When doing an A-Z Guide to Fragrance, as I have been doing for Escentual over the last two years, one finds some letters to be difficult. For example, ‘Q’ stumped me for quite some time, until I thought that it could be representative of ‘Questions’ (as in fragrant FAQs), and I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do for ‘X’ or ‘Z’, but they’re a little way off yet so let’s not panic. Anyway, some are hard to pick a theme for, whilst others are pretty easy. ‘S’ was one of the easy ones.
‘S’ could stand for ‘Shalimar’ or it could stand for ‘Sandalwood’. In fact, it could stand for many things. In my mind however, ‘S’ could only, and should only be representative of one thing in fragrance and that is ‘Serge Lutens’. Since the early ’90s, this olfactory enigma has been presenting us with some of the most beautiful, challenging, confusing and fascinating fragrances. He’s a man who speaks in riddles but presents olfactory tales in captivating prose. He is Serge Lutens, and there’s not much more to say than that. Click here to read this week’s Escentual column.
One can always trust Serge Lutens, or ‘Uncle Serge’ as he is often reffered to in affection, to do something a little bit different. Over his career, Lutens and his perfumer and right hand man, Christopher Sheldrake have created a wealth of opulent, angular and fatal perfumes that smell beautiful, challenging and often entirely unique. To put it simply, to enter the world of Lutens is to take a step into the unfamiliar.
For my Escentual column this week, I’ve reviewed the latest addition to the house of Serge Lutens – the strangely named ‘L’Orpheline‘ (The Orphan). Without giving too much away, it’s a difficult perfume to pin down and right from the outset it feels awash with contradictions and an overall fuziness that blurs the lines between strong juxtapositions. If that has you suitably intrigued, simply click here to head on over to read my review. As always, don’t forget to leave a comment with your thoughts if you’ve given L’Orpheline a sniff.
Poor, Unfortunate Smells – Scenting Disney Villains
“The Scent a Celebrity Series is my vain attempt at picking perfumes for those who don’t know any better, yes I mean celebrities. Let’s face it, most celebrities are incapable of choosing decent clothing, boyfriends, girlfriends, movies, (insert-celebrity-mistake-here) let alone having the ability to make decisions about something as important as their scent – that’s where I come in. Never fear, my dear schlebs, I will ensure that you are appropriately scented, all you need to do is listen.”
– The Candy Perfume Boy
Like most people on this fine Earth, I love Disney. Yes, I accept that they give one false expectations of love, romance and the presence of talking tea cups, but I’ve found my Prince so all is forgiven. It’s not the Disney Princesses or Princes that interest me though, for it is a simple fact that the pleasant and saccharine things in life aren’t necessarily the most captivating. Instead I have found myself loving the devious, the dastardly and the down right depraved spirits that are the Disney Villains.
For this episode of the Scent a Celebrity Series I am assigning perfumes to four of my all-time favourite Disney villains, ranging from the squid-y sashay of Ursula the Sea Witch to the campy hypnotism of Aladdin’s arch nemesis, Jafar. So read on dear perfume lovers and Disneyphiles, but do proceed with caution, as these villainous perfumes may appear as innocent cartoon follies at first, but deep down they are nothing but trouble.
It’s a strange paradox that the king of non-mainstream perfumery’s most divisive fragrances are those that are the least unusual – the L’Eau series. This is evidenced by the fact that there was practically a public outcry when Lutens launched his first ‘eau’. Die hard perfume nuts were found weeping in the street, bell jars were burned and bottles upon bottles of Ambre Sultan were smashed in moments of despair.
OK, I accept that I may have dramatised the situation a bit there but the truth is that many were disheartened that Serge Lutens, the man behind so many of perfumery’s modern greats, was going against his own grain by releasing anti-perfumes that were evocative of cold water and clean linen as opposed to life’s darker and more dangerous aspects. But people need worry not, both perfumes in the collection so far (L’Eau and L’Eau Froide) have turned out to be pretty decent, acting as a welcome change from Lutens’ usual oeuvre and showing how clean fragrances really should be done.
The latest perfume to be added to the L’Eau collection is ‘Laine de Verre‘. Taking its name from everyone’s favourite mode of loft installation – fibreglass – this new L’Eau penned by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is as unusual as it is fresh and relaxed. Serge Lutens, in his usually riddle-filled way, states that the perfume is inspired by “complementary opposites” , elaborating further that the conflict is himself and the masculine and feminine. With that in mind, it’ll be no surprise that Lain de Verre is a genderless, inhuman fragrance that piques interest.
“With Laine de Verre, it is the metal which, physically, takes shape within its fragrance…” 
Christmas is just round the corner. I mean it people, the 25th of December is just up the street, lurking down a dark alley with criminal intent and an evil glint in its eye. By now one should have completed the super-fun/awful task of Christmas shopping (I have and yes I’m smug about it) and will now be putting the final touches to the Christmas plans that one is so looking forward to.
With all of the traditions and festivities it is unsurprising that Christmas is an incredibly fragrant time of year. The abundance of yuletide food, church masses and changes in the season make for an incredible wealth of smells associated solely with the one celebration, and each year one looks forward to reliving those odours that make the season so darn ‘Christmassy’.
As I’m a lover of both scent and Christmas I thought it would be fun to put together some of my favourite yuletide smells alongside perfumes that manage to capture the essence of these odours. Here you’ll find smells of the season and fragrances that are evocative of such wonderful treats as gingerbread and mulled wine. Christmas smells (really good in fact) and on The Candy Perfume Boy this winter, it has never smelled better!
It’s that time of year where we all start to put together our Christmas wish lists for Santa, or as I like to call him – ‘Nigel’. Being the perfume nuts that we are means that beloved family and friends can sometimes struggle to pick fragrances out as gifts for us, after all we’re a selective (read: ‘picky’) bunch by nature and nobody would want us to open up a gift that we would deem as unsuitable on the big day.
To mitigate the chances of a botched perfume purchase at Christmas I supply a perfume wish list to my partner and my father every year. The other members of my family family flatly refuses to buy me any perfume, stating that I have “too much” and it’s “bordering on an obsession”. Who knows what they’re smoking, but I can always rely on my dad and Nigel (if he’s in a good mood) to pick something from my carefully selected list.
I’m on a Serge Lutens kick at the moment, which is funny considering that I was considerably late to the Lutens party and it took me quite some time to ‘get’ the brand’s aesthetic. This is due in part to the fact that much of what Uncle Serge puts out is truly hedonistic and oriental, and can often feel thick and oppressive. This style is attractive to many but for years I failed to see the beauty amongst the spices, resins and balsams.
Unsurprisingly, it was the florals (specifically the incandescent Fleurs d’Oranger) within Lutens’ stable that served as a gateway to understanding perfume’s most highly respected, reclusive and artistic individual. But why the florals? What does Lutens do to nature’s blooms that others don’t? What does he see amongst the petals, the stems and the pollen that many perfumers and creative directors cannot?
The answer is simple – Serge Lutens sees the darker side of flowers and he’s not afraid to present the beautiful amongst the downright terrifying. Within his exclusive collection of fragrances housed inside his Palais Royal shop in Paris (a purple-tinted perfume Mecca), Lutens has three of the most deadly, carnivorous and fatal florals ever to have graced the noses of the human species, they are; the maniacal tuberose – Tubéreuse Criminelle, the viper jasmine – Sarrasins and the ghostly iris – Iris Silver Mist.