I was lucky enough to get some of Serge Luten’s latest release, Chypre Rouge, recently, and I had looked so forward to trying this, and the resulting… well, I won’t spoil the ending.
Mr. Hyde (aka Patty) — My review will be very limited, and you’ll see why in a jiff, and then I’ll hand it off to March. When it first went on, it smelled of sandalwood and moss and something red, though I’m not sure what the note is, just a bitterish red, and it seemed very promising and intriguing, like a great first date. As it dried down, I got cedar with the sandalwood, then it turned on me with a feral viciousness. It was like Le Labo Vetiver and Serge Lutens Miel du Bois met and had a torrid love affair gone bad and left me with the mess — it just smells of desperation and bitter, bitter regret, and really rotten B.O. There’s defintely some kind of honey-ish note in this, the very one I despise, and a note that turns bad on my skin. So I’m positive it’s just a reaction on me and has nothing to do with the perfume itself.
So those of you that love Le Labo Vetiver and Hermessence Ambre Narguile and Iris Taizo, take heart, this is bound to be one you will swoon for. As for me, I’m getting rid of the rest of it as soon as I can. Sending some to… March…
Which — huh? Where’s that add up? Yeah, oakmoss is your evil granny in a chypre, but … caramelized pecans? Was this going to be another gaggingly sweet Aomassai-type scent? Serge can be overly sweet to me, when he’s not being manifestly evil in some other direction. Anyway, the most sensible explanation I saw on The Scented Salamander, where Mimi Froufrou, its Perfumatrix, wrote in her comments: “I think the red refers to a red moss that Serge Lutens had a vision of or saw when he was a child. Chypre Rouge then probably follows this threadline since oakmoss is a basic component of chypre perfumes. This classic composition usually rests upon a contrast between top notes of bergamot or a cologney accord and base notes of oakmoss, labdanum, and patchouli.”
Well, her guess is as good as any, and better than most.
I should note here that Patty (from whom I got the sample, of course) described it as “tears and buttcrack.” And I am assuming she didn’t mean that in a good way. Not having much more to go on, I figured the best way to approach it was to dump on a fair amount of the vial and let Nature take its course.
I was anticipating one of those weird, Lutenesque blasts, like the awful cumin at the opening of Fleurs d’Oranger. But this opened with something that smelled like … tea. Strong, smoky, black tea — like that great lapsang note in Tea for Two, only, well, indescribably stranger. (Okay, okay, I’m trying to describe it.) What I smell, in roughly this order, is:
Lapsang. Pepper à¢â‚¬” something spicy, like pepper and cloves. Actually, this is almost a red pepper. But at the same time, there is something sweet — think somewhere between SL’s Ambre Sultan and Chergui, leaning in the direction of Chergui. Caramelized, but not cloying. Incense.
Oh. My. God. This thing is … it is unhinging me with its surreal beauty. Sorry. I am Having A Moment here. It is easily the strangest thing I have smelled since Djedi, but more welcoming. I am enthralled. What is this thing? And now, a note of cumin? But not gagging me. There is definitely some sort of alien spice thing going on in here.
Okay, the finale — the supremely perfect, I kneel-at-your-feet part, is that this thing really does smell red. Not red like wine. Or a sunset. Red. If you were going to assign this fragrance a color in your head, red is your color. Think … cinnabar. Chinese lacquer box. Ancient spices. Dust.
And the drydown? At its heart, beneath the tea, the heat, the dust, and the cinnabar, and the pepper, and the hint of (yes, caramelized) sweetness, is the chypre base à¢â‚¬” I am guessing oakmoss, musk, patchouli and amber à¢â‚¬” in this case, pitched to the deepest, darkest tone. After an hour, it is very close to the skin, but there is nothing tenuous about it. To me, Chypre Rouge is, finally, this: a well of darkness, shot by a shaft of light straight from Heaven.
(Back to Mr. Patty Hyde, rolling eyes and all) Which leads me to this week’s giveaway — one sample of Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge. Just let me know in comments if you would like to be in the drawing.