Before I forget — have you checked out carmencanada’s fragrance blog, Grain de Musc? She does each post in French and English, and they’re wonderful — and quite informative, including her sneak preview of the new Malle, Dans tes Bras, and news of the reopening of IUNX (yesss!! and now all we have to do is resurrect Gobin Daude…)
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If we were going to pick my own personal fragrance savior in this long, dry spell of dull perfumery, it wouldn´t have been Serge Lutens. As I complained not that long ago, the newer SL releases have been nothing that blew my skirt up. And Patty´s recent review of Serge Noire as being sort of cinnamon-woody camphor didn´t do much to entice me, since I loathe camphor and Rousse was pretty but kind of dull.
The Serge Noire blurb about the phoenix rising triumphant with dancing ashes and windswept memories and etc. is the sort of fragrance bloviation that makes me hope (in vain) that there´s been some sort of cock-up with the translator. Bois de Jasmin does clarify things a bit by pointing out that serge is a type of fabric (which I guess I knew in the back of my mind, as relates to men´s suiting) but at least that keeps me from visualizing the man himself all wrapped up in a black cloak glaring at the camera like the Gallic version of Severus Snape.
Serge, my petite fromage – I take back every crappy, judgmental thing I said about you in the last year. I don´t care if your next fragrance smells like Baby Phat. You´ve redeemed yourself, honey. Come to mama. You made this for me, didn´t you?
They´re pretty coy with the notes over there Chez Lutens, but what I have is: patchouli, cinnamon, amber, black woods. What I smell is… darn hard to describe, but hey, here I go.
The first thing I need to get out of the way is, this is not a super-heavy fragrance. This is not Arabie. In terms of weight, Noire is somewhere between Rousse and, say, Santal Blanc. It´s not ephemeral (in fact, on me it is quite long lasting) but it´s not dense or chewy, either. I would say this is DEFINITELY a sprayer, like Rousse was — get your samp in an atomizer and let loose , you don’t want to be dabbing this puppy on.
Noire opens on a perfect three part chorus of cinnamon, cumin and incense — or at least that´s what it smells like to me. If you took the stink of Eau d´Hermes and quartered it, layered it with Rousse, and added some very dry incense and a handful of dirt, you´d be pretty close. Whether you think this is great probably depends on whether your mouth waters when you find those sorts of smells. If not, it´s probably just weird.
The first five minutes of the fragrance is enchanting – it´s like dropping one of those tea flowers into the pot and watching it unfold. Ten minutes in the wonderful fizzy cinnamon fades, and I began to worry (no, Serge, no!) that the whole thing was going to collapse like a delicate little wooden ship in a bottle, all matchsticks and no glue. However, Noire has merely retreated behind the curtain for a moment to change into something a bit more masculine. There are some woods faintly reminiscent of the goddess of all woods, Feminite du Bois (and seriously, when he´s on his game, who does lovelier woods than Lutens?) and the fragrance … what … opens up?
Have you ever played with one of those Hoberman spheres? It´s that sense of playfulness, that kind of expansion. A fragrance chemist I am not, and so saying this feels pretentious to me, but there is a sense of a perfectly constructed, intricately thought out balance among the various elements – wood, dust, spices, and a faint, delicate sweetness. The sweaty bits mostly go away (although they pop back in periodically, just to say hi) and I get instead more cedar/sandalwood, with that faint whiff of what Patty´s calling camphor, although it is more wintergreen-ish to me.
I realize I´ve now written the sort of gibbering-idiot review that gets pasted into POL for further mockery, and you know what? Knock yourself out, I´ll be over here sniffing my wrist and grinning like a happy fool. I´ve smelled enough product that I am starting to get a little jaded, and it is just not that easy to enchant me these days. But this! There is something about this, watching its kaleidoscopic colors spin and shift – red, yellow, black – that just blows me away.
In the end, I guess the only bit I´d quibble with is Noire, as in darkness. This is shot through with some sort of threads of luminosity. Pick your visual. Stars? Pinpricks in one of those wonderful metal Moravian star lamps? Fireflies? Light coming forth from the darkness? (So maybe Noire works after all) It´ll be interesting to see whether it feels seasonal – it worked great in the heat, and yet it seems perfect for fall. I´m looking forward to checking that out.
hoberman sphere, NJ science center, flikr.com