As a music fan there is a moment when my favorite acts eventually stop being relevant. There is that moment when you listen to the new music and realize it is not as good as what came before. Eventually the musician realizes it and goes on tour playing the hits. At that point I usually content myself with the music which captivated me in the beginning. There hasn’t been a perfume equivalent until I received samples of the five new perfumes which make up the Serge Lutens Section D’Or.
Serge Lutens was the brand of niche perfumery which represented everything I loved about that phrase. The creative direction of M. Lutens. His partnership with perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is one of the greatest in the niche sector. There are so many amazing perfumes which have come from them it is all the more disappointing to see where the brand is now. I received samples of the five new Section D’Or fragrances; Cannibale, Cracheuse de Flammes, L’Haleine des Deux, Renard Constrictor, and Sidi Bel-Abbes. For the first time I just wasn’t moved to wear any of them. I kept hoping that over time I would decide one was worth spending a couple days with but after many weeks I think the answer is no. I usually review things after wearing them for two days so these impressions are not like my normal review. I have smelled them extensively on strips and they each have claimed a small part of my forearm for a few hours. Any of them might get better if I was to bite the bullet and wear one. The truth is there isn’t one of these I want to do that with.
Cannibale is perhaps the one with the most promise as it has its moments. Most of those are around a heart of myrrh, cistus, and rose. This leads to a base of incense but also intrusive woodsmoke. There is a fleeting reminder of the trademark Lutens stewed fruit but even that can’t make this more interesting.
When I reviewed the first Section D’Or L’Incendiaire I said this was perfume where it had been done before and done better by another brand. Cracheuses de Flammes is an amber rose which has been done by many before and I would say most of them are better. This is simple Turkish rose and warm amber. There is nothing special about this perfume.
L’Haleine des Dieux was so unbearable I couldn’t even bear to revisit it on the strip and I used an alcohol wipe to remove it minutes after I put a bit on my skin. Pine sap and sage provide an unpleasantly acerbic opening which falls into an unbalanced jasmine and balsam heart. Too much styrax and vanilla makes this oh for three. If I was handed this blind there is no way I would have guessed this was a Serge Lutens scent.
Renard Constrictor was the only one I actually considered wearing. The pine and the styrax are back but this time surrounding a pretty gardenia on a bed of amber and musk. As with the other Section D’Or releases there is not one iota of a new idea here just something seen many times in other brands.
Sidi Bel-Abbes should have been the one which lifted my mood. With notes of cumin, tobacco, leather, honey as the focal points this should have soared. It never leaves the ground as the cumin acts like a battering ram bowling over everything in its way not allowing for even a moment of beauty. The name comes from a French Foreign Legion outpost. This made me feel like I was in battle with it all the time.
When I can’t even bring myself to do a proper review of five new Serge Lutens releases it is sad confirmation that the music has died in the Palais Royale.
I can’t remember if I cried/ when I read about Section D’Or/ Something touched me deep inside/ The day the perfume died/ So Bye Bye Mister Serge Lutens/ drove my Fiat to the Palais but the Palais was closed/ and Chris and Serge were drinking absinthe and rye/ singing this will be the day that I die.
Adieu! It was fun while it lasted.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Barney’s New York.