Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

pine forestYou know what I love about perfume?  And friends? And perfumey friends?  Someone (in this case Louise) magically shows up (in this case, back from her European Grand Tour) with something worth reviewing (in this case, Serge Lutens´ Fille en Aiguilles, which I believe is joining the export line and thus will be available outside France.)

I already had my hopes up for Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles, their new fragrance, based on the review on Grain de Musc; even if it didn´t turn out to be wonderful at least it sounded different, right?  New and different in Sergeville right now meaning “no stewed fruits, not built around jasmine.”   The concept of camphor had me a little freaked out.  I hate camphor – in Tubereuse Criminy and Borneo, the camphor overwhelms me (okay, Borneo also smells like Easter candy and vomit.)  I know you lovers are out there, and more power to you, but Borneo´s a fear factor scent for me.

Anyhow, we broke open the cellophane on Louise´s virgin bottle of Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles, and my first word to Louise after spraying it was a thoughtful, appreciative … damn. This is good stuff.

I´m not going to even try to come up with a list of notes, because Lutens is always so coy with the …. no, wait, wait!!!!  Isn´t this the one with the cicadas?!?!  Yes it is!  Check that out, Robin at Now Smell This must have had a blast typing in Tick Tick Tick over and over…. But this, my friends, is no ticking bomb.   Let´s crib Robin´s notes (via Osmoz) while we´re over there: a woodsy oriental with pine needles, vetiver, frankincense, fruit and spice notes.  Also, when they say “What a silly thing!  A truly fatal hymn,” I´m thinking, um, is there a translation problem here?  But whatev.  It´s in the export line, which is all that matters, right?

Fille seems kind of radical for Serge in terms of its stripped down feel.   When I first put it on I get pine needles, end of story.  Now, I love pine needles.  Putting this on is like taking a stroll in the Santa Fe national forest among all the conifers — I’m in the cool shade while the hot sun beats down all around me.  It´s pretty quiet at that point, but still really pleasing.  Then the scent starts opening up on my skin, and for an hour or so, the sillage is both generous and enchanting.  Words fail.  It gets this resiny thing going on, like Le Labo Poivre, only more …. radiant?   Simpler?   I´m flopping around here trying to describe the feeling.   I love Lutens at his best, but in general I wouldn´t describe his scents as simple – they are often a baroque, multi-hour, multi-stage journey, at least on my skin.  Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles wears more straightforwardly, almost primitively, as if the perfumer were conducting an experiment in which a Lutens would be created in the Hermessence style.  It smells like a great smell to me, rather than a great perfume – and I do not mean that as any kind of negative, I´m just saying.

As it wears on the smell gets simultaneously more turpenic/mentholated and that hint (hey, I lied!) of Serge dried fruits comes out, and it´s a gorgeous juxtaposition – the coolness of the turpentine against the sweet, almost vanillic warmth of the fruits.  But this is all really subtle, nothing´s beating you over the head.  It is absolutely the perfect time of year for this scent – it´s refreshing in the heat.  In fact, if I hadn´t smelled it, today´s post was probably going to be about how incense frags are so great in the hot humidity.  Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles falls on the resin/turpentine end of incense fragrances, and I´m happy to have it.

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles conjured a happy memory for me: several years ago, rooting around in the back of a dark, musty antique store, I came across a set of dining room chairs that I had been searching for (without knowing precisely what I wanted) for almost a decade.  The seats and seatbacks were dark, padded leather, probably stuffed with horsehair; the wooden frames were old and dusty.  We like to linger at the table at dinner parties, and I really, really wanted comfortable padded chairs in something easily wiped off.   Also, they´d go perfectly with the two wood and leather armchairs I already owned for the table ends.  I approached the store owner with some trepidation, worried about just how much my fantasy was going to cost. He named a price that was a quarter of what I would have paid.  He also offered to clean them up a little before delivering them, if I´d give him a few days to do so.  I said sure, just don´t clean them up too much!

