Rousse Juice

Unlike my love affair with Giacobetti or Ellena, my relationship with Serge Lutens and Chris Sheldrake is a little more on/off. I´m sorry to say that our ménage a trois is often subject to strong flare ups on my part, and I sulkily leave those two elegant chaps behind me, seeking out simpler desires. They´re, like, totally intense, all the freaking time!

Because, although Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido is without doubt my favourite modern perfume house, I do have long periods where I find most of their complex, rich, decadent offerings a little too much for me. I own plenty of their scents, and have piles of decants too, but I have strange weeks in winter (the SL season) where I sniff them, admire them as art forms, and then move on to wearing another fragrance altogether. And I imagine it is their very nature as art forms that can be off-putting. Take Borneo 18whatever. It´s Angel stripped down to an abstract core, a spiky monochromatic installation piece that initially seeks to repel more than interest. Or the initial pizza-topping overload of Ambre Sultan – a mixed-media painting where dried leaves are mulched into the deepest of burnt umbers.

Even Chergui, one of my favourites, that most lyrical ode to a sepia-tinged late summer moment (visually for me an Impressionist depiction of low light drifting through ready-for-harvest fields), is today a joke like Magritte´s pipe painting – the tobacco´s been mixed up with mint tea and everything else but the kitchen sink. It definitely isn´t for a pipe.

I´m of course being unfair – I could choose myriad other scents that don´t fall into the heavy oriental category – the austere beauty of Encens et Lavande, the bloom-like precision of Sa Majesté or Un Lys, the otherworldly iciness of Iris Silver Mist. But none of these most marvellous creations strike me as everyday scents, even though they go through periods of everyday use for me. They are all essentially odd – misfits in the world of smell. No matter how elegant and refined everything about the brand may be, they´re quirky and jerky and different much more than they´re ever proper´. There´s nothing BCBG about them.

Which is why I suppose Rousse surprises me, right from the first sniff. My immediate response was that Sheldrake and Lutens are continuing to head in new directions, and here they seemed to have picked up a trick or two from both Ellena and Giacobetti. However, that´s not to say Rousse is anything other than recognisably Lutens.

It opens with a sweet, softly spiced and slightly astringent blast – like cinnamon sugar on toast with a dash of zest. But then what hit me as most significant was an emergent sense of openness to the scent – like with Ellena (and Giacobetti to a lesser degree) there is a quality of sheer layers brushing up against each other here, rather than a thick diffusion of smell. Perhaps Borneo has this quality too: as though non-essential elements of the scent have been gutted from it, only leaving what exactly does the job. And this is where it gets difficult for me to describe the scent itself-it´s clear, crushed, a little dusty. Like a layer of something on a gnarled country table, the oak pitted and worn. Rustic, russet, rousse – the etymology seems strikingly relevant – this isn´t an urban smell.

When I first sniffed this, I wrote to Patty and March and told them it was all of an apple pie – the pastry crust (soft, buttery, dusty), the cinnamon, a couple of cloves – and of course none too sweet apples. That captures part of what this scent is and potentially makes it sound like a gourmand monstrosity – a Yankee air freshener turned into a teen perfume. But it´s also a child of the Bois series, related to Feminité but most closely, if memory serves, Bois Oriental. And this is why it´s typical Serge. For, in spite of the apple pie hominess, the transparency, the similar dry down to Idole de Lubin where the spices heat up and become more prominent, it´s woody and inventive and encapsulates something that is ineffably part of that house. I love it.

So, Serge and Chris, time for a kiss and a cuddle. We´re back on, boys.

Oh, and by the way, if I was to triangulate its position, I´d say it lies somewhere in the orange brown territory marked out by the borders of Bois Oriental, Idole de Lubin and Cinnamon Tiger Balm. The last product was my cure all in my late teens and early twenties, and may be the reason I loved this scent on first sniff: it transports me. And there´s nothing better than that. It´s also, for me at least, what gives it that quintessential SL oddness. And if you think oddness is out, you´re at the wrong blog.

