Five O’Clock Snooze

Sniffa attendees: Patty and I and Divalino have triple-dog-dared each other into some shenanigans. Look for me in a tasteful rhinestone tiara at the Sniffa Bergdorf breakfast on Saturday; I believe Patty will be wearing her KU cap (and won´t we be a sight?) At the BlueMercury cocktail event that night I plan to wear Hecate´s festive pink antennae (pictured at left), and I think Divalino is wearing a light-up tiara of her own. I invite all Posse readers to join us in wearing either headgear or a jaunty scarf to the day’s events, or just have a laugh at our expense.

On to today´s post:

Once upon a time there was a house called Serge Lutens. Its fragrances never failed to amaze me. They took me on journeys that lasted all day as the dominant notes ebbed and flowed. They were so intense I could rarely sample more than two in a single setting before my nose stopped working properly. Some of them I loved; some of them I hated. Even the ones I considered unwearable are still interesting, multifaceted scents, better left to others with different skin chemistries (or perfume desires) than mine.

Read off a list of Serges and smile at the wonder of it all. Santal Blanc, Tubereuse Criminelle, Borneo, Muscs Koublai Khan, Fumerie Turque, the Bois series, Encens et Lavande, Iris Silver Mist … the list goes on and on, doesn´t it? Fantastic. Nothing like them, really.

I´m going to draw my arbitrary line at 2005 as the point at which things at SL begin to get a little … tenuous. Bois et Musc I like, a lot, but it´s another in the Bois series and thus hardly represents a groundbreaking new idea. Next up: Mandarin Mandarine, which I like, sort of, only it seems a bit thin and raspy, although many folks would probably give it bonus points for lacking that signature Serge syrup. Again, very nice and certainly easy to wear, but IMHO not quite on the same level as the earlier Serges. Then we have Gris Clair, a (less interesting) riff on the earlier, so-gorgeous-it-makes-me-weep Encens et Lavande. Taken together, Mandarin Mandarine and Gris Clair signal a new kind of Serge – ones that feel more like a rough sketch of an interesting idea than a finished work.

Then we have Chypre Rouge, which I liked very much (and many people didn´t) but more because it was refreshingly weird than any real desire to wear it, and I missed weird from my Serge. I could argue convincingly that Chypre Rouge shares some of the raspy smell and feel of the two scents that came before it, and they all start to feel like competing drafts of something else. Sarrasins is a variation on the theme of A La Nuit, and I don´t care how dark they dye it or how pretty the bottle is, at that point I´m beginning to wonder, are they out of ideas? Are there no notes left to explore?

This worrisome thought certainly wasn´t alleviated by Rousse and Louve. I won´t rag on Rousse, which has a ton of fans, but again – whither the Serge freak flag? Just my opinion, but a fragrance that smells mostly of cinnamon candies, no matter how cheery, fails to join the august ranks of SL´s older scents. Louve smells like heliotrope/cherry-almond/marzipan, and if, as a Basenotes commenter suggests, it is a ringer for the scent of Vidal Sassoon shampoo in the 70s, that does nothing to improve its impression on me. You can like it, or not, but you will never convince me it´s interesting. It´s also on some level possibly a less-syrupy reworking of Rahat Loukoum, but as I don´t have a sample I can´t say for sure.

Bringing us right up to Five O´Clock au Gingembre, the fragrance that was going to redeem Serge Lutens in my eyes. Notes are: bergamot, vetiver, ginger, honey, beeswax, labdanum and vanilla. I spent several days applying and reapplying with an atomizer until I´d blown through most of my generous sample in various working conditions. Hey, it´s nice. Pretty. It has the same raspy feel of Mandarine, Chypre Rouge, Rousse and Gris Clair, and approximately the same weight. It´s a simple idea with minimal development. It´s gingery and honey and hay and maybe a little vanilla musk. My favorite part is the drydown when it shifts from ginger-tea to a sweet vanilla skin scent. I bet if I sprayed it on and went to a cocktail party, I might get some compliments on it.

If I’d discovered something that smells like Five O’Clock au Gingembre on the shelf at Sephora between Ralph Wild and Stella McCartney, I´d be ecstatic. But sniffing and resniffing, I keep getting the sinking feeling that if I layered, say, a dab of John Varvatos Vintage and Demeter Honey with Roger & Gallet Gingembre, I would get something like SL Gingembre – a little less fancy than Serge’s version, maybe, but with better lasting power.

Coming from Serge Lutens, “nice” and “pretty” isn´t good enough for me. Not by a mile. Serge, where is your mojo? These fragrances, they´re flaccid. They´re hazy and lazy and indistinct. They lack your signature touch. Where is the rollercoaster-thrill of fear I used to get when trying a brand new Serge that came from the knowledge that I might spend the rest of the day wishing I could hack my own arm off? (See: Arabie, Miel de Bois, Borneo.) Is this all there is? The best you can do? Maybe you should hang up your spurs, develop some new interests. Restoring ancient castles or pursuing your long-deferred dream of becoming an entomologist, or what have you. Enough of this Serge-goes-to-Macy´s folderol. I don´t care how pretty it smells; these nice fragrances are beneath you. Go find your old bad self, okay? Because right now you are, as my rancher friends used to say, all hat and no cattle.

