Tag Archives: Christopher Sheldrake

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule: Little Drops of Heaven

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It seems entirely apt that in this season of goodwill and nativity plays, Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule reminds me of Christmas, cosiness, and all things nice.

It’s an unusual but simple blend of Sandalwood, Rose and Cacao.  It seems as if one dominates, only to be taken over by another, then another, in rotation.  One minute I think this reminds me of the dried fruit in Serge Lutens Arabie, the next there is a droplet of rose against a dusty, rich sandalwood background, and then the slightly fruity, rich note comes in again.  In fact, at first sniff, I was convinced there was fig here.

Some sandalwood purists would have preferred this to have been made with Mysore sandalwood, but in all honesty, I am not discerning enough to differentiate. I’m just happy to have sandalwood, any time, any place.

Cacao refers to the seeds of an unripened cocoa pod before it becomes suitable for harvesting and growing advent calendars.  An unripe cocoa pod is green and bitter and here it is captured, not as green and bitter, but as if all the richness of dark chocolate has been captured before any sweetness has been added. Against sandalwood it works terrifically well, and a lack of sweetness, unlike in real life, becomes a virtue.

The whole melange works incredibly well and I would happily wear it every day in this icy weather, which is saying something for somebody as scentually promiscuous as me. (new word alert!)

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule is wonderfully warm with just the right amount of  sandy prickliness to stop it being too gourmand-y.  I love it. It may well be my favourite Serge, and that’s a hard one to call.  Christopher Sheldrake steals my heart yet again.

Stockists:  In the UK You can buy Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule online from Selfridges, Liberty and Escentual.  In the USA and Canada you can try www.Fragrancenet.com  or Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

Serge Lutens Gris Clair: Hot Lavender!

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On my skin, Serge Lutens scents last a very long time: usually around nine hours. The exception was Muscs Koublai Khan, which I detested and couldn’t get rid of. It’s the perfume Rule of Sod.  Love it?  It won’t last.  Hate it?  It won’t wash off.

Serge Lutens Gris Clair falls somewhere in the middle for me.  It’s long lasting but I neither hate nor love it.  Weirdly, it smells a little like hot starched linen on me: as if I have over-ironed a garment (chance would be a fine thing- ask my husband!).  It also smells very masculine, and if I may use a colour here, it smells silver.

Serge Lutens Gris Clair was created by the genius that is Christopher Sheldrake. I don’t love everything he makes, but everything he makes is quite brilliant, objectively speaking if not subjectively.  Woodsy lavender with a hint of resin, this is an unusual combo and I can think of few scents with which to compare it.

The notes include Iris, tonka bean, woods, lavender, incense, and amber.  What I admire about it is the fact that without the lavender, this would be a superb, if not unique, incense-y oriental.  However, the lavender jars and almost puts my teeth on edge, but I don’t regard this as a bad thing.  How would we have discovered that olives and Martini go so well together if someone hadn’t dared to try it?

So what we have in Gris Clair is a warm, spicy scent whose cosy edges are blown away.  Lavender is a cold scent.  Amber is warm.  Sheldrake has wrapped a woolly blanket around the hard edges of a skyscraper.  It’s hot and cold.  It’s different.  It’s audacious.  But it’s not for me.

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Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque: A Touch of Sheldrake Magic

 

sergelutens.com
sergelutens.com

In the hands of Christopher Sheldrake,  many perfumes have becomes classics.  It was his hand that helped make Feminite du Bois, the splendid Patchouli Borneo 1834, and the wonderfully dense Arabie, (which  as you may recall, smells like Nigella’s recipe for Black Cake- all that rum doused fruit!) to name but a few of the many fragrant notches on his perfumer’s belt.

www.smh.com.au
www.smh.com.au

So here we have Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque and even in a blind test I would guess this was a Serge Lutens. Imagine a perfume that has Honey, Chamomile and Redcurrants.  Like me, you would imagine something summery and sweet.  However, Sheldrake has seen fit to add notes of Suede, Tobacco and Patchouli to his mix, creating  a multi faceted wonder of a scent.

It has similarities to Borneo in so far as  Fumerie is most certainly a dominant  member of the Patchouli Club.  However, it is aided and abetted with so many contrasting touches of lightness, that the Patchouli is experienced in a  new light.

When I first tried this, it smelled strongly of oak aged brandy, before turning into something rich and dark, like the smoke from incense in an ancient church. A hint of honey stops it being too rich and too dark (although nothing wrong with either of those things, if you ask me) and there is even, if you’re very quiet, a whisper of Rose to give a hint of sober beauty. The finish is a  manly blend of the aforementioned Suede and Tobacco, bringing to mind  the hushed interior of an exclusive Gentleman’s Club, but unlike those clubs, Fumerie Turque does not exclude women.

If you like Ambre Sultan, Arabie, Borneo 1834 or even Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain, I’d be amazed if you didn’t like Fumerie Turque.  It’s a bit out of season right now- this would smell incredible on warm skin chilled by snow and frost. As for gender: male, female, or whatever you feel like that day: this is a scent to be worn with gusto and passion and conviction.  It would go well with a cigar and an impudent glance.

