Remember my super-mini reviews of the Serge Lutens fragrances I’ve tried, and my general impression of the line, back in October? Well, I’ve had the chance to try a few more, thanks to some generous folks who sent me samples, and here’s another installment of short reviews. I found some I rather like, one I’d probably buy if I were rolling in cash (I’m not), and another couple I don’t like, which is about par for me with regard to the Lutens line. The ones highlighted in pink, I like. The ones in green, I vaguely dislike but don’t hate. There are no highlighted-in-purple Kill.Me.Now hate-and-despise fragrances in this set, thank goodness.
Vitriol d’Oeillet (sample from Tammy)
“Angry Carnation” doesn’t seem to apply to this at all. For one thing, there’s little to no floral aspect: no fresh green, no creamy ylang, no dewy petals. There is a bare hint of clove, a lot of pepper, some geranium, some rose, and a lot of wood. Drrrrry. Add in some coumarin, but I do not really get the creaminess some reviewers mention.
If I may be sacrilegious for a moment, what this reminds me of is a drier Old Spice. The aftershave, mind you, because there’s more than a hint of shaving cream to Vitriol d’Oeillet (argh, the thought of splashing something called Vitriol on one’s face!). Vd’O may be, and probably is, made with good ingredients, while I notice that Old Spice doesn’t smell much like its old self these days. When I was a child, I could count on chipping in some pennies to help buy Dad an Old Spice gift set (some combination of aftershave, cologne, deodorant, or soap-on-a-rope), and I smelled it for years on him. Probably a decade ago, he gave it up. It didn’t smell right to him, and he stopped wearing cologne at all.
The consternation most reviewers seem to feel concerning Vitriol d’Oeillet seems not to be due to disgust; rather, the complaint seems to be boredom. Vd’O smells okay to me – nice, even – and if I were able to score some at a considerable discount, I’d probably buy it for my dad. Smelling Vd’O on my wrist, I’m transported back to the Father’s Days of my childhood, leaning in to give my father a hug after he’d opened the obligatory box of Old Spice and dabbed on a little cologne. For that reason, I probably like it more than I ought to.
Now, if only I could get Angry Carnation at Old Spice prices…
Chene (sample from Julie)
Now, this I like. A lot. It is extremely dry and on the verge of astringent, but I rather like it. It’s rather linear, with an attractive oak wood note and the (apparently obligatory) Lutensian cedar, which I’ll also admit to liking most of the time.
At the same time, I can’t help being sort of bored by it. It feels like a very tiny piece of, say, Sonoma Scent Studio’s lovely To Dream, of which my favorite part was the fleeting, uplifting whiff of oakwood. Chene smells mostly the same all the way through to me, with a bit of citrus up top and a hint of tonka bean, perhaps, in the base. Chene would probably make a great layer when one wanted to add a dry, unsmoky woody cast to something else.
Again, I like it a lot. But I don’t think I need it.
Fleurs de Citronnier (sample from Odonata)
Awwwwwwful. I might have known I wouldn’t like this, but I tried it anyway. It’s all fake lemon, screechy indeterminate white florals, and hissy laundry musk. I smell like Mr. Clean. HATE. P:TG, which I did not consult until after testing, calls it a “failed cologne.” There you go, more confirmation that I wouldn’t like it: I don’t even like good cologne. Eventually, after a couple of hours, it gets more vaguely floral and less hissy, but I still don’t like it. Awwwwwful.
Ambre Sultan (sample from Sharon)
Minute one: Sweet, waaaay sweeeeet. Caramel syrup.
Minute two: There is a honkin’ ton of patchouli in this.
Minute four: Getting more interesting, with a dusty, almost burnt quality.
Minute six: Whoa, where are all these herbs coming from?
Minutes eleven through fifteen: Waitaminnit. Why do I smell Play-doh??
Minute sixteen through hour three: Sweet vanilla-amber.