121 Comments

  1. Flipping heck have you shocked everyone into stunned silence, March? because this is the first time ever I am the first to comment. Kind of know what you mean about 5 o’clock. I tried it a week or so ago and thought it was lovely. Really lovely. I was anxious to try it again this saturday just gone when I met Silvia for lunch and sniffage and I did spray it on a tester strip and again thought oh how lovely! But the thing is I got distracted – easily. And ended up buying (ok that cute little Diptyque coffret set of 15ml of 4 scents – largely because the cute french boy showed us the layering possibilties of Philosykos and Tam Dao) a very small bottle of Arabian Oud stuff from the Arabian Oud shop which is just AMAZING. I completely forgot about 5 o’clock. It is lovely though……

    • Nah, I think it was that the post just went up about 15 minutes ago. Weird. It was in the published posts part of WordPress; you just set them ahead to publish at a certain time (we do it late at night). Of course I was in bed at 11 :”> because I have little kids and get up early. So I didn’t realize until this morning that it didn’t ever publish itself. I went back in there and hit “publish” again, and here it is. I have no idea, never happened before. Probably the badly-behaved emoticon gremlins…

      Oh, lunch and sniffage with Silvia, that sounds like fun! I wish I’d been there. And as far as I’m concerned you were better off with the Diptyque coffret, and thanks for selecting my fragrance this morning, layering Tam Dao and Philosykos had not occurred to me, and why not? It sounds amazing. Patty and Louise LOVE that Arabian oud shop btw.

    • Isn’t the Arabian Oud shop the bomb? I spent hours in their last summer, bought 2 blends and a pure oud that almost rendered March unconscious when she sampled it. After they realized I was actually going to buy something, they invited me downstairs for dates and coffee-and smelling the high class (read: very expensive) scents, and the burning oud chips. Heaven ^:)^

      • Hehehehe, we got the same treatment (minus the dates). I was totally overwhelmed, went into my-God-I-love-everything mode and was not able to select anything. Nicola bagged a wonderful dark saffron rose oud thingy. I am carrying a series of tissues in my handbag where various oils were dabbed and keep pulling them out. Hope people don’t think I am in love with my own snot…

      • Hi Louise! You’re so right about the Arabian shop. Am envious though as we didn’t get dates when we were invited downstairs ;)Anyway I am totally going back next month for the Jasmine. I bought Molook I think it’s called, saffron, rose and oud. Sheer heaven. I am now a convert. I’d like some of that burny stuff too – the SA showed us how to scent our hair and clothes. Sigh. Heh if you’re ever over here again, look us up!

    • I just can’t take it any more. What *is* the deal over there? You know, if they want to announce a change in direction — from now on we’ve decided to ape the lighter style of Monsieur Ellena — okay, I’ll find a way to adjust my expectations. But now I put it on and sniff and think, wth?!?! No, Serge, no. And it’s not like we don’t have plenty of lighter-weight alternatives. Serge had the opaque, impenetrable base covered, and I liked it that way.

  2. Hello, but can you say peer pressure!!?? Geez March, thank heavens it’s tiaras you have your sights on, not cigarettes! I suppose now I’ll have to dig through the prop box & find it. Let’s hope the flashy thingies still have some juice in em. Sheesh. 😉

    Gingembre. You are my skin sister on this one. On me it did have development tho, it clearly went from hmmmm to meh; started with zip & slid into nothing much.
    Re: Serge. As usual, I’m late to the party. In early 80’s NYC I’d missed most of the great clubs of the 70s, totally missed Max’s, almost missed Mudd Club, and true to form here I am hitting Serge right past the glory days. I will say however that Bois et Musc is my fave Bois after Un Bois Vanille which is not so much Bois-y on me as Vanille.

    • Hon, you can totally blow off the tiara and no hard feelings whatsoever. I mostly want Posse people to know who we are, because I will be really bummed if I don’t get to meet someone. Posse people, come up the the wack ladies in the a.m. and say hi! If other people wear the stuff, too, it makes it easier for us to find each other…

      It’s not like Gingembre is a terrible fragrance. It’s not, although sort of meh on me. But if I have that on one arm, and any five old SLs on the other …. well, I’d have to wear a noseplug, but you get the idea. Serge wasn’t shy with the aroma.

      • lol I was just ribbing you. That tiara will be with me unless my prop box has eaten it. I claim no responsibility if those flashing lights viewed 1st thing on a Sat morning cause anyone to walk into walls or go catatonic, however.
        And forgot to say, you totally nailed it on the Louve/Sassoon thing.

        • Excellent! Don’t forget to change the batteries! <:-p Vidal Sassoon: I bet that smell made an excellent scent for a shampoo, and that's even more of an argument against it's being a fine fragrance. Just want to make clear this was a Basenotes observation, not mine, although it makes me think of Jergens, which is sort of the same idea.

    • Divalano, if you were there in time for the Mudd Club, what fun. Then you certainly hit CBGB’s. And then, who can complain.

  3. Darn-it March, you are really making me wish I could make it to the sniffa, I want to see you wearing the tiara.

    I was testing Louve yesterday, and like the Basenotes commenter, I had observed that it smelled like a scented shampoo – a very nice shampoo, but still, that is not what I expect from SL. I liked the 5 o’clock better than you, but, there is a fragrance I like very much from Etro called Palais Jamais, which has some smokey tea. If I’d smelled the 5 o’clock first I probably would have admired it way more than I do now – but it’s just way too similar to the Etro so I was disappointed.

    • Oh, we can go out and get drunk some night and I’ll wear it. Although I’ll warn you that, like the song says, tequila makes my clothes fall off. 😉 You know, I have a sample of that Palais Jamais around here somewhere, will have to go dig it up.

      • Tequila hey? 😕

        Do go try the PJ, I think you might like it. I hope you guys take some pics at the sniffa and post them.

