A disappointment, a delight, a rediscovery

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)

  • tmp00 says:

    I do love Serge Noir, but from all I’ve read of Attarine I’m not sure that I need to go seek it out. I hate to write it, but it seems like another trip to the well, no matter how good.. 🙁

  • mollypenny says:

    Just tried Serge Noir this week and am loving it. It’s funny- I was standing in my closet trying to figure out what to wear and kept getting a whiff of something interesting, captivating. Had to sniff several sleeves before I figured out it was the Serge Noir from the night before, smelled completely different on the shirt than my skin but both wonderful. I love how it completely transforms itself over the hours.
    Recent disappointment was Ormande Jayne Woman. I don’t know what that drydown note is it leaves on me but it definitely reminds me of something I hate, a soft and slightly fuzzy tea/flower smell? I couldn’t wash it off of me to save my life.
    It never ceases to intrigue me how different scents work so differently on different people (did I say different?!;;)
    Am now interested in researching the entire Serge Lutens’ line from everyone’s SL chatter.

  • Patty says:

    Love the el Attarine, which *finally* showed up today. I’ll offer my two cents on it next week, but it’s a different mix on me of other Serge’s, including MKK. You didn’t get that amazing sweat note? I swooned.

  • Tara says:

    Anxiously awaiting my El Attarine decant. I’m hoping it will be love. I was horribly disappointed by Serge Noire… pure cumin BO on me, sadly. My latest rediscovery is Mandarine Mandarin. Initially wrote it off as too orangey sweet, then retested a few weeks ago and fell in love with the orange/sandalwood combination. Awaiting a bottle of that too. And the call from Barney’s that the Borneo export bottles have arrived!

  • Lee says:

    Just dashing in to say I’ll respond to y’all tomorrow – hectic hectic hectic!!!:d

  • moongrrl says:

    My most recent disappointment was *finally* getting to sample the much vaunted SL Chergui and finding out it is Essence of Fancy Play-Doh. After all of the talk for years about it being the best thing evar!!!!!, I feel like turning my my fragrance addict card. 😉

    100% Delight is Andy Tauer’s new Vetiver Dance. Holy hoppin’ hippos, this stuff is liquid sex magic. Earthy, green, spicy, and undefinably present. I could kiss March for giving me a sample. I can’t believe how long it lasts, too, especially on my fragrance eating skin. Neil Morris’ Dark Season is running a close second in the “How did I ever live without this” category.

    I “rediscovered” my first fragrance love, DK Chaos, after a shiny new bottle showed up this week. It’s thisclose to the original and is my version of a personal fragrance time machine. I feel like a piece of me has been given back every time I smell it. Happiness is.

    • Shelley says:

      Aw, that’s too bad…you don’t happen to have more of that terrible Chergui lying around, do you? I know of a certain someone who might not think it’s the greatest thing ever, but puts it right up with her best “comfort” scents… :-\”

      Ooh, ooh, ooh….I’m waiting for my Vetiver Dance sample. Maybe today?? Just tried Ayala’s vetiver, and am wanting to do a little dabbling in the v.

      Still need to try Chaos…happy that I’ve been able to use Black Cashmere, though….

  • Catherine says:

    Ah…the thrill of a new Serge Lutens. Nothing makes the collective heart flutter faster. Thank you for the gorgeous review of El Attarine. I must get a hold of this someday to sniff. The PR got me at “topaz.” My favorite gemstone. And Borneo! How happy I am that this makes its way States-side this year, as it is one of my favorites from the non-export line, just after Tubéreuse Criminelle. I swooned at the interplay of the notes upon first sniff, and I desperately want my husband to wear it this winter. Thankfully, he loves patchouli, as well as Serge Lutens.

    Disappointments…okay, how about Fumerie Turque. Hubby just shrugged his shoulders. He got no “sexy yum-yum from it.” Of course, I bet his skin would create the *wow*, but that would mean I’d have to generously let go of my treasured sample. Can I be so generous?

    Delights…again, a Serge Lutens. Gingembre smells like boredom on me, but it exploded into hot-ness on hubby. As for me, Guerlain’s Attrape Coeur has won me over, and I’m crawling on my knees to beg forgiveness for anything negative I’ve said of Guerlain. Thank goodness for Jason at BG, who sent along a very generous sample.

