Serge Lutens De Profundis

I’ve been sniffing on Serge Lutens de Profundis for the last week or so, waffling on what I think of it.  Inspired by death?  This may be a strange way to feel about it anywhere but amongst you guys, who I know understand, but I like that.  I’ve always loved spending time in cemeteries, it is peaceful, the sign of time rolling on, churning you and your life and hopes and dreams under.  Chrysanthemum, violet, earth, green.

serge lutens de profundis review

William S. Schwartz (1896-1977), De Profundis,

I really can’t tell you what Serge Lutens De Profundis smells like as far as notes. The mums are beautifully fierce, smelling a little of decay. 

What I can tell you is how Serge Lutens De Profundis feels.

What I think of when I hear de Profundis is, of course, Latin -> Catholic -> Seven Penitential Psalms. I don’t know a lot of Latin, but what I do know is churchy Latin.  All the references I’ve read are to Baudelaire for this scent, but I’m just ignoring that and skipping right to the original de Profundis since it speaks to me and Baudelaire puts me to sleep.  Oh, hush, I’m a literary cretin, I know it, and I’m perfectly okay with it.  “De profundis clamavi ad te, domine.  Domine, exaudi vocem meam.”  

Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord.  Lord, hear my voice.

Is this scent de Profundis the broader meaning, crying out of the depths?  It is full of pain and longing for hope, supplication to be heard, seen, acknowledged.  Every person wants their life to have meant something, even a small something – wishing all they have done that’s been ugly and small did little damage, hoping that the good they have done had some value.

It is a long, dark hallway we walk through life, sometimes briefly shot through with brilliant light and joy, but too often a trudge to the end.  And everything ends.  At my end, Serge Lutens De Profundis can meet me.   Just a tiny bit bitter, still carrying some of the light it has gone through, pungent, slightly decaying into earth.

My love for Serge Lutens De Profundis is the same ambivalence I have with death. 


Serge Lutens De Profundis sample available at Surrender to Chance

  • mirandajane says:

    Please enter me in the drawing. I would like to smell a death perfume. Have been reading L.A. writers lately–the poets of the city–Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely, & James M. Cain’s Mildred Pierce. Stylish, blunt fierce stuff.

    This essay resonated with me, Patty. My 84 year old father died this year after 5 months in the hospital. I am mourning him. Death feels closer to me. He can’t shield me from it anymore.

  • pyramus says:

    I have no problem with the idea of a death scent, if that’s what it is: it couldn’t possibly be any worse than the myriad done-to-death scents the market is plagued with, and since it’s Serge Lutens, it’s got to be worth a try.

  • Mary says:

    You got me intrigued about this scent. I am so curious about this “death” scent and would love to try it out.

  • Julie2 says:

    I don’t know if I’m ready to smell death, but the scent of a cemetery, now that’s not half a bad idea… Lichen, stone, chill breeze, leaves, a rotting walnut here and there. Sign me up.

  • Lilybug says:

    I’m quite looking forward to trying this one, it could be just my thing. Or completely not. Hard to say but I doubt I’ll be ambivalent knowing it’s a Serge.

  • Tara C says:

    I would love to be entered in the draw and sniff this – the name is very appealing and I love cemeteries (especially Pere Lachaise in Paris).

  • Matt says:

    That sounds interesting!!

    It seems to be another Lutens that is more than just a perfume. Death as an inspiration? I think almost all ideas can be good in perfume, as long as it can be enjoyable. Numerous artists have been inspired by death and, considering perfumery is an art, why not? I’m sure it can be truly beautiful.

    I also wanted to tell you that I just purchased my FIRST niche fragrance, and I’m soooo excited about it!! Of course, it’s from Serge… And it’s Borneo 1834 :) Thanks to TPC for their sampler packs (which made me discover it with many more amazing stuff), this fragrance is just incredible!


  • Fernando says:

    I’m interested, but more for the religious/Catholic associations than for the association with death. De profundis, after all, is a psalm about repentance, which means looking forward as well as back.

  • MaureenC says:

    Love Messe de Minuit, CdG Avignon and Heely Cardinal probably due to too many years in convent school. Mind you a love of incense is one of the few things I have retained! The Serge sounds fascinating please count me in

  • Masha says:

    I’d like to try this, if only because Vd’O totally “meh’ed” me, and I’m hoping this will knock my socks off!