        • I’ll do my best. As I said on here somewhere, I always forget to take pics, too busy having fun. :d/

  4. Well, I agree with your editorial, this has been a year of disappointments for me perfume-wise, and 5-o’clock was just, cute. HOWEVER, it did a great job for my academic team of elementary schoolers when they were at European Finals, stuck in a crowded, hot hall full of little brainiacs, and were about to faint or freak out while awaiting their turn for another vicious quiz. I dabbed my sample on all of them, and they began sniffing their wrists and calming down. It was the ginger, I think. The judges asked for some, too! So perhaps Serge has gone the Way of Aromatherapy??

    • Aw, that’s really sweet! And a nice distraction for the kids. I don’t think they should put the little guys under that kind of pressure, but I know they have to learn somehow. And 5 o’clock would be calming and focusing, I agree. So yes, maybe I should think of it as aromatherapy. Next up will be some herbal thingy that smells like the inside of the Aveda store…

      • Ow! Day-am, March! I’m skeered o’ YOU! 3:-o 3:-o 3:-o

        there’s some cattle for Serge, btw – tell him to come and get ’em!!!

        Anyway, this clears up a LOT about the Sls for me. As a noob with a finely-honed sense of light citrus and floral, I was drawn to Gris Clair but shied away from the earlier SLs. Perhaps it’s experiences like mine that have prompted SL to go ‘lite’? Personally, I think that’s a bad thing, unless his sales suck so bad that he has to start blending for the masses or go out of business? Of course, if he’s going to start down the Tommy Girl Road then maybe the entomology degree isn’t such a bad idea…

        • Well, they’re very quiet about their fragrances. It’s not like they’re out there sending signals about what they are thinking. I do think most people who sniffed the entire line sequentially would agree there’s been a design change, but as your experience points out, a certain percentage could argue reasonably that the change is for the better. At its base, a fragrance should be wearable, right? And I am no fan of the really sweet, syrupy ones. But they were so very interesting. I appreciated that.

  5. I don’t get it. Is the tiara something you wouldn’t normally wear :d ? I bet I find you in the crowd. Now I must review my accessories.

    Serge and I are pretty much over. Very sad…Datura Noir was my gateway into niche, and I still love it. And Arabie, Ambre Sultan, some of the Bois, Chypre Rouge. But he’s gonna have to b-slap me hard to win me back now. Too many disappointments of late
    🙁

    So psyched for the weekend!

    • Yes, you are a person who I would imagine is totally disappointed in the newer scents, given the beautiful way you can work the older ones. SL’s early stuff was made for your scent-eating skin.

      How about a scarf? You don’t have to wear antennae. /:)

  6. Hi everybody!!
    Just discovered your website about a month ago and …congratulations..I’m already addicted!:)
    I’m absolutely in love with Gris Clair and thinking about buying Encense et Lavande…I’m so lucky that I do live in Europe, but I’d like to actually try a sample before spending all that money..is there any decant seller you know over here in Europe (because the brand itself doesn’t send liquid samples as I found out..)?I mean,there’s always ThePerfumedCourt, but it’s like a month of waiting..and I’m terribly impatient!

    • Encens et Lavande is fabulous! It’s hot and cold at the same time and just fascinates me! If you already love Gris Clair, I see no reason why you shouldn’t love this one as well (or more).

      • “Bad” to know it’s so good!You know what this means? Obsession!I’ll end up buying it without even trying it..Before Gris Clair, I didn’t even care for lavender, except in the garden.And now look at me!!Never thought it could be so exciting.It just melts into my skin, and lasts forever!It was this kind of love at first sight you can’t even predict! I had the firm intention of buying Fleur D’Oranger (this one’s really nice and easy to wear) but then it happend:lavender magic!!
        Talking about lavender..is the lavender one from the Hermessence series worth trying?
        Another new SL I’m not quite sure of liking/disliking is Chypre Rouge..I think I get too much fruity smell and not so much chypre itself..but I’ll give it another try.

        • Lavender isn’t my thang, so much. The Hermessence one is lavender and anise (licorice) and just typing those words makes me flinch. 🙂 If you’re in love with lavender I hope you try Andy Tauer’s lavender one .. which is now escaping me, dank — Reverie au Jardin — and Guerlain Jicky in the EDT, if you have not. Both amazing in completely different ways.

          • Ashamed to say I don’t even know the Andy Tauer brand!!But I’ll definitely give it a try!
            Oh,yes, Jicky..I discovered a shop in a city here about 30 km away who still has practically ALL old Guerlains! And the best thing is that they even have testers!Pretty happy to be able to get to (finally) smell Jicky, Mitsouko, Vol de Nuit and others..I think I´m even more excited about this than on my last date…isn’t that sad?:)

            • Andy’s his own little shop, makes his own stuff … and it’s amazing. Well worth looking for on the internet. My personal favorite is Lonestar Memories, an amazing, evocative leather.

    • Hey, welcome! So glad to hear you’re addicted!

      I would think EetL would be worth a sniff. I like it better than Gris Clair, I find it heavier and sweeter. My best guess is you’d at least like it, even if you prefer Gris Clair. They are similar. As far as decants, I have no idea if there’s a European decanter. They used to be on eBay, but all the decanters were kicked off US eBay, my guess is that was true for Europe as well. So I’m sorry, I don’t know of another source.

      • Thanks for answering so fast!!Ok,I guess I’ll do it with PerfumedCourt and count the days ’till the parcel’s here!
        By the way, nice to know there’s such a biiiiiiiiiiig community of perfumelovers…everywhere around the globe! (you know, I can’t talk about perfume with my family..neither with friends..and I have to hide the new bottles I buy..they’d think I’m insane!! But you know, sniffing/reading about/writing about pefumes makes me happy..so…who cares??
        :)>-

        • I know, I know!!! I feel your pain. I don’t even have that many bottles (a lot of samples though) but people think it’s plain weird. Look out for the sample habit, they wind up all over the house! 😉

      • Oh,hey!Thanks!Just saw your answer today! Thanks, I’ll have a look!

