Fatal Flowers – Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, Sarrasins and Iris Silver Mist Perfume Review

Carnivorous Flower by M.Sh on pxleyes.com

Carnivorous Flower by M.Sh on pxleyes.com

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.

Tubéreuse Criminelle

Tubéreuse Criminelle

The Notes

Tuberose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Hyacinth, Nutmeg, Clove, Styrax, Musk and Vanilla

How Does it Smell?

Tubéreuse Criminelle is infamous as far as tuberose fragrances go. Heck, it’s infamous as far as ALL fragrances go! This is due to its overdose of camphor and wintergreen that is weaved seamlessly with the mentholated facets of the hot, fleshy tuberose. Nothing can quite prepare one for the tour de force that is Tubéreuse Criminelle’s top notes and whether one find its it irresistible or not, it can be guaranteed that sniffing this tuberose will be an unforgettable experience.

Once the initial shock of the tuberose and mothballs/Vicks Vapor Rub combination has dissipated, Tubéreuse Criminelle actually becomes rather pretty. The coolness of the menthol doesn’t entirely disappear but it does subdue, lending herbal and green facets to the warm, creamy and rubbery tuberose and vanilla that hold strong within the base. This multi-faceted approach to the most narcotic of flowers makes for a thrill-ride of a scent that is both unpredictable and fascinating.

If Fracas is widely considered as the vamp of the tuberose-world then Tubéreuse Criminelle is the vampire. She’s Maleficent (‘MalefiScent’, perhaps?), the dark lady, lurking in the shadows and Cruella de Vil, the crazed mad woman, hiding in plain sight. This tuberose fragrances, and both Disney villains, are incredibly beautiful, but unconventionally so thanks to their hard edges and cruel lines, making them all the more formidable.

Sarrasins

Sarrasins

The Notes

Floral Notes, Carnation, Jasmine and Musk

How Does it Smell?

Sarassins is a jasmine perfume, but it’s not a hyper-real interpretation of one of nature’s most fragrant flowers (for that see Lutens’ A La Nuit), instead serving as a dark, brooding and almost malevolent take on jasmine. But that’s not to say that it is deadly in the same way that Tubéreuse Criminelle is, far from it in fact, and where the tuberose is mad, bad and unpredictable, Sarrasins is quiet and calculating.

In the opening, Sarrasins presents thick, creamy and indolic jasmine and spiced fruits. There is a degree of cheesy (hinting at gardenia) and fecal funk but it is never overwhelming allowing for this indolic facet to sit perfectly alongside the animalic strips of leather. As it settles, the fragrance becomes sweeter and creamier with strong hints of stewed jasmine within the bed of gorgeous vanilla.

Sarrasins is the leathery skin of a serpent – the deadly black mamba sleeking through the grass and silently stalking its prey, prepared to strike at any second. It’s a fragrance that has considerable power and strength, yet there is also a fragility to it – a softness that speaks of the lonely and solitary life that is bestowed to a predator. It’s also one of the most transcendently beautiful fragrances ever made.

Iris Silver Mist

Iris Silver Mist

The Notes

Vetiver, Musk, Iris, Sandalwood, Virginia Cedar, Galbanum, Clove, Incense and Benzoin

How Does it Smell?

Iris perfumes usually focus on the powdery, sweet and violet-esque facets of the flower’s roots, playing-up their more palatable aspects. Lutens’ ode to the iris – Iris Silver Mist – does not do this, instead it presents the cool mineral and vegetal nuances that make iris such a bewitching and intriguing note.

In the opening Iris Silver Mist smells of cold carrots and earthy roots. Incense adds to the grey, murky feel of cold water and vetiver gives tiny hints of something slightly green. For the most part things are relatively linear (meaning that there isn’t a whole heap of development) and as this iris slowly moves into the base it becomes less vegetal and slightly warmer with touches of powder and silky musks.

Iris Silver Mist is a fragrance that speaks of ghostly spectres and the cool earth of graves. It’s an ethereal veil worn by a funeral mourner and the silvery cobwebs found in an old abandoned room. Never has a more beguiling take on iris been made and much like the phantoms it is so evocative of, Iris Silver Mist feels bound to another world.

Availability

All three of Serge’s fatal flowers – Tubéreuse Criminelle, Sarassins and Iris Silver Mist – are part of the exclusive Palais Royal collection and only available in the Paris shop or online in Europe. Each is €140 for 75ml Eau de Parfum.

