Serge Lutens Santal Blanc

First off I want to say thanks for the excellent suggestions you folks made on my Little Pleasers post. Some of the items (e.g., wine stoppers, pepper grinder, keychain flashlight) I´m happy to say I already own, and others are now on the way to the house. The Big Cheese is really thrilled with the tsunami of boxes arriving daily (hey, bud, at least it´s not perfume!) Anyway, if you´ll recall I said the first person to guess my New Serge Lutens Crush would win my Barbara Bui tee-shirt n stuff giveaway, and that goes to Camille – for naming Santal Blanc. Camille, send me your address (and I love my new Longaberger mugs! I got the berry ones.)

I´ve been ragging on Serge Lutens lately. When I was getting into fragrance it took me awhile to warm up to the Lutens concept, and the base in some of them is so syrupy sweet I can´t stomach it. But as a line, there is really nothing like Lutens. Some of my favorites are grand gestures, like Fleurs d´Oranger. Others have more subtle charms, like Clair de Musc. Some of the scents are outrageous, like Miel de Bois. What I think Lutens does really well is fragrances that are both delightful and a little odd, and that quirkiness is conspicuously absent in the line´s most recent releases.

Today´s scent topic, Santal Blanc, is on the highly-wearable end of the Serge Spectrum, but that doesn´t mean it´s lacking its own peculiar charms. I must have smelled this scent a number of times at the local boutique that sells it, and somehow I never got around to putting it on and giving it a chance to register. (Notes are white sandalwood, musk, cinnamon bark, fenugreek, balsam, pink pepper, iris, wood.)

I was surprised there are so many negative reviews of Santal Blanc on Basenotes, but after further consideration it makes sense; anyone looking for a manly payload of sandalwood is bound for disappointment. There is sandalwood, sure, but it´s gentle and creamy and melts into the general woodsiness of the base. Santal Blanc is also missing that signature dark-fruit Lutens note, which is fine with me; in its place is fenugreek. Here´s a weird quote from Wikipedia (so you know it´s true!):

“A side effect of consuming even small amounts of fenugreek (even as just an infusion in water) is a maple syrup or curry smell in the eater’s sweat and urine, which is caused by the potent aroma compound sotolone. Fenugreek is frequently used in the production of flavoring for artificial syrups. The taste of toasted fenugreek is additionally based on substituted pyrazines, as is cumin. By itself, it has a somewhat bitter taste.”

Santal Blanc is fairly quiet and semi-gourmand – a faint sugar note in the opening, then a brief hint of something like mustard or cumin that fades quickly, and then the main body of the scent– mostly bark and woods, something milky, a light dusting of pepper. Santal Blanc is one of those fragrances I wish I had a new vocabulary to describe, creamy and peppery and gourmand being pretty played out at this point. It´s wonderful – it´s a little weird, falling between dessert spices and a sandalwood box. It´s certainly subtle by Lutens standards, and oddly sexy. It´s a comfort scent par excellence, as well. It´s quite unisex, and it seems to me like the sort of unobtrusive scent you would wear to the office, but that people would still inquire about enthusiastically. I´m thrilled to have finally noticed its charms.

sandalwood mala beads:

  • Kim Lindsey says:

    Hey! Lovely review. I stumbled across this while looking for scents that contained fenugreek and although Ive tested Santal Blac before… that was pre-fenugreek interest. I’m going to have to revisit this one and see what NEW impressions I get.

    And on an only semi-related note… I am pretty sure those are rudrashka beads in the mala your picture. The picture does a pretty good job evoking the *image* of sandalwood, but rudrashka are seeds from a different type of tree. So, no criticism meant, but thought you might like to know this bit of trivia.

  • minette says:

    is it me, or is there something boozy about santal blanc? it took me a while to succumb to its charms, and even now it’s not my first choice – but when it’s right, it’s right. folks looking for a straight-up shot of sandalwood would do well to try the art of shaving sandalwood.

  • Patty says:

    Okay, I would have never guessed this one! It is a great one and, like Clair de Musc, doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves.

    • March says:

      Well, I never would have guessed it either. I saw the word “Santal” and avoided it like the plague. Turns out I wuz wrong!/:)

  • Gaia says:

    I love Santal Blanc, but then again, I could live on Lutens syrup.

    I get booze. Lots and lots and lots of spiced booze, that dries down into spiced wood. It’s so different from Tam Dao, my other beloved sandalwood (a review coming soon, by the way, incase you’re also planning one /:) )

    • March says:

      Booze?!?! Really? And yeah, I was thinking about writing something about Tam Dao. Is there some weird inter-brain connection thang we have going on? :-?:o

  • Robin says:

    Can vouch for the fenugreek thing, as I took it for a long time while nursing.

    Santal Blanc is great stuff. I wear it every so often just to remind myself that I *do* love Serge.

