Serge Overload

I had originally titled this essay “Serge Revisited”. I had no idea Patty was going to blog on the new L´eau scent. So, since I´ve got nothin´ else right now, we´ve gone from a revisit, to all Serge, two days running.

Just for the record (and with much respect for Serge and Patty), I’m not totally convinced “smelling like a sweaty Mongolian is hot”.

Almost 2 years ago, I debuted my first post here on the Posse, and I´ve been thinking about how my life has changed during that time. Some things are better, some things are not, but one thing remains a constant: my love of fragrances, particularly those by Serge Lutens. Just the mere mention of his name elicits discussion, sparks controversy, and above all else, reminds us why we are perfumistas.  To love Serge´s fragrances is akin to loving something not everyone is meant to understand. The only thing I can think to compare them to right now are those custom-built motorcycles from West Coast or Orange County Choppers. They´re not for everyone, but if you´re a hard-core fan, you know what I´m talking about. Motorcycles scare the crap out of me, and so do some of Serge´s compositions, but the ones I love, I will love forever.

Lately, I´ve been dipping into my Serges every day. If you go back and read my post from 2 years ago, you´ll see that I was hoarding them, in the spirit of how my grandmother hoarded fine linens. I´ve since gotten over that impulse, not because I had a recent run-in with an interstate ice floe, but because I’ve finally realized, what´s the point of hoarding so many bottles of wonderful fragrance? I´d be pissed-off big time if 20 years go by before I finally allow myself to enjoy them, only to discover they´ve turned into salad dressing.  So, I cracked open a few and started wearing them. Encens et Lavande was my first choice, as I was in need of some major comfort at the time. I´ve since moved on (and had my car fixed) to Rahat Loukhoum, Rousse, Louve, Bois et Fruits, Un Bois Vanille and Fumerie Turque. There´s a theme here, with the exception of Encens et Lavande and Bois et Fruits: all the ones I´ve been wearing are somewhat sweet.  Not sickeningly so, but they all have it in common. I´ve left the big guns in the closet, since I would run the risk of asphyxiating not only myself but the cat, and my aunt´s steady stream of income tax clients (her office is in her basement, and it is tax season).  Honestly, Tubereuse Criminelle, Borneo, Muscs Koublai Khan and the rest of that ilk would be wasted on me right now. Just like one of those brawny custom-built chopper style motorcycles; I like and admire the craftsmanship, but I would be “Uneasy Rider” if presented with the opportunity to take one for a spin. It would literally not be my speed.  But, les douces parfums de Serge Lutens are really doing it for me right now. What would be the motorcycle equivalent? Probably one of those hokey sidecar thingies, and that´s where you´d find me riding.

By the way, I haven´t forgotten about Five O´ Clock au Gingembre, which I´ve raved about ad nauseam.

It feels good to finally write about actually enjoying wearing these scents, as opposed to trying to unravel a peccadillo I´ve had for so long. It gives me some insight into myself by bringing my evolving love of scent front and centre. It´s another form of catharsis, I´ve realized, to take stock of how we evolve. The other day, a friend of my aunt´s dropped by for a visit and she was wearing L´Eau d´ Issey Miyaki. I adored this scent years ago, and even hooked a male friend of mine on the men´s version. I haven´t worn it in ages, simply because it´s no longer “me”. But it smells fabulous on this woman, and I told her so. My aunt even chimed in with a backhanded, “And I like it because it doesn´t make me sneeze.” The scent totally suits her, and I happen to know it´s the only scent she wears year round. Sometimes, I wish I could be like that; it would certainly simplify the agonizing process of, “What do I feel like wearing today?” I could just reach for the one bottle, spritz and be done.

Instead, I stand in my underwear and ponder; it takes me a good 5 minutes every day to decide what fragrance to put on.  Mood, wardrobe, weather conditions, work, who I´m going to be with and where I´m going to be are all in play when I choose what to wear. These days, the clothes are easy, and that´s my saving grace. If I spent that much time deciding what garments to wear in addition to what scent to put on, I´d be a first class Agoraphobic.  Just think of me as the “madwoman in the basement”.

