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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Roses, roses and more roses

By Tom

This weekend was lunch with a friend who wanted to stop into Barneys to meet a jewelry designer (she writes about, and is into jewelry). Since I am into gems with approximately the same fervor as I am into, say, Football, I went over to the perfume counter to the Serges.

I looked everything over and realized that I have at least decants of practically everything in the range except the really girly ones like the fleurs, and Sa Majeste la Rose (Her Majesty the Rose), his rose fragrance from 2000.

Now, I love the scent of roses but have difficulty with rose scents. I usually find them either too fan-oneself feminine (Caron Or et Noir) for me to get away with or just plain cheap, Sa Majeste la Rose falls into the former category. The opening reminds me of the scene in "American Beauty" with Mena Suvari in a bed of impossible, technicolor red rose petals. These are roses in CinemaScope. Roses in Dolby stereo. Perhaps roses in Sensurround. As big as they are they are also lovely, and very true to Moroccan rose (my friend has some, and I checked) with touches of citrus and mint to cool and soften. As it wears, it adds a hint of cloves, woods that seem more like stems than wood and a hint of skin musk.

I think that Sa Majeste tends to get lost in the shuffle against Lutens far more mysterious (and of course harder to buy) Rose de Nuit, which Colombina calls "a little bit of a Goth and a lot of Glamour". Sa Majeste is a little more obvious, in a Joan Collins (I saw her once crossing a street in Beverly Hills on a sweltering day in her perfect Chanel suit, make-up, hair and pumps: a vision of Hollywood glamour and looking cool as a cucumber) kind of way- a good thing in my opinion.

$120 at Barneys, Aedes, Luckyscent and the rest of the usual suspects.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've made the mistake (I think) of sniffing this in the bottle, going 'meh' and passing. I remember thinking it smelled like a very simple and obvious soliflore rose and not interesting enough for the SL price tag. I didn't even try it on my skin, which is, as I now know, a big error. I love the idea of roses in perfume (love FM Lipstick Rose and Bond no. 9 West Side, which to me have a very close kinship) but I shy away from a simple rose waterish fragrance. I must give Sa Majeste another go if it has hidden depths, as you say. I'm suspicious of the aura surrounding Serge Lutens, as I have found a number of the export scents underwhelming, to say the least.

5:02 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Well, I am a big Rose de Nuit fan, but I haven't been able to get inot this. Not that it's not lovely; I just generally don't do true roses (as opposed to dark ones). But maybe I should try again. I do have a mini. . .

When we were at the Malle store in Paris, Mr. Lily put on Une Rose by mistake (thinking it was something else, and not realizing it was a "feminine" perfume). He quite liked it. Have you tried that? And what do you think of two of my faves, Rose Poivree and Le Labo Rose?

7:20 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, SM is indeed a very cool-as-a-cucumber rose: crisp, quite linear and easy to wear for guys. It think it deserves more TLC than it gets although it's not a stunner like some other more voluptuous and darker roses.

7:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Divina said...

I am with lilybp, I generally don't do true roses, hence I have not paid this one too much attention. However, I couldn't live without roses in many of my favorite perfumes! Where would parfum de peau, mon parfum and rose cardin be without roses!
I love them in spicy compositions that have a bite.



8:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Alba said...

I tried with this scent, as with many other rose fragrances, but I just can't get to love them. They all smell so chemical to me, like room spray or those sprays you use to kill flies... I only like them if they're well hidden, like in Safran Troublant.

8:26 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to dismiss it too, but then one day I sprayed it by mistake instead of Rose de Nuit (which were decanted into identical bottles). I quite enjoyed the warm honeyed rose. Not very Lutens, but very lovely.


9:38 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


underwhelming when you compare them to the Exclusives, yes. But compared to a lot of what's out there?

I think we're sometimes a little unfair to Lutens; we expect the whole roadshow complete with caged tigers and sharks.

11:09 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I don't usually do rose at all, but I am going to have to seek those out and try them

11:10 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I agree: of course I loves me some darker and more voluptuous..

11:11 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Spice and bit are wonderful; I usually don't do rose soliflores. Although I most likely won't be popping for a full bottle of this I have to give it the respect it deserves.

11:12 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Room spray? Oy! I'd hate it if I got that from it. Sorry!

11:13 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I basically had the same thing happen. I also noted that it was fairly ordinary on the blotter; the honey/ spiciness and the delicate musk need skin to bloom on.

Nope, not very Lutens. But that's okay..

11:16 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom -

Sa Majeste has been one of my Spring/Summer standards for a few years. It's a green, metallic rose on my skin - very bright and very crisp.

Although I agree that there are some "feminine traits" with SM, surprisingly, I have never been told I smell like a "girl" when I wear this when I wear my Chanel suit and matching hat, it's a different story (jk)

Thanks for talking about SM, I think it is a beautiful and overlooked scent.


11:41 AM EDT  
Blogger ninja said...

I'm with Marko; it is complex and greenish (not too sweet, stem-like) on me. Yes, it's literal (especially at first). I mean, you don't find yourself saying, "Is that rubber cement I'm getting? Sunwarmed terra cotta? Horse blanket?!"... but in a genre where a simple note like vanilla is described as a "torrid salt-licked kiss stolen atop blazing white sands," I guess I can reconcile myself to some direct discourse every now and again.