    • March says:

      I have fallen for several of your comfort scents recently, including this one and Philosykos. It’s nice to have some overlap! :)>-

  • Linda says:

    Ohhh, this sounds SOOO me. I may have to rush out and get a sample and see how it treats me up close and in person. Thanks for a completely enticing review. 🙂

    • March says:

      Linda, thanks! Although please don’t buy the bottle unsniffed — enough people have now used the word “pickled” to frighten me a little:-ss

  • Divalano says:

    March, I had the same Lutens syrup aversion as a newbie perfumista. Tried Daim Blond & Chypre Rouge first & they almost killed me with sweet. Took a bit of courage & convincing for me to try anything else in the line, & I’m glad I did. It’s one of my fave lines now.
    I think you’re right about the sandalwood underwhelming people, I think that’s why I’ve sniffed SB in bottle & moved on. I keep looking for the sandalwood & not finding it. Perhaps I’ll give it a better try for what it is, not for what it’s not at some point (if that makes sense)

    And hey, can we talk about Barbara Bui for a second? Won that samp in a draw here, became instant fan. Just scored bottle on ebay last night. Yessssssssssss!!!

    • March says:

      Oh, I am so glad you got your Barbara Bui!!! I wore it yesterday, I do think it’s a special scent. I never asked anyone — does the opening bother you at all (helioplaydoh?) or are you good from the first sniff? I have to ignore the first 10 mins…

      “For what it is, not for what it’s not” — I think that’s beautifully put, actually, and a liability for fragrance addicts who often have some preconceptions of what they’ll be sniffing. I have dismissed scents in the past because they weren’t at all what I was expecting, then chanced upon them later, smelled them for what they *were* and been delighted.

      • Divalano says:

        I think it’s good from the first for me, although it doesn’t get “wow that’s really interesting & soothing & just kind of right & hmm, maybe I DO like incense” until it settles down & begins to emerge. I’ll know better once I have a full bottle to spritz from & can tell what it’s really doing.

  • Camille says:

    Hooray! I wore Barara Bui from a decant yesterday and fully enjoyed it; thanks, March! 😡

    I don’t (yet) own Santal Blanc, but tried it during Sniffa in Paris and it’s been haunting me. I definitely got the creamy and milky, but also got a little boozy, too–maybe the fenugreek’s syrupy note? No pickles on me, thankfully. And I love sandalwood, but 10CC is a bit harsh on me (I realize that’s blasphemy to some, but…). I much prefer the creamy sandalwood of Bois Farine, and I think Santal Blanc is that kind of sandalwood on my skin. I’m sampling it again this weekend to decide if it’s FBW….

    It’s *finally* cooler here, so I can end with this cute little guy:


    • March says:

      No pickles on me either! Although if you have a BB decant I should send you something else to sniff. Bois Farine I adore, but it refuses to hang around on me. I keep trying, though.

      83 here today…. sigh. Where is my fall? That’s a good 15 – 20 degrees above normal.

      • Louise says:

        Woo-hoo! March-Bois Farine last allllll day on me! Gotcha, finally!

        • March says:

          NFW. I wonder if I’m anosmic? I swear it just disappears. Maybe I could layer it with Miel de Bois to get it to stick?! heh heh

          • Camille says:

            Um, March honey, in AZ 83 degrees *IS* cooler weather. :d

            Can’t believe BF doesn’t stick around on you; I think I might be Louise’s twin when it comes to fragrance-eating-skin and BF lasts the day on me, too.

  • Marsi says:


    March, who in the D.C. area carries the Lutens line? I will be there briefly next week, and it’s always a bonus to find a place that sells the export line.


    • March says:

      Art With Flowers — they’re at the top of Tysons Galleria in Tysons Corner (McLean VA) — the Galleria is the fancy one with the Saks and NM, NOT the original Tysons mall across the street. AWF is at the Macy’s end on the top floor, near the Bose store. Other sniffage in the mall includes Anthropologie downstairs, the Grooming Lounge next door, and a small bunch of Oilily on the ground floor, the complete Burberry, along with the usual suspects (Saks, NM, Macys.)

  • sybil says:

    As soon as I read Lee’s comment about “pickly,” I laughed. Santal Blanc is so vinegar on me that I need a side of corned beef and Russian dressing to apply w/ it. Sad face, but the pickly on me lasts so long I can’t stand it. I wish I was getting creamy and peppery, though. Heck, I’d even settle for a big blast o’manly sandalwood!

    • March says:

      Well, Sybil, you have just explained it perfectly. Definitely skin chemistry then. I know Tom (TMP00) gets something pickly too, as does Lee. I just get … well, raspy. Something like you describe would probably not thrill me!

  • perfumequeen says:

    Interestingly, fenugeek is also given to nursing moms to make more milk. Just your fun fact for the day!

