Fourreau Noir, or not making my mind up

I get sent the wax sample updates. I immediately rejected Serge Lutens’ latest Paris only (well, maybe not…) offering, Fourreau Noir, as dreck. A standard, run-of-the-mill masculine with obvious fougere overtones and an overdose of synthetics to suggest freshness and manliness. No thanks. Then I get to try a real sample.

It’s not a Damascene conversion or anything. Y’all know I’m a Lutens fanboy, so I am very cautious of automatic adulation. If I do a quick rundown, I have Lutens loves, Lutens loathes, and Lutens mehs, and only a few of these seem properly constant:

Loves: Santal de Mysore, Encens et Lavande, Arabie, Borneo 1834, Chene

Loathes: Serge Noire, Miel de Bois

Meh: Daim Blond, Douce Amere, Nuit de Cellophane.

Fourreau Noir currently floats between ‘meh’ and ‘love’, but sits closest to meh. I’m an inconstant, procrastinating fool, and have long since accepted the fact that I’ll never know my own mind. Unless I do. And only sometimes.

fourreau noirIn the early 80s, both my sisters had Pierrot clown obsessions. Their beds were covered by these winsome faced girl-boys, tear in place, soft pinks and blues contrasting sharply with black make-up and the omnipresent painted tear. There was often a moon somewhere in the polycotton print, and a suggestion of arch melancholia and sadness as performance, naivete as a pretence, excusing one’s own failings through the trappings of unrequited love.

I didn’t think of any of this then, but knew I hated the pompom buttons, the flouncy tunic, the overall girliness of the ‘look’. As an individual prone to melancholia in spite of my sunny disposition, I’ve always disliked seeing it paraded and performed.

But I’m thinking of the Pierrot because of the Lutens limited edition bottle – a strange departure from the usual Orientalist themes, to an almost cutesy cat silhouette, floating in a night sky bejewelled with Christmas stars. Somehow, some way, this is what echoed the remembrance of the Pierrot in my head.

Because Fourreau Noir, for all its masculine posturing, is a sad little scent, a front of machismo hiding a well of tears. The black sheath (Fourreau Noir’s actual meaning), for me, is the costume of  the introverted melancholic, from Hamlet to the malcontent Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi, to the teenage version of me.

It’s the 80s writ large. All front up front: the male fougere smells of lavender, coumarin, and synthetics such as dihydromyrcenol to give the thrusting metallic edge, the purr of the engine. All sadness beneath: smoky melancholy, myrrh, quietude.

I realise I’ve written pretentious codswallop and revealed no real sense of how this perfume smells. So let me be clear. It’s alright.

  • melanie says:

    have you tried idole d’armani yet? the SA at Macy’s gave me a sample yesterday, but I didn’t try it because I already had chanel no. 19 on one arm and clinique aromatics elixir on another. I just sprayed the indole on my arm and am not liking it. too sweet.

  • Marjorie Young says:

    I love cats and I love the bottle. Shame it has that juice in it. I’d buy the bottle.

  • Musette says:

    Lee –

    Meant to send smoochies to you! So glad to see you on here!

    xoxoxo your >-) o’ loooove

  • carter says:

    Loathe: The bottle. Meh: The Fume Love: Your review.

  • bryan says:

    I just love your reviews. There, that was to the point.
    I have a bottle of this on the way, and honestly, I don’t know why. Given the notes, it shouldn’t really appeal to me at all. I think I’m still searching for that one comfort scent…one without tuberose…because the blooms aren’t exactly cuddly. I am hoping it turns to powder on me quickly, but even if it doesn’t, I’m sure I’ll find someone with whom to share it.

  • Tara C says:

    Hmm, I’m betting I won’t like FN at all… don’t like lavender, don’t like DHM, don’t like masculine fougere much at all. But I love love love Filles en Aiguilles so I feel satisfied. As for Serge Noire, it was horrifyingly bad on me… smelled like the unwashed armpit of a long-haul trucker. Total scrubber.

  • Sweet Sue says:

    Beautiful post. A smile cannot erase the tracks of your tears.

  • March says:

    “It’s not a Damascene conversion or anything.” So you’ve come around to roses in fragrance, have you? Bah dum bum. I’ll be here all week, folks.

    This sounds eminently … missable. The point of the wax samples eludes me, but I always enjoy your writing. besos.

    • Lee says:

      *pays March her stand-up comedy fee*

      Wax samples – a way to entice the fans into an actual purpose? I dunno – it’s one of those things that mark Lutens as different, innit? Doesn’t matter that you only get a vague impression of the scent…

  • Billy D says:

    It is not every day you get Bosola and codswallop in a perfume review. Well done, Lee!

  • Francesca says:

    Am I the only person in the universe who actually likes Serge Noire???

    • Melissa says:

      I have mixed feelings about it. I can wear it very lightly on a cold day. The first time I tried it with a group of DC perfumistas, everyone hated it on themselves, but they liked it on me. Skin chemistry.

      • Francesca says:

        I agree it’s definitely a cold-weather scent, and I’m looking forward to wearing it again. I can’t go near most of the SLs, but SN smells great on me, too.

    • Lee says:

      I think quite a few people like it. And some love it.

      I love you for loving it!

    • March says:

      I loved it. I’ll sit by you anytime.

