The Earth Moved


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…)

* * *

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,

  • Six' says:

    I agree, the Earth moved for me as well.

    ‘Tis terrific. Serge at his best, you have it all: the impossible, non-perfumista-repellent top notes, then a beauteous spice-incense (and to me, it is a kind of translucent black – “noire” indeed), and then that lovely simmering of vanillic benzoin that lasts forever…

    Mad love, I tell you.

    PS: Serge tailor-made this for me, and for me alone. Plz to not be deluded. Mine, all mine, my precioussss! ;p

  • lartisan_rocks says:

    Eh? What else can be expected from such a huge Lutens fangirl? Its decent but not that great.

  • mollypenny says:

    Great review! It sounds right up my alley, although I do worry a bit about the camphor/wintergreen. And cumin huh? Cumin reminds me of ripe armpits. But surely it won’t. I’ll have to do a sample.

    • March says:

      Cumin reminds me of sweaty armpits too. 😡 In a good way. I can totally understand people’s objections to it, though.

  • Christine says:

    Wow March, gorgeous gorgeous post. Also, thanks now I really want to smell this, budget be damned. 😉

    (I love the image, by the way. I grew up in North Jersey, and thought immediately that looks just like the Liberty Science Center. I haven’t been there in what, thirteen years?)

  • Billy D says:

    Now I’m not so sure about this, since I don’t like cumin in fragrance. Maybe it’s because my bf’s sweaty crotch smells of cumin after a long day at work. Actually, I think it smells like tacos.

    But I digress.

  • Disteza says:

    Got to try the SN yesterday and it was all cumin, right from the get-go. I’m a cumin amplifier anyway, and on me it started as CUMIN, clove, and some incense. It took most of the morning for the cumin to die away, but the other spices went fairly quickly. The woods showed up and played with the sweeter, almost ambery incense, but the cumin was there for most of the show. I got very little of the camphor; probably no more than a whiff or two. I didn’t get as much cinnamon as I was expecting, either, nor did I get a dusty vibe; on me at least, this seemed like a cross between Bois Oriental and a non-syrupy Arabie, with some incense to give it some breadth. I’ll be adding it to my infamous FB list, much to my wallet’s chagrin!

    • March says:

      And a second vote for the cumin! As I said to Elle up there, I did wonder if I was imagining the cumin (I too amplify sweaty smells, so it’s a good thing I like the smell of cumin 😡 ) I think your description of a cross between Oriental and a non-syrupy Arabie is a great one.

  • Robin says:

    Oh my! I wasn’t even slightly excited about SN, now I’d love to try it.

    • March says:

      I tried it as an afterthought (Patty’d sent a samp with something else) and for once was absolutely charmed. I will say that, in general, I have more admiration/love for his earlier, heavier stuff — the Serge Syrup, even the ones I can’t wear. I loved how they unfolded all day long; I love F d’Oranger, and I think you love Datura Noir? So this is less … robust, but I was very, very pleasantly surprised. In a way, I think this is what Rousse might have been but wasn’t, at least for me.

      • Robin says:

        I do really like Datura Noir, and Rousse too, although you know, Rousse doesn’t make the earth move, even for me.

  • sariah says:

    Today is a good day in the perfume blog sphere – great SL reviews from March and Patty, great reviews over at NST and Blogdorf on the new Bond, and a new blog dicovery (for me) – means 2 new fumes and lots of reading to look forward too!

    • March says:

      It’s nice when we’re not on here whingeing about the new Ralph Lauren or some such, isn’t it? /:) I like having some new things to play with, and Carmen’s blog is such a treat.

  • tmp00 says:

    I’ve been reading Carmencanada’s blog for a while and love it!

    Serge Noir I have to give some time to. When Marina gets back my ramblings will be up.

  • Patty says:

    When you fall in love with a fragrance, I love reading the aftermath of the messy love affair. 🙂

    I’m not as in awe of this as you are, but I do love it and have found myself reaching for it almost every day since I got it. It’s just truly great and interesting to wear, which I think does make it a messy love affair for me, too, but not quite as, um… passionate? 😡

    • March says:

      Honestly, P, I think part of it was just the thrill of *being in love* with something. It’s depressing to sniff a bunch of stuff and feel like it’s all meh. I start to wonder whether I’ve lost my perfume mojo. Maybe if I’d sniffed Noire in the middle of some great fragrance run, I’d have felt like it was merely very good. But to get *that feeling* again, when you sniff something and your eyes roll back in ecstasy? Happy to have that happen.

  • Elle says:

    Brilliant review! It baffles me that you haven’t written a book already – you’ve such phenomenal writing talent. Back to SN. *Love* it! And, blessedly, on my skin that wonderful cumin note blossoms beautifully. I need to get out my best stationary and write a thank you/love note to Serge for this. Am praying Attarine will also make me this happy.

