Serge Lutens is in the process of revamping its export (read: cheaper and more accessible) perfume line. I will again refer you to this article for more details, as I do not have the space nor the energy to go through all of it here. What is relevant for our purposes is that at most stockists, the old bottles are still available.
Personally, I believe this is a great time to get a Serge scent or two. First of all, although I’ve not been thrilled with most of the recent launches, Lutens is still one of the greats of the perfume world and many of his perfumes represent – in my view – excellent value for money. The new 100 ml bottles will, of course, be more expensive than the current 50ml ones and therefore more of an investment. I hear that there will eventually be 50ml bottles as well, but I’ll eat my brocade skirt if the price doesn’t increase.
The other argument, beyond the price, is that not everything that’s currently available in the export line will remain there. Quite a few scents will in the future be part of the exclusive line that is notoriously difficult to get. Related to this is the issue of reformulation: it is no secret that Lutens reformulates his fragrances continuously, so if you like something, better buy it sooner rather than later. And finally, you may – as I do – simply prefer the aesthetic of the bottles as they are now.
I have picked 10 scents from the export line that I personally think are worth investing in, but everything else is worth a try, too.
1. Feminite du Bois. No surprise here, as I consider Feminite du Bois to be one of the greatest fragrances currently in existence. People who would know say that the original version Lutens created for Shiseido is superior and I’m sure it’s true. It’s discontinued, however, and I am personally perfectly happy with the current version. It’s plush woody perfection, a statement scent that is easy to wear. Read me drone on about it here.
2. La Fille de Berlin. One of the most immediately attractive of Lutens’ creations, this is a beautiful, velvety rose. I know very few people who don’t like it, unless they are fiercely opposed to rose fragrances. There is enough musk and moss and spice to add depth and interest, but at least to my nose it’s still very much a rose scent.
3. Ambre Sultan. I am not an amber fan, but I have bought a bottle of this. It’s a classic, oriental Lutens, but it’s also vintage Lutens in the sense that there is a twist. In this case, the twist comes in the form of herbs (coriander, bay leaf, oregano) that cut through the dense amber and make this one of the most celebrated fragrances in its category.
4. Fleurs d’Oranger. Another big personal favourite, this is the only orange blossom scent that I truly love. As I’ve said before, that’s probably because the orange blossom is mixed with tuberose, one of my favourite notes. Some people get an overdose of cumin from this; on me, it only adds an addictive, skin-like facet. Also, it seems that in newer bottles there is less cumin – sad for me, but possibly great news for others.
5. Daim Blond. Lutens isn’t known for his leathers and he doesn’t have many, but I think the ones he has are excellent. Daim Blond is a case in point: all suede and apricot jam and autumn sun, this is a great scent for September. It can be too sweet for some people, but I promise the drydown on your sweater will be beautiful.
7. Chergui. Of all the export line scents, this is possibly the most Lutens – or at least early Lutens. Opulent, complex, rather sweet, this is an unconventional mix of tobacco leaf and honey, amber and hay. It’s not for everyone, but those who love it really love it.
8. A la Nuit. A must try for all jasmine lovers, A la Nuit is an iconic floral for a reason. In my affections, it’s been replaced by Sarrasins from the exclusive collection, but I still wear it if I want to go all out. Every time I talk about it, I have to quote Robin from Now Smell This who called it “death by jasmine”. It’s not for the shy.
9. Santal Majuscule. A good sandalwood scent, especially one that doesn’t cost the earth, is hard to find. If you like your sandalwood rich and creamy, with some rose mixed in, there aren’t many better choices than this. It’s not what you’d call a modern scent, but who cares if it smells like this?
10. Datura Noir. Many people would disagree with my choice here, as Datura Noir is generally not considered a Lutens masterpiece, but I have a soft spot for this strange creature. The best way I can describe it is Bronze Goddess gone bad: it’s tropical, cocnutty and fruity, with tuberose and almond. If you like the exotic beach scents but always find them too boring or too relentlessly cheerful or synthetic, try this. It’s darker and weirder, but still smells delicious.
What are your favourite Serge scents? What would you recommend trying?