To prove that I´m only marginally insane, here´s why I´m wearing only the Serges I´ve mentioned:

Rahat Loukhoum: My good friend K. loves Turkish Delight; she eats it all the time. I can´t stand it. But, I love the way it smells.  It was also my very first Serge purchase on the auction site.

Louve: Rahat Loukhoum plus powder. Generally, I run screaming from powder, but here, it works. I think the stronger almond note tones it down, and the little bit of rose keeps it from feeling too, ahem, mature.

Rousse: I adore cinnamon, but not the kind that smells like Red Hots. This is woody cinnamon, and it is almost as comforting to me as lavender and incense. Plus, it´s not foody cinnamon, which would probably leave me smelling like one of those ginormous Cinnabon pastries. Not that there´s anything wrong with that.

Bois et Fruits: I´ve used up all the Shiseido Feminite du Bois I had in my possession, and I like this better than Serge´s re-release of Feminite du Bois under his own label. It also reminds me of the day I bought it at the Salons: It was a rainy, cold November day. This is the perfect scent for a rainy/snowy, cold day, whenever, wherever.

Un Bois Vanille: Anita/Musette very kindly sent me a sample of L´Artisan´s Havana Vanille a few weeks ago. I fell in love with it instantly, and I told her, no one does vanilla like L´Artisan. Un Bois Vanille is one of a very few exceptions.

Fumerie Turque: This made me fall in love with tobacco. A few years ago when I was in San Francisco, I took a day trip to Berkeley and marvelled at all the head shops with hookahs in their windows. I briefly thought about buying one to place in the middle of my coffee table, telling all who asked that it was my new vacuum. I don´t know anyone who smokes a pipe, but there isn´t a pipe tobacco that could possibly smell better than Fumerie Turque.

Well, there you have it. We´ll tackle the big guns some other time; maybe for my 50th birthday. That gives them 7 more years to turn into salad dressing. Vinaigrette aux Muscs Koublai Khan, anyone?

Disclosure: All the Serge Lutens fragrances mentioned in this essay are from my personal collection.

  • AnnieA says:

    Have yet to sniff a Serge I’d go out and buy, but I keep trying. Definitely in the interesting-but-not-me category.

  • March says:

    You know, I love it that you cracked those bottles open. It made me sad to think of them all tucked away and unused. /:) Wearing them is better; why not?

    And there are also times, I admit it, when I could go back to the days of a “signature scent” that would be all I needed. Not thinking it’s going to be happening anytime soon?

    • Nava says:

      Thanks March. Wearing them is definitely better.

      I don’t think the idea of a signature scent is something you can ever return to once you’ve sampled so many scents like we have. Then again, stranger things can happen…/:)

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  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I could not have elaborated on this better. This is a subject matter that is dear to my heart and I thought you covered it perfectly. I only just started writing a blog too but I’m not especiallyskilled at it yet. Would fancy to look at more of your site and I’ll absolutely come back again!

  • Nava says:

    Thanks Gina. I remember all those Shiseido ads with the strange and otherwordly models. Serge is truly a creative force in many ways.

    I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one standing dumbfounded in my underwear on most days. Oddly enough, I think I prefer it the spritz-and-go of a signature scent. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. A couple of people already said, “Life is short, eat dessert first”, so I needed a new cliche! :d

  • gina says:

    Hi Nava – love your posts, always do, as I’m a lurker, mostly. Serge Lutens has to be my favorite, amongst many favorites. There’s never been a Serge I’ve disliked, he truly is THE MAN. Ha. I have a cold and am at a loss for good adjectives, obviously. Serge Lutens is also a makeup artist – his work is super-strange and otherworldly, like his perfumes. I adore everything the man does.

    And I too stand in my underwear for a good 5 minutes thinking about what perfume I will wear. So many things to consider. I am glad in some ways that I have so many choices, but I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be that person with their signature scent – spritz and go, no thought required.