  • mariekel says:

    Every time I see the words De Profundis, I think not of church but of the anguished letter Oscar Wilde wrote from prison: “To each of us different fates are meted out. My lot has been one of public infamy, of long imprisonment, of misery, of ruin, of disgrace, but I am not worthy of it – not yet, at any rate.”

    As a kid, I used to be terrified of cemeteries. I would close my eyes every time my mother drove past one. Which was frequently, since I grew up in Hartsdale, NY, home to two of the the US’ most illustrious burial grounds — Ferncliff (everlasting habitat of Judy Garland, Joan Crawford and Malcolm X, among other luminaries) and the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the first of its kind in the US. I think I always sensed the tensions between my parents and was always frightened one or other of them would leave (they split when I was 11), so anything connected with death was unnerving.

    While I cannot say that I am enamoured of them as an adult, I no longer dread cemeteries as long as they are picturesque (the long stretches of them in Queens and Brooklyn are thoroughly depressing in their flat ugliness). Old churchyards with their crooked and faded tombstones are even a bit comforting. So, yes, I would like to try M Lutens’ De Profundis.

    My favourite book varies according to mood but let’s say the top 5 are Madame Bovary, A Fairly Honourable Defeat by Iris Murdoch, Bel Ami by de Maupassant (which is being made into a film with -ack!- Robert Pattinson completely miscast in the lead), Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd and Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. Although these days, I find myself turning to Bill Bryson more than to any other author because he is bloody funny.

  • Tara says:

    I would love to try this. I adore Messe de Minuit, I’m not sure that it reminds me of death though. It smells more like ancient history.

  • Lizzie says:

    That sounds so fantastic. Please enter me in the draw, I’d love to win this!

  • Stacey says:

    I’d love to try this one! Very curious about Serge and Christopher’s take on death in a scent.

  • KMc says:

    “A good funeral is one that gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.” – Thomas Lynch, poet and undertaker in Milford, Michigan.

    Love that quote. Please enter me in the drawing, and thank you!

  • ggperfume says:

    Not hopeful that I’ll like this scent, so you had better keep my name out of the hat. However, here’s a zingy Spanish proverb on the subject: “El muerto al pozo y el vivo al gozo” (meaning, the dead to the ditch and the living to their pleasure).

  • Mindy says:

    Please enter me in the draw. Thank you.

  • dremybluz says:

    please enter me in the draw

  • Flora says:

    Please enter me, this one fascinates me! For one thing, I grow chrysanthemums and I love their aroma, even though there is nothing conventionally “floral” about it. The leaves and flowers both have that pungency that is somehow more interesting than some flowers that smell sweet. I want to know if this perfume really captures it. Thanks!

  • Kym says:

    Death is interesting to me. In Hindu and Buddhist thought, it’s not a bad thing, it’s part of the cycle. In Hindi, Shiva is the god of destruction/death. While that sound ominous, Shiva clears the way for something new. It’s like the promise of the darkest winter: spring that is yet to come. Looking at life on a bigger scale than one’s own life…I’d love to sniff this one, please enter me in the draw.

  • Illdone says:

    I have not yet smelled “De Profundis” but would like to whether it’s good or bad. The name talks to me.

    A few months ago my father died after being ill for a long time. He was an incredibly handsome, charming and optimistic man for 86 years untill he got sick 2 years ago.
    He always spoke about living to the fullest, following one’s dreams.
    The last thing he said to us was : “Why do you all look so said, it’s just a another phase”.
    His best gift, except for giving me life, was giving me hope whatever the circumstances.
    So I can go on living profoundly.

    Patty, no need to enter me, I’m sure I’ll get to Paris and to Lutens’ shop this year.

  • london says:

    I am more curious to smell this one than I have been to smell any Serge Lutens for a long time. Since La Myrrhe is my favourite of his and myrrh is also supposed to be connected to death, I have high hopes.

  • tammy says:

    I have no church Latin associations, and I am a literary cretin par excellence, but I am also a Scorpio, so heck yea we need a death scent. I don’t associate mums with death, but I love their fragrance.