  7. I would REALLY love to see pictures of the Posse friends and family! Is there somewhere you can post them on the blog?

    As for the 5 o’clock, I’ll stick with Origins Ginger Essence for my ginger fixes. It makes me sad also, because Chergui was my gateway niche ‘fume and I have quite the soft spot for old Serge
    :((

    • I’m going to try to remember to take photos, either with my phone or with my digital camera, and upload them when I get back. But I warn you I tend to get into the event and forget about photos. Just ask my family. 🙂

      Chergui was I think my first Serge love.

  8. What an adorable picture, and I’m sure you can do the pink attenae justice, M. Everybody take tons of pictures and report back to the rest of us that can’t be there! Interesting post, considering that I just this morning dabbed on a samp of Gris Clair on one arm and Rousse on the other. Meh to both. The lone SL that gets love from me is Encens et Lavande, which is serenity in a decant. My other Serge samples are going out in a swap package this afternoon – hey, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of interesting perfume to discover.:-b

    • EetL is stunning, although (I think I posted this on here once) I am embarrassed to admit it makes me weepy. Not sad, just weepy. :”>

  9. :xHECATE IS DARLING!!….As just a regular,simple Ohio fan,of course I won’t be attending any sniff/snort a-thons (sobs a bit into hanky),I’m begging you to take pics,if allowed….I actually long for your musings….such fun…..carry on my divas…enjoy,enjoy:x:x:x:x

    • I agree – Hecate is absolutely gorgeous! Meant to say that in the earlier post but was stunned like an ox by the power of your Lutens diatribe;)

      (ummmm, don’t look now…but that little >-) guy just did a weird morph thing (started out as a yellow something then he popped through, like Alien. Freaky!)

      • Thanks. That pic’s been up before on here, a year or so ago. I think it captures her essence. Which is, naughty. And a whole lot more. 😡

        I’m telling you, I think the emoticons are up to something.

    • I think we should have a Midwest Sniffa in Chicago. Chicago is such a great, great city — tons of sniffage. The hotel rooms have got to be cheaper than NYC. The shopping is awesome. And I could gorge on more chocolates from that Sarah’s candies place. Just don’t make me come in the winter. :-ss

        • :o:oOMG…..wait a moment here…chocolate,AND ‘fumes????…swoon….slobber….drool…I mean.how would you decide when enough is enough,and go home???(KLUNK…..falls on floor,at the mere thought of all the goodies)

          • You want chocolate? You want CHOCOLATE? How ’bout we combine chocolate and perfume and we sniff and spritz and then we tour all the bestest chocolate places…ending with the Chocolate ‘tea’ at the Peninsula, which is beyond anything I can describe! If you decide this is going to happen, make sure you give me your must-do’s…and we will incorporate them into a wild and wooly weekend!

            You Posseites just say the word and I’ll get the wheels in motion!

            • Word. But I’d prefer that it not be within the next month….

            • There you are! I swear it’s my allergy meds, I can’t find my own head. Well, the main problem with the plan is I’m too lame to actually organize anything. OTOH the D.C. Sniffa we did was not a HUGE step above showing up at the stores and having lunch. I believe the NYC Sniffa started basically as a bunch of MUA(?) gals getting together at a certain time and place. I think for D.C., Nancy just called Saks and Bloomies and said what we were doing, and they set up a room and a goodie bag for us. It wasn’t a huge deal; they wanted an estimate for the goodie bags. And everyone’s on their own for the hotel. Any interest in organizing this? I’d say the fall (after school starts) would be good for me — September or October? Then the weather’s nice.

              I’ll take a survey on another post and try to gauge the interest.

              • You don’t have to plan it – I’ll do it. It will definitely give me a break from watching the price of stainless steel go through the roof! Just when/if you do your poll for interest, let me know what you all would most like to do and if you have particular ‘wants’ (must go to _______). I spend my whole life organizing stuff for work – might as well organize something for fun!:)) Sniffin’/lunch/chocolate….what could be easier or more fun?

                I agree that it should probably be a bit later – you will all be sniffed-out right after the ‘palooza, don’t you think? Besides, Chicago is better experienced when it’s warmer-than-cooler, since cool has a tendency to turn to Cold with a quickness.

                  • If this is to me, feel free to wait until things settle down – after Sniffa. Your days sound packed right now!

      • OOOH!OOOH!OOOH!<:-p Yes, Midwest Sniffa! OOOH! Let me know and I will be there will bells on and can do some advance planning, if you like!!! Are you thinking summer? Mid-fall? After Halloween the weather is iffy. There are so many fun fragrance places and I know all the good SAs...and we can venture out to Geneva for a truly charming little shop called Odalisque, if there's time...if you come early in the 'season' I think the hotels are a bit more reasonable...and we can have great fun drinkin' and eatin' and yellin' and shootin' up the place!!! It can't measure up to the 'palooza(*)of course but it could be a blast!

        • Yes, summer to early fall before the rain sounds great to me. I’d need time to save up some $$$.

        • definitely interested! June would be good – not too hot?

  10. Agree with pretty much everything you say (except that I admit to a deep fondness for Gris Clair; I tend to wear EeL in the winter and this in the summer. Still. . . I see what you mean). I would also add Sarrasins to the group. I think, perhaps, Sheldrake has just been too busy with, um, other endeavors.

    Regarding headgear: if I can figure out how to get my fedora there without either smushing it in my suitcase or wearing it all day Friday (and having awful smushed hat-hair). If not, well, my hair itself could count as “headgear.” 8-| Ask Patty.

