Comparative Perfumery

I posted this photo and a little summary on my instagram, but I wanted to do a more in-depth post here on the blog.

I recently ordered a sample of Casablanca from St. Clair Scents, which is an indie artisanal brand based in Vermont. Diane St. Clair is the perfumer. Casablanca is the newest release for 2018 and it’s definitely a winter-appropriate scent. You can tell just by looking at the juice in the bottle, this scent is a rich and intensive experience.

Soon after first applying and testing Casablanca, I was reminded of Baptême du Feu from Serge Lutens, which I recently wrote about. Both scents have a striking animalic undercurrent. They have a dark vibe, a sort of dark fairy tale. I decided to wear one on each arm and do a little comparison test.

The result is that they are definitely not dupes of each other, but I feel they are in the same family. Baptême du Feu leans more foodie. There is a gingerbread note and the familiar Lutens dried fruit note. It’s not quite gourmand, but it’s a well-rounded composition and feels very festive for this time of year. Casablana is not foodie at all. It opens with some lovely citrus notes that bring a real radiance to the composition. This bright radiance balances out the deep animalic notes, which include civet and hyrax. Casablanca is really an animalic scent for me. There are white floral notes in the heart, including jasmine and tuberose. But the animalic notes are most present on my skin.

The animalic note in Baptême du Feu is castoreum, and it has a dark oily undercurrent for me. The hyrax and civet in Casablanca are also dark and have a black oiliness to them, like oily animal fur. It’s sensual, but it goes even further than that. It’s like an unnamed beast lurking outside the castle grounds. This is the dark fairytale aspect. It’s the theme of a beast that cannot be named but is undeniably present.

My favorite book from 2018, The Essex Serpent, deals with similar themes: the fear of a medieval beast re-appearing to wreak havoc in the present day. Both Baptême du Feu and Casablanca recall these medieval kind of superstitions. Both scents feel appropriate right now, as we come to the winter solstice and the darkest day of the year. But, ultimately, these scents and The Essex Serpent aren’t about fear, but about wonder and awe related to the unknown out in nature.

_________________________

I got my sample of Baptême du Feu from Luckyscent (and I have now completely drained it!)

I ordered my sample of Casablanca directly from St. Clair Scents.

The Essex Serpent was published in the US in 2017 but I did not read it until this year. I highly recommend it!

Now Sampling: Serge Lutens

I’ve been sampling a couple of recent Serge Lutens releases and I thought it would make sense to group them together for a write-up. So here we are!

Le Participe Passé

Notes: artemisia, bergamot, pepper, fruity notes, Egyptian balsam, resins, caramel, cumin, leather, and patchouli.

This one opens green and bitter from the artemisia. It almost smells like celery to my nose. It’s green and vegetal. It’s an odd opening, even by Serge Lutens standards, and yet I keep applying it just to smell that strange, bitter artemisia.

The composition quickly settles into a more typical Lutens dried fruit note and a beautiful resin note. I’ve never smelled this particular Egyptian balsam before, but it’s very smooth and a little bit aromatic. It blends with the vegetal artemisia, creating a harmonious green, balsamic scent.

This scent is named after my least favorite tense to conjugate in French and it seems that Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens purposely composed this one to recall some older Lutens releases. Perfume aficionados will know that Uncle Serge has had some, shall we say, eccentric releases in recent times. (I couldn’t get on with Dent de Lait at all.) Le Participe Passé is more similar to some older Lutens orientals, like Ambre Sultan. But there is the unique artemisia opening here, making Le Participe Passé its own scent and not just a copy of previous classics.

Baptême du Feu

Notes: gingerbread, powdery notes, tangerine, castoreum, osmanthus, woody notes.

This one is right in the Serge Lutens wheelhouse of warm, wintery, festive scents that just call out to be worn around the holidays. It has some similarities to two of my Serge Lutens staples: Five O’Clock au Gingembre and Fille en Aiguilles.

Baptême du Feu opens with a zingy orange citrus note and a warm gingerbread note that draws you in. The osmanthus functions as an undercurrent holding everything up until the castoreum comes in. And we must talk about the castoreum here because it is of course, an animalic, and it’s not subtle. To me, castoreum smells like a rich, black leather with a dank and oily undercurrent, which is really where the animalic nature comes out. If you don’t like animalic notes, steer clear of Baptême du Feu. The castoreum heart lasts for a good three hours on me before fading to a more approachable woody base note.

Baptême du Feu is rich with a lot of depth. It has foody gourmand notes sprinkled throughout the composition without ever turning into a gourmand like Jeux de Peau. It’s very grown-up and contemplative, but also some sensuality. I think this is the type of scent that a lot of people are looking for from Serge Lutens.

_______________________

Both Baptême du Feu and Le Participe Passé are available from Serge Lutens. I got my samples from Luckyscent.

The info on notes is from Fragrantica.

Photo taken by me.