Overall? Eh. I don’t hate it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to wear it, either. In fact, if you offered me a bottle free of charge, I’d turn it down.
Fleurs d’Oranger (sample from Sharon)
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this. For one thing, I hardly ever get on well with orange blossom – it so often goes soapy on me. For another, I keep hearing about how “sweaty” this thing is, with its dose of cumin. However, I’m probably not as susceptible to cumin as a lot of people are, given my enjoyment of cuminy Amaranthine, Dolce Vita, and modern Rochas Femme. I barely smelled any cumin in Fd’O at all. (Elisa suggests that the sample I have may be the reformulated, less-cuminy version. Could very well be.)
Also, this scent is not straight-up orange blossom. Almost from the first minute, I smelled jasmine – a big rich French-style jasmine, not the tropical kind. Ten minutes in, the tuberose peeked out, and I relaxed. Oh, yes, sweet white florals bein’ all friendly, just my style. At this point, The CEO walked by and said, “Oh, that’s nice. Very floral. I like florals on you.”
Bottom line? I like it. I don’t like it more than, say, Kate Spade’s original and now unobtainable white floral scent, or that Cristina Bertrand #3 scent, another mixed white floral. I don’t think I’d pay Serge prices for it, what with that big bottle of Cristina Bertrand (eBay, $12 including shipping) in my cabinet, but Fd’O is really lovely.
Datura Noir (sample from Sharon)
Now, this one I expected to like – and I do. A white-floral-oriental? Yep. That particular alley in my Perfume Town is always free of obstructions. Just back that semi up to the warehouse, Mack. The general effect is tuberose and vanilla-lemon pound cake, and it is some radiant stuff. One spritz on the back of my left hand stuck with me for five hours, creating some nice sillage. It’s heady and luxuriant as some magical flowering jungle that might come and eat your house while you’re asleep… so you’d better watch out.
I think there may be some coconut in this, come to think of it. Maybe it’s Five-Flavor Pound Cake (vanilla, lemon, almond, coconut and butter flavorings) instead of just vanilla-lemon. After testing, I checked Perfumes: The Guide just to see, and its review mentions cherry/heliotrope. I’m not sure I get cherry, but almond definitely. I know cherry and almond go together; frequently I get “cherry” out of some fragrances that many people would call “almond,” but this time it went the other way around for me, almond instead of cherry.
I like it a lot. If a bottle appeared in my Christmas stocking, I’d wear it. Again, I haven’t found a Serge other than La Myrrhe that I’d consider selling my kidneys to get, but if I had the discretionary spending level of, for example, Melinda Gates, I’d probably buy this. When my Vamp a NY decant, and my bottle of Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur go dry, I might have to consider Datura Noir.
Fumerie Turque (sample also from Sharon – I think)
I tried this on a chilly Saturday while waiting for the town Christmas parade to come by. The parade start time was delayed by the passage of a train, so I had plenty of time to watch my sons run around and be silly, and plenty of time to sniff my wrist.
I’m still not sure what’s going on with this one. Right at the beginning, it’s really dirty-smelling under the sweet tobacco, which is delightfully rich. The effect is animal butt covered in caramel: whoa. My first thought was that there is a spectacularly filthy musk in FT, but now I’m wondering if it’s the honey. I’m not all that experienced with honey-containing fragrances.
People talk about this one being both smoky and richly sweet, but I didn’t smell much smoke. I tend to be sensitive to smoky notes, often finding Shalimar unbearably smoky and smelling smoke in things that aren’t supposed to contain that effect. Even Tocade has become too smoky for me. But this? No smoke. Animal butt and sweet gingerbread, that’s it.
I like FT. The filthy angle pretty much guarantees that I wouldn’t wear it much, but I’d put it in the “like” box.
There will be more Lutens mini-reviews to come. My deep thanks to everyone who so kindly sent me Serge samples. (And I promise to get you some samples in return! I promise!)