45 Comments

  1. Loved your review. I know what you mean about these two, although FdeB is my all-time favourite scent.Must sniff this one when I am next in France.

  2. You’ve pretty much nailed my ménage à trois with Serge and Christopher as well… And described quite accurately the “opening-up” of a scent which I perceive to be the hallmark of contemporary perfumery. Not that the SLs aren’t modern in their own way, for instance in their juxtaposition of a borderline unattractive opening note with an oriental base. But after delving for months into vintage scents, I’ve found myself craving that openness again. It’s nice to read your thoughts in this format, and your style neatly fits in with/ complements Patty’s and March’s. Let’s hear it for perfumeland’s newest ménage à trois!

  3. Great write-up, Lee. I am currently deep in my SL grove-couldn’t decide this a.m. between Fumerie Turque and Arabie, so went with Feminite. But, there are indeed days they all overwhelm…and not just me. Colleague sillage, you know. So-is Rousse part of the export line, or do I need to confirm those reservations for June?

  4. That was a great review for a much anticipated scent. Thanks so much for doing this for us, L!!!
    I do hope it’s different enough from Chypre Rouge which disappointed me, I’m sad to say…

    Be well,
    E

  5. Urggggh!!! Sounds like a must-have, or at least a must-sample. And I’m (sorta, kinda) on a no-buy! Great review (although I must say I do consider EeL an everyday scent):)

  6. Dear Lee,
    I read this and feel like dying my hair and sucking on a cinnamon stick. I watched the auction on ebay for this one. It ended at over $200. Hopefully it’ll be out soon. I hope to read more of you here! :d

  7. K – it should be available in the usual SL spots in London (or Manchester…) soon as it’s part of the export series.

  8. CC
    I’d say this one is richly open – if that doesn’t seem too oxymoronic…

  9. Louise

    I’m glad you’ve got your groove on. FdeB would be a perfect choice for the weather outside my window right now.

    It’s export all the way with this one. I think it’ll be much better received than Chypre Rouge, though I’m usually hopeless at guessing popularity.

  10. Helg

    I’m pleased to say it’s very different to CR and much closer in spirit to M-M: there’s almost a conventional streak running through it. I quite like CR but I can see where all the bleurgh comes from – that immortelle note does blend with the sugar overload and the spices to create a bizarre female BO quality… even though it’s autumnal BO!

    Rousse is paler in its nasal atack and definitely more refined. Soft in quality.

  11. Judith

    I’m almost out of my EetL bell jar: of all the SLs, it’s my most everyday scent. But still not ‘everyday’ in the same sense that an Ellena can be (and everyday doesn’t mean the same thing as quotidian to me – perhaps closer to comforting).

    Actually, it IS a comfort scent all the way. I wish I’d put that up there…

  12. $200! Jeepers! That’s crazy… and unsniffed too – something of a risk. I wish I knew when it was out – somewhere between now and March is the closest I can ascertain. For me, it’s my first FBW of 2007 (yes, I know we’re only 8 days in!).

  13. Love this review, and can’t wait to get my hands on this little gem!

    ISM not an everyday scent? Pish-tosh, you’re crazeee, that is the closest thing to a HG I have. 🙂

  14. Patty

    .. and that is why I wrote the last line in my review! I’m now imagining you a la Tilda Swinton in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, probably feeding Turkish Delight to all and sundry. I’m hoping you still have snow just to make the picture complete. Would Buddy pull you along on a sled?

  15. Lee, that was lovely! Perhaps you can tell me something I’ve been wondering about — what is that unusual waxy note in FdB and the other Lutens “bois” scents? It seems like a “signature,” and it ruins it for me. But perhaps it is a signature that makes the whole line lovely to others… any ideas? Patty?

