Tag Archives: Serge Lutens

Serge Lutens La fille de Berlin

2 Apr

People have compared La fille de Berlin to Red Roses by Jo Malone, and I do see some similarities in the presentation of rose, however there is much more sweetness and subtlety in the nuances of La fille de Berlin. I cant help but think it is in an entirely different arena, though if you enjoy one, you may very well appreciate the other.

Jo Malone’s Red Roses is straight, fresh, beautifully unadorned, robust and voluptuous deep red roses along with their crisp, wet, green stems and leaves. Just breathtaking. Now take those roses, tenderly envelop them in a gauzy black shroud, and you have La fille de Berlin.

Like JM’s Red Roses, La fille de Berlin demonstrates a certain clarity of vision within the rose genre and not just because it’s a soliflore, but because it gives me a sense of the heft and the texture of the flower; I can envision the appearance of the particular rose I am smelling. For this reason it is a unique and admirable fragrance which projects very well and sticks around on my skin for quite a while. The warmth of the pepper and sweetness in the roses make it an ideal fragrance for the bone-chilling, damp Spring morning when one wishes it would just be nice out already!

The amount of pepper in this is perfectly calculated. Just enough to set off the features of the rose: bright red petals against an off-black background. Much gratitude to Serge Lutens for my sample.

As it dries down, it does take on a sweet earthy/powdery quality and a good deal of the clarity is lost; I feel like the rose is naturally decomposing into some sort of powdery rose compost, though I would not go so far as to call it musty. The emergence of the powder is surprising and I could do without it (its absence in Red Roses is one of the many reasons it’s so gorgeous), but I will tolerate the powder here in exchange for the addition of pepper, which the Jo Malone rose is lacking. A soliflore depicted as an entire scene, suitable for both male and female rose lovers. Very well done.

A Perfect Vanilla? Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille (Revisited): An Updated Review

29 Mar

I have come around to this fragrance. After sniffing my way through quite a few vanillas, including niche, designer, and drugstore (as well as a bunch of organic vanilla essential oils),

I have come back around to this one.

Here’s why: Un Bois vanilla is layered and complex, the vanilla is  unquestionably the focus, and yet it has the most beautiful, natural,  cool translucency and airiness that I have ever experienced in a vanilla. It isn’t weak, it is just so artfully constructed that it never evolves into all of the things which are so easy to dislike (or like?) about a vanilla.

BV is very well blended but has great note separation, and is paired with such high quality, complimentary notes of beeswax and various woods, it really is quite memorable, and is not a projection monster (thank God) but instead settles into a beautiful very natural woody sweetness that stays with me quite a while.

Un Bois Vanilla is much more complimentary to one’s own skin than those vanillas which are opaque, excessively rich, and viscous-smelling.

Also, it doesn’t break down into a musk, which is frequently an easy cop-out for  fragrances that otherwise have merit until their unfortunate final stage of development. So far this is my favorite vanilla on the market, and if I had the money I would definitely own a FB, despite the fact that I am not usually attracted to gourmands.

After revisiting Un Bois Vanille, I tracked down a more technical and beautifully written review on Fragrantica by commenter jtd (author of ScentHurdle.com), which reinforces my new found observations. Here are his conclusions about Un Bois Vanille. I could not have said it better, so I am including his review in its entirety. Enjoy!

“Vanilla is a key component to both the contemporary dessert/gourmand and the classic amber oriental. Vanilla is almost inescapable in perfumery, but it’s usually found in the familiar company of labdanum, balsams, resins, spices or ethylmaltol in the above genres. It takes effort to dissociate it from the foody, cuddly feel. Despite its brief plastic/cotton-candy camouflage topnote (wonderful!), un Bois Vanille does just this. After the foody misdirection, BV avoids the expected. The tease of edibility shows itself as a licorice note, not cotton candy. The licorice also keeps BV from going the amber/oriental route since the genre is almost by definition warm, round, thick. Licorice here comes off as anise-like not candy-like. It’s cool and focused and it brings out vanilla’s sharp, bitter side, making it more potent than plush.After the expansive opening the heartnotes are fairly quiet, with a dry, airy feel that I would think to associate with frankincense, not vanilla. By drydown BV is dusty but still taut, reinforcing the point that vanilla can be strong and direct without being lush. BV stays cool as it winds down and resists becoming a skin-scent, further bucking a vanilla stereotype.BV solves a problem for me. One of very few in perfume fan-dom, I don’t like Caron’s Pour un Homme. The lavender/vanilla combo has no synergy and reminds me of the feel of a stuffy head. In BV, the cool side of the licorice fuses with the vanilla in a way that I imagine Pour un Homme’s minty lavender and vanilla combo works for the rest of the world.”

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Un Bois Vanille also solves a problem for me. I have been on a search for a wearable, vanilla-dominant fragrance, and it wasn’t until I became better acquainted with the spectrum of vanilla offerings out there (I realized there is much work to be done still) and came back around to this one, that I was finally able to see it for everything it contained, (or didn’t contain) in order to make it so welcoming and unique.

At last, I can finally rest with this one for a while before moving forward in the never ending quest for a transcendent, exceptionally well constructed vanilla fragrance. Much thanks to jtd, Fragrantica, and of course, to Serge Lutens.

Here is my original review of Un Bois Vanille, if you want to see an example of how much perception can change as our experiences continue to inform us.

Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge

24 Feb

Chypre Rouge’s opening is sweet and unusual. It reminds me of a decorative tin filled with dry, loose fruit tea. It smells honeyed, fruity, mildly spicy, and slightly floral but NOT FRESH, like the fruit and tea leaves have been dehydrated and sitting in their tin for some time in the back of a cabinet. All of the notes have melded together forming one unified, ambiguously fruity tea scent.

Chypre Rouge smells like an old sachet of red fruits potpourri, intimate and nostalgic. This is a scent that does not convey elegance, refinement, or power, or even comfort. Instead, it is more of a transportive fragrance, than it is a potential compliment or accent to what the wearer brings to the table. Projection is average, and longevity is pretty good.

I find myself wondering how this fragrance would smell if only it were allowed to “open up” with the help of some boiling water, but alas, I think that Chypre Rouge is destined to remain in a perpetual state of dehydrated stasis.

Serge Lutens Cedre

23 Feb

An artisan crafted birch beer, a bake shop, and beams of Sunlight penetrating a dark forest.

Cedre is a rich amber fragrance opening with cinnamon and labdanum. It contains that signature Lutens rich amber “hum”, though the intensely resinous cedar ( like the entire living tree, or  a stack of freshly chopped firewood) in the composition gives it clarity, preventing it from turning into a syrupy mess. It’s more like a wood-burning stove baking up fresh cinnamon buns.

Cedre has an effervescent quality like an artisan-crafted all-natural birch beer, and the labdanum makes the sweetness smooth, warm, and wearable. It is a basket of sweet and spicy offerings from the forest floor to the canopy. It is the sweetness found naturally in forest air, distilled.

The longer I wear it, the more I notice new and beautiful details. The tuberose is more of a stage hand than a lead role, virtually invisible, just there to keep everything together and running smoothly.

Cedre projects moderately, and its longevity is average. This fragrance takes some time to warm up to, but it sparkles on the skin. This may be my favorite gourmand to date.


This is an interesting alternative to the greener, less sweet and resinous cedars, which reside on the drier woody side of the material. Serge Lutens Cedre is cedar that has been warmed and honeyed by the Summer Sun soaking into it all day, with a bee hive suspended from its branches, and the aroma of other spicy plants and earthy elements floating in the forest air.

It is nature magically transformed into an all-natural confection, sweet and spicy as candy, but without a trace of kawaii.

Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille

21 Feb

This is what I thought L’Artisan’s Havana Vanille would smell like. This is a smoother, more harmonious, cohesive, and pricier version of the same concept. Like Havana Vanille, it too, does not smell like the most natural vanilla, though Un Bois Vanille is warmer and silkier, with the supporting notes lending the slightest amount of depth and complexity in a very complimentary way. The beeswax and woods are detectable right from the opening.

That said, Un Bois Vanille still reminds me of a woman with a fresh blow out and highlights, wearing a Tiffany’s charm bracelet and Ugg boots while driving a BMW S.U.V. It’s luxury that is lacking in sophistication.

. . .

I tried wearing Un Bois Vanille to bed last night thinking (against my better judgement) that it would soothe me to sleep. I ended up getting up 15 minutes later, and layering the Lutens with the lovely Ambre EdT by L’Occitane, just to to get that “woman” I mentioned earlier, to stop texting and driving at the same time. Once the super-cedar and liquid labdanum from Ambre fused with the vanilla and spicy woods in the Lutens, I knew this would be a genuinely soothing harmony of elements, and I drifted right off.

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Update: See my newest review of Un Bois Vanille for another fresh perspective.

Serge Lutens Gris Clair

21 Feb

Gris Clair opens with a natural lavender stripped of it’s astringent properties and balanced perfectly with the sweet vibrating hum of incense softened and warmed with amber and vanilla. It is at once fresh and warm, a dichotomy of scents, and for what it’s worth, the most interesting Lutens I have experienced so far.


After the top notes start to relax their hold, cool florals start to penetrate this rich orange layer, suggesting a drop in temperature with the onset of evening.

This fragrance is an extremely well-groomed and composed gentleman wearing a tailored trench coat, taking a solitary stroll to decompress at the end of a long day.

It is extremely rich and refined masculinity. It is the sensation of an urban pulse beginning to slow, as the avenues become bathed in the saffron and blue hues of dusk.

Serge Lutens Louve

21 Feb

Louve by Serge Lutens opens with some astringent alcohol, a bright and lovely almond/marzipan note, which almost immediately becomes complicated by an artificial cherry cough medicine note, (reminding me a little of the medicinal cherry in Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noir), with the powder and the florals close behind. A few sparks of promising color are enveloped by a lavender-grey haze.

As Louve develops on my skin and becomes largely a powdery floral, the almonds calm down, but the cherry medicinal quality persists. Louve then warms up with a humming amber-vanilla, a familiar element which seems to be present in many Lutens compositions.


The dry down loses the medicinal aspect and the color of the florals fade away. Louve ends in a warm but slightly bitter, powdery musk. It projects moderately and its longevity is about average.

Louve is an expensive woman with strictly expensive taste, who always wears furs, attends the opera whenever she wants, and always seems unhappy.

When you meet her you think, “Why!? Isn’t every day like Christmas for this person? She must be bored with herself or something. Maybe she thought having wonderful things would make her interesting and was disappointed when they didn’t change her one bit… Or maybe… she’s just lonely.”

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