    • March says:

      We’re working on it! Just not that diligently … /:) but thanks for your kind words. Am so glad you love it, and am even gladder to hear about the cumin! You know how much I love cumin, and sometimes I begin to wonder whether my mind conjures it into various appropriate places in fragrance, since there’s no mention of it in the notes. Of course, it could be one of the woods — cedar often does that on me.

      Sign my name to your letter too, okay?

  • Billy D says:

    I’m happy to once again be commenting beneath Lee. Shoutout.

    Your review sounds so much more lively than the marketing description of “Ashes, ashes, ashes,” which is great. I can’t wait till this arrives at Barneys to give it a try (I make it a point to only order Serge Lutens samples if they are non-exports, despite having to deal with pushy SA’s when I do try to sniff the exports). I’m finally gonna get to sniff Tuberose Criminelle because of the 20% off sale! And I’ll then see, I guess, if I can handle the camphor, because honestly, wintergreen sort of frightens me (memories of Tom of Finland…).

    • March says:

      Yeah, ashes, ashes, etc. — really, I would love to get ahold of whatever the Lutens marketing drones are pouring in their coffee. Their blurbs are so absurd.

      TC!!! It’s too much for me, let me know how it works out for you! While I’m plugging things, let me recommend (have you tried?) Malle Carnal Flower, which is not only one of the very, very few white flower frags I absolutely adore, but has this fabbo wintergreen chill note just this side of camphor? Such a fascinating fragrance.

      • Billy D says:

        Indeed, I ordered it along with the Tuberose Criminelle to test. I wanted to only order samples of things I would likely buy to wear myself, but I couldn’t resist trying them side-by-side. Of the two, I have heard CF can, sometimes, work on men. I tend to love the really old SL’s though, so we’ll see.

        I also ordered some Etat Libre Charogne to throw a wrench in all that prettiness 🙂

        • Disteza says:

          Charogne? I applaud your bravery–I ordered that along with a few of the more infamous ELdO samples, and couldn’t bring myself to put it or any of the others on. They a seemed like a stinky headache would be in the works if I did. And Secretions Magnifique? Freaking horrorshow is right! I think for Halloween I’ll mix Charogne, Rien, and Secretions together and scare the bejesus out of everyone! 8-x

          • Billy D says:

            Charogne was the one that interested me the most–after TOF, which I tried and hated. The only other one to tempt me was Rien, but everyone says it was a straight-forward leather, so I figured I didn’t need to covet it really.

            I love how it’s somehow a right of passage to sniff Secretions Magnifique, even though everyone seems to be of the consensus (with a few dissenters) that it is disgusting. Sort of like the real secretion itself…

          • Disteza says:

            To me, Secretions Magnifique smells exactly like viscera, which means I’ve been to one to many dissection classes. And I’m jealous that others got leather from Rien; all I got was Eau du Fetid Urinal.
            IMHO, Charogne won’t hold a candle to Tubereuse Criminelle. I see no reason why it wouldn’t smell divine on a man, but I admit I haven’t tried it out on my SO yet. He did, however, secretly admit that he rather liked Sarrasins and Fleur de Citronnier, so there’s hope yet!

          • MattS says:

            I broke down and finally order a sample of Secretions Magnifiques when TPC had their anniversary sale. I gave in. It’s time to smell it. I actually also just got a decant of Rien and am pretty fond of it. It’s pretty much leather, but it’s got some nasty bits that make it kinda interesting.

        • March says:

          I have smelled CF on a man and find it incredibly sexy. On the other hand, I would probably find Fracas sexy on a man. To my nose, men add their own delicious guy smell. :”>

  • Lee says:

    Cinnamon, amber and woods, oh my.

    Toto and I’ll sniff this pronto, I hope.

  • kathleen says:

    I’ve spritzed once so far. I found the opening a little alarming as I’ve not experienced anything like it. Heavy cinnamon/clove. I, also, do not get cumin. After “we both” settle down, it softens into a lovely incense, some vanilla, but keeps just a tad of the cinnamon. It also has very good staying power. I would say Puce (the colour not the bug for our french readers) rather than Noire. And I would feel very comforted by this in the autumn/winter months. Thank you TPC for the 20%, allowing me to experience this along with an assortment of wonderful juices!

    • March says:

      I can see how that opening, given a certain nose/skin chemistry, could veer in the alarming direction. There’s a real intensity to it. I was so dang glad to be sniffing something interesting that didn’t smell like Macy’s I hardly cared. It sounds like it settled down nicely for you.

  • Melissa says:

    Finally a reason to end the ebay/classics binge! Wood, dust, spice, cinnamon, benzoin, incense…eyes rolling back in anticipatory ecstasy!