  16. L — I am very much looking forward to my apple pie. I have a mixed-bag relationship with Serge, particularly the cedar-y ones (and there are a lot; “bois” in the name is a bad sign).

    Chypre Rouge — guess I am a fan club of one … how can people not swoon over that wacked-out immortelle burrito of SL kookiness?

  17. Loved your review! I cannot agree more – most SLs have a strong conceptual appeal to me and are mostly worn in winter. I’m hoping Rousse might be more wearable. Thanks! Keep it up, Leo! 😡

  18. Several years ago I had a job in a kind of funky, creative office in NYC. One of the people who worked there was good friends with the nicest guy in the world, who happened to be named Chris. This was before perfume blogs and before I got seriously interested in perfume. This Chris worked for one of the big perfume companies in NYC, and worked on some top secret projects he could never talk about. Yes, years later I realized this was Christopher Sheldrake, and no, I never asked him a single solitary intelligent question about perfume, and I had no idea he was the genius behind so many of the scents that fascinate/repell/compell us these days! URGH.

  19. Ellen

    Thank you. Y’know, I’m not a note expert, so I can only surmise… beeswax absolute? But really, I’ve no idea. There are probably wiser people than me on this front here.

    Glad you liked the review even if you and the scents don’t always agree.

  20. March

    Well, this one is a bit bois like, though the cinnamon rules over anything woody. I think you’ll like it, though whether it will hold a place in your heart like CR (I remember your poetic praise of this one), I dunno.

  21. Ina

    It’s a winter scent I think (you never know though til summer’s here) but possibly more wearable than many.

    Thanks for the lovely comments – you charmer, you!

  22. So here’s my question, Leo (I can call you Leo, can’t I?) Have you tried La Myrrhe? This is one of the exclusives I have always wanted to try, and I will get the chance when I visit in February, but I get the impression that it’s not that easy to decide how you feel about a scent in the SdPRS with the SA hovering over you and your meager French skills. Is this true? Have you been there? And wasn’t there another scent this year that was supposed to ape Tiger Balm? I can’t remember what it was…

  23. Agritty

    It’s good to hear that there are decent people out there working at the top of their field – very good indeed. Shame though that you missed out on talking to one of the best perfumers-in-the-world-to-be about scent though!

  24. Tigs

    I have a decant of La Myrrhe here though I’ve never really tried it at length (I have a thing about aldehydic notes), but it did get a distinct bitter almond impression too – which is probably WAAAY out… It’s highly feminine to me. It is a kissing cousin of Chanel No. 5.

    You know, I’ve never been to the Salons Shiseido – last time I was in Paris, I was too busy having night-time adventures to get much done in the way of shopping. I don’t think I made it out of three arrondisements… I’ll be back there soon and it’s on my list, just below Guerlain. My French is pretty lousy, but charm, politeness, and a sense of owning the place has always cut through Parisian hauteur for me. And I’m a bit of a scruff in person, so it should work for an elegant Northern European like you! Alternatively, ignore the sniffiness and just go for it!

  25. Lee-

    First let’s just color me pea green with envy, at both getting to sniff this one and the quality of the writing in your review. To you, sir I bow.

    I think one of the reasons I love this house to the level of distraction I do is that they are weird: strange, compelling and challenging. Sometimes a little scary. I wear them like a badge of honor: I may be forced to be in my button-down world in my office and have meetings and use phrases like “skill-set” but I can pull my collar out and get a tiny whiff of a Souk or a Mongolian Warrior or Turkish Delight or even Killer Bees on Crack.

    And all is right with my world. ;))

  26. Tom

    Sirrah, you flatter me. Thank you!

    See, they’re transporters. We agree. Except mine’s a little more prosaic transport than yours!