    • Hahahhaha!!! Can’t wait to see your hair! Is it very very very curly? Did you spend decades fighting with it, trying to make it straight?

      Well, we know Chris Sheldrake has had a lot on his plate. But it still feels like a deliberate change in a direction to … mediocrity. Or something. That didn’t come out right, but you know what I mean.

    • Yes (very curly), Yes (years of misery trying to straighten), Yes (deliberate nosedive into mediocrity). (I guess I’m just very agreeable today>:)>-

  11. A thought-provoking post. SL ought to be allowed “artistic growth” and all that though, right? I mean, wouldn’t it be just as dull if he kept right on w/ the same thing year after year? I would date the new more minimalist SL to 2004 (Chene & Daim Blond & Citronnier) and have a sort of vague feeling that he hasn’t entirely settled into whatever it is he is trying to do since then, or alternatively, isn’t as interested in the whole process as he once was. A few of the scents, Louve & Gris Clair esp., have the feel of “flankers” and would make more sense to me as limited editions.

    Anyway, 5 O’Clock has gone into my purgatory basket for later consideration. For now, I’ll agree with “nice”.

    • Well, that’s a good argument. To answer the first: no, SL is not allowed any artistic development. :d They have to keep making heavy, twisted, occasionally unwearable fragrances forever. Hmmm. Again, my opinion, but they did “heavy” better than they do light. Taken together, would you agree the Serge Lites are less interesting than, say, the Hermessences?

      Am considering Chene, Daim Blond and Citronnier. Good argument. Citronnier was (on me) a really nasty-smelling variant on FdO, but it could kill anyone at 20 paces, so I didn’t think of it as light. But maybe not a new idea. Daim Blond, okay, smooth, but I guess I was feeling like SErge was throwing us a bone. Like Gris Clair. An … an easing up in wait rather than something dull. Still smells very Serge to me. And Chene I am going to have to respectfully disagree on because it is *huge* on me, I feel like I’m this puny person in front of a redwood or something. And it lasts forever on my skin. So, not orientalist, but very Serge.

      • Yes, but Chene is huge because it’s strong, not because it’s massively complicated, no? I mean, that’s just what it is: a huge hunk o’ wood. It isn’t overly embellished, to my nose, and that is how I think of the early SL aesthetic: embellish, embellish some more, add syrup, embellish one last time.

        I really like Chene & Rousse & Miel de Bois, but they have the feeling of “little ideas” or “little smells” — a style of perfumery I’m fond of, but very out of character for what we expect from SL. Tania on Chene from Perfumes: The Guide — “less a fragrance than a proposal for further discussion”. Proposal for further discussion scents are often just exactly my sort of thing.

        Would never have thought to compare them to the Hermessences, will have to think about that.

        • I like it that you’ll argue with me, and I’ve a feeling I’m going to lose this one. Maybe I better stick to my objection to overt lightness in weight … and yeah, clearly you and I are more proposal types than TS and certainly LT. I think Osmanthe Yunnan was the only Hermessence they didn’t rag, if I remember right.

          • Really? Dang. I’m surprised they didn’t grok Poivre S. I can’t wait to read their reviews. Wonder where my other faves will land!?

          • Not arguing w/ your central point, anyway — I’d agree that Serge is doing a higher percentage of boring scents than he used to.

            • I still remember My First Time with several of the early Serges. Maybe I’m too jaded at this point to recapture the thrill.

          • Hey, well they picked the right Hermessence not to rag on, anyway!

  12. Was Bois et Musc really released in 2004? I think I saw that in Basenotes once, but then Luca Turin mentions a Serge exclusive “musc” variation of Feminite du Bois in the 1994 guide (along with “vanille”,… “fruit et violette”) and I always assumed it was around forever, so I ignored Basenotes. Perhaps that was unwise. (I shall say here that, against my better judgement, Bois et Musc is my fave of the “original” four.)

    But yeah, I was saddened by this one. Like Divalano up there, I liked the beginning, so was disappointed when it went to the vanilla skin scent so quickly on me. Maybe the saddest thing was that my husband, so schooled in these things now, said: “THAT’S a Serge? Really? Oh well.” To my embarassment, I really like Mandarin Mandarine – it’s the Serge I most often get a craving for, and I refuse to believe it is just some sort of exclusive version of Fd’O. But even though I liked Rousse alright as well -because it is comforting and buttery on me – I wouldn’t buy it. CR seemed like a candied version of Chene to me and Louve was truly dire. I cannot even remember Sarrasins, which speaks volumes. My faves are all from the years 1998-2004, except for Ambre Sultan.

    • Hey, perhaps I’m unwise. I was going by Basenotes and can’t read French. I poked around online but didn’t find another source that listed them chronologically. Hey, I’ll go check OsMoz and report back.

      And wow, your point about CR being candied Chene is an excellent one, hadn’t thought of that, you are dead on. Sarrasins I think of as “the blue one” and if that isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is. Also I hear it stains like hell, and how stupid is that in a fragrance? And don’t be embarrassed about MM, I’d probably like it better if it was from L’Artisan, because that’s where it smells like it belongs, and that’s my bias showing.

    • I stand corrected, I think. OsMoz only goes back to 2000 (interesting) but lists Cedre where I was looking for Musc, so perhaps that’s a cockup on Basenotes’ part. (Although, an aside, they list Bois Vanille in 03 or 04). On the other hand, Cedre, which I’d totally forgotten about, basically smelled like .. wait for it .. cedar on me. And would fit in nicely with my Serge-takes-a-nap argument. 😉

  13. Hmmm…..

    Chergui and FT: awesome!
    Borneo: worse that Etat’s Secretions Magnifique, and that’s saying something
    Rouse: incredibly boring
    Tea for Two and 5:00 Ginger: nice scents that are easy to wear in public, but I can’t ever imagine spending my money on a large decant, let alone a FB.

    I need to smell Arabie and Miel de Bois. I think I would really like those! Give me syrup. :o)

    • Yeah, let’s see, gaggy Serge Syrup 😉 off the top of my head: Miel, Arabie, Chergui, Douce Amere, Rahat, did I miss any, people? I must have.

      BTW Tea for Two is L’Artisan, and I love it.

      Borneo: one of the two scents I bagged and disposed of in the trash.

      • =)) could we be more opposite?

        Douce Amere is possibly my favorite SL – just wonderful on my skin, sweet in a spicey way but not sugary, light spices, a bit of anise, and all centered on wormwood and artemisia. Sigh.
        Love Chergui but too masculine for my tastes. Another of my favorite SLs is …. Borneo – yes, it was love at first sniff. Same with Ambre Sultan.

        But definitely agree with your main thesis – the 5 o’clock was more baroque/rococo than recent releases from SL but still not like my favorites, all of which are real “hit me in the sinuses” scents with layers of scent experience as they develop on the skin.

  14. I am a little bit in mourning for the passing of The Serge, if only because he was the one to lead me into the whole super-niche thing, and to perfume blogs. I liked MM a lot, came around to Rousse, liked Louve (although now that you mention the Vidal Sassoon connection, I’m having flashbacks) even though it is sort of the one-calorie version of Rahat, and like 5 O’Clock enough to get a bottle. But no, I don’t go out of my way or wait with bated breath anymore to see what he has up his sleeve, since he seems more focused on his $75 lipsticks in various shades of greige.

    The timing of this is funny- I was going through the cabinet where the fumes live and pulled out the bell jar of MKK and dabbed a bit on: absolutely stunning. I wanted to have sex with my wrist. Of course I couldn’t wear it out of the house. Maybe that’s the point, but I really miss the days of the “knock your socks off” Serges :((

    • That is CRUEL about the makeup! And I seem to have reached my price point max on lipstick at $30ish or whatever for Lancome. Beyond that and it ought to do my laundry or something. [-(

      Well, yeah. MKK illustrates my point perfectly. Maybe not something you’d want to wear every day, but lordy.

      • For $75 it should do more than your laundry..

        *Bah Dum Pum* He’s here all week folks! Tip your waiter! :d

        • I thought she was being ‘dramatic’ with the $75 lippie. Serious? Serge oughta be …..well….dang. It costs about .10 cents (today’s market prices) to make the actual lipstick. He must want that villa in the South of France real bad and right now 😮

          I’m thinking laundry, dishes, dogwalking (poop cleaning, too)…maybe fixing dinner and a foot massage at the end of the day!

          • There wasn’t even a bit of hyperbole about that price. Check out Barneys website.

            That $160 foundation better work better than the potion in “Death Becomes Her” in rolling the years back…

            $-)

            • Okay, the $160 foundation just makes me laugh. Puh-leeze. I’m thinking the Chanel and Armani are about as high as I’m willing to go.

            • Dang. I spend stupid-money on goofy things but a $160 foundation makes my liver quiver! Can’t wait to see it work its magic, tho!

              Tom,I just wanted to say how lovely your post was on Brian’s mom. Forgot my password so can’t say it there.

        • Hahaha!!! Although let’s not look too closely at our glass houses. Look at all the dough I waste on fragrance, and I already have more than I could ever wear. So I guess if someone needs a $75 lippie, more power to them. Too much for me.

  15. I heard somewhere that Serge Lutens had several fragrances in the can, and was going to devote his attention to developing his makeup line — which I strongly suggest you all sample when you’re at Barney’s this weekend.

    I agree that the earlier fragrances were much more provocative. But plain-old-pretty is nothing to sneeze at, either, when you don’t feel like girding yourself for intellectual battle. That said, I haven’t bought anything in a full bottle since Un Lys came out.

    And where is this oud shop? I’m assuming New York. I’d love to know for the next time I get there.

    • The Arabian Oud shops are in Paris, London, and the mideast. I would happily offer to manage a NY branch, however…/:)

    • It’s just my own pure selfishness. I feel like he did this thing nobody else did, even when I couldn’t stand the smell. :d I wish he’d do another fragrance or two that rocked my world like that.

  16. I also concur; the latest SLs have been, well, safe. I imagine that a random person with little to no experience with niche perfumes would be able to sample them in a store, and find them accessible enough to buy. That may be their logic, you know, getting more people to buy the juice. I prefer to think that Serge is just offering us more layering possibilities. I find that Rousse is so-so on its own, but makes Chene a woody wonder and adds some personality to MM. And if you’re really into unholy unions, Miel de Bois and Vetiver Oriental makes for an amazing ride.
    On an aside, I’ve tried Louve and own a bell jar of Rahat Lokoum, and I think that while they share components, they express two completely different ideas. RL is intoxicating and powdery, dangerous yet syrupy. It’s cyanide and roses. Louve is round and candied. More like candied almonds and glaceed cherries.

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful analysis on Louve vs. Rahat. I had a sense, typing my post, that I was doing RL an injustice, people whose taste I admire are quite fond of it. It sounds like it has the interesting, mildly poisonous effect of Tubereuse Criminelle (using completely different notes of course.)

      I laughed out loud at MdB layered with Vetiver Oriental! Did you discover that by accident? Or on purpose? In any case, nice work, it sounds rather tempting.