When they arrived they looked great, but they smelled extraordinary.  They smelled like resin, forest and incense.  I couldn´t keep myself from sniffing them compulsively; he´d cleaned them up and/or waxed them with something containing turpentine.  That area of my house, which we walk by all the time, exuded that faint incense-in-a-pine-forest smell for almost a year, and I never stopped noticing and appreciating it.  (I am not the only person for whom this fragrance conjured up rapt memories; read Helg´s evocative review here, complete with her discussion of the nuances of the fragrance´s name and some thoughtful comparisons to other Lutens scents.)

My only caution about this:  Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles, certainly for a Lutens, is fairly transparent, and it didn´t last longer than a couple of hours before losing most of its sillage and becoming a skin scent.  I can´t think of another Serge that craps out on me like that; generally with Serge I´m offering to buy them a train ticket after two days on my skin, just to get them to leave.

I sprayed some Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles on my sweater sleeve as an experiment.  The bad news was, I didn´t get the “bloom” I got on the skin.  The good news is, 30 hours later it´s still there and smelling dandy – I can definitely pick out the vetiver a day later, and it doesn´t take on the sweetness it gets on my skin.  So for anyone who´s obsessed with trying to make this work, you might want to try it on your clothing as well.  Also, I think it would make a killer room or linen spray if you used a light hand.

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles was definitely there on my skin – faint but alluring – the entire day.  I have occasionally had the situation of a summer incense being prominent enough on the wrong day to work my last nerve, and so I´m thinking, maybe its delicacy isn´t such a bad thing after all.   Honestly, I can´t decide.  But folks expecting some Iris-Silver-Mist level wallop should recalibrate.  It´s somewhere around Gris Clair in terms of weight, but even lighter in presence.  In fact, without resembling Gris Clair in terms of actual smell, I´d say Aiguilles is closest to it in the line (and simpler and less dense than Encens et Lavande.)  I’m adding it to my decant list.

PS.  I can’t resist – here’s Grain de Musc’s review of Wazamba.  Are we entering another resin/incense phase?  Is incense the new pink pepper?  A girl can dream…

pine forest image:

* * *

Lifted from Wiki, fun facts about turpentine: “Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, gum turpentine, white spirit) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. Canada balsam, also called Canada turpentine or balsam of fir, is a turpentine which is made from the resin of the balsam fir.

Turpentine is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine.

Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its “clean scent.”  Turpentine has long been used as a solvent, mixed with beeswax or with carnauba wax, to make fine furniture wax for use as a protective coating over oiled wood finishes (e.g., lemon oil).”

  • robert says:

    Don’t know if you realize this but Fille en Aiguille is a play on words in French (sorta like Serge Noire). Spelt slightly differently (de fil en aiguille) and sounding almost the same, it’s an expression meaning “one thing leading to another.” So, whatever, there you are!

  • kuri says:

    geez, that sounds scrumptious. I don’t know how much I like resiny scents in reality, but so far Lutens has been too overpowering for me in general, so this sounds like a rather more manageable scent for me at the moment.

  • EileenS says:

    Great review! Now I NEED some, instead of just thinking I wanted some. The resins and pine scents are real favorites — when I’m hiking in the mountains I love to take deep breaths just to enjoy the pine-y forest-y goodness. Maybe those memories are bottled in FeA..

  • Sara K says:

    This sounds really interesting and different for Serge – hope it really is an export so I get the chance to sniff! (I also can’t stand Borneo which smells like a frat house after a ‘beach’ party).

  • annie says:

    OHHHHH,LORDY…..I was making a list of frags I CANNOT live without,and trying to pare it down,so as to not have to sell all my diamonds(snark),and you come along with this….do you know why I paint with oils instead of watercolors,or(shudder)acrilics?????…..The oils,and the turpintine,and,yes even the fragrance of a waiting,naked canvas, put me in a serious happy coma(now,no snickering,girls)….it was a sugesstion as a hobby to help with a serious depression…and it still works….I WILL BUY THIS PERFUME NO MATTER WHAT…now, I will fall at your feet and kiss your shoes for this great review….smooches to you…..carry on…..

  • Kate says:

    Lemmed! okay its dark and stains clothing so does it leave a dark mark on skin? Sarassins does so I can only wear it in the Aromwear locket.