    And rediscoveries…Bois de Violette! Just yesterday! I swear, my nose is changing over this year. A gifted sample from a beautiful woman popped into my mailbox, and it was instant passion. Now I get it. And the scheming for more begins!:x

    • Lindsey9107 says:

      ITA that Gingembre smells like boredom.

      Don’t you love experimenting with fragrance on another person? My husband is a fan of patchouli as well. I pretty much love all patchouli on myself, but the one I wear most is Coromandel. I think I’ll need at least a decant of Borneo when it becomes more available.

      I loooooove Bois de Violette! It is the most perfect fragrance. If you’re looking for a decant, I got one from Ascella on MUA recently.

      • Catherine says:

        Yes! Playing on/with someone else’s skin is too much fun. Thankfully, friends and hubby enjoy it, too, or I’d be considered the menace that I am. Borneo is gorgeous. It’s the only patchouli I love enough to wear. I very much enjoy the note, mind you, but somehow I never wear it. Thus, it’s fabulous that DH is so very accommodating. So, starting this winter sometime, I’ll be able to smell Borneo without needing to commit to it for a whole day. Definitely worth a decant at least, I think.

  • Disteza says:

    Man oh man, how I wish I could get a test group together to try on Borneo just so I can see where all the hate comes from. I’m amazed even you call it angular–on me it’s a furry glow of a perfume. Not chocolate-y, not patch-y, just vaguely slinky with a hint o’ danger. I haven’t smelled Attarine, but those bottles set my normally unmoved-by-the-packaging heart aflutter. Serge Noire I liked, but it seems a little too dry for me. I think I’ll stick to Arabie. I happen to love MdB, it’s just dangerous to wear in the summer in the midst of all the insects!

    I recently re-discovered Les Nez’ Let me Play the Lion, which I had previously written off as ‘gorgeous but lasts all of 10 minutes’. Thank goodness I tried it again, for it’s been my favorite throughout the hot, sticky part of summer. I’m renewing my interest in the Nasomatto line (particularly Duro, Absinth, and Hindu Grass). Now that it’s getting colder, I’m able to wear PG’s Coze again! I’ve always thought of Coze as what the devil would wear to seduce someone, and how I’ve missed it!

    New things that have delighted me include PG’s Psychotrope (which on me should be named psycho-trollop, what with the candied flowers duking it out with some massive leather), L’eau Guerriere, Montale’s Red Vetyver (why did I wait so long to try this?), and Profumum’s Santalo (finally, ye gods, a sandalwood worth wearing!)

    I’ll save you from the novel that would be my list of disappointments…:)

  • Elle says:

    I can’t wait to try Attarine! I have almost no doubts that I’ll adore it. And if there was ever a LE bottle I crave, it’s that one.
    My biggest disappointment recently was SIP’s Musc Botanique – nothing wrong I’m sure w/ the scent itself, but I’m completely anosmic to the musk in it. SOB! I’m a fan of SIP scents and the reviews sounded incredibly promising. I was also disappointed that none of the new Guerlains managed to transcend the idiotic ad copy. There’s potential in all of them, but somehow they end up not crossing over the line from insipid into interesting.
    My happiest recent reconnection has been w/ Jalaine’s Vetiver. That scent never fails to provide the most wonderful, deep earthy comfort for me.
    Great to see you posting and hope Gracie is doing well!

  • Musette says:

    Babydoll! You’re back! YAY!!! How’s Gracie? Bruno sends her his lurrrve:x
    Miss March introduced me to Feminite du Bois. That took a few spritzes to understand but once I did….oh, man! That’s a definite Delight. A gorgeous little elf gifted me with a bottle and I am forever grateful. Alas, I’m a bit disappointed in the current Serge Lutens line. Nothing horrid, just……I dunno:-< I may not yet be quite advanced enough for it. The Delight of My Life, again courtesy of Miss [email protected]};- is Rochas Femme EdP. I don't know if you read of Rima bursting into tears upon smelling Herve Leger but I had a similar reaction to Femme (no tears but it felt like F just reached in and yanked my heart out through my nose!). I'm anxious to try Jube 25 which is touted to be Femme Fabulous.....:-? Rediscovery is Mitsouko, but only in EdP. I've always loved it but it wasn't much in rotation in my perfume life but comments on this blog awakened my interest. I'd forgotten how lovely it is. My sister, new to perfume, likes it but says it smells powdery, like stuff from Avon (I'm having difficulty reconciling the Avon comment as positive but whatever floats yer boat, I guess). Have a wonderful weekend! So glad to know you're back! xoxoxxo

    • Debbie says:

      What a great description of Femme’s wonderful nature! I love it too. It’s probably the only fragrance (okay, with NM’s Midnight Tryst) that I never want to be without.

