International Man of Mystery: Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque
Not too long ago I reviewed Chergui by Serge Lutens, a fragrance I had wanted to try for a long time. It is currently in the Export range for a limited run, but another one that I was really curious about still remained elusive, a later scent with a tobacco theme, Fumerie Turque. Recently a new friend with European connections, a dashing and somewhat mysterious man at that, sent me this 2003 release that was once in the Export range for a short time a few years ago, but it never arrived at my local boutique, and so I was even more eager to sample it. It is everything I had hoped for and more.
I would certainly not call Fumerie Turque one of the “difficult” Lutens perfumes, but it does sit precariously astride the line between masculine and feminine, and if I had to choose I would say that it was intended as more of a men’s fragrance, not quite as unisex in character as Chergui, which itself tips a bit more toward the manly side. Fumerie Turque opens in a similar way, but it quickly becomes apparent that it is not quite as sweet, lacking the hay sugar note but still sweet in other more complicated ways. It shares the honey and beeswax with Chergui, and for a few seconds you might wonder if there is really a need for two tobacco scents in the line. Then it happens – the strong Turkish leaf and smoked leather arrive, and it’s a whole new animal. I do mean animal – this beast is on the prowl from the moment it hits your skin.
Chergui’s tobacco is a sweet pipe blend, while Fumerie Turque is just that - rough, strong Turkish stuff, the kind you might find in roll-your-own packets and unfiltered European cigarettes, the ones that are really, really bad for you. Although I have never smoked, I do enjoy the aroma of tobacco in its unburned state, except for cigar grade, which is just too strong and bitter and smells too much like it’s already been smoked. The Turkish style occupies the middle ground between pipe and cigar and when it’s surrounded by the sweeter elements in this scent - including currants, honey, rose, jasmine, and Peru balsam – it is simply hypnotic. It reminds me, not in smell but in concept, of another favorite Lutens of mine, Douce Amère – the bitter and the sweet are in constant flux, each one rising to the top only to be subdued by the other elements in a never-ending dance of opposites. Down at the bottom, notes of juniper and rather charmingly uncivilized patchouli make sure that the sweet parts never really win.
So, what does Fumerie Turque actually smell like? Yes, it smells of tobacco and leather and candied sweets and dark red roses, but it’s far greater than the sum of its parts.
It smells like the kind of smooth-talking bounder your mother always warned you about, and you know she was right.
It smells like James Bond in the Monte Carlo casino at 2:00 a.m. – and by James Bond I mean Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, not those other posers.
It smells like the hot, dark gaze of the stranger across the room that makes your heart leap as your eyes meet his in the silent language of desire.
It smells like transgression and hidden worlds and whispers behind beaded curtains.
It gives off its own heat like a dangerous wild animal passing too closely to your hiding place as you try not to be seen, and you feel its fierce breath as it hunts for its prey: you.
I absolutely adore it.
It makes me feel more than a little dangerous myself when I wear it, and that is an all too rare sensation in my life. Behind its candied façade is a seductive heart of darkness that’s impossible to resist.
Its lasting power is impressive, and if you put it on one day it’s still waiting to greet you the next morning like a sleepy lover, but on me something else wonderful happens too – between the currants and the leather and the honey, the long-awaited final stage of the drydown of Fumerie Turque smells like something I never thought I would find in a perfume; it gives off something very close to the aroma of a horse’s skin, warm and alive, a radiant fruity odor with an undertone of animalic wildness. That happens to be something I love very much, and finding that smell on myself because of a perfume is something delightful if totally unexpected. I like to wear it to bed so that during the night my own skin will be transformed into that velvety horse-like aroma in the morning. People who have never smelled a horse up close might think I am very strange, but anyone who has ever inhaled the delicious heat emanating from the silky neck of a magnificent equine creature will understand completely. Who knew a fragrance could make the transition from danger to comfort in such an unusual way?
Image credit: Sean Connery as James Bond via sodahead.com, not sure which movie it’s from, but who cares, it’s still eye candy.