I really like Parfums d’Empire. Cuir Ottoman was lovely, Fougere Bengale interesting, and Ambre Russe the largest amber I know (and unwearable for me, but ymmv). I haven’t sniffed Yuzu Fou, their other latest release, but I’ve now tried Aziyade. The richness of Ottoman Turkey turns out to be this – supermarket brand cola spilled on an old leather jacket. I like it enough, but it’s sub-Arabie (probably sub-Dinner by Bobo, but I’ve never smelled that) and didn’t excite me. I wish I got some curry.
On the other hand, I’ve fallen for El Attarine.Now, a caveat. A Serge Lutens fanboy like me is easily accused by other folk on the interwebs of gloating, sycophantic adulatory praise for everyting dear ole Serge produces. So I just want to put this out there – not so. There’s plenty in the line I don’t love – Miel de Bois is unbearable on my skin, Gris Clair leaves me cold – burning metallics and iced lavender, Clair de Musc is a vapid gesturing towards ethereal femininity, Fumerie Turque now suffocates me, and his latest export release, Serge Noire, struck me as an unpleasant reconstitution of too many old ideas. Just my humble two penny’s worth you understand.
There seem to be two strands to Lutens’ work (there might be three, though I’m sticking with the two for now): a movement towards asceticism, refinement and apparent simplicity of form on the one hand (perhaps reaching its peak in Iris Silver Mist, but also there in Serge Noire, Encens et Lavande, Chene, Borneo 1834); or a full-bodied voluptuousness with curves and kohled eyes, lids half-open and plump lips moist in languorous expectation (Rahat Loukhom the most gourmand expression of this, but all of those rich sweet orientals too – Santal de Mysore, the Bois series, Arabie, Fumerie Turque). El Attarine, his latest non-export, is firmly entrenched in the second camp, although for me there’s much more of a lightness of touch about this scent than most of those also inside the perimeter. It’s not the sensory assault of Arabie, nor is it the cavity-causing sugar overload of Rahat. Like its compatriots, it is very sweet, so Serge Lutens haters will have plenty to knock, but the spiciness is muted, filtered.
So, in brief: it has the waxy quality of the Bois series and Rousse, a nod toward the spices of Santal de Mysore and Arabie, without any sharp edges or shrill calls. In drydown, its powdery and woody. For the first few hours it’s a radiant glowing thing, like light illuminating motes of dust, in flickering streams, through lattice -work (I think Carmencanada may well have said that first), but it’s also an abstracted fruit (Luca Turin says apricot, and though it is apricotesque, it never quite lands there for me), powdered at one end and dirtied at the other. It’s utterly Serge Lutens – a new smell – but it does somehow manage to retain the quieter, and perhaps more commercial, voice of Gingembre and Rousse. Neither feminine or masculine, it’s only a perfume for the body because it’s bottled as such. Like most Lutens’ fragrances, it’s a long way from an everyday kind of number, though it’s hushed enough to be made to fit that role. Not that it doesn’t have sillage, or diffusion. In fact, it’s stunnningly diffusive, but likely to be something you stop noticing you yourself are wearing and would be so much more striking worn by other people. Familiar on me, outstanding on others. That makes me both happy and a little disappointed.
Now my rediscovery: I had a decant of Borneo 1834 that I gave away almost as soon as I got it, never thinking I could wear it. Too patchouli, too odd, too angular. And now, with that slight coolness in the air presaging change, I crave it. Unlike el Attarine, it’s a scent that can never feel familiar on me, and it’s a smell in argument with itself, not really resolving its own i nternal battle until it disappears. And perhaps that’s what I love – the buzz that comes from this camphoraceous patchouli socking it out with dry cocoa keeps me on my toes, makes me reawaken to my love of sensory pleasure and all the power of perfume.
Tell me your disappointments, delights and rediscoveries.
By Lee (don’t know where my downhome fella went).
(Images ‘borrowed’ from Osmoz and Basenotes)