This new Serge Lutens release is based on the simple notes of musk and incense. However, as always with Lutens and his partner in perfumery, Christopher Sheldrake, it’s not necessarily a simple fragrance. L’Orpheline opens with a gentle cloud of musk and light cedar. The aldehydes add some lift here so that the composition doesn’t appear too heavy right off the bat. I get a quiet, warm sensation of myrrh, but nothing hugely smokey from the incense.
Even though the incense isn’t dominant for me, it’s easy to see incense’s influence on the fragrance as a whole. The opening of L’Orpheline is similar to stepping into a cathedral, taking a seat somewhere in the wooden pews, and soaking up the hushed atmosphere. L’Orpheline continues with this hushed, muted tone. Despite the musky and woody notes, this is never going to be an overwhelming kind of fragrance, which makes it excellent for daytime wear.
But the muted aspect doesn’t mean that L’Orpheline is a “weak” fragrance (in fact it’s an Haute Concentration eau de parfum). I’ve been wearing this in some very humid weather, and it really blooms on the skin. It takes on a soft and comforting texture without ever feeling heavy. I haven’t felt that it’s inappropriate for hot weather because the composition retains that cloud-like feeling all the way through. The musk and cedar develop a lightly sweaty aspect that runs in an undercurrent beneath the soft cashmeran cloud. This lends a sultry air to the scent, it’s even a little bit sexy!
“L’Orpheline” translates to “the orphan girl.” It is known that Serge Lutens was separated from his mother at a very young age. Without getting into psychoanalysis, it’s safe to assume that the theme of this fragrance holds a lot of personal meaning for Monsieur Lutens. What, then, might he be trying to communicate with the creation of L’Orpheline? It’s certainly an odd perfume, not an obvious blockbuster the way some of his previous fragrances have been. And yet, a blockbuster isn’t always what’s necessary.
L’Orpheline is subtle and chic enough to wear to the office. It’s also elegant enough to wear out, and soft enough to wear as a comfort scent. L’Orpheline is all of these things, and also firmly its own creation. The quietness of this fragrance demands that the wearer stop, listen, and figure out how best to wear this, demonstrating that loud showiness isn’t always necessary to draw attention. L’Orpheline definitely won’t be for everyone, it won’t even be for all Serge Lutens fans. But it’s undeniably striking in its own subtlety.