    • March says:

      It didn’t seem that dark to me … I mean, I didn’t think twice about spraying it on my pink sweater, and I can’t see it on there. Helg does say (above) that it washed out. I soaked the crap out of my arm (ask Louise) applying it, wanting maximum effect, and it didn’t stain.

      • Louise says:

        right…she soaked the crap outta it…and I’ve not had it stain any clothes-though thus far have not tried light colors….better swatch it!

  • Patty says:

    This sounds lovely, I can’t wait to get my grimy little paws on it!

  • “Is incense the new pink pepper?” Let’s hope so, March, cuz I’m dreaming right along with you!

  • Lee says:

    Posse died on me. Left post; it disappeared.

    Gist was:

    mmm; love your writing y’day et t’day; kisses.

  • Disteza says:

    Durnit, now you’ve got me worried–I was all set to love this outta the gate, but if it burned off of you, dear March, in a couple of hours, what hope do I have with my scent-eating skin (whines the girl who has to refresh Arabie mid-afternoon)?

    I’m also looking forward to Wazza-macallit, and even the other PDE (3rd Flower or something?) and the other SL release; those are two houses that mostly play very nicely with my skin chemistry. The only SL I have issues wearing is Gris Clair, which smells like rancid butter on me.

    • March says:

      Rancid butter? That’s weird. Gris Clair is okay on me, but I love EetLavande… Aiguilles lasts okay on Louise, although the drydown gets sweet, and she’s an Arabie-refresher too. 🙂

  • Sweet Sue says:

    Whenever I wore Molinard du Molinard, someone always said ” I smell a Christmas tree.”
    Not a pine tree, but a Christmas tree. It was a pretty great winter scent.

  • Eric says:

    Now that I’ve found a local shop with the exports (and already bonded with a very sweet sales assistant) I can actually get worked up about this release.

    I love pine and I really cannot wait to sniff it. I’m not sure what memory will hit me but pine is such a common scent, it seems like many people should have some sort of connection, right?

    Anyway, thank you for your awesome review.

    • March says:

      You’re welcome. To be honest, I wasn’t too confident about this one. I was worried it would be a mentholated standard-guy scent. Of course, why I was worried about that from Serge I can’t say. Seems nutty in hindsight!

  • Nava says:

    Wow, a radical, stripped down Serge, eh? Thanks for blowing me away on a Monday morn… 😀

    I’ll join Melissa in saying that pine is very definitely not on my list of favorites, even though I haven’t yet sniffed Fille.

    As for turpentine, I have a very distinct memory of being “hosed down” with it as a child when I just couldn’t keep my grubby hands off the fences of my parents & neighbors’ houses in Brooklyn when they were being painted. It was a community fence and all the neighbors pitched in to help while I kept skipping back and forth slapping my hands against the wrought iron and wet paint. Every time I get a whiff of turpentine, I always recall my dastardly behavior.

    • March says:

      Oh, now that’s why you hate pine! You have negative smell associations, like having a dog bite you. In any case, this doesn’t sound like one that will do much for you.

      • Nava says:

        Yeah, I do have a number of negative scent associations; for good reasons, I feel. That and I am a product of the asphalt jungle as opposed to growing up surrounded by nature. The closest I ever got to a real forest were the 2 years I went to sleepaway camp. Like you said, dog bites…

  • Shelley says:

    You are writing up a storm…wonderfully so. Loved travelling through today’s post. Know what you mean there, and in the comments, about scent memory, and how interesting it is to see a given presentation elicit different memories from different people. I imagine I’d be somewhat like you when it comes to pine in scent…running into the woods straight out of the lake, an abrupt shift in what wafts about you…and also the cut limbs and general emanations of a Christmas tree.

    Given what I’ve read so far, I am very curious about this one, and have NO idea how I would react. 🙂 Welcome back from the loblollies, btw.

    • March says:

      Maybe that’s what appeals to me about pine/forest scents? Because there’s such a hot/cold association for me. Also (and it’s a little different) there was this line in New Mexico called Cedar Light, they did resiny glorious cedar needle sachet bags and a body spray which you’d see everywhere, esp. in massage places. To me that was the quintessential smell of New Mexico, obviously with warm and lovely associations.

