The phrase “bas de soie” translates to silk stockings in English, and it initially might seem like an odd name for this already odd iris/hyacinth composition. The immediate opening of Bas de Soie is so green, it comes off quite harsh. That’s some intensely green galbanum combined with the green-leaning hyacinth. You would be right to wonder where the silkiness is in all of this.
A soft, powdery floral forms gradually as wear time goes on. Interestingly, against this floral backdrop, a metallic aspect of the composition stands out. The metallic effect shimmers with an edge, and this keeps Bas de Soie on the cool, crisp end of the spectrum for me. I’ve read people saying this fragrance would do well in the corporate world because of the cool edge, and I can see that. I myself wore it to the doctor’s office, and it’s a quiet enough scent that no one noticed, but strong enough that I left the office still smelling like perfume and not like sterile medical supplies.
But Bas de Soie isn’t all razor-sharp harsh coldness. This is a well-blended composition and there is real depth here. As mentioned, there are some spice notes. The spice remains vague, but I get black pepper in the beginning, and some cloves as the fragrance develops. The spiciness has a sort of tactful restraint about it, like it doesn’t want to take over, but it’s still noticeable.
Also adding some depth is the galbanum, which evolves on my skin to become more resinous. After a couple hours of wear I get a kind of gummy sensation, as though I’m wearing a floral-flavored gum drop. It’s definitely weird, but I sort of like it. (I’d love to try gum drops made by Serge Lutens!) Sadly, this gum drop impression eventually dissolves, and a soft powdery musk takes over for one of the most gentle dry downs I’ve experienced – there’s the elusive silkiness.
I haven’t tried Uncle Serge’s other iris, Iris Silver Mist, so I can’t compare, but I hear they’re quite different. For its part, Bas de Soie seems like a quintessentially Serge Lutens fragrance to me precisely because it’s weird, and yet so fascinating. It’s a cerebral scent, one that compels you analyze it, and I think that contributes to its reputation as a “cold” fragrance.
Bas de Soie is not an easily lived-in perfume. It forces you to do the work of wearing it, but it is worth the effort. It reminds me of walking through Paris on a rainy day. You might be frustrated by the dampness and the never-ending rain. Then you look up and catch a glimpse of the Seine, all the bridges stretching across in an endless row, and it takes your breath away.