It seems to me that what is missing here is a comparison of the relative speed of using direct database queries versus using the "hash-in-memory" method. Since you seem most worried about speed, it seems reasonable to just code up the database query version and see if it is faster or not. I'm guessing that it will be, presuming you have indices on all your lookup columns and that you use appropriate DBI calls (sticking to arrayrefs, fetchall, etc.). But there really isn't any way to know unless you try, is there? Perl is a wonderful tool, but modern relational databases are also. Using both to their fullest is the goal.
Also, note that you may not have to fetch all records in every case. If you have queries that only generate summary statistics, the DB can usually do those quickly as well, so you never have to retrieve those records directly at all.
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