      In comparison, I tried Jube 25 and wasn’t impressed at all. I’d love to hear your reaction to it once you try it.

      • Musette says:

        I’m hoping TPC has a samp. I can’t remember if it was Robin or Angela on NST raved about it – and she loves Femme – so this should be interesting!

        For me, Femme is That Fragrance that works, no matter what! And it’s so cheerfully inexpensive, Praise Floyd!!![-o< On the NMs, looks like Cathedral is the clear winner for me. I tried Spectral Violet and while I really liked the composition violet (any violet) roughs up my nose just a bit too much. xo

    • moongrrl says:

      Hmm, now I’m thinking I should try Femme, seeing as Mitsouko EDP and Feminite du Bois are two of my faves. I was worried about that cumin note, but nothing risked, nothing gained, right?

      • Louise says:

        If you can find some vintage Femme, you won’t regret the hunt-it does show up fairly often on ebay. No cumin, lots of dirty animals. The modern EdP substitutes cumin for the animalic base, but is really quite pretty too 😉

  • March says:

    Hey, sweetums — wonderful review! We are not precise fragrance twins in our Serge fandom 😉 but I was surprised on our recent foray to discover that some of the ones I used to be unable to cope with (like Douce Amere) were … kind of attractive. In any event I should try this one.

    • Louise says:

      Before we know it, you will be dousing yourself in Borneo and Arabie:o

    • Melissa says:

      Recently re-tried Douce Amere. I previously thought I could not wear it, probably due to what I remembered as an overdose of anise. Oddly, I now find it appealing and I’m hunting down a decant. I don’t find the anise overwhelming at all. I seem to change my mind about the SLs constantly. Dislike one day and love the next.

  • Billy D says:

    Maybe I should try El Attarine…today, I put on a fleece I haven’t worn in a long time because of a sudden cold snap here in the Northeast. It was scented with some iris scent I had sprayed probably last year (maybe Iris Silver Mist, maybe L’homme de coeur) and I realized–iris bothers me now! My once favorite, exaulted note now leaves me cold and with a slight headache. What happened??I find myself likeing ambers and leathers now. What a turn around!

    In that way, my rediscovery (since I tried it a long long time ago and dismissed it) is definitely Ambre Narguile, which I believe is a particular favorite of yours, Lee. I get only a very slight amount of foodiness (apple streudel I think is the term most often applied to it), more gorgeous amber than anything. Wow. It’s so beautiful and comforting, it may become my go-to fall scent.

    Dissapointments? I’m on an Hermes kick, so Vetiver Tonka. It doesn’t like me. But it loooves the bf. Which is a good thing, since his birthday is coming up on the 29th.

    Delight: Bpal. It’s fun.

    Thanks for the post Lee! Hope the dog and the man and you are all well.

  • Nava says:

    My first entry into “Sergedom” was Rahat, and I still love it. I’m not as big of a sucker for gourmands as I used to be, but this will always have a special place in my collection.

    The biggest disappointment I ever experienced at the hands of Serge is Chypre Rouge. Words cannot describe that one.

    I am now attempting to give myself a swift kick in the rear for not asking a couple of acquaintances of mine who are presently in London, and took a 3 day trip to Paris, to procure me a bottle of El Attarine. :((

    I am looking forward, with much anticipation, to my first full Canadian autumn and wearing some favorites such as Satellite Padparadscha, Profumum Olibanum, Jozef Statkus, and an old love: the newly re-issued Donna Karan Chaos. And, my most recent acquisition – Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue. Another winner!

  • Debbie says:

    Hi Lee!

    Recent disappointments are the Guerlain Carnal Elixers. The gourmand was like Pink Sugar, the chypre was a department-store peach, and Oriental Brulant was a stripped-down Iris Ganache. I liked the OB best; however, I have a bottle of Iris Ganache, so why would I ever by the OB?

    Recent discoveries: two Neil Morris fragrances! Prowl is a fantastic green tea fragrance with animalic notes. I am excited about it because I usually can’t do green tea fragrances. I also love one I just tried last night: Mystic Dragon. Incense with chocolate.

    I worry that others think I am a NM sycophant. However, like you, there are fragrances of him I don’t like. My reviews are on MUA and range from the ecstatic to the “umm…..no”.