  • Ann N. says:

    Hi Nava, enjoyed your post — love your line about the vacuum! I’m fairly new to the blog and only about a year into the world of niche fragrance, so I’m still just dipping my toes into the Serge pool. I love Un Bois Vanille, Fleurs de Citronnier and Chergui. Not so keen on Fleurs d’ Oranger as it has the deadly-on-me cumin, but eager to try Borneo, FT, Rousse, Bois et Fruits and Five O’Clock. Maybe, just maybe, when I’m feeling very, very brave I’ll sample the scary big daddy MKK.
    Thanks so much for reminding us to enjoy what we have; sometimes I feel like I’m on so bent on trying the new stuff that I neglect to use the beautiful scents I already have …

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Ann. I made a promise at the beginning of the year to be more introspective when it came to my fragrance collection, so I’m trying my best to hold up my end of the deal.

      Niche fragrances are a bit more challenging now than they used to be. With all the high prices and the buzz they now get, it takes a while to find ones that suit you. My advice to you (if you choose to accept it) would be to go the decant route. That way, you get to try them and keep the financial impact to a minimum. But above all, have fun! 🙂

      • Ann N. says:

        Hi Nava, thanks. I’m definitely going the decant route and then waiting to see what’s FBW. And will try to exercise some restraint in the meantime. But it’s soooo hard when there are so many new scents out there calling out to be tried. Ah, the siren song of perfume …

  • mary says:

    Thank you for the post–it was a good read. I keep going back to the Serge counter to sniff and explore, and am enjoying my samples. I am so glad you are using your perfumes. Last year, I bought a number of vintage bottles of perfume here and there– several unopened. They were beautiful bottles, and I thought of the women who had owned them, perhaps received them as gifts, and who carefully saved these full, sealed bottle of perfume through the decades, only to have them end up passing through an antique store or ebay dealer into my hands. What were they saving them for? Perhaps they came from collections so extensive the owners simply never got around to them–or perhaps they were backup bottles. Good for you to wear your perfume so mindfully! Don’t let a single bottle end up unused!

    • Nava says:

      For me, it’s always been the “hard to get” factor that caused a lot of my hoarding. I’m proud to say I think I’m getting over it to a degree. Notice I said “to a degree”…total abandonment may well be on the horizon. :d

  • nozknoz says:

    Another reason to wear the scents we love now is that our tastes evolve. I have searched ebay for scents I wore decades ago, and, while it is fun to smell them again, but for many the thrill is gone. Carpe diem!

  • ScentRed says:

    I’m a big fan of FdB. Bois et Fruits also sounds great and I’m very eager to try. Where would you say it sits on a 1-10 sweet-meter? Similar to FdB?

    Thanks for the great overview of some of your favorite SLs!

    • Nava says:

      Bois et Fruits is not really sweeter than FdB, just fruitier. As I told Sweetlife above, it has an apricot note that I don’t think is found in FdB.

  • Bev says:

    I say enjoy the linens as well!
    And the good china.
    And crystal.
    Wear beautiful lingerie every day.
    Savour it all and most importantly, ENJOY life!

    • Nava says:

      Ah, Bev – should we have a little meet up and got to Ashley’s and Holt Renfrew? We can indulge in all the beauty we can handle, all within the same square block! China, crystal, perfume…:d

      • Nava says:

        And wait – isn’t the giant Indigo store in the same vicinity? Add books to that list!

  • sweetlife says:

    Hey Nave, nice post. I too, would like to congratulate you for getting the ‘fumes out of the drawer! I’ve had my own rocky road with Serge, but I seem to have reached some kind of threshold because bit by bit he’s crept into my perfume closet–Shiseido Femme du Bois and A La Nuit are necessary to my life, Santal Blanc, Cedre, and Fleurs d’Oranger are on their way to being so–wonder what’s next?

    And–as silviafunkly said up there–I also just enjoy knowing they exist!

    • Nava says:

      Thanks. I’m not a huge fan of his florals, but Fleurs de Citronnier is one you should try, as well as Bois Et Fruits id you’re that big a fan of Feminite du Bois. It’s a bit fruitier (more apricot), but you’ll probably love it just as much. 🙂

      • sweetlife says:

        Can’t do Fleur de Citronnier for some reason. Too–flinty? Normally I hate orange blossom, but I love FdO for her wanton, womanly ways…

        I have enough Fem d B for a lifetime, but will definitely give BeF a spin, thank!