When people say it's "not very Lutens" I'm guessing you mean that it's not disconcerting or cryptic. And perhaps it's more "user-friendly" to the uninitiated. But I am guessing he took on the rose because it is a wicked challenge for a master artist, being so often essayed and so miserably fumbled and artlessly plasticized or synthesized.

I think of it the way a visual artist might view those warehouse sunset oil paintings intended to coordinate with overstuffed sofas. You know, purple sunsets, no complexity, no nuance. Where would Paul Klee or Basquiat have taken the "crying clown?" The answer, I suspect, is that they would have done a crying clown to end all crying clowns.

I think Serge Lutens wrote an aria to the definitive, unadulterated rose, without perverting it. He must have meant to do this, this singular thing. I admire his restraint and think it's perfect.

12:11 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't dislike rose, it just makes me sneeze so I don't wear rose scent. One of my closest friends however HATES rose & makes The Face when she smells rose 'fumes. The universe paid her back by bringing her a girlfriend who wears Sa Majeste. Religiously. Ha!
That said, I'd love to smell RdN.

12:20 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

For a moment I misread and thought you were calling it just plain cheap -- ha! Spewed some tea on my monitor.

1:29 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Oops...and adding that your link to "just plain cheap" has a trailing slash and so doesn't go to the page you intended...

1:31 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


How much to see a picture of you in that Chanel suit!? ;-)

I would wear this rose, but I'd be walking around all day with the crook of my elbow in my nose, which would look odd unless I was wearing a cape and it was hallowe'en..

1:33 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Very well written and lucidly put what I clearly didn't.

No, it's not Lutens usual fireworks, it's just gorgeous rose, not screwed with. And that's quite enough for me.

1:36 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I hate most rose scents, but I like this one because for me it smells like real roses.

Miss Fate is a lady with an evil sense of humor, you know?

1:38 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Sorry about the keyboard, but better that than a laptop!

1:39 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Ooops over the link- sadly I don't have access to fix it. Maybe Columbina can when she has the time.

Of all the things I could call a Lutes scent, if "cheap" is one of the adjectives then I am going to hang it up.

In any case the link it to my review of Paul Smith Rose from a few weeks ago (as if you didn't know that already...)

1:42 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was my first ever Lutens perfume and is still my all time favourite, I adore it. I have rose du nuit, but am less convinced by that, it tries too hard (in fact most rose perfumes try to hard IMHO, which is why Sa Majeste is so glorious).

1:45 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


somewhat like a really good souffle, I think this one is a scent whose simplicity belies the work that went into it. It is lovely and polished and I don't think that anyone would feel they are being worn by their scent instead of the other way around

1:53 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will never quite forget the first time I smelled this at a small boutique browsing during my lunch hour. I sniffed my hand all afternoon.

My decant is almost all gone - halfway through finishing it, the wet rose notes that SM has got a little 'grating' to my nose. And I really have broadened my wardrobe to include so many other rose scents (Black Aoud by Montale, Rose 31 by LeLabo, No. 88 by Czech & Speake...) that SM and it's linear, wet, on the stem, just-opened-the-florist-refrigerated-cooler-full-of-roses smell is something I have to be in the mood for (like Arabie or A La Nuit, for instance).

When I am in the mood for it - there's nothing quite like it.

BTW - does anyone smell a faint similarity of the rose in SM to the rose in L' Ombre dans l'eau

3:09 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Dunno- but that's on my list to try now!

3:13 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Wow, I don't get "wet" or "sharp" from this one at all - to me it's deep, delicious red velvet all the way! I would love a chance to compare it to Rose de Nuit, but I love it just the way it is. I find it well-rounded and reminiscent of one of my favorite "real life" rose varieties that is famous for its stunning fragrance. It's as if they took that rose and put it in a bottle just for me.

5:27 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I agree. Just roses and more roses and a little bit extra to complement them.

5:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Solander said...

Hmm, I think I sprayed this on a tester and dismissed it as Evil Potpourri Rose... Might have been a mistake not to try it on skin, but then maybe not - a lot of roses go even more sour and musty like yucky dried rose petals or turn into pure soap on my skin. I don't even like the scent of most real roses (especially not the sort of watery/fruity ones), and I detest rose geranium. That said, here are the rose scents I do like so far:
Annick Goutal Ce soir ou jamais - because it's the truest rose scent I've ever come across, just roses roses roses and no hint of soap or "artificial rose odour".
Eau d'Italie Paestum Rose - because it has a similar rose note (which I think of as deep pink, not red) on a very nice woody/incensey base
L'arte di Gucci - because it's a voluptuous yet ladylike chypre rose
L'Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de roses - because of the big clump of earth coming with the uprooted rose
Montale Black Aoud - because Montale know what they're doing when they enhance their deep red femme fatale roses with smoky leather
Tom Ford Noir de noir - because it's a gourmand rose, candied rose petals, sweets scented with rose water and rose marmalade rather than a true rose scent. (I prefer the gourmand version of neroli too - the "fresh" version only reminds me of artificial smelling bathroom air freshener...)
I'm amazed there are so many of them, considering my aversion to roses! I'm sure more will be added, though not so sure it will be Her Majesty...

3:02 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to go fish the sample out to re-smell it since it has been a while.

This is still a fantastic "fresh rose on stem" fragrance. It's true that when compared to the other SLs SaMaj is not very striking, but since I smelled it years ago, it raised the bar and redrew the baseline of what I expected from a rose perfume.

All rose soliflores must be at least as good as this one to justify any consideration.

7:55 PM EDT  

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