    No rediscoveries. I guess I haven’t been doing this long enough…only about ten months.

    Nice to hear from you! Be sure to tell us about the pupster’s latest exploits.

  • Tania says:

    Hi Lee,

    Attarine sounds like something I need to try. I like your description of it.

    I too love some SL, dislike others (though I’ve yet to try most of the non-export line). Miel de Bois I’ve only sniffed, never tried. Is it really that bad?

    I was sadly disappointed by Serge Noir. On me it went all ‘fried onions on top of pilau rice’. So much so that I was glad I only got the sample, not a larger decant. Oh well…

    A recent rediscovery was Caroline Herrera – the original in the white, yellow & black box. I’d thought my bottle (from way back in the day) was turned, but luckily it’s not. And I love it all over again!

  • Louise says:

    I think I’ve just landed in your smut filter, can you please fish me out? 8-|

  • Louise says:

    Welcome back, darling Lee >:d< Aziyade is certainly high on my list of recent disappointments-not even cola for me, just cumin. And while I adore cumin, I do like it blended just a wee bit with a little something else. Serge Noire was frightening on me...a mess of dissonant and just plain nasty notes, though it's smelled divine on friends. Yuzu Fou was certainly more pleasant, and I'll retry it in warmer weather-it's quite fresh, with an unexpected depth to it. Perhaps I am easily disappointed right now (worn-out old nose :^o ?) but almost nothing new or new to me has moved me of late. Ah, but El Attarine-I had the good fortune to rub a bit of a wax Palais Royale samp of El A on my wrist, provided by a generous MUA buddy. And while our evening sushi buffet was beckoning, I was enthralled. A happy scent, sunny and bright, as you and CC described. The spice was just perfectly balanced, and as a fan of both the SL Bois series and the rich gourmands, I felt quite at home. Longevity was wonderful (for wax /:&#41;), though I have no idea of projection. It was an instant "come home to Mama" perfume. Oddly enough, I have the remains of Borneo left from bedtime still wafting around me. It is a rediscovery, and a deeper love this time around. Other rediscoveries-Jubilation 25 (got the cheapy 30 ml bottle)-it was nice on initial sniff, fabulous now. And the entire Dior cologne collection seems just right now-including my initial least-loved, Cologne Blanche. Yum. Y'all come back soon, heah? @};-

  • carmencanada says:

    Lee, dearest, yes indeedy, it was me that compared El Attarine to sun through lattice-work in my summer review. To me it’s pretty much a sum of lots of Lutens, reworked and harmonized (Bois de Violette, Santal de Mysore, Fleurs d’Oranger).
    You forgot to mention, perhaps because those are the less male-friendly Lutens, what I see as a third strand, the baroque floral (Tubéreuse criminelle, fleurs d’oranger, Rose de nuit, Sarrasins, Datura Noir, Cèdre).
    I’m getting a bottle of El Attarine — as soon as the gentleman who was smitten by it gets it for me as promised! I can just smell it in my mind’s nose, which makes it very distinctive, I guess.

  • Bryan says:

    Dearest Lee,
    Sweetie, I just love it when you reappear. I miss your graceful pen. I have not tried El Attarine, but if they shipped to the states I would have given my credit card number over the phone a month ago. I undoubtedly buy Serge non-exports unsniffed, usually on ebay, and am rarely disappointed. Tubereuse Criminelle is my obsession. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new one. I do agree however that some of the Serges are lacking. I was bored with Chypre Rouge (calm down Lee, I’m just tellin’ you my side of the story). I found Serge Noire interesting….for about ten minutes. I don’t love lavender, so Gris Clair is, as Ms. Klum would put it, OUT. You took the words right out of my fingertips concerning Clair de Musc. The non-exports though seem to reveal themselves slowly to me. Thanks to the Posse, I keep re-experiencing the likes of Iris Silver MIst and Rose de Nuit….both of which I found in 1999 and have been re-examining since.
    I used to think Fracas gorgeous, but too much orange blossom, not enough Tuberose. You know me, a day without at least a sniff of the pure stuff is not a day I want to endure. I’ve given the extrait and the edp yet another chance and I don’t know something “happened”. I either didn’t “get it” before, or I just tapped into some patience that eluded me until now. I now spray it all over me…and I mean All Over Me…before bed. It warms up the rather, ahem, cold bed.

    Miss you, Love you, beg you to write more…..how’s the four-legged baby? 😡