A new Serge Lutens fragrance is always a bit of a riddle to figure out. In this case, I first noticed the purple juice in the bottle, which gives a cool vibe to the fragrance. Then there’s the name itself: La Religieuse, which means the nun (or it could refer to the pastry of the same name, as the pastry dough resembles nuns in their habits). Monsieur Lutens himself has to say: “Deliver us from Good! Jasmine petals are as white as snow. Black is my religion.” Interesting and thought-provoking from Serge Lutens. However, for me, the fragrance itself doesn’t offer quite as much to think about.
La Religieuse opens on a fruity jasmine note. The fruit is lemony and sweet, giving the impression of a lemon bar dusted with powdered sugar. The scent doesn’t go full dessert though, at least not on my skin. This is no Jeux de Peaux, and it’s certainly not meant to be a grand gourmand like some previous Serge Lutens releases. No “religieuse” pastries here.
The fruity jasmine develops into a very pared-down jasmine. This jasmine is bright white and sparklingly clean. There is no trace of the indolic, nor even a hint of sharp green to be found with this jasmine. La Religieuse becomes a cold, soapy scent, and it remains this way for a few hours on my skin. The cold effect here comes off as icy rather than the pure snow Serge Lutens references. It doesn’t really bring nuns to mind either. At this stage, the fragrance reminds me of the way some public spaces (like hotel lobbies) are perfumed: something nicely noticeable but inoffensive.
I thought the civet would bring some of that “dark side” alluded to by Serge Lutens. Unfortunately, on my skin, the civet is an almost minimalist version of itself. It brings a touch of warmth to this otherwise icy cool fragrance. And I detect a hint of sweat that goes slightly sweet, which I assume is the musk making an appearance. Other than that, the dry down here is a quiet affair, laced with subtle incense. I know that incense is very subdued on my skin, and I’m fine with that. I just wish the animalic notes stood out more to really anchor the composition. This fragrance could use the balance and the depth those notes would bring.
In the end, I’m no closer to solving the riddle that is La Religieuse. In fact, I’m frustrated because it’s actually a pleasant fragrance. It’s an eminently wearable jasmine, and will probably work well for summer. But, when it comes to Serge Lutens, “pleasant and wearable” feels like a disappointment. Quite honestly, for the price, it’s reasonable to expect more. I feel like it could have been interesting to see how this cold version of jasmine interacted with more powerful animalic notes, but this fragrance just doesn’t work that way on my skin. Still, if you’re interested in a clean-smelling jasmine, I would highly recommend La Religieuse. And, as always, I look forward to finding out what Serge Lutens has in store for us next.
Image and info on the notes are both from Fragrantica.