      Sounds like it has some potential as a good scent for you too.

  • Melissa says:

    Tried this yesterday in the midst of a crazed sniffing spree with our vacationing friend Louise. First caveat-I had seventeen fragrances distributed on various parts of my body. Second caveat-I generally don’t like pine.

    So, I will be the first to say that Aiguilles just didn’t do it for me. At first, it was a big piney room scent on my skin. The development of the warmer notes didn’t change my mind. In fact, I found it to be a very odd juxaposition. But, I have been known to change my mind on second or third wearing of a scent, and this was decidedly not a fair try.

    Oh and Borneo? My very least favorite Lutens. A horror show on my skin.

    • March says:

      I told Louise that one drawer in my laundry room still smells like dead mouse from where the Borneo spilled. 🙂 I hate that stuff like poison.

      So, a meh from you. I do agree that it’s hard to judge when there’s so much going on. And in such a case, I’d think this Lutens’ simplicity would work against it.

  • Musette says:

    I love the smell of turps. My former studio always had that smell and just walking into it (it was a separate building from my house) was so uplifting, speaking of works yet to be done…

    and either you or Shelley sent me ‘something’….it smelled like camphor and I loved it! Dang. I have no idea what it was. Wait. we yakked about this – I hope I saved that thread – will look and see.

    anyhoo, I’m not a Sergeite, as you know, but this one has possibilities..

    xo >-)

    • March says:

      I did send you something camphor, didn’t I? But I can’t remember what. And you have a whole different scent association — an art studio.

      There’s somewhere in Chicago (Barneys?) that had these, right? Although I don’t think they automatically get the exports unless they want them? Not sure.

      • Musette says:

        Yeah, Barneys is lousy with SLs. Will check to see if they got (or are getting) this one, when next I’m there. I tend to pass him by because most of them don’t really move me.

        But this one sounds interesting.

        Dang. I am going to have to rifle through my ammo boxes (heh. see what I did there? “rifle” through my ammo boxes!? ROFL! I am SO (not) funny!:-D….

        where was I? Oh, yeah. I’mo rifle through the ammo boxes to see if I can remember what that was. I really liked that camphor note.

        xoxo >-)

        • March says:

          Hey did you figure out what it was? Rifling through the rifle boxes?

          • Musette says:

            Alas, no. You are so incredibly generous and I am so incredibly clueless that I ……..well, I just don’t know what it could be! Tried several, including Bensimon 2005 and Crown Matsukita, which has a zippy little lime note I’d not noticed before.

            Not Hong Kong Garden, either, which I think I like – a lot!


            well, I’mo keep trolling, when I have a minute.

            xoxoxo >-)

  • Louise says:

    March-first, what a delight to see you 🙂 I sooo missed you!

    The Filles is a true new love for me-I think I’ve said to anyone who’ll listen that it really does pull me straight back to summers in hot pine/fir forests in Oregon in childhood. Lovely!

    Running off to the beach now-nevah too much vacation!

    • March says:

      And another pine forest vacation association! Maybe we’ll be the true lovers of this scent. Thank you oh so much for sharing. Have a great vacation! Wear your sunscreen, missy!

      • carter says:

        I lived just up a pine path from a beach on Martha’s Vineyard and when I was a kid in Florida I used to walk through a dense pine forest to a swimming hole — a real, gen-u-ine, old-fashioned swimming hole — and my God, it’s the most evocative scent I can think of. I literally SWOON over the stuff.

  • Ohh, you liked it, you liked it!! *doing the happy dance* 😀

    I thought it was beautiful and very snuggly, like memories buried deep under the sand dunes waiting to hatch like little turtles…
    It does become a skin-scent in a couple of hours, but this is good in my books as the brutal heat often makes fragrances unbearable otherwise. The only drawback is it stains clothing…much like my beloved Sarrasins, worse luck (I am a big fabric sprayer believer)

    (and btw, I am adding your wonderful review as a link in my own as well)

    Hugs and hope you’re enjoying your day!