  • Disteza says:

    Congrats on breakling them out–if you’ve already dropped the $$$, why not put that jus to good use? Rousse was my gateway drug into niche perfumes, and I’ve fallen hard for the prickliest amongst the SLs. I am, however, amused that you find Chergui to be a heavy hitter; I wear that thing while I’m working out particularly because it is so light and golden on me. Ah the ways of the perfume world! @};-

    • Nava says:

      Chergui is the fragrance equivalent of a steamroller. Although, it does mix well with Fumerie Turque. I just don’t have the patience most days to play alchemist. It’s not so easy to layer two Serges. 😮

  • maidenbliss says:

    lol here, do you mean as in vampires? Now I’m totally intrigued:)>->:)>:)

    • Nava says:

      Ha! Yeah, I should buy them a coffin to sleep in!

      Fragrance breaks down gets all funky when its exposed to light. Keeping the bottles in their boxes and out of direct light helps preserve them. If you want to go one step further and join me in the insanity of preserving the cellophane wrapping, that helps even more.

      • maidenbliss says:

        and to think I thought I was strange and possibly obsessive:):d I feel guilty if I leave the linen
        closet/scent vault open a crack in my forgetful moments. Speaking of crack…MKK-does it
        have that butt crack smell?

  • Aimee L'Ondee says:

    Nava, I’m so glad to hear you’ve cracked open some Serges. It makes me so sad to think of MKK languishing in a drawer, though! That’s the only completely necessary Serge creation, in my book. It’s soooo not as scary as people make it out to be! I swear.

    • Nava says:

      I agree about MKK.

      As for the languishing in the drawer, at least they’re protected from the light! :d

  • Geordan1244 says:

    Fumerie Turque was my first fb Serge fragrance post-Sheseido (I think I’ve told this story already, but the original FDB was my intro into the niche fragrance world; when I couldn’t locate it someone told me about his line…and my fate is sealed – bank account forever empty for my latest little “precious”)..back to FT – I love it, but find that I like it better dabbed on me rather than sprayed. Was dying to try Cedre and Chene; both are very complex and a little overpowering to me(although I think they are great fragrances). 5 o’clock is one of my favorites and I just revisited it the other night – what a refresher after dousing myself with heavy fragrances (which I adore). I have samples of un bois vanilla (middle of the range for me), and I like to mix that with FT. Still have a long way to go in my education of Serge (have yet to try MKK and some of the more challenging fragrances), but I can’t imagine a Serge that isn’t well-put-together (regardless of whether or not they personally work on/for me).



    • Nava says:

      Yeah, the good stuff definitely has a way of emptying your bank account!

      The world of niche fragrances is a slippery slope; once you’re there, it spoils you for just about everything else.

      Many of the scents (from both the exclusive and export lines) are much better dabbed then sprayed, IMHO. Especially the heaviest, scariest ones like Chergui, Chypre Rouge, TC, MKK…you get it.

      As for MKK, I find it easier to wear than the ones I just mentioned. But, that’s just me. 🙂

  • Kate says:

    My dear Nava, in my world there is no such thing as too much talk about Serge Lutens fragrances. The man is an artist.

  • Musette says:



    I am thrilled that you are bustin’ open your bottles! < :-p Life is Uncertain. Eat Dessert First! xo >-)

    • Nava says:

      Hey, no one’s going to Perfumista 8-x. Well, maybe if I had the audacity to slam Mitsouko, I could quite possibly condemn myself.

      Speaking of Mitsouko, I feel about it the same way you feel about Serge: I understand it, I get it, but I just can’t wear it.

      So, it was OK for me to be eating potato chips at 11:00 last night? Were they my dessert before breakfast? :d

  • Musette says:

    Please don’t send me to Perfumista 8-x but may I just say:

    I ‘get’ Serge. I really do.

    I just don’t like them.