      • The MdB-VO mutant freak came about as a dare at Art With Flowers between me and the staff. Lo and behold, it was actually interesting: the wild, rooty spiciness toned down the killer bee honey and played up the woods, with a little bit of beeswax. Who woulda thunkit? Not that I think it’s something you could wear eveyday, but I could see myself trying it again.

        • I’ll try that the next time I’m at AWF. And so you live around here? I should email you first, maybe we can get together.

          Interesting, emoticons entirely on strike and won’t let me insert one.

          • Yup, I’m in Reston, and I make my pilgrimage up to Tyson’s every other week or so to see what’s out. Feel free to e-mail me!

        • I was wondering who had mentioned Art with Flowers because I wanted to say thank you. It must have been you, so thank you. I lived in arlington for a few years and naturally was a regular at Tysons Galleria but didn’t know about it. Now I am way the hell out in Leesburg and I find this lovely little shop. Just another stop on my “hair do” days.

  17. This post makes me so sad because it’s so true. I *adore* Serge – madly – but I feel he needs a perfume creativity intervention (umm…despite the fact that in real life I find the whole concept of interventions beyond loathsome). I like Gingembre, but haven’t even felt moved to use up my small sample yet. 🙁 Too much else to wear that thrills me more.
    But how could I possibly remain sad about Serge when you posted that wonderful picture of Hecate in those beyond divine, uber fun antennae? *LOVE* them. I’ve been working on replicating them ever since you first posted them and have found several fantastic similar headbands. And they are absolutely ideal for the Sniffa. If I ever get my derriere up to a Sniffa – have to leave for Florida later this week, so can’t attend this one 🙁 – I shall wear one of the fun headbands I’ve been collecting.

    • Are you the gal who first asked me about those antennae?!? That’s so funny; I spent quite some time looking for them, on and off. I mean, they seem like the sort of thing you should run across. Only I never did.

      Ooooh, what scents are you taking to Florida?

      • It may well have been me – I was absolutely entranced w/ those antennae from the moment I saw them. 🙂
        Perfume choices are still a major question. Am going for energy medicine classes and perfume is not exactly welcomed by everyone there, I’m afraid. 🙁 Yes, I’m a notorious sillage phobe, but even still…am thinking I will have to choose extremely quiet scents. Since I’m on this vetiver kick, I may choose MH Vetiver Bourbon. I think vetiver could pass for something aromatherapyish, which might be more approved of. But am also thinking of DSH’s Au Lait – quiet comfort.

        • Well, have a great trip! And while you are on your vetiver trip, have you tried the Lubin Vetiver? Which was really nice. And curious if you’ve tried the Givenchy Vetyver, it sounds lovely.

  18. Hello,
    I agree on the demise of Lutens. Can I just say how jealous and torn up I am that I can’t join you guys at the Sniffa? Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!! I just refinanced my house and got a dream job so I guess I am not relocating soon to the East Coast or New Zealand or Barcelona or anywhere. Travel is an increasing priority along with love, new couch, and jewels.
    Oh! Don’t forget perfume, but that is a given.

    • Hey!!!! I MISS YOU!!!! Are you still where you were? Wow, that’s pathetic, let me try again — still located in the same town? It sounds like. In which case, yes, travel is important, along with the other things you’ve named. And I would have loved to meet you at the Sniffa.

      Um, I’d kick the new couch down to the bottom of your list. But that’s just me. 😉

      • Yep, I am still the were-cait that I’ve always been up in the frozen north. Couch is already purchased in the making house my own phase of life. Pretty cool. Can’t complain as the new job got me free weekend at Key Biscayne Ritz Carlton and I will be on my way to SF in a few weeks. The sun is shining on the NEW FALLEN SNOW! so I’m peachy keen.

        • Yay! I’m so happy to hear that you are well. I miss you. It sounds like life is taking a good direction for you.

  19. great post! it seems that i’m coming into this whole perfume-obsession thing at a low-ish point. 50 gajillion new releases a year from 49 gajillion new niche brands, and then SLs new ones and guerlain’s insolence and whatnot. and the prices just keep climbin. it’s slightly disappointing. on the bright side, all the older ones exist! even if i have to go through hoops to get a sample. lol. if i were going to sniffa (and im not unfortunately) i’d wear my wayne’s world hat.

    • Eh, I dunno. It’s like moving to a lovely small town and listening to everyone complain about the newcomers, and it’s all been downhill since (pick your year.) I wish there were fewer releases each year, but still plenty of lovely things out there.

  20. wish i could join you in new york. i keep a tiara, with real prong-set stones, in my glove box at all times. i do live in texas, after all.

    haven’t tried the gingembre yet, but i wonder if maybe one reason we are no longer shocked by serge is because we have grown used to his style. we have tamed miel de bois, we have made friends with muscs kublai khan (well some of us have), we are on speaking terms with arabie.

    all were completely shocking to many of us on first sniff. now, they’re kinda normal. maybe it takes a lot to shock our noses out of our complacency now.

    and maybe serge just doesn’t feel like going there. maybe he’s into making pretty things now. i don’t know. nor do i really care. i like pretty things, too. if they sing to me. i’ll just have to see if the gingembre has a voice i like. i only recently fell for sa majeste la rose after believing for years that it was too shrill and sour for me. so there you go.

    • Your own tiara! Sigh. Of course you do. Although my husband used to live in TX and he swore what everyone kept in their glovebox was a handgun, but maybe those were the good old days.

      Arabie and I are barely on speaking terms, and Douce Amere hates me. But MdB and I have a kinky little thing going. 😉

      Hey, maybe SL is going in a brand new direction and I need to adjust my expectations.

