel for LIfe) in my local House of Fraser, repackaged in elegant bottles. Don't know if they are limited editions (the SA didn't know anything about them as they had only arrived yesterday), so anyone who kissed Black Cashmere or Chaos first time around has a second chance to grab them…

  55. Anonymous says:
  56. Anonymous says:

    Hi…new here.. can u tell me the diff between the black n the mist (havent smell any of those two)? which is more suitable in the hot weather of malaysia? i'm planning to buy kelly caleche n i need another scent that is different from kelly. maybe sumthing distinctive but not too strong nor too sweet..hope to hear from u soon..thanx..

  57. Anonymous says:

    They are entirely different scents, not even related. Black Cashmere is dark, woody & incensey, and the Cashmere Mist smells pink & floral & soft. Guessing you'd be after the Mist.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I was born to wear this perfume. It is not for the faint of heart, the shy, the wallflower or the coward. It is for the stiletto loving and boot wearing woman who is all things to everyone. It is for the uncompromising femme fatale who lurks in the fantasy's of many a mild-mannered male. It is for the woman who rides her own motorcycle, or drives a vehicle with more than 8 cylinders. Or for the woman who WANTS to. Black Cashmere is a standard in my wardrobe, both the perfume and the clothing. It is the scent of my womanhood. Discontinue? I must protest. To do so would put a period on the signature of every mystery woman who wears it.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Whew — I am none of those things, but I love it too.

  60. suse says:

    Thanks so much for this review and the ensuing comments
    I fell in love with this perfume a few years ago and then forgot why!
    Every time i twisted off the lid to anoint myself, i got a waft of the quite rightly described harsh cedary initial notes …and i clicked the dust cap back on
    However, being new to the site (which is amazing I must add) and , being in search of the perfect orange blossom perfume, i have been trawling through all the posts and reviews. When i came across this one for BC it prompted me to get it out of the dark cupboard where i stash my hoard of precious bottles.
    I squirted , shuddered , but waited and was not disappointed.So warm sensuous and soft once it has settled.
    I agree it is an autumn/winter scent, and i agree its not a fragrance everyone can, or will want to wear. But today here in England it was such a dark dank grey day that its presence was not out of place
    i am only relived that my daughter didnt want it when i tried to give the bottle to her recently. i shall add it to my ‘current wear’ fragrance wardrobe
    now if only i can find that perfect orange blossom ……..

    • Robin says:

      The perfect orange blossom is hard to find! What have you tried so far?

  61. Xandria says:

    I just recieved this in the mail tonight. ordered having sniffed it years ago and remembering liking it but nothing else. your review gave me the courage to take the plunge and i do believe it’s a keeper. i’ve just got into fragrances and do ineed want a few juices that are “different”. BC reminds me of something in my childhood (i’m 28). Not sure if it’s something my mother wore or just an aroma that elicits a memory but it’s very familiar to me. i’ve only been wearing it for 40 minutes and although it doesn’t smell “good” to me in the traditional sense, i see myself wearing this a lot this Fall/Winter.

    Thank you!

    (Oh! it’s currently back in stock at $47.19 10/08/09)

    • Robin says:

      Hi Xandria, so glad it works out for you! That’s a great price.

  62. yvashche says:

    I love this fragrance. But I don’t know why everyone is saying that Chaos is discontinued. I just came from sampling perfumes at Neiman Marcus and they definitely have Chaos. In a big bottle, too!

    • Robin says:

      At the time this article was written, Chaos was not in production. Now it is again.

  63. jonr951 says:

    My mother happens to adore Cashmere Mist. Shes worn it ever since I could remember. I on the other hand, dont much care for it at all. I mean, I could deal w/ it but Ive moved her on to greats like Flowerbomb, Kenzo Amour, Sensuous, and Amber Ylang Ylang. Im so curious about Black Cashmere though. It sounds brilliant. I cant find it anywhere. Its just another fragrance Ill have to wait 4ever to smell. LOL. Cant wait to try her new Iris. : )

  64. sniffmeallover says:

    Does the new Black Cashmere smell the same as the old one? I hear people saying that Chaos smells different.

    • Robin says:

      Almost everything that old smells at least slightly different, but I have not heard anything terrible about the latest version.

  65. Marjorie Rose says:

    Has anyone else smelled this recently and thought that it was a mild version of Bang? (Or, I guess since Bang is newer, that Bang is a spicier version of BC?) Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the sharp pepper of Bang, but I find BC almost quiet in comparison. Based on reviews, I expected something more daring. . .it’s not bad, just not shocking.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, I would not have called either scent shocking…but they do certainly have the pepper in common.

  66. nightwisp1957 says:

    I love BC, and I hope it does not get discontinued. It smells sexy, and fresh at the same time. I like BC very much!

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