  • sariah says:

    Hi March – I like this one too. I think you hit the nail on the head – it’s definitely an SL with the Indian cooking vibe, but way more toned down than say, Santal de Mysore, so you can wear it to work without people asking Where’s the Curry?

    • March says:

      Yep, I like to skip the “where’s the curry?” It’s probably a personal problem for me …. sandalwood’s just one of those notes that can get on my nerves all of a sudden. I’m trying to think of something else I own with sandalwood that every now and again prompts a trip straight to the shower.

  • Elle says:

    How fascinating about the fenugreek! I think I now want to eat some and experiment. 🙂 I adore SB. Am always stunned by how many people don’t like it. Must be skin chemistry. One of my favorite reviews of it on MUA described it as a dead prune on a hot sidewalk. Totally disagree, but loved that! To me, it’s the scent of childhood and the very first mental image I always get when I put it on is of eating cinnamon toast and fruit at a sandalwood table (which we didn’t have, but should have).
    Should have mentioned in your Little Treasures posts that I have an addiction for cool bud vases. Beyond brilliant. I rarely have the time or inclination to do a full bouquet, but can always manage a few single blossoms in a group of bud vases.

    • March says:

      Wow, dead prune on a hot sidewalk?!? Hmmmmm, do you think they meant that in a *bad* way?!?:-?


      I can understand finding this “too light” (sort of), but it’s hard for me to see it as offensive in other ways. Clearly it’s possible, though! I think your description of cinnamon toast and fruit at a sandalwood table is lovely; I’d add something sweetly milky (chai?) to the meal too.

  • Louise says:

    March-this is not the one I had guessed, even with some on-site sleuthing at the shop! I make a lousy detective. I remember trying Santal Blanc a while ago, and having my usual reaction to anything labeled “blanc”-not enough oomph for me. I have my blast-o-sandalwood base covered with V’Tae’s Sacred Fire, but will respray this pickly (?) delicacy this weekend. Think it’ll go a half hour on me?

    • March says:

      I get spicy more than pickly, but I have to agree that unless it’s a surprise Serge, I’d give it 10 minutes on your skin.;)

      • Louise says:

        It’s flukey which Serge’s last on me-the more obvious ones like Arabie (love it-ha!), FT, Datura Noir, but sometimes the less potent, such as Gris Clair. Santal de Mysore sadly runs away from me. And several that go yucky hang around-Daim Blond just grows everlasting apricots around me, and Cedre has a gaggy tuberose that won’t quit. Odd.

  • Rita says:

    Santal Blanc is one I’ve also neglected. As Patty has already pointed out, I am quite the Lutens slut, and this is one of the few I haven’t tried. I have focused on smelling the non-exports first, although I do love A La Nuit and Arabie, which I can’t believe scares you so much, March! I love to wear it, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

    OK, now I know this is a serious addiction. I am going out of town for the next few days, and I have spent the last hour trying to figure out the scents to take with me. How am I supposed to know what I want to smell like four days from now?

    So far I have it narrowed down to my bottle of A La Nuit, which I could not leave home without, and I am also taking my Arabie. I have to take Rose de Nuit, because even if I do not wear it, I sniff the bottle every day (the same goes for MKK.) I have several non-exports I really haven’t good a good chance to sample, including Tubereuse Criminelle, La Myrrhe, and Encens et Lavande, and Borneo. I also have samles of Un Bois Vanille, Fleurs d’Oranger, Gris Clair, Chypre Rouge, and Louve that just arrived-of course they must come along. Damn, Patty is right-I am a slut :”> I got some samples from L’Artisan this week, so I have to add them to my bag as well. I have tried and tried to narrow the list, but this is the best I can do. Oh, I almost forgot-I also have some Carons from PC that I’ve only sampled briefly.

    The friend I’m traveling with is either going to really love me or plan my murder as I sleep! The A La Nuit alone may be enough to get the wheels in her head turning. Maybe I should leave the Borneo at home, for her sake(and mine!)At least DH’s nose will get to rest for a few days!

    • March says:

      Well, Rita — I think you should take them all! The samples can go in a ziploc bag or a makeup bag, right? And then make atomizers of the other scents, if you don’t want to lug the bottle.

      Remember if you’re flying you can’t take anything big (a lot of regular fragrance bottles won’t make the cut) and they have to fit in a half-gallon bag or whatever it is. I’ll also tell/warn you that stateside they looked at the vial collection I was taking to Thailand a little suspiciously, but accepted my explanation of what it was. If you’re not flying … well, then, you’re all set!

      I always take fragrance unless I’m going to a city (like NYC) when I know I’ll be sniffing all day long anyway. Have fun!

      Arabie and I just don’t get along.b-(

  • Lee says:

    There’s also a pickly something there too, isn’t there? This is one I love; I’d overlooked it too until a Tom review on PST convinced me I needed it in my life. To me, it’s pickled sandalwood done better than in 10CorsoComo… Adoration…:x