Serge Lutens Bois de Violette

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 As a fan of Violets I couldn’t resist trying Serge Lutens Bois de Violette.  Having tried its cousin, Feminite du Bois, I was interested to smell how this branch of it  fared on its own.  As you may recall from my earlier review of Feminite du Bois, it frankly, smelled a bit like pants on me, despite its delicious woody top notes.

 Bois de Violette does rather better, although the Violets provide the chorus, rather than being the leading lady.  It opens with Woods and Violets, and beds down into more woodiness.  In fact, this gave me a vivid scent of a schoolroom: there was wax and chalk dust and the rich aged scent of old fashioned teak desks.

Created by the legendary Christopher Sheldrake, who co created Feminite du Bois, you can tell that Bois de Violette and Feminite are from the same hand.  Where Feminite was  a bit too intimate for me, Bois de Violette still has that human touch, although the basenote is more of a subtle smell of dried spit.  This is no bad thing, it’s a bit like the smell left after a long kiss, so not quite as bad as the old pants aroma.

The Violets remain both sweet and woody throughout, as if made from the bark of a mythical Violet tree. Longevity is stupendous.  I could swear I could smell it the following day, almost 18 hours later. Sometimes it’s really worth splashing out.

Serge Lutens Serge Noire: It’s Not You, It’s Me

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Created in 2008 by Uncle Serge himself and the legendary Christopher Sheldrake, Serge Noire, is a fabulously deep and dark spicy scent. On the right skin that is.  Sadly on me, there is a definite “off” note which was backed up my expert in residence, and three year olds don’t have an edit button.

The notes listed had my mouth watering. There is not one note that I don’t love: Patchouli, Amber, Incense, Ebony, Clove, Spices and Woods. I love it all. Pile it on, I can take it.

Or so I thought.  Just as I was blissing out in the smoky tones of the top notes, a note of Baked Bean-like body odour jumped Imageout and slapped me in the face.  How rude, I thought.  I tested a second time, later in the day. There it was again, the unmistakable smell of an unwashed truck driver’s armpits. Just to check it wasn’t me, I stuck my hand under the nose of my aforementioned three year old.  I was vindicated. “Yuk,” he said, “Cheese and onion”.

You see, it’s not just me, I promise. I did not prompt him, and he was in the middle of watching Numberjacks, so his verdict was both random and candid.  As if to torment me more, the other notes smell intoxicatingly good: smoky, dark, spicy and perfect for Autumn. I would love to smell like this, apart from the obvious drawback.

To eliminate random elements, I can assure my dear readers that my personal hygiene is of the highest order and that the side of my wrist has never smelt of BO even on the hottest of days.

It’s just  a combination of chemistry and bad luck. I actually love Serge Noire and will be jealous of anyone who can wear it without this truck driver barging in. I can smell it’s rich potential, in fact, there is even a wonderful hint of black pepper in there when I waft it past my disappointed nose.

I blame myself, I bet this smells lovely on everyone else, and I happen to know a certain reader has just bagged herself a bottle.  I bet she smells amazing in it too. Damn.

Avon Perceive Dew: Zing!

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The original Avon Perceive fragrance was created by none other than Christopher Sheldrake, who has created no less than 43 fragrances for Serge Lutens, including the legendary Chergui and my personal favourite, A La Nuit. Serge Lutens fragrances usually retail at around £80 a bottle. Perceive is currently around £11, making it the cheapest Christopher Sheldrake fragrance in the world. Do bear in mind though, that he was not handling the same calibre of ingredients when he parachuted into Avon as he does when he works for Serge.

 Perceive Dew was, after all that build up, NOT created by Christopher Sheldrake. However, it’s still pretty good.

The first time I smelled it, I immediately got Melon, which is a note I detest in fragrances. However, as always I gave it a second chance and a third. On the third go, just as I was about to list it on eBay, I had an About-Turn when I noticed some delicious Lemony Citrus notes that talked me in from the ledge. Suddenly I was interested again.

Top notes are Lemon, Freesia and Melon. If I can studiously ignore the wishy washy fake Melon note and concentrate on the sharp Lemon, then Perceive Dew and I will get along fine. Middle notes are Marine notes, Apricots and Honeysuckle. I definitely got all of those notes, but it wasn’t unpleasant.

From my first dismissive, and even snobby opinion of “another cheap fruity floral, it must be sent to the eBay Dungeon”, I now take a different view. For a start, the Marine notes are refreshing and pleasant, rather than aquatic and ozonic like The Body Shop Oceanus, which I can’t bear. The Honeysuckle and Apricot add a sweetness for sure, but because of the tart and zingy lemon, this doesn’t quite fall into the candy floss toothache variety of popular scents.

I will emphasise that I didn’t like the Melon note in this, and it is clear that the budget was not spent on expensive ingredients. However, as a refreshing spritz on a hot day, this is hard to beat at the price. I bought my EDP for £6.99 from my smiley, lovely Avon lady. It will be amazing kept in the fridge on a summer’s day.

Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque: Your Ever Changing Ways

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 I haven’t always got on with Serge.  I’ve yet to review several of his scents so I won’t give too much away here.  However I will say that I am still indignant about Ambre Sultan, and non plussed with both Louve and Chergui, more of which anon.

However, with Cuir Mauresque (Moorish Leather) I have discovered one of those wonderful perfumes that changes the longer you wear it. From one phase to another, Cuir Mauresque kept my interest and was full of surprises. Christopher Sheldrake, I forgive you for hooligan juice Ambre Sultan. You have more than made it up to me.

When I first tried this amber fragrance (I mean the colour not the scent), it was immediately evocative of the smoke from joss sticks: both Incense and Smoky notes at the same time.  The Leather is in the background immediately, although it doesn’t take over. There is Spice too: Cinnamon and Clove take a back seat, but are still in the picture. What stops this smelling too Christmas Cake is the lack of sugar.  There are no sugary Vanilla notes, so what you have is an aromatic blend, rather than spiced cake or a gourmand.

What intrigued me about this is that about half an hour after spraying, it seems to turn into an early Twentieth Century vintage blend, say a Caron Tabac Blond, or even a staler Mitsouko. There was that dusty approach that complements “le Smoking”. But it’s OK if you don’t like that, because after that phase it turns into the dried Rose Petals of a pot pourri, sort of papery and peppery  but still with a ghost of dreamy Incense.

Finally it drifts away, leaving a faint trace of powdery Musk and Oud, and yes even a rather suggestive tease of Civet. There is a definite hint of unwashed body at the end. I like a fragrance that tells a story. I like a fragrance that grows and blooms and changes and gradually slinks off in a puff of smoke, job done.  This is complex and interesting. It’s also around £80.00 for 50ml, so I have to think very hard before saving up for a whole bottle.

Cuir Mauresque is like an ugly man with beautiful eyes, although I’m leaving the room,  I can’t stop myself from looking back.

 

Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan: Because I Got High

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After the cosy success I found with the delicious Ambre Narguilé, and being an Amber fan, I thought Ambre Sultan would be a dead cert for my Fragrance Hall of Fame. I could not have been more wrong.

Some fragrances can affect your mood: Guerlain Apres L’Ondée makes me feel wistful, Eau de Cartier makes me feel happy, Frederic Malle Iris Poudre makes me feel threatened… and so on. It can’t be explained. Smells makes you react in ways you could never expect or rationalise.

Ambre Sultan immediately brought to mind that noxious cloud of um…”herbal” smoke you sometimes find lingering above a gang of youths in an insalubrious neighbourhood. Strongest notes are Resin, Myrrh and Oregano. It smells of the kind of thing you would extinguish if a police car drove past.  It made me feel heady and nauseous.

Maybe the prolific Christopher Sheldrake did a good job. Maybe this really is the smell of a Souk or a Bedouin Tent. If it is authentic, it’s put me off Souks and Bedoun Tents for life.  This one not only repelled me, but caused me to take two paracetamol and feel panicky.  I’m glad this was on loan to me and that I had not forked out for it.

You may feel differently. If you are a youth in an insalubrious neighbourhood.

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834: Heavenly Darkness

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Serge Lutens Borneo 1834  is a dark smoky fragrance  that took me back in time more vividly than any photo. Back in the 80s when I was just a slip of a girl (cough), I used to go to an indoor market in a nearby town and visit a fabulous Indian stall. I’d buy floaty skirts with mirrors and sequins, joss sticks and neat, raw patchouli oil. Spraying Borneo 1834 took me back into that moment where I was younger and had all my dreams before me, thinking I would float through life in my swishy skirts and silver bangles with nary a care. However, the joss sticks and the Patchouli oil cleaned up their act, got an education and drove back into town in a Bentley before I could recognise them in this beautifully crafted perfume.

Borneo 1834 is all about the Patchouli and takes its name from the year when Patchouli first stood up and took a bow as the new stranger in town. Created by the prolific Christopher Sheldrake for Serge Lutens, it smells like it should be dark brown or purple, like a spell. With a note of Camphor and Bonfire smoke, my husband’s first reaction when I squirted him unawares was “ isn’t this that Cowboy one from the other night?” He’s getting good at this.  It does indeed smell similar to Lonestar Memories by Andy Tauer. However, Borneo 1834 is quieter, and has more incense, whereas Lonestar is earthier and bolder.

On first spraying Borneo 1834, there is a blast of bitter dark chocolate and cherries which thankfully goes away, leaving just a faint vapour trail. What’s left is delicious woody Patchouli with a hint of Cardoman and White Flowers. The old Patchouli oil I recall in the 80s was cheap, and harsh, but rich, oily and pungent.  Borneo has taken all the rough edges off it and just left the smooth woodiness, retaining the oily richness. Many liken it to Chanel Les Exclusifs Coromandel. Having smelled both, I can see why: there are definite similarities.

Currently available on Amazon for £81.60 for 50ml, Borneo 1834 is not cheap, but still cheaper than Coromandel, which  is even pricier.

Borneo 1834. I think I love you.

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