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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Perfume Review: Sarrasins by Serge Lutens

Review by Tom

In 1984 (when I was 7), a good friend of mine managed to scam the second of many jobs for me, this time at the Olympic Arts Festival an adjunct to the 1984 Olymics in Los Angeles. I was an East Coast boy, having grown up in New England and at that point living in New York. I sounded (and still do when I am tired) a bit like Katharine Hepburn, had milk-white skin, pale grey-green eyes and dark ash-blond (according to my last hair-guy matching what's not grey now) hair. In short, I did not look like your stereotypical Californian. For the first few weeks I stayed at a college friends parent's house in Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills; I shocked my hosts by walking down the long driveway and strolling down to the Beverly Hills Hotel to buy cigarettes- I think they thought I was slightly insane, and that I would be picked up by the police. Since this was the evening and the gift shop was closed, the staff directed me to a vending machine they used; I felt like I was in a special club. A few times I would have a drink at the Polo Lounge. Even though I must looked like a total rube, with my pink button-down, chinos and topsiders and a tweed jacket of my Dad's from Cahill and Hogges or the red Eisenhower jacket I bought at Canal Jeans I never felt unwelcome, they were warm and pleasant. Then I would take myself back up the canyon road to my hosts house, my pack of Lucky Strikes in my pocket, stopping every block or so to sniff the wild profusion of bushes of night-blooming jasmine that were perhaps more heady than the glass of peaty Laphroig I'd spend three hours pay on.

Sarrasins opens with exactly that jasmine: heady, but blameless and unexpectedly clean as it draws you in. There is a dusty, slightly ozonic note to it, like settled car exhaust. There's a taste of green to this that's true to the jasmine here; something about the general of the dryness of the climate that flattens the sort of rot aspect that Jasmine has in say the deep south. Like our "June Gloom", a seasonal onshore flow of moisture from the Pacific that makes for morning and evening fog despite daytime heat and dryness, Sarrasins as it develops becomes more moist and more animal, then oddly fades. It becomes sepia-toned, like my memory of my strolls through that Benedict Canyon evening nearly a quarter-century ago. I truly wish that I could write that it builds upon that initial, transportive opening, but it doesn't. From Colombina's review, and from their website "a sumptuous jasmin which smoothes its fur... a sigh of time". I didn't want it to smooth it's fur; I don't want it to sigh. I wanted it to go further, bolder. It settled from exuberance into flattened middle-age. So, perhaps have I, but I don't want scents to reflect that. I want it to deliver on it's Welches grape colored promise.

Mssrs Lutens and Sheldrake, we know you have it in you and you know we'll jump through hoops to get it.

Wow us. I dare you.

Image sourse,


Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Lucky Strikes and Laphroig:) I knew that I liked you very much! I adore Laphroig! (Much more than I adore Jasmine!)Thanks for the wonderful sharing of a particularly heady time in your life.

12:23 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


The Luckies passed out of my life twenty years ago, but the Laphroig (and the Oban) I still once in a while indulge. That was a heady time. I'm more a glass of white wine boy these days.

But then if we all got together for a sniffa, you never know what could happen..

Have a glass for me, neat.

12:53 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I'm able to touch alcohol again (mono ruled it out for this whole year), my first sip, as unwise as it may be, will be of Laphraoig. I love that stuff.

7:11 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all are so butch with your talk of whiskey and cigarettes:-) How very Bogey and Bacall of you. Great review. Someone really needs to sit down with Mr. Lutens for an interview and find out what the official story is--retiring or not? More frags or no?

9:50 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

I join you in daring them. But I wonder if CS will continue to work w/ Serge now that he's w/ Chanel. I was really enthused about Sarrasins initially - maybe just because I so wanted to love it, but something happened w/ repeat sampling and the love just fizzled and never developed into even needing a decant. I adore jasmine, I adore Serge, but this lacked the magic I find in A la Nuit.

10:06 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I loved your recollection of the days past...
Now I am longing for whiskey straight up and a cigarette, darling. *smolders in her best Bacall style*

10:06 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I hope it's everything you remember. I wish I could be there.

11:04 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think I fall more towards the Bacall end of the spectrum..

I wish someone would pin him down and just ask as well..

11:05 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I hear you. The opening had me squealing with delight and then, not so much

11:06 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You could pull that off..

11:07 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You totally got me, lol. 7 in 1984, why he's a mere child. Who is this imp, telling me about perfume?? Why .... !? Oh. Oh he shopped at Canal Jeans. Smoked Luckies. Oh. Leg pulled. No fair, I'm an easy mark on Thurs morns.
Sarrasins ... I want to love this, suspect I won't, am compelled to try. Still trying to negotiate a sample swap somehow.

11:10 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...



I'd love to hear what you thought of it..

11:24 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Still haven't tried it, and nothing I've read has made me go crazy looking for a sample. Hard to imagine it can beat A La Nuit :-(

1:31 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

It could have very easily if had just kept going. Others have written that this is Serge doing "subtle". I wish it were less subtle.

1:44 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful imagery in that story. If only Serge would read it and feel that way again. I just went through a group of SL samples, sighed and said, "I think my long affair with Serge is over." I can't believe the man who came up with Arabie had anything to do with the timid and fading Louve.

11:55 PM EST  

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