    • oh, your husband’s probably right about the handguns. i’m really from new jersey; maybe that’s where i got the tiara gene.

      yep, maybe ole serge is going in another direction. anything can get boring after a while, and maybe the fun of being shocking wore off.

      there is nothing wrong and much right with making pretty things. and as others have noted, his pretty things can be lovely.

  21. They have gone all tame recently. Every time I sniff Borneo and Tubereuse Criminelle, it makes me weep with the vision that conjured those Frankensteins up and made them lovable.

    Maybe there’s only so far you can go with that? But I do like a number of their last creations, so I’m not complete on the outs with them, but they seem to have lost their edge. Though some of the things I love the best of SL’s are pretty tame’ish.

    • You still love TC, right? I mean, how about that weird camphor blast. And I am pretty sure Borneo rocks your world. And MKK isn’t even that skanky to me any more. I miss those days. 8-|

  22. Oh I welcome the chance to wear one of my vintage evening hat thingys.I love them but don’t wear them much( backwards small town and all here, i make enough stir with my big dog riding and barking all over town). I would love a tiara some day. The lady who posted from Texas and keep one in her car, is too much. I love it.

    will wear my hopefully non smushed headgear( if I rememebr it ) to Blue Merc.

    D

    ( hmm, wonder what Chaya will come up with ???)

    • Yay!!! I’m hoping for something with feathers and … dang, what is that thing called … a fascinator?!? I think that’s the right name. I need to go look it up. 🙂

  23. Cher Ami,

    La critique est facile, seul l’art est difficile..

    Que vous ne soyez pas dingue de Five O’Clock est une chose, remettre en cause tout le travail de Serge Lutens en est une autre !

    Lui qui tant de fois a osé et imaginé l’impensable…
    Lui qui tant de fois a secoué le monde de la Parfumerie paupérisée par une bande d’incultes qui se croyaient plus fort grace à des moyens colossaux dont il n’a jamais disposé…

    Seriez-vous capable d’en faire autant ?

    • C’est surement important d’apprecier son genie, aussi permissible de se sentir decu.

    • L’argument est connu… et surtout de tous ceux qui redoutent la critique.

      Il est difficile de voir son travail (ou plutôt “labor of love”, l’anglais le rend mieux) critiqué, certes, mais mettre le fruit de ses efforts à la disposition du public, c’est s’exposer à ce que ce public se fasse une opinion de ce produit, et… le dise.

      Faut-il être auteur pour pouvoir dire qu’on a trouvé un livre bon ou mauvais? D’être chef pour aimer ou ne pas aimer un plat?
      Sans compter que, comme March l’a précisé, écrire une critique un tant soit peu intelligente et argumentée est loin d’être aussi facile que le veut cet adage…

      (March, I hope you don’t mind, I thought it was more appropriate to reply to that comment in French, since it was made in French in the first place…)

  24. first of all …
    I never was a SL fan and I certainly never will be.

    I am still amazed by fan devotion at a religious level for SL works. I still beleive there is strange molecule in works that I am not able to smell.

    SL has invented two things for me :

    1 – Snobbery in niche perfume (the first one to do it)
    2 – Private collection for a major brand (I am sorry but shisiedo is not a Small Company 🙂 )

    At least at Paris until 2002, the SL were sold in the Shisiedo stand. The place at “Palais Royal” is always called “Salons Shisiedo”.
    Now that SL is considered as a God in perfume … every one expect a “Perfume from a God” and so can only be disappointed.

    That s the trouble when you put yourself above the mortal level.

    If you look the works of Jacques Guerlain you found :

    5 or 6 immortal perfumes
    3 to 10 good perfumes (lost masterpiece) according to critics and osmotheques …
    And a lot of faillure …

    Do we expect Sheldrake being able to make a masterpiece each times ? Even if I consider him as a genious, in every other arts, there is a lot of repetition and garbage in the works of genius.

    The trouble is that the SL is now trapped in his own system.

    • Thanks for your articulate comment, and excellent point about Serge being connected to Shiseido, hardly a small house. I assume (I think you speak French?) that comment is in response to Josephine.

      Yes, it is true. Even Guerlain, a house I adore, has released a slew of merely good fragrances, some mediocre, some worse. So, not genius every time. Although I thought L’Insolence was much better than people gave it credit for (definitely a Guerlain base), so what do I know? 😉

  25. Ouch.
    I liked 5 O’Clock. Really liked it. Full-bottle liked it, actually.

    I adore Serge, I have to say… and among my top faves in the line are the infamous MKK and Miel de Bois (luuuuurve that one), so I sure appreciate his more, er, “difficult” offerings 😉

    This being said, sure, the 5 O’ is a much more accessible scent. You could wear it to meet your in-laws. But is that such a bad thing?
    What I thought when I first smelled it was, “Ah, Rousse-like. Nicely spicy. Very refined.” – and it turns out, from what I read afterwards, that it was exactly what Serge and Sheldrake had set out to do: work on candied ginger as the embodiment of refinement.

    I see where you’re coming from, since the last releases in the line have indeed been more or less in that “accessible” vein, but in the past, Serge has also put out quite a number of “easier” scents, like Un Lys or SMLR, right?
    Re: originality, the entirety of the Bois series, beautiful as they each might be, could totally be considered a whole FdB flanker line, too. And they were an early release…

    So far, I wouldn’t say Serge has lost his way, far from that… but I would sure welcome a new, slap-you-hard-in-the-nose offering, too! 😉

  26. I love the “All hat, no cattle”. Something similar from the Nordics: “Lots of talk and little hockey”.

    You are right, it is not that the newer Lutens are poor as such but compared to the earlier creations, they are lacking in development.

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