I’ll be honest, it’s been quite some time since a Serge Lutens fragrance has struck a chord with me. Also, whilst we’re on the subject of honesty, I’ve only ever been a casual lover of the brand (revoke my fragrance nerd card, go on, I deserve it) always enjoying the baroque, brooding florals (Tubereuse Criminelle, Sarassins, Iris Silver Mist, Fleurs d’Oranger etc.) over the richly stewed ambers, spices and sweets. So whilst I appreciate Serge Lutens fragrances, they’ve never really been “me” except for the odd exception and it’s a long while since one stopped me in my tracks and had me cooing with lust. You can probably tell where this is going…..
Enter La Dompteuse Encagée, the brand’s latest perfume. It’s a curious beast launched in signature Lutens style, with ad copy that reads more like a riddle than anything remotely useful in terms of discerning what it actually smells like (something about a lion tamer and vague references to cancel culture – “society on the lookout for the slightest misstep”). That aside, what Lutens presents us with is an enigmatic, icy floral that warms with time – and that, my friends, is something I am fully on board with.
Frangipani, Ylang Ylang and Almond
How Does it Smell?
Cold, cold, cold, icy cold. Well, at first, that is. The top notes are a sub-zero blast of camphor and menthol – a chilly mist that shrouds a tropical forest of flowers, ripe and ready to be plucked the second the morning sun hits them. The flowers themselves are hot and waxy – a rapturous medley where frangipani and ylang ylang worship their queen, the fleshy sweetness of tuberose. All of this accented by a subtle green facet and the edible warmth of almond.
La Dompteuse Encagée is relatively simple and linear in terms of development, but therein lies its beauty. I picture it as a flower that slowly unfurls, revealing subtle olfactory nuances as it blooms. You smell the same flower the entire time, just different facets of it. I find this to be a relatively elegant offering from Lutens, which is a brand that can sometimes over-adorn its fragrances with spices and resins. La Dompteuse Encagée stands out because it speaks clearly and firmly, never once shying away from its true voice.
With La Dompteuse Encagée you play a game of hot and cold. Icy hands hold blazing white flowers – all fleshy and carnal, shrouded in a cool mist. It appears aloof, perhaps even standoffish at first – an angular beauty to be admired from afar but never truly known, but with time the ice melts and a softer, warmer and more affable beauty is unveiled amidst a shower of hot, tropical white flowers. You just have to spend a bit of time getting to know her, that’s all.
La Dompteuse Encagée is available in 50ml (£99) and 100ml (£144) Eau de Parfum from Escentual.
Images are my own. Sample (full bottle) provided by Escentual as part of our #EscentualScents blind discovery trial. I have a paid affiliation with Escentual.