You know what I love about perfume? And friends? And perfumey friends? Someone (in this case Louise) magically shows up (in this case, back from her European Grand Tour) with something worth reviewing (in this case, Serge Lutens´ Fille en Aiguilles, which I believe is joining the export line and thus will be available outside France.)
I already had my hopes up for Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles, their new fragrance, based on the review on Grain de Musc; even if it didn´t turn out to be wonderful at least it sounded different, right? New and different in Sergeville right now meaning “no stewed fruits, not built around jasmine.” The concept of camphor had me a little freaked out. I hate camphor – in Tubereuse Criminy and Borneo, the camphor overwhelms me (okay, Borneo also smells like Easter candy and vomit.) I know you lovers are out there, and more power to you, but Borneo´s a fear factor scent for me.
Anyhow, we broke open the cellophane on Louise´s virgin bottle of Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles, and my first word to Louise after spraying it was a thoughtful, appreciative … damn. This is good stuff.
I´m not going to even try to come up with a list of notes, because Lutens is always so coy with the …. no, wait, wait!!!! Isn´t this the one with the cicadas?!?! Yes it is! Check that out, Robin at Now Smell This must have had a blast typing in Tick Tick Tick over and over…. But this, my friends, is no ticking bomb. Let´s crib Robin´s notes (via Osmoz) while we´re over there: a woodsy oriental with pine needles, vetiver, frankincense, fruit and spice notes. Also, when they say “What a silly thing! A truly fatal hymn,” I´m thinking, um, is there a translation problem here? But whatev. It´s in the export line, which is all that matters, right?
Fille seems kind of radical for Serge in terms of its stripped down feel. When I first put it on I get pine needles, end of story. Now, I love pine needles. Putting this on is like taking a stroll in the Santa Fe national forest among all the conifers — I’m in the cool shade while the hot sun beats down all around me. It´s pretty quiet at that point, but still really pleasing. Then the scent starts opening up on my skin, and for an hour or so, the sillage is both generous and enchanting. Words fail. It gets this resiny thing going on, like Le Labo Poivre, only more …. radiant? Simpler? I´m flopping around here trying to describe the feeling. I love Lutens at his best, but in general I wouldn´t describe his scents as simple – they are often a baroque, multi-hour, multi-stage journey, at least on my skin. Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles wears more straightforwardly, almost primitively, as if the perfumer were conducting an experiment in which a Lutens would be created in the Hermessence style. It smells like a great smell to me, rather than a great perfume – and I do not mean that as any kind of negative, I´m just saying.
As it wears on the smell gets simultaneously more turpenic/mentholated and that hint (hey, I lied!) of Serge dried fruits comes out, and it´s a gorgeous juxtaposition – the coolness of the turpentine against the sweet, almost vanillic warmth of the fruits. But this is all really subtle, nothing´s beating you over the head. It is absolutely the perfect time of year for this scent – it´s refreshing in the heat. In fact, if I hadn´t smelled it, today´s post was probably going to be about how incense frags are so great in the hot humidity. Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles falls on the resin/turpentine end of incense fragrances, and I´m happy to have it.
Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles conjured a happy memory for me: several years ago, rooting around in the back of a dark, musty antique store, I came across a set of dining room chairs that I had been searching for (without knowing precisely what I wanted) for almost a decade. The seats and seatbacks were dark, padded leather, probably stuffed with horsehair; the wooden frames were old and dusty. We like to linger at the table at dinner parties, and I really, really wanted comfortable padded chairs in something easily wiped off. Also, they´d go perfectly with the two wood and leather armchairs I already owned for the table ends. I approached the store owner with some trepidation, worried about just how much my fantasy was going to cost. He named a price that was a quarter of what I would have paid. He also offered to clean them up a little before delivering them, if I´d give him a few days to do so. I said sure, just don´t clean them up too much!
When they arrived they looked great, but they smelled extraordinary. They smelled like resin, forest and incense. I couldn´t keep myself from sniffing them compulsively; he´d cleaned them up and/or waxed them with something containing turpentine. That area of my house, which we walk by all the time, exuded that faint incense-in-a-pine-forest smell for almost a year, and I never stopped noticing and appreciating it. (I am not the only person for whom this fragrance conjured up rapt memories; read Helg´s evocative review here, complete with her discussion of the nuances of the fragrance´s name and some thoughtful comparisons to other Lutens scents.)
My only caution about this: Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles, certainly for a Lutens, is fairly transparent, and it didn´t last longer than a couple of hours before losing most of its sillage and becoming a skin scent. I can´t think of another Serge that craps out on me like that; generally with Serge I´m offering to buy them a train ticket after two days on my skin, just to get them to leave.
I sprayed some Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles on my sweater sleeve as an experiment. The bad news was, I didn´t get the “bloom” I got on the skin. The good news is, 30 hours later it´s still there and smelling dandy – I can definitely pick out the vetiver a day later, and it doesn´t take on the sweetness it gets on my skin. So for anyone who´s obsessed with trying to make this work, you might want to try it on your clothing as well. Also, I think it would make a killer room or linen spray if you used a light hand.
Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles was definitely there on my skin – faint but alluring – the entire day. I have occasionally had the situation of a summer incense being prominent enough on the wrong day to work my last nerve, and so I´m thinking, maybe its delicacy isn´t such a bad thing after all. Honestly, I can´t decide. But folks expecting some Iris-Silver-Mist level wallop should recalibrate. It´s somewhere around Gris Clair in terms of weight, but even lighter in presence. In fact, without resembling Gris Clair in terms of actual smell, I´d say Aiguilles is closest to it in the line (and simpler and less dense than Encens et Lavande.) I’m adding it to my decant list.
PS. I can’t resist – here’s Grain de Musc’s review of Wazamba. Are we entering another resin/incense phase? Is incense the new pink pepper? A girl can dream…
pine forest image: lastpilitas.com
* * *
Lifted from Wiki, fun facts about turpentine: “Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, gum turpentine, white spirit) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. Canada balsam, also called Canada turpentine or balsam of fir, is a turpentine which is made from the resin of the balsam fir.
Turpentine is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine.
Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its “clean scent.” Turpentine has long been used as a solvent, mixed with beeswax or with carnauba wax, to make fine furniture wax for use as a protective coating over oiled wood finishes (e.g., lemon oil).”