    I kind of feel like Charlie Brown kicking that football yet again, but maybe this will finally be the Serge I like. Thanks for the chance to win a sample!

    PS. Musette, keep meaning to tell you thanks as well for the Wrong Venus recommendation. I laughed out loud!

    • Musette says:

      Isn’t that a hoot? So glad you liked it! I remember reading a few pages of it in a taxicab and laughing and snorting so hard the driver inquired after my health! =))

      xo >-)

  • FragrantWitch says:

    I too find cemetaries very peaceful and I love the funerary art of tombstones and statues. Over on NST last week there was a link to an interesting article about Early American Gravestones

    I also thought of both Dante and Wilde when I heard ‘De Profundis’ and having been a medievalist in college as well I think that death is a reminder to live well. And as a Wiccan,o,lk I like the link to the Samhain altar tradition. Please enter me in the draw!

  • jirish says:

    I have no problems with the idea of a perfume inspired by death, but then I was a medievalist in grad school, so I’m used to manuals on dying well, memento mori, etc. Thinking of death is meant to inspire you to live well.

    Sounds like this scent would go well with the book I’m reading now, Jesse Browner’s ‘The Uncertain Hour’, which is about the writer Petronius’ last 24 hours, up to his forced suicide. The book begins with a quote from Virgil: “Death is plucking at your ear: ‘Get up and live,’ he says. ‘I’m coming.'”

  • Musette says:

    I love your interpretation of de Profundis – being Catherlick meself I totally ‘get’ that. As I move into the next ‘real’ phase of my life (more years behind than ahead of me) I find I don’t fear death much – pain, yes. Death, no. It’s inevitable and time spent fearing it or worrying about it is an insult to life. Live while you’re here – Death will claim you when it is your due and not one moment sooner. Or later. When I think about it that way, the business of LIFE, which is the challenge some days, becomes a beautiful thing.

    Fwiw I am finishing up the Dan Wells ‘Serial Killer’ trilogy which is more a sociopathic teen angst trilogy. Well-written, funny and heartbreaking in parts. Scary.

    xo >-)

    • Musette says:

      btw – I don’t think I’m eligible for the draw and that’s totally okay – just wanted to say hey! and tell you how much I liked this reflective post!

      And I really enjoyed the Dan Wells novels. As the mother of young men (who are, luckily, NOT sociopaths) you might enjoy them, too!

      xo >-)

  • LindaB says:

    You had me at “decaying mums”…lol. No, seriously, I love that smell!!

    I am very interested in giving this a sniff – not sure if we “need” a death smell but how you described it makes me feel that we need it for the thoughts it provokes.

    Please enter me in the drawing…thanks!

  • grizzlesnort says:

    Just in gtime for Dia de los Muertos. I’m in for the draw. thanks.

    • Joanna says:

      :) I just sent a request to Smell Bent asking if they could create a Dia de los Muertos scent with marigold, chocolate, sugar and spices. I know other perfumers have done scents with this theme but I haven’t found one I’m satisfied with yet.

  • jen says:

    I just finished a book that’s about violence, not death, “Townie,” by Andre Dubus. He learned to fight to protect himself after his college prof dad left the family in financial straits and bad neighborhoods. Unputdownable.

  • Joanna says:

    My mind went to Oscar Wilde too. I’m not quite sure why we need to pin an association with death onto certain flowers or scents. That we can smell them at all is a sign of life that we should celebrate.

  • Daniela says:

    I would love to try this! Thank you!

    Like you, I love cemeteries. It’s not as if I seek them out, but they are definitely very peaceful. My favourite cemetery is one that I stumbled into while visiting and walking through the back streets of Cairo. The cemetery had flowers growing everywhere, all around the graves and below trees and bushes. There were stray cats and broken pottery and beautiful poetry carved into wooden benches. A lovely resting place :)

  • maggiecat says:

    Like Francesca, I made the association to Oscar Wilde’s powerful poem rather than to Baudelaire (over- appreciated, I think he is. Some talent there, sure, but I think people appreciate him more for the ‘cool” factor than an honest appraisal of his works. Just my two cents there – and no offense intended to anyone hwo loves his work!). I’m curious about this scent as well and enjoyed reading your review Patty!

