What I Wore This Week

Here is my round-up of what I wore this week!

  • Monday: Woody Mood by Olfactive Studio
  • Tuesday: Lumiere by DSH Perfumes
  • Wednesday: Bas de Soie by Serge Lutens
  • Thursday: Chanel No. 5 EDP
  • Friday & Saturday: Mon Numero 10 by L’Artisan Parfumeur

What are you all wearing in the run up to Christmas?

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.

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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!

What I Wore This Week

Here’s this week’s round-up of What I Wore!

  • Monday: La Religieuse by Serge Lutens
  • Tuesday: Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone
  • Wednesday: Misia EDT Les Exclusifs de Chanel
  • Thursday: Serpentine by Roberto Cavalli
  • Friday: Honeysuckle and Davana by Jo Malone
  • Saturday: Dear Polly by Vilhelm Parfumerie

What did you guys wear this week?

Festive Fragrances

Happy December, everyone! We made it to the last month of the year.

Yesterday, I made a post on instagram about my three favorite perfumes to wear this time of year. I think of them as my festive fragrances. As you can see, the scents are:

  • Mon Numero 10 by L’Artisan Parfumeur
  • Plum Japonais by Tom Ford Private Blend
  • Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens

I have previously written about these three here on the blog. They are all within the same genre, and they all bring some sparkle and brightness to a time of year where we don’t have much daylight.

What are your favorite scents to wear around this time of year?

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.

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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.

Rousse by Serge Lutens

Notes: amber, Mandarin orange, cloves, resin, cinnamon, and cedar.

Rousse is a special one to me. It was initially released in 2007 and it is sadly now only available as part of the exclusive Serge Lutens bell jar line. I suppose it wasn’t a terribly big seller. On the one hand, I can understand why. But, on the other, I love Rousse. It’s the perfect type of warm spice you’d want to wear in the doldrums of January/February. And it’s my go-to for Valentine’s Day.

I was lucky enough to snag my 50 ml spray bottle shortly before it was announced that Rousse was moving to the bell jar line. You can see it has the old Serge Lutens Palais Royal logo, which I love. I still have a substantial amount left. The juice has definitely changed over the years but, like a fine wine, Rousse has aged well. The fiery hot cinnamon is still very present. It always reminds me of Red Hots and various Valentine’s Day candies.

Rousse was initially famous for a waxy lipstick note paired with the cinnamon. It’s much less waxy now. I find it has developed into a warm rich musk and something like orris butter. I can’t find any specific floral notes listed for Rousse. (Least of all on the Serge Lutens website. Uncle Serge is always cryptic.) I’m guessing there’s a touch of iris and some kind of white floral. Kafkaesque guesses that it’s magnolia, which makes sense to my nose. Whatever the floral note, it’s become much more prominent and creamy over time.

Overall I think Rousse has become a little bit more smooth with time. It still has a quirky edge to it though, so it’s not completely mellow. That cinnamon still crackles right off of the skin with heat and intensity. The supporting notes seem to have become more rich and creamy, as though Rousse has now grown into itself. If you happen to track Rousse down, it’s absolutely worth it. There are so many greats from Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens, but this one is a real gem.

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Rousse is available directly from Serge Lutens in the 75 ml bell jar bottle.

Image taken by me. Info on notes from Fragrantica.

La Religieuse by Serge Lutens

serge lutens la religieusNotes: jasmine, civet, musk, and incense.

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.

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In the US, Serge Lutens fragrances are available from Barneys New York or from Luckyscent. I got my sample of La Religieuse from The Perfumed Court.

Image and info on the notes are both from Fragrantica.

L’Orpheline by Serge Lutens

serge orphelineNotes: aldehydes, cedar wood, fougere accord, coumarin, clouds of ambergris, patchouli, incense, and cashmeran.

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.

Serge Lutens is available from Barneys New York. Full bottles and samples are available from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

Image is from Fragrantica, and info on notes is taken from Luckyscent. It’s worth noting that Fragrantica lists musk and incense as the only notes, while Luckyscent goes into more detail.

Cerebral yet Chic: Serge Lutens’ Bas de Soie

serge bas de soieNotes: galbanum, hyacinth, spicy notes, iris, musk.

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.

Serge Lutens fragrances are available from Barney’s and online from Luckyscent, which is where I got my sample.

Image is from Fragrantica while info about fragrance notes is taken from Luckyscent.

Serge Lutens; Chergui

Notes: honey, musk, incense, tobacco leaf, hay sugar, amber, iris, rose and sandalwood

Where I live in the US we’ve had a pleasant and warm month of May so far–it was actually warmer here than it was in Paris! Naturally I’ve been contemplating lighter, airier fragrances for spring/summer but, to my surprise, I found myself craving the intense warmth of Chergui. I kept trying to reason with myself, no that will be too heavy for this time of year but then I thought, why deny myself the pleasure of a truly delicious perfume?

I actually didn’t like Chergui the first time I tried it. Luckyscent kindly sent me a sample with another purchase I had made, and I’m ashamed to say that I dabbed some on my wrist, and then proceeded to fall asleep! When I woke up, the fragrance had intensified on my skin and I was completely overwhelmed with the sense of sweet hay. I thought no way. Chergui seemed too sweet and too heavy for me.

Luckily I had the sense to give it another shot when I wasn’t quite so sleepy. Chergui takes its name from the dry wind of Morocco, and this fragrance definitely gives off the warmth of the desert. The honey comes through quite strongly, making this one sweet on me. But, aside from my first sampling, it has never tipped over into sticky and overbearing territory. The herbal tobacco keeps the composition dry and, in this way Chergui conjures an arid desert, not a humid climate. I also detect quite a bit of leather blended with hay, which can’t help but recall a barnyard. So yes, there is a hint of dirtiness here. But, I have to say, I enjoy it! Moreover, the leather adds some depth and balance, ensuring this doesn’t become too dry.

Like many Serge Lutens fragrances, Chergui is difficult to classify. It has a sexiness to it but, is it right for a date? It’s undeniably elegant, but is it right for a party? It radiates warmth, so maybe it’s right for when you need a comfort scent? Chergui is all of these things wrapped up in one bottle, and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.

I’m still not sure what exactly about it prompted my craving. The only thing I’m certain of is that, when I finally gave in, put on Chergui, and inhaled that first sniff, a sense of complete satisfaction came over me. It wasn’t the perfume I expected to be wearing this time of year, but it was the one that I needed.

Serge Lutens; Chergui: $140 for 50 ml. Samples available from The Perfumed Court, full bottles available from Luckyscent.

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