    • March says:

      It really is tasty. In the review I wrote (and then deleted) if you liked Rousse, you’ll love this. I took it out because I DIDN’T like Rousse, not interesting enough. But if you started with Rousse and maybe built onto it in the direction of the Bois series, you’d get this.

      • Melissa says:

        No, not crazy about Rousse. It is just okay. But this does sound tasty indeed. I will either love it or simply keep drooling over the fragrance that you have implanted into my imagination!

  • carmencanada says:

    Holy Moly, March! Thank you so much for recommending Grain de Musc, and thank you to all you Posse readers for dropping by, and for the nice things you said here about my writing. :”>
    Isn’t Serge Noire something? I’m not getting a lot of cumin from it, more of a peppery-clovey blast in the opening, then the incense climbs out and the benzoin does its round, balsamic, cinnamon-y thing. It’s got quite a bit of a throw as well: wear it and the room will feel like you’ve been burning precious spices in it.

    • Louise says:

      Double-extra congratulations on your fabulous blog…you still amaze me with your divine usage of English and French. And your book (got it in English for easy reading with the bf) is providing many hours of pleasure in our home @};-

      • donanicola says:

        Book? Book? What book is this? OK, I’m temporarily dropping out of my self imposed blog commenting purdah (damn work!)to enquire about a book written by Carmencanda? I had a quick peek at Grain de Musc this morning and felt such pleasure reading the reviews/essays. Beautiful. That is not to say that I haven’t also been enjoying other writing recently too – and especially this wonderful review of Serge Noire, thanks March. Now must get back to work, damn work…..

        • Silvia says:

          Hehehehe, was about to ask the same question then scrolled down and saw your comment…

        • March says:

          There is a book, and not only that, but I think it’s something fabulous about sex? Unless I’m crazy. And I thought it was only in French, unfortunately, but Louise’s comment means I’m wrong. Let’s go bug carmen and ask.

          • carmencanada says:

            Yes, y’all, there is a book, which I wrote in French and whose English translation I closely supervised: SEX GAME BOOK, A Cultural History of Sexuality, éditions Assouline, by Denyse Beaulieu. It’s a collection of short articles on over 100 sex-related cultural, scientific and social subjects, from Ovid to Almodovar, Miller, Casanova, Cronenberg, Japanese love hotels, the Pill, etc. It’s got quizzes too, and fantastic illustrations. It’s available on Amazon. End of plug.

          • Divalano says:

            OK, I had to look. That cover of the French version is genius, it’s the absolute perfect red & the shoe illustration is sexy as all hell. I’ll take a look around my usual unusual haunts to see if it’s on any shelves … in English, that is 😉

          • March says:

            (Psssst — you can get the paperback on for $10. Don’t tell anyone. )

          • carmencanada says:

            It isn’t out in paperback, it’s a hardcover.:-w
            The English version cover is not what I would have chosen: the US sales reps insisted on it. Love the French one, though… Hey, and on, I found copies of the first book I ever wrote (and a couple more)… Geez, won’t they ever let you forget?

          • March says:

            I saw that cover and laughed — it looks so “made for the US market.” I am ashamed to say… :”>

            And that’s what I love about ABE! I find the most obscure books on there, mostly for my dad, reader of obscure books. 😡

    • March says:

      You’re welcome! It is a beautiful blog, your writing is thoughtful and educated and considered (making it, uh, a nice contrast to what we find here 😉 ) and plus you have those great scoops, like the Malle, and I didn’t even know about IUNX until you wrote that post.

      It’s the benzoin!!! Duh. Plain as the nose on my face, I should have mentioned it. :”> And I like how the sillage, as you note, is really good without being overpowering.

      • carmencanada says:

        And more thanks back to you, March. The thought process… Well, a PhD in semiology and 20 years of journalism in Paris will do weird things to your mind. But the Posse is the place I’m happiest hanging out in. Just look at this community, I just love it that commenters are always responding to each other… Of course, any one of you comes to Paris, let me know! March and Patty have my contact info…

    • Patty says:

      BTw, just to add the accolades, your blog is just excellent. I had missed that you were doing English and French and prowled over today, and then burned up about an hour or two of time reading.

  • Divalano says:


    Actually I think maybe I whimpered when Patty reviewed this, too, but this is me whimpering more. And waiting. Impatiently. :-w

  • Francesca says:

    March, I am absolutely green with envy over your writing abilities! 😡 Beautiful review!
    I’m not wild about cinnamon, but when I know that it is ephemeral in this fragrance, I’m seriously intrigued about everything else. Camphor/wintergreen? Count me in. I hope they’ll be getting Serge Noire at my local Blue Mercury.

    • Francesca says:

      PS Brava to Carmencanada on her blog. It’s wonderful, and I’m a fan

    • March says:

      Hey, thanks, hon! I like cinnamon in fragrance, but cinnamon and something else (that’s why Rousse was such a disappointment — I want something fancier than red-hots.) The cool camphor/wintergreen balances that so beautifully, though.

