I’m A Collector: Serge Lutens
|I love how they look like a chemistry set|
Turns out I’ve accidentally been a “niche” perfume collector for years now. An entire lifetime ago, a tiny collection of six (or it may have been eight) fragrances appeared in my local Debenhams, and I was shocked and appalled to discover that they cost a whopping £40 each. Naturally, I ended up buying two.
I’d never heard of the brand “Serge Lutens” at the time, and it was described to me as a range from a French artist who was more concerned with the story of a fragrance, than the fragrance itself, at the time I thought it was just so much bullhooey, but I realise, as time goes on, that the sales assistant wasn’t talking that much rubbish, to be honest.
Anyhoo, I thought you might like a little tour around my collection, so here goes:
From left to right, we have La Myrrhe (bell jar), Tuberose Criminelle, Ambre Sultan, Vitriol D’Oeillet, Sa Majestie La Rose, A La Nuit, Un Bois Vanille, Clair de Musc, L’eau Froide. That’s nine, there used to be ten, but I had to part with my bottle of Jeux de Peau because my nose registered it as rancid margarine, and that’s not a fragrance I adore to be honest …
Anyhoo, in no particular order, here are some thoughts on each of these:
Sa Majestie La Rose and A La Nuit were the first two Lutens that I bought, and these bottles must be the best part of fifteen years old now as a result. Actually, on checking, I can see that both these scents were released in 2000 – which fits – and that means that my versions are original bottles in that case.
Sa Majestie is a thick, rich rose which feel red, red, red on the skin, it’s fairly sweet, but with a hint of the greenery underneath a rose bush to it too. I think the scent has some minty facets to it too, but there is no mistaking that this is, first and foremost a rose fragrance. A La Nuit, on the other hand is a jasmine, almost a soliflore, it’s very very strong at first, but softens down to something more wearable after a couple of hours. If you don’t like jasmine, then avoid this by all means possible. These are, to some extent, the yardstick by which I measure any and all rose/jasmine fragrances to this day. Whilst these are both almost photo-real flower fragrances, which plenty of punch, they’re amongst the simplest fragrances, being almost linear from start to finish, amongst the Lutens collection.
Ambre Sultan. Oh man, how much do I love Ambre Sultan? A lot, is the answer. It is dry, rich, woody, spicy, powdery and incensey, all at the same time. It feels like wandering around a spice market, wearing powdery furs, and as such, it’s not an amber fragrance for the shy and retiring. Last winter it was the only fragrance I wanted to wear, and I have a hard time picking out other fragrances in my collection to wear instead, still. An all-time classic.
Tuberose Criminelle: I love tuberose, and this fragrance highlights all the strange aspects inherent in the flower, the first blast is all menthol, camphor, and rubber. It’s one of the most shockingly odd fragrance openings I’ve ever come across, and it never fails to make me smile. Once you get past this Listerine-gasoline blast, there’s a rich, creamy and adorable white floral fragrance behind it, but your work colleagues might prefer it if you apply this a good hour or two before you get to the office …
Vitrol d’Oeillet: Or, Angry Carnation. My search for a proper carnation scent goes on. Have you ever stuck your nose into a bunch of carnations? Of course you haven’t, everyone (seemingly) hates the poor carnation, but do yourself a favour, and the next time you’re given a bunch of supermarket flowers replete with carnations, stick your nose in and take a really good sniff, it’ll be peppery, and clovey, and spicy, and not in the slightest bit sweet. Luten’s take on carnation tones down the spicy (angry) facets of carnation with violet, and sweetens it up, so it loses a bit of punch. I love it regardless – as I do any carnation scent – but … it’s not the one.
Un Bois Vanille: A smoky vanilla, with hints of licorice and coconut. Should leave you smelling like a pudding, but by avoiding making it too sweet, it just avoids being reminiscent of custard. I love how this smells on MrLippie (I occasionally spritz him with it when he’s not paying attention), as it makes a really good male scent too. If you love sweet scents, this is a great gateway into more “grown-up” fragrances. Highly recommended.
La Myrrhe: The Serge Lutens collection has two different lines, the export (in the square bottles you see at the top) and the Bell Jars, which are only available in Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido from Paris, La Myrrhe is one I purchased last year, to celebrate my first ever trip to France, and I adore it. From the rosy aldehydic opening, which is almost soapy in it’s freshness, to the slightly smokey and incensey dry down, this is a beautiful scent. It doesn’t last anything near long enough on my skin (basically, all I want from every fragrance I own is seemingly a big, ballsy, opening, and frankly, nuclear lasting power), but the bottle is beautiful, and the fact that I’m hugely unikely to bump into anyone else wearing it just adds to the appeal.
L’Eau Froide: Icy fresh incense. A bit of a contradiction, and I don’t really have much to say about this one, except that I prefer it to the original L’Eau, which to me smelled like vaguely scented coffee-flavoured washing powder. Nice in the summer, but nothing really to get over excited about. For me.
And finally: Clair de Musc: No one I know gives this one much love, and if you read reviews online, many of the people I don’t know don’t like it all that much either. Me, somewhat to my own surprise, I love it. It’s a light, clean, almost laundry-esque musk fragrance, somewhat clean, but rather lacking in that “fresh” note that makes a lot of light fragrances smell the same. It also smells a little powdery, almost baby-powdery, but most of all, it smells like skin. Beautiful, clear, skin. When I first smelled it, it brought back intense memories of an aunt who died not long after I moved to London, and of my grandmother, who died when I was 13, it still does. I got a bit emotional smelling this, truth be told. It’s now rocketed to the top of my list of fragrances to wear at my wedding in February. It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not complicated, it’s just … lovely. And if it will help me think of those relatives who can’t be at my wedding, so much the better.
Jeez, this post has turned into a monster … sorry! But the truth is that there are a lot of Lutens available, and they can be addictive. Even now, ten bottles later, I still have a list of others I want to try:
Chergui: Cherry-tobacco, sounds wonderful, and I’m wondering if it will bring back memories of my grandfather.
Sarrasins: Another Lutens jasmine, this time darker and less bright than A La Nuit, it sounds fascinating.
Muscs Koubla Khan: filthy, dirty, disgusting musk, the exact opposite of Clair de Musc. I like a contrast. Also, I want to test it against Maison Francis Kurkdijan’s Absolue Pour le Soir, and see which one wins the skank-off …
Feminite du Bois: Spices, cedar and plums. This is possibly the most famous, and most highly lauded of the Lutens fragrances, and it makes me feel like a bad blogger that I don’t own a bottle.
Daim Blond: Whenever I smell this, I think of a soft suede rose, in a pale apricot shade. As this is more or less the ingredient list, I think I need this one …
So there you have it. My accidental niche collection, which I still want to grow. Anything you thought sounded interesting?
The Fine Print: A mixture of purchases, presents, and the occasional sample from a variety of sources. I wish you could still get them in Debenhams. And that they were still £40, I’d probably have the full set by now … Inflation sucks.
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