Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Better-Know-A-Niche Perfumery: Serge Lutens -- Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido is home to the exceptional creations of Serge Lutens, master perfumer for this boutique since 1990. M. Lutens is wonderfully skilled in making harmonious, mysterious fragrances blended with rare and unusual essences. His fondness for Marrakech, where he has lived for many years, is evidenced in many of his warm, sultry, woodsy and spicy fragrances.

To learn more about M. Lutens, I recommend this terrific interview by Astrid Vitols in Osmoz. There is also a great website devoted to all things Serge Lutens here (although quite a bit has not been translated from French into English).

This distinct line of niche perfumes is showcased in the beautiful, hushed boutique located in the historic Garden of the Palais-Royal in Paris' first arrondissement. There is an almost reverential air in the main salon where the fragrances are on display. Each corner of the high-ceilinged room has a beautiful glass case displaying the line of fragrances. Each bottle of fragrance is paired with a previously-dipped scent strip which has dried down to its final notes. It is a visual delight just looking at the classic bell jars of eau de parfum, some availaible only in this boutique. (Fortunately, they may also be ordered online from the salons-shiseido website; cost is 100 euros for 75 ml eau de parfum).

Some of my favorites include:

  • Ambre Sultan:: a classic amber oriental fragrance with oregano, laurel, myrtle, amber, labdanum, benzoin, resins, angelica root, patchouli, sandalwood, styrax and tolu balsam

  • Bois et Fruits: a woodsy floral with apricot, red plum, peach and figs on a cedar base

  • A La Nuit: a sweet floral with jasmine, clove, benzoin, white honey and musk

  • Tubéreuse Criminelle: a rich tuberose floral with orange blossom, clove, musk, nutmeg, jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, styrax, and hyacinth greens

What I found most interesting about Tubéreuse Criminelle was how harsh the top notes were. When I first smelled it, I was hit with a gasoline/asphalt odor that nearly took my breath away! The sales associate must have seen the look of dismay cross my face as I snifffed it expectantly on the back of my hand. "Give it time," she said. So I walked outsided into the courtyard and strolled around in the cool winter air. A short while later, I sniffed it again. She was right! It had changed dramatically and was now a deep, rich tuberose scent that I just loved. I still do! The color of this eau de parfum is also unexpected. Most tuberose fragrances I am familiar with are a pale yellow hue. Not so with this one. It is a dark ambery brown, like an expensive cognac.

Tubéreuse Criminelle reminded me of two important lessons when trying new fragrances: 1) give yourself plenty of time for the dry-down; and 2) don't judge a fragrance by its color.

This line is available at aedes, $92-$120 for 1.69 ounces. It is also available at The Perfume House and in Australia at mecca.
photo credits: Christine Pierce

No comments: