Flowers, Smoke and Jazz – Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire Perfume Review

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday by JaxAble on Deviantart

I don’t know about you but it took me a long time to ‘get’ Serge Lutens. The line that is, not the man himself, I doubt there is anyone on the planet who can profess to ‘get’ Serge Lutens himself, but I digress. Yes, it took me a long time to understand why everybody raved about everything Lutens, there was just something about all of those thick-set, heavy orientals that simply didn’t click with me.

But alongside his dense orientals Lutens has a number of gothic florals (Iris Silver Mist, Tubéreuse Criminelle and Sarrasins etc) that really do speak to me and it wasn’t until I tried these that I felt compelled to convert and pray at the altar of Sergeism. It is this great love of Serge’s florals that made me so excited to try his latest exclusive offering, a perfume that focuses on a highly fragrant, yet elusive flower that yields no oil; the gardenia.

Une Voix Noire (A Black Voice) is the name of Uncle Serge’s essay on gardenia and it takes its inspiration from famous American jazz-singer Billie Holiday, or “Lady Day” as she was sometimes known. For the lady who wore gardenia flowers in her hair, Lutens and his olfactory-partner-in-crime Christopher Sheldrake have created a fragrance that evokes the odours of “jazz, drinks and the night, and, beyond all that, a troubling line of white gardenia-scented smoke.”

Une Voix Noire

“The stars rise in chorus. The night sky is filled with the light of the moon”

The Notes

Gardenia, Tobacco and Rum

How Does it Smell?

My motto when it comes to all things Serge Lutens is “expect the unexpected” and this little adage can most certainly be applied to Une Voix Noire. Expecting a big, dusty gothic gardenia in true Lutensian style? Thing again! Une Voix Noire is as understated as it is unusual and as beautiful as it is beguiling.

The opening of Une Voix Noire is a real melting pot of smells and textures. There is Lutens’ signature stewed fruits, that feel a little more tart and transparent than usual, along with powdered coffee, a touch of menthol and dark, rubbery flowers. The gardenia is there but it doesn’t feel too pronounced to begin with, almost as if it is laying just beneath the surface awaiting its cue.

Une Voix Noire is most definitely a multi-faceted fragrance and each of its many facets slowly evolve almost un-noticed at first but every now and then one will notice that things have changed dramatically. After a while it gains a strong element of sweet tobacco which plays off of the fruit whilst adding a touch of cinnamon/vanilla sweetness and subdued smoke that evokes the smell of cigarette smoke on clothing rather than a bar filled with cigarette fumes.

The base is again a melange of contrasting smells. Most noticeably there is the gardenia, which with time has become darker, more narcotic, rubbery and peppery. Interestingly it never really becomes an all-out cheesy/mushroomy gardenia, instead it is something different altogether; a black gardenia seen through a piece of gauze. Rum-tinged vanilla is then folded delicately into the gardenia allowing Une Voix Noire to exit the stage on a bed of auburn coloured velvet.

Une Voix Noire is a truly stunning perfume, it manages to capture the beauty and talent of Billie Holiday as well as the dark passenger of her addictions. Yes it is gorgeous but it is also troubled and there is something unsettling about it that means that one cannot help but feel sad. It is a fragrance that inspires mixed emotions and for that reason alone it can be considered as a fitting fragrant tribute for the lady who sang the blues.


Une Voix Noire is available in 75ml Eau de Parfum (€130/$300) as part of Serge Lutens’ exclusive collection.

Good news for American perfume lovers, usually only available in Europe the non-export exclusives are now available to order in the USA via


Image 1 via JaxAble on Deviantart. Image 2 Notes and quotes via Serge Lutens.


25 thoughts on “Flowers, Smoke and Jazz – Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire Perfume Review

  1. This is the first in depth review I’ve read on Un Voix Noire – I’m still not convinced by it all but I’ll be sure to give it a sniff 🙂

  2. Thanks for your review. I tried Une Voix Noire in solid perfume form from SL cards but I didn’t like it much. Stewed fruits and gerdania are really not for me, well, not this time.

  3. I’m pretty sure I got an email from SL to request a sample of this so I hope it’s on it’s way. Your review is wonderful but I’m having real trouble conjuring this one up. It’s got so many contrasting accords going on.

    I have the same issues with Uncle Serge as you do, so it’s good to hear the stewed fruits aren’t putting you off. I much prefer his more transparent (“gothic floral”- perfect!) perfumes as well and I really want to try De Profundis some time.

  4. Sure, now that I’ve gone to France and dropped wad on two bell jars of floral deliciousness, they decide to come out with a new one AND start selling to the states. Such is life! Ha ha! This sounds like an interesting one. I love me some gardenia. Although his smoky scents (Encens et Lavande & Fumerie Turque) tend to err on the “Are you smoking again?” side…but it sounds like it’s worth a sniff.

      • I’m not sure if it was available (this was in August). It’s okay. Had to save my $ for the L’Artisan Seville. Yes, the SL boutique and the L’Artisan one in front of the Louvre were fantastic. I’m still a little confused about that whole Comedie Francais thing. Although, children running around like maniacs in front of high end boutiques is rather comical…

  5. What a lovely review T’ ! … And whilst I certainly don’t dislike UVN, (& even like it a little more each time I wear it.) I only wish it smelled half as good to me as you’ve just made it sound – which is positively delish ! Had I not already sniffed it before reading it, I imagine you’d have definitely set my dial to ‘must-hunt-down’. 🙂 … And it’s not that I don’t agree, I actually do. And especially so it’s ‘auburn melancholic aura’ – which is just spot on ! 🙂

    However, I think I might’ve preferred it if it were just a veil less ‘transparent’ & a fraction more ‘rich’ & ‘boozy’. (I mean, there’s days I feel like I can’t smell it at all.) – But the only real problem I’ve had with it is it’s metallic facet (which surfaces later along), and which kinda sets my teeth on edge a bit unfortunately. Perhaps it’s exactly this ‘cool brassy’ note which helps set it’s wistful tone for me (??)

      • I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say I found it ‘disappointing’, & definitely prefer it on the side of ‘transparent’ rather than ‘opaque’. Just feel it needed a little more, I don’t know, ‘oomph’. (I really can hardly smell it at times no matter how much I spray on.) – Still, I certainly like it best from amongst Serge’s more recent ‘transparent florals’. And think it pitch-perfect to it’s inspiration, at very least. 🙂

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