    No Screaming Hatey or anything. Just /:)

    I know, I know. The gates of the palace are forever shut to me. I know.

    xo >-)

  • maidenbliss says:

    Vacuuming will never be the same for me. And now I’ll have to obtain a sample of Fumerie Turque as I love pipe tobacco. At the moment I’m wearing Ambre Sultan on left hand and Cedre on right. Both are seductive and so sensual on me. I’ve read such mixed reviews of MKK, almost afraid to try it, especially after reading Joe’s comment about the ‘unsavory’ note-as in cumin? weird? pee?

    • Nava says:

      Yeah, those hookahs have a lot of “on board attachments”!

      MKK seems to do weird things on a lot of people. Ironically, it’s not one of the ones that scares me. If you want to send me diving under the bed, spritz some Chergui or Chypre Rouge in my direction. You surely won’t see hide nor hair of me for at least a week.

    • Joe says:

      maidenbliss: There’s an undertone in the MKK musk that to me smells like bad foot odor or a very pungent ripened cheese. Lately though, I’m getting better with it in small doses and the rough bits do get better as it dries down. I was helped along also by thinking about Tania Sanchez’s poetic description of it evoking a yurt filled with beeswax candles, or something like that.

      • maidenbliss says:

        Reading your description of bad foot odor/cheese makes one wonder why it’s so important to me to actually acquire a taste for such things. Reminds me of how I keep dabbing on Killian Oud and the initial burst of gasoline is so overwhelming–but I go back for more, trying to understand this scent. Yurt sounds like a Jeopardy question to me. Now that I just looked the word up I’ve been educated as well as enlightened. Probably one of the ‘few’ who hasn’t read TS’s book. It’s sitting in my cart @ Amazon.

    • Bunny says:

      I bought a decant of MKK thinking it would be the funkiest thing I ever laid my nose on and it ended up having no funk on me at all! Sure was nice though and I went for a full bottle!

      • maidenbliss says:

        Thanks for the insight, perhaps it’s time to try it in spite of bad feet and cheese….it’s all about the body chemistry as we know.

  • Silviafunkly says:

    I share your admiration for Serge’s scents. If I am in a department store, I cannot pass them without re-testing one or two, not all are my thing but I enjoy knowing they exist.
    Even my husband is a convert, it’s really funny to hear him saying: “Is it as Serge?” ^:)^

  • Joe says:

    Hi Nava. How wonderful, I think, for all of us to be able to bring our love of scent front and center. And why not? Our senses are given to us to enable us to enjoy and appreciate the world around us, so why should we neglect one of them, or not revel in the fact that perhaps one of our senses is more finely attuned and sensitive to beauty than others?

    I am a Serge lover, though there are still plenty of his scents I haven’t tried. My first purchases a few years ago were used auction bottles of Cedre, Chene, and Santal Blanc. I later was captivated by El Attarine, Arabie, and Rahat. Serge Noire horrified me before I slowly learned to love it (I actually applied a dab to my hand just before I saw this entry). My most recent puchase is a bottle of Miel de Bois, a misunderstood nectar. Then there is Eau, which strikes me as a mistake (hey, it’s allowed). I’m still trying to come around to MKK, which is difficult and often has an unshakeable, very unsavory note. And so many others, including the yummy Un Bois Vanille and Rousse. I’m expecting a sample of Bois et Fruits soon.

    Thanks for the meditation today on the sweet jewels of olfactory art by M Lutens.

    • Nava says:

      You’re welcome, Joe. I think my sense of smell is by far my keenest, and I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t appreciate a beautiful scent on a daily basis.

      I agree that a lot of Serge’s compositions are “misunderstood”, but it’s true that you do learn to love, if not appreciate most of them. I’m very curious about L’eau now, since I used to be a big fan of those “clean” type scents. Minus, of course, the “Tampax fresh accord” we’re all so fond of. :d

  • Flora says:

    Nava, I want to come sit by you.:d

    I can’t tell you how I adore my Fumerie Turque, and my Datura Noir as well, not to mention Tubereuse Criminelle! So very different, yet all of them with that Serge hallmark of excellent ingredients put together in such creative ways. If I could have one of everything I might be able to stop trying all those other perfumes. Serge rules!