  • Judith says:

    OMG! I can’t decide whether I love you or hate you for that review! I am so glad I have a little of this on the way. But it sounds as if I should have bought a bottle!

    • March says:

      Let me know how it works out for you — we have a lot of overlap on favorite fragrances, so my hopes are high.

  • rosarita says:

    Wonderful writing, excellent review. This one sounds like *me* all over. 😡

  • Silvia says:

    I simply love this review. Your descriptions always have an element of instinctive lateral thinking that hits the spot. I will now just have to patiently wait until SN magically appears on those SL display units in about a month time, if I am not wrong.

    I have enjoyed this stretch of summer “perfume detox” as far as new exciting releases are concerned. makes my lemming for SN less neurotic than it would have been before, if you know what I mean.

    Kudos to Carmencanada for a top notch blog ! =d>

    • carmencanada says:

      Silvia, hope to see you drop by often!

    • March says:

      Hey, thanks for the compliments. 😡 My more passionate (better?) reviews sort of write themselves. I do spend a ridiculous amount of time searching for descriptors, with mixed results.

      Summer detox is right, honey. I’ve retreated into my old standbys.

  • MattS says:

    Score! My mouth is watering at the thought of this one…my sample is on the way along with a heap of other stuff from TPC (that 20% off anniversary special was a Very Bad Thing). I can’t wait. I’ve decided that I’m only buying four more bottles for the rest of the year and I’ve tentatively penciled this one in as a possibility. It sounds fantastic.

    I just discovered Carmencanada’s blog last week. It’s great, I feel smarter just reading her reviews.

    • carmencanada says:

      Merci, Matt… 😡

    • March says:

      Yeah, I see a sale and I think, look at all the money I’m saving by buying now! 😉 Glad to hear you have some tasty samps on their way.

      I love your “four bottles.” How did you reach that precise number?

      Her blog is fantastic, I’m always learning something. She’s a little more rigorous intellectually than I am. 🙂

      • MattS says:

        Four bottles–Vetiver Dance, Knize Ten, Onda, and, I’m thinking Serge Noire. Hopefully scheming for Iris Silver Mist for X-mas. And I’m buying nothing else. I swear.

        • Louise says:

          Hmmmm…maybe you could do a split of Onda and SN-that would only count as one bottle ;)? Then Iris Silver Mist would make 4 bottles for fall 8-|

        • March says:

          Dude, I can’t believe you’ve thought this through so carefully! I must be one of the least organized people on here in terms of perfumery … I have this whole “I have no idea where that came from” thing going on.

  • Louise says:

    Dynamite review, March.

    I have a little samp of Serge Noire(transfered to a sprayer-agree it doesn’t do much dabbed) and am still trying to figure it out, which in this case is a very good thing, given that I have been dismissing everything I’ve smelled recently as just yuck.

    I’m not yet sure that this SL will join my drawer of fame (Arabie, Chergui, Datura Noir, Fumerie Turque, various Bois) as a FB, but surely there will be a decant soon. I had a wee bit of difficulty with the camphor note which persisted throughout on me, none with the skanky cumin/cinnamon touch (surprise!). The drydown is just lovely-I get the sweetish benzoiny incense wood close to that described in Carmencanada’s Bois de Musc review. A changeling for sure, long lasting enough even on me, yay!

    I’m still eagerly awaiting El Attarine, sounds even maybe more like a SL I’d flip over. But the trend of meh SLs may just be turning ’round 🙂

    • carmencanada says:

      Louise, I’ve just scored a couple of drops of El Attarine and I’m still contemplating whether to review it or not, based on such a small quantity… It’s more in the Bois series style, is all I can say.

    • March says:

      The Serge Noire didn’t make me think of you, given your favorites in the line. This the “other” style — more like Rousse, etc. That drydown is lovely, isn’t it?

      Yeah, I’m looking forward to Attarine too. 😡

  • dinazad says:

    GAHHH!!!! Now I simply have to have it!!! And it hasn’t made it here yet. :(:(
    March, your review has me drooling and resolved to spend my lunch hours clawing at the doors (and the legs of the SAs) of Osswald’s perfumery to get it as soon as possible. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you, March, for rekindling my desire for this with a drool-worthy review!

  • Catherine says:

    *Honey*! That is the best review I’ve seen so far on Serge Noire. I can smell it, I can feel it, I can luxuriate in the sensations. And I’m adoring it all, even if now I’m sure it will never work on me. We have such different tastes. But, oh, I’m living vicariously through your skin and perceptions. Seriously.

    Three cheers to SL for breaking the Dullsville of March’s August.

    • March says:

      Catherine, I was so overjoyed when it rose up and I smelled it for the first time. I thought, finally — something to love!