    Oh, and fyi, you might want to spray Miel de Bois elsewhere… those killer bees could cause serious posterior swelling…

  27. Mr. Leopoldo, that was a beautifully written overview of the wacky magic that is the SL line. I can’t wait to try Rousse. I wonder what it is about Tiger Balm that is getting so many noses motivated to produce their own versions. Heeley has come out with a scent called Spirit of the Tiger that is supposed to have been inspired by the balm. I wonder if anyone reading this has tried it. As for me, I’m fighting the temptation to go put some Tiger Balm right on the tip of my nose, where my nostrils can get a full blast. No, it’s pointless, I’m losing that fight. Gotta go.

  28. I shall begin the hunt for Rousse this week-end. It’s meant to be pre-released in certain selected stores in January, and generally released on March 15th. I can’t imagine the Palais-Royal not having it, otherwise my bet would be on Le Bon Marché…

  29. Maria B,
    I received a sample of Spirit of the Tiger late last week. I haven’t had a chance yet to get to know it well as I have only used it in a vain attempt to cover another (malodorous) sample. But what I could tell was very interesting. LOTS of clove, which I love, and very little sweetness. I look forward to smelling it alone!

  30. It took me all day to finally come here…and what a fantastic review! “Like a layer of something on a gnarled country table, the oak pitted and worn.” Ah! WANT! Leo, would I like this, do you think? I think I am going to adore it. *bites nails*

  31. Leo, Thanks for an intriguing and articulate review. I can’t wait to try Rousse. I love that weird and wonderful house of Serge Lutens. Even the ones I don’t care for intrigue me immensely.

  32. Reading this review made me think if a Lutens was a punctuation mark, it would be a ” ! “.

    If Giacobetti was a punctuation mark, it would be a ” , “.

    If Ellena was a punctuation mark, it would be a ” …”

    Which is why Rousse with hints of Giacobetti/Ellena leaves me wondering with a ” ? “

  33. Maria B

    I didn’t know that about the Heeley scent. If I can be bothered with transatlantic posting, I might aim for a sample sometime from Luckyscent.

    I hope you didn’t burn your nose.

  34. CC

    Please let us know whether you track this down. I want it!

  35. Gail – you’re piquing my interest on the Heeley front, dagnabit!

  36. M

    I can’t imagine you not liking it. You might think it’s not quite weird enough for a SL, but put that to one side and I’m sure you’ll love it.

  37. Gaia

    I’m finding it swoonworthy – the right side of pot pourri fortunately. I’ve just aplied almost my last dab and it was boozy this morning. I imagine it will be seductive on a woman.

  38. Donna – it’s certainly intriguing. It’s a must try, I think.

  39. iMav – I wouldn’t take the Ellena / Giacobetti refs too exactly – it was my way of thinking myself into the scent. I’d stick with the exclamation mark (but in a friendly font).

  40. I’m late, because of a 14-hr. workday…

    Great review, Bubbeleh.
    Thanks for creating lemming, you brat.
    Evil, evil boy.
    WHERE did I put that cat-o-ninetails ?

    “He had it coming.
    He had it coming.
    He only had himself to blame…”

  41. Ida

    hope you can rest up today. Now, put down that weapon. You might be able to carry a showtune, but that dosn’t mean you’re whipping my butt!!

  42. I’m even later. Fantastic review! I just got to try this today and am loving it. I really see the comparison to Idole.
    And…umm…SL sl*t that I am, I suppose I love them and find almost all of them incredibly wearable precisely because I am so quirky. 🙂

  43. Thank you for such a great review. It was really interesting to read your posting about perfumes, as because I am a great perfume lover.:x

  44. I dislike the trend of many perfume houses to launch many fragrances just to have something new every year. Serge Lutens in particular has given us a few fragrances which ought to become classics. I speak of Chergui in particular. Ambre Sultan is also unique and wonderful.

    Yet, I fear the creators and manufacturer of the Sege Lutens line will not do what it takes to establish their best products as lasting “classics” which will always be available to connoisseurs of perfumery. What if Chergui is allowed to fade away, so to speak? I would be dissapointed.

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