Disclaimer
Image 1 Carnivorous Flower by M.Sh on pxleyes.com. Image 2 via swide.com & lollypopvintage.com. Image 3 us.sergelutens.com & styleshoutout.com. Image 3 us.sergelutens.com & thenonblonde.com. Notes via Fragrantica.

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24 thoughts on “Fatal Flowers – Serge Lutens Tubéreuse Criminelle, Sarrasins and Iris Silver Mist Perfume Review

  1. Hi Thomas,

    Interesting to know that you only started to ‘get’ Serges with his darker and twisted floral numbers not the more common oriental path. He does both so well though. I’m dying to try more of his Paris Exclusives range, I’m sure they’re mostly stunners. He has done the odd bomb though ….. Nuit de Cellophane is the only one I haven’t been keen on yet. Anyway just thought I’d say that you can also buy Iris Silver Mist in a black spray at the moment – 2 x 30ml. I live in France and it was in the local parfumerie but it is probably available in a few places in the UK I’d imagine too.

    • That is interesting to know, meganinstmaxime – and very tempting as well. I see that the travel sprays are also available at Harrods.

      There are a lot of beautiful wonders in the Palais Royal collection and you’re right there is the odd ‘bomb’ in there too. I am warming to his heavier scents though, Ambre Sultan especially.

  2. Thomas, I absolutely loved this. You are so spot on in every respect, it’s amazing. Perfect images too.

    Lutens’ dark florals are my favourites too. The others are too thick and overpowering for me. Have you tried De Profundis? I wonder about that one. I think like TC, I’d admire it rather than want to wear but I’d like to give it a go.

    Sarrasins really is quiet and calculating as well as transcendently beautiful. I could only wear in the heat of summer, it’s so cold bloodied. It really is a serpent!

    • I’m so glad you like it, Tara! You have a hand in it too, thanks to your Sarrasins! 😀

      I really need to try De Profundis and Le Vierge de Fer too. I imagine them to be quite dark and deadly indeed.

      TC can be quite demanding can’t it? Even I (a veritable tuberose fiend) have to be in the mood for it.

  3. I fell asleep before I could comment on this but glad you finally hopped on the Serge train. I love all of these but only own Sarrasins. I’ve actually been enjoying it lately with the colder weather. It’s sweeter on me than my other white florals and I get that spicy fruit (dare I say apricot?) and the stewed Jasmine notes. Have you tried Un Lys yet? I think you will like it. That and Fleurs d’Oranger are probably my favorite from his line.

    • Sarrasins is very beautiful in the cold weather. I like that it’s a jasmine with a touch of warmth to it.

      You’re spot on with the apricot, there is definitely some in there.

      I’ve not tried Un Lys yet but I’m intrigued by it. Fleurs d’Oranger is one of my favourites, too!

  4. What a wonderful and evocative review! I own several of Lutens’ fragrances, including TC. This year TC joined the export line, at least temporarily. So you can now also spray TC instead of just dabbing, if you dare….

    • Hi Claudia, I’m so glad you enjoyed the review!

      I saw that TC was in the export collection for a while, apparently there are still some bottles lurking around, which is good because spraying is so much better than dabbing!

      • No, really you have mastered the art of incisive depth here: I know these three perfumes and you have nailed them. I actually bought a bottle of Sarrasins in Paris but then realized it totally didn’t suit me. I should have gone for La Myrrhe, or El Attarine, or any of the sweeter orientals. I love Sarrasins, but that minty leather part just doesn’t work on me. I can wear white florals very happily, but a red-dyed weirdy jasmine I just can’t carry off. My Japanese neighbour fell in love with it, though, and it is now her holy grail. She smells magnificent!

  5. Lovely reviews for three outstanding perfect ladies. 🙂 … ‘Criminelle’ is without a doubt my top fave tuberose fume. – In fact, I might even have to go as far as say it’s quite possibly my top fave ‘floral’ fume outright ! … Every time it hits my nose it leaves with absolute shivers of delight, just LUV the stuff. – (And as much as I do enjoy it’s development, sometimes I just don’t want that glorious ‘chill’ to ever dissipate. It’s therefore probably my only essential ‘pocket-atty fume’ – for random or even unending ‘icy’ top-ups.) 🙂

  6. what a surprise i acquired Iris Silver Mist today while Sarassins and Tubereuse Criminelle only within the last 4-5 months only and all without paying hefty sums….Sarrasins is my most favorite of the three

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