Sniffa attendees: Patty and I and Divalino have triple-dog-dared each other into some shenanigans. Look for me in a tasteful rhinestone tiara at the Sniffa Bergdorf breakfast on Saturday; I believe Patty will be wearing her KU cap (and won´t we be a sight?) At the BlueMercury cocktail event that night I plan to wear Hecate´s festive pink antennae (pictured at left), and I think Divalino is wearing a light-up tiara of her own. I invite all Posse readers to join us in wearing either headgear or a jaunty scarf to the day’s events, or just have a laugh at our expense.
On to today´s post:
Once upon a time there was a house called Serge Lutens. Its fragrances never failed to amaze me. They took me on journeys that lasted all day as the dominant notes ebbed and flowed. They were so intense I could rarely sample more than two in a single setting before my nose stopped working properly. Some of them I loved; some of them I hated. Even the ones I considered unwearable are still interesting, multifaceted scents, better left to others with different skin chemistries (or perfume desires) than mine.
Read off a list of Serges and smile at the wonder of it all. Santal Blanc, Tubereuse Criminelle, Borneo, Muscs Koublai Khan, Fumerie Turque, the Bois series, Encens et Lavande, Iris Silver Mist … the list goes on and on, doesn´t it? Fantastic. Nothing like them, really.
I´m going to draw my arbitrary line at 2005 as the point at which things at SL begin to get a little … tenuous. Bois et Musc I like, a lot, but it´s another in the Bois series and thus hardly represents a groundbreaking new idea. Next up: Mandarin Mandarine, which I like, sort of, only it seems a bit thin and raspy, although many folks would probably give it bonus points for lacking that signature Serge syrup. Again, very nice and certainly easy to wear, but IMHO not quite on the same level as the earlier Serges. Then we have Gris Clair, a (less interesting) riff on the earlier, so-gorgeous-it-makes-me-weep Encens et Lavande. Taken together, Mandarin Mandarine and Gris Clair signal a new kind of Serge – ones that feel more like a rough sketch of an interesting idea than a finished work.
Then we have Chypre Rouge, which I liked very much (and many people didn´t) but more because it was refreshingly weird than any real desire to wear it, and I missed weird from my Serge. I could argue convincingly that Chypre Rouge shares some of the raspy smell and feel of the two scents that came before it, and they all start to feel like competing drafts of something else. Sarrasins is a variation on the theme of A La Nuit, and I don´t care how dark they dye it or how pretty the bottle is, at that point I´m beginning to wonder, are they out of ideas? Are there no notes left to explore?
This worrisome thought certainly wasn´t alleviated by Rousse and Louve. I won´t rag on Rousse, which has a ton of fans, but again – whither the Serge freak flag? Just my opinion, but a fragrance that smells mostly of cinnamon candies, no matter how cheery, fails to join the august ranks of SL´s older scents. Louve smells like heliotrope/cherry-almond/marzipan, and if, as a Basenotes commenter suggests, it is a ringer for the scent of Vidal Sassoon shampoo in the 70s, that does nothing to improve its impression on me. You can like it, or not, but you will never convince me it´s interesting. It´s also on some level possibly a less-syrupy reworking of Rahat Loukoum, but as I don´t have a sample I can´t say for sure.
Bringing us right up to Five O´Clock au Gingembre, the fragrance that was going to redeem Serge Lutens in my eyes. Notes are: bergamot, vetiver, ginger, honey, beeswax, labdanum and vanilla. I spent several days applying and reapplying with an atomizer until I´d blown through most of my generous sample in various working conditions. Hey, it´s nice. Pretty. It has the same raspy feel of Mandarine, Chypre Rouge, Rousse and Gris Clair, and approximately the same weight. It´s a simple idea with minimal development. It´s gingery and honey and hay and maybe a little vanilla musk. My favorite part is the drydown when it shifts from ginger-tea to a sweet vanilla skin scent. I bet if I sprayed it on and went to a cocktail party, I might get some compliments on it.
If I’d discovered something that smells like Five O’Clock au Gingembre on the shelf at Sephora between Ralph Wild and Stella McCartney, I´d be ecstatic. But sniffing and resniffing, I keep getting the sinking feeling that if I layered, say, a dab of John Varvatos Vintage and Demeter Honey with Roger & Gallet Gingembre, I would get something like SL Gingembre – a little less fancy than Serge’s version, maybe, but with better lasting power.
Coming from Serge Lutens, “nice” and “pretty” isn´t good enough for me. Not by a mile. Serge, where is your mojo? These fragrances, they´re flaccid. They´re hazy and lazy and indistinct. They lack your signature touch. Where is the rollercoaster-thrill of fear I used to get when trying a brand new Serge that came from the knowledge that I might spend the rest of the day wishing I could hack my own arm off? (See: Arabie, Miel de Bois, Borneo.) Is this all there is? The best you can do? Maybe you should hang up your spurs, develop some new interests. Restoring ancient castles or pursuing your long-deferred dream of becoming an entomologist, or what have you. Enough of this Serge-goes-to-Macy´s folderol. I don´t care how pretty it smells; these nice fragrances are beneath you. Go find your old bad self, okay? Because right now you are, as my rancher friends used to say, all hat and no cattle.