    • March says:

      Hm. So you agree with me — bigger in this case might not necessarily be better. I have other, stronger resin/incense scents. This one felt about perfect at 90 degrees with high humidity 🙂 Like my own personal air conditioner.

      It STAINS?!?! My god. I’m looking at the sleeve of my coral colored sweater…. I can’t see anything but I hear you — the juice was kind of a dark brown, right? It never even occurred to me. Maybe the room/fabric spray is a bad idea.

      • It left a trace on my turquoise cotton sundress when I spilled some while applying (prefer dabbing this one to get more of the warmer aspects). It did wash off, though, so it’s all right. 🙂

        • March says:

          Glad to hear it washed off. Isn’t it odd how different it is sprayed vs. dabbed? One of the more pronounced scent differences.

  • Francesca says:

    I really must sniff this stuff. I love all those notes.

    Borneo? I got whiplash from snapping my head back fast after I smelled it. Yuck.

  • carmencanada says:

    Ah-ha, March! I knew Louise had given in (you should’ve seen her rapt face when we were in the Palais). She got to the sweet part pretty quickly, but on me, the huge terpenic sillage lasted for hours.
    Funny how pine conjures different memories for different people. To me, it’s essentially medicinal because it’s used in cough drops in France, but it’s also summery because of the great pine forests by the Mediterranean.
    Did you get that huge camphory raw vetiver blast? It really reminded me of Turtle Vetiver.
    I’m still wondering whether I’ll get this — again, this feels more like an environment than like skin to me — but it’s certainly very compelling.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure you’ll love Wazamba.

    • March says:

      She does bring out the sweet in it (it’s less sweet on me.) And you are so right about scent associations — your cough drop example makes perfect sense. It also reminds me of pine forests in the summer heat.

      Turtle Vetiver was too big for me, although I’m happy for everyone who loves it (I like my vetiver in smaller doses, I think.) I got more of the wallop on my clothing, less on my skin.

      I need some Wazamba!

    • Jarvis says:

      Hullo, Denyse. “Huge camphory raw vetiver blast” makes my heartbeat quicken. And I have always liked the medicinal smell of terpenes.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    A beautifully-written and considered review, March, so many thanks, but pine and incense don’t really do it for me. I agree with Joe that the notes sound very Christmassy, not summery, but then again I’m not aboard the Lutens Luuuurv Train (don’t hit me).

    It does seem that with Cellophane and now this scent, Serge is headed in a slightly different direction which may make his fragrances more accessible.

    • March says:

      Please see my note to Joe… to me pine is a summery beach vacation (loblolly pines! joy!) smell, or a hiking-at-camp smell. Christmas is more potpourri smelling… I don’t wear many SLs but I’m always happy to smell them.

  • Joe says:

    Funny, just a few hours ago I started really wanting a sniff of Borneo (I’ve never tried it) and I think I’m going to snag a sample with a split I just went in one.

    Anyway, as for Aiguilles, the good reviews definitely keep coming in on this one, but as I commented to Helg, it’s hard for pine not to say just one thing to me: Christmas Tree/Wreath/Bough/Whatever. I find it fascinating that to her it’s the smell of summer vacation at the beach, and I think that’s great. I definitely want to smell this, despite my Tannenbaum Angst, and I think the fruits may add a surprise twist.

    And soon, off to Denyse and Wazamba. Are we sure this isn’t the Chinese Year of the Lemming? It’s kind of shaping up to be a good one…

    • March says:

      Hey, everyone should sniff Borneo eventually. And loads of people love it, take my feelings with a grain of salt.

      Don’t you find scent memories fascinating? I mean, I grew up with a Christmas tree, Christmas Eve services in a church all decked out with pine boughs, etc. So I get where the Christmas smell association comes from. At the same time (like Helg?) I spent enough time at the beach, hiking, escaping the heat etc. in evergreen forests that it’s also very much a summer smell to me. A pine forest on a hot day is glorious.

      Just saying Wazamba makes me giggle. The notes are strange, I wonder how I will like it?

  • Jarvis says:

    Fantastic, March! I’m very excited to smell this. Thanks for the lovely review.