Needle in a Haystack. Perfume Review: Serge Lutens Chene
I often lie awake at night and dream of a perfect storage solution for my samples and decants. The storage of my feverish dreams is an impossibly-high-tech, or rather sci-fi container disguised as an antique cabinet… Inside…is an infinite space …At a push of a sequence of silvery buttons, the desired vial is brought out from the depths of the “cabinet” with a swoosh of invisible robotic hands… No more panicked rummaging through numerous boxes, no more swearing in the manner that would shock even the most foul-mouthed fishwife, no more unidentifiable samples without labels, no more having to empty out the whole drawer just to find that one tiny little vial, that needle in a haystack…
In reality, my samples are kept in what a friend would call an organized chaos, and a foe would rightfully identify as a mess. On a good day, the newly arrived samples are immediately categorized as Reviewable and Non-Reviewable. (On a bad day they are just dumped on my desk and sit there till a good day comes.) The Non-Reviewable samples are put into either the Somehow Get Rid Of Box or the Don’t Want to Review but Can’t Part With Yet box. The lucky Reviewables are placed into this 12"x7"x7" chest…
…and there they stay, patiently awaiting their destiny…At night, when all is quiet, you can hear the Etat Libre d’Orange samples whimpering in horror, they know that the Review Day is upon them… Some wonderful treasures (the vintage Diors! the old, obscure Guerlains!) have been in that chest for over a year, because I am either too intimidated by their beauty to dare to write about them or because their reviews keep getting postponed in favor of the never-ending new releases…It is entirely possible that some samples will still be in the box, a decade from now.
I tried dealing with the backlog of samples by having Sniffathons, but those are awfully exhausting. The solution was arrived upon by the super-smart Ina of Aromascope who came up with the idea of the Needle in a Haystack post, which from now on will become a regular feature on our blogs. The sample (or decant) of the day will be chosen by each of us blindly (no cheating allowed) and promptly reviewed. And this is how I have chosen my first Needle in a Haystack. I closed my eyes, stuck my hand into the Reviewables Chest, groped about, clutched a random sample, prayed the random sample won’t turn out to be Gucci Rush or POTL, opened my eyes and saw…Chêne.
Chêne is one of the Serge Lutens scents (or scents in general) that I should have loved but didn’t. With notes of oak bark, cedar, birch, immortelle, tonka bean, rum, black thyme and beeswax, it seemed to have my name written on it in bold capital letters. Yes somehow it left me cold. Yes, I acknowledged its spicy-woody gorgeousness, but the earth refused to move even a little bit when I wore Chêne. And such sad state of affairs would have probably continued were it not for Ina’s Needle in a Haystack idea. Reluctantly I applied Chêne, bracing to write a blah review about a Lutens fragrance…and the magic finally happened! What used to be too-sharp, became intriguingly astringent; the perfume, which was too dry, suddenly acquired a succulent, unexpectedly sweet undertone.
Chêne opens up on me with an accord that I can only describe as a smell of spicy prunes. The bitter woods seem to be paired with a fruity, boozy note, and the resulting luscious piquancy is incredibly attractive. As the scent progresses, the “fruits” disappear and the complex, opulent woody accord begins to showcase its numerous facets. The woods of Chêne are smoky, dry, spicy, velvety, warm; practically every characteristic that can be attributed to a woody note is present here. I adore the stage when the intense herbaceousness of the thyme and the sweet, green “meatiness” of immortelle become apparent. The base is a sophisticated affair in reddish-brown and dark-green, with the fiery woods, the slightly medicinal rum and the sweet, sweet tonka enveloping the wearer in a magical, deep, alluring sillage that only Lutens is capable of creating…The good news is that now I have another Lutens fragrance to love. The bad news is that I urgently need yet another bell jar… oh well!
Chêne is available exclusively at Salon du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris, €100.00 for 75ml.
Please visit Aromascope to read about Ina's Needle in a Haystack.
The first image is from annetaintor.com. the second is my own, the third is from salons-shiseido.com.