  • Nava says:

    I adore your “pretentious codswallop”. I like the bottle because I am a cat person (not a pathetic one; at least not yet), but the scent doesn’t sound like anything I’d be caught dead wearing.

    If we’re going to speak of black sheaths and Shakespeare, could this have been the scent of King Lear’s madness?

    • Lee says:

      It’s not exterior enough to be anywhere near the madness of Lear. No blasted heath, no mouse, nary an imaginary piece of cheese.

  • Melissa says:

    There are so many potential deal-breakers in FN for me, at least according to CC’s review. The DHM, an overdose of lavender in the topnotes, and the initial hit of freshness. More than any other line, however, my impressions of SLs tend to change over the course of a few wearings. “Mehs” turn into “must-haves” and occasionally a “hate” will do the same. The first time I wore Daim Blond, it induced a migraine. I recently bought a bottle.

    As Louise mentioned, the weather is grey and rainy, suitable for a fragrance that opens with chilly notes and warms to smoky melancholy. Whether or not FN winds up on the “meh” list, I hope that I find a large enough sample to give it a fair chance.

  • Shelley says:

    If Encens et Lavande is a “love,” and FN a “meh/it’s alright,” I know where I’m inclined to start when given a Serge treatment of lavender a whirl. Which I would like to do. Someday. I find myself rather wrapped up in finding the love for things which have eluded me, particularly Mitsouko. I have to do a *lot* of dancing with certain perfume partners before I can outline the contours of what their zone is for me.

    I’m blindered by my own context, so cute as that jar is, my first reaction to the image is to label it “A Happy Harry Potter Halloween.” Then I read your impressions, and see your Pierrot. Then I start humming tunes from musicals…”poor little Pierrette, where’s your Pierrot? Your dreams of love have flown…”.

    I’m with Louise on both the pensive nature of this day, AND how nice it is to find you here.

    • Musette says:

      Peanutbuttercupo’love –

      Let’s talk on that Mits. I am SO glad you are happy – see? Toldja!

      That EDT is scary stuff (for me, anyway) but moving up the food chain, it becomes something transcendent.

      Notice I’m staying away from the Serge Talk. I still don’t ‘get’ his stuff. Lord knows I’ve tried. And I will probably try again.

      But this one isn’t tipping any scales in favor.

      Okay – back to work, though it’s a gorgeous day, just made for reading and mebbe taking a (dare I say it?) NAP! Alas, duty (and the rebenooer) calls

      xoxoxo >-)

      • Shelley says:

        You did done tole me, and you wuz right. But ’twas thanks to you that the proper concentration of that proper perfume ended up on my skin…and that was even better than the telling of it. 🙂

        I have some parfum of the original Zen on my wrist right now. That was one I could approach from the EDT side of the equation, for some reason. Wasn’t happy, per se, but intrigued. EdP, better. And helped me “get” the cologne more. But I finally located a morsel of the full out parfum, and whoomph, it all comes together. This should be a “difficult” perfume, but for some reason, I’ve been there from the start. (My start, that is.) And it should be all the rage **right now**, being woody with rose and all. One foot firmly in the past, another firmly on the face of the CDG attitudinals.

        I’m gonna reserve Serge comments until I’ve got a little more of him under my belt. Meanwhile, remember…one step ahead of the shoeshine, or in this case, keep a leg up on the revenue dude. And, since I seem to be flogging a theme to death, enjoy putting your feet up. 🙂 🙂

    • Lee says:

      And I’m just happy to be here, with good folks like you…


  • Kate says:

    Well then. Any comparison to Encens et Lavande as CarmenCanada mentioned in her review? That was what is keeping my nose perked, err, interest still focused on trying this one. And that bell jar is so damned cute. I mean, heck, its a cat people!!!!

  • sybil says:

    Uh, actually, you DID do a really good job of telling how this stuff smells. I for one won’t be hunting it down. HATE clowns, incl. Pierrot.

  • Louise says:

    It’s raining here. Cold. Friday after a late back-to-school night. 9/11.

    Somehow, the thought of F. Noir is just adding to the bleakness. I had already decided that I hit the jackpot with Filles en Aiguilles as my Serge win of the year, and had guessed that the lavender would kill the FN for me.

    I’ll of course give it a try, with no haste. CC’s review damped any further curiosity.

    I was a Pierrot freak like your sisters, and won a “best costume” award at a Halloween party in college with my bed-sheet and felt constructed rendition. I think it was cathartic for me, putting the melancholy right out there…but now the Pierrot figurines are boxed away.

    On the bright side, it’s wonderful to “see” you here, with a great write-up. And, of course it is Friday…:)

  • Rappleyea says:

    “I’m an inconstant, procrastinating fool, and have long since accepted the fact that I’ll never know my own mind. Unless I do. And only sometimes.”

    LOL! I need to cross stitch this and put it on my wall. Love it!

    I don’t expect to try this, so your two word review – “It’s alright.” was enough for me.

  • carmencanada says:

    Lee, I just did a review of this too without reading your impressions first, but I think we’re both on the “meh” side. I love the drydown, I hate the masculine fougère aspect (especially the DHM — that I loathe). And the cutesy bottle really puzzles me coming from Lutens.
    I wrote that the fragrance was kind of “anthological” but I guess we could say melancholy, crepuscular… I don’t expect “modern” from Lutens but I don’t expect 80s either.