  • Homura-chan says:

    Enter me. I heard this has no sillage and little staying power. Is that the case? Would still like to try it. I hated Vitriol D’Oilliette (sp!) it was a hot misplaced-amber-note mess.

  • Laura Conrad says:

    People who don’t fall to sleep to Beaudelaire should read the poem though. This site has some pretty good translations, as well as the original French. Here’s an excerpt:

    For six months frigid suns float overhead,
    For six months more darkness and solitude.
    No polar wastes are bleaker and more dead,
    With never beast nor stream nor plant nor wood.

    And yes, I’d like to try a perfume inspired by that.

  • Katherine says:

    A death scent? Why not! Please enter me in the draw, thanks. :-)

  • dinazad says:

    I love cemeteries and the melancholy peace there (still waiting for some historian of art to write about the trends and fashions of graveyard art). And churches. But a fragrance called “De Profundis” should smell of hope somehow – would you call from the depths if you didn’t have that last sliver of hope?

    Would love to be in the draw!

    • ggperfume says:

      Oh, I hope some art historian takes up your challenge. There’s a fascinating topic – how strange that it’s been addressed so seldom, if at all.

  • Marsi says:

    Wow, that vaguely depressed me.

    As long as it doesn’t smell like Messe de Minuit, I’m good though.

    Please toss my name into the hat.

  • sybil says:

    I think Messe de Minuit smells like cold death, tomblike. Maybe we need something that smells like warm death and cemetaries? Please enter me into the drawing.

  • Ann says:

    Hi, Patty. Thanks for the review on this as I’ve been curious about it. I haven’t tried Messe de Minuit either, so maybe I’ll get a sample of that, put that on one wrist, the Profundis on the other and then I’ll have quite the near-death experience, no?

  • Francesca says:

    I’m wondering if there’s any nod to Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, his long cry of pain and and recrimination written in prison to Lord Alfred Douglas—

    There’s a tradition of using chrysanthemums on Wiccan altars for Samhain (same day as Halloween), when we invite our beloved dead to enter the sacred circle and feast and drink with us.

    On to the fragrance. I was astonished at how much it really does smell just like chrysanthemums at the beginning. I don’t remember the drydown that well–incensy in a warm sense, not a churchy sense, maybe? Sniffing my wrist all afternoon, I liked it. Not enough to really need it again, so I don’t have to be entered in the draw.

  • Nutella says:

    We touch death every night when we go to sleep- now I lay me down to sleep…if I die before I wake. But something tells me that a Lutens scent wants to amplify the experience. I’m dying to try it.

  • Civava says:

    We just do what Mr. Serge want us to do. Talk and deliberate on this ;-). I also first thought about Dante. But I would nevertheless want to sniff what Mr. Serge thought with that.

  • Zazie says:

    I don’t find the association of a perfume with death a particularly inspiring/inspired one. I find gothic mood only suited to teenagres.
    Yet, I have the feeling/hope that de profundis is much more than a flirt with the idea of death.
    The name itself, “de profumdis”, which means from the depth, is so effective in evoking striking powerful images erupting from the depth of the (under)world.

    Insetad of cinderella, my grandma recited me la divina commedia, when I was child. De Profundis makes me think of Dante fear struck as the great Farinata emerges, immense, fierce and noble, from his grave in hell.
    I’m longing to try De Profundis.

  • Tourbillion says:

    I am not sure we need another “death scent” since we have Messe de Minuit, which smells like a tomb to me. Yet, I’d like to try it anyway.

  • Undina says:

    I do not like the idea of a perfume associated with death in any way and I wouldn’t have tolerated it from a younger art-director. With Serge Lutens (I refer only to his age) I can presume he knows a thing or two about death so I do not take an offense.

  • Alica says:

    I don’t know, I would like to try it. If it’s deep churchy type scent, I might like it. Pls enter me, thanks!

  • Jiyin says:

    Speaking of death scents and novels, I’m just finishing John Harwood’s Seance, which I love. I would also love to try this. Thanks for the draw!

  • summer says:

    Count me in too. Sounds almost like those 20th century European novelists and philosophers, “seeking peace amidst pain”.