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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Perfume Review Serge Lutens Serge Noire

By Tom

Serge Lutens is one of my favorite houses and one that has given me several scents that I don't ever wish to be without, and to which I find myself always returning. Even ones that I find to be a personal miss I can at least appreciate; I think this is why I think of some of the recent releases as the equivalent of a slump period: his "malaise era". Not that I didn't enjoy and even buy some of them, but really, could Louve and Rousse not seem like a rest period after Muscs Koublai Khan and Chene?

Serge Noire is the latest export release, and despite my personal promise to myself that I would not get all crazy about a new Serge I did get a sample from the Perfumed Court when it was available.

On me it opens with an incensey accord that also has a bare touch of rubber and I swear a touch of anise before the bark-y cinnamon drops in to play. Yes, there are hints of the last few Serges in there and that's both a good and bad thing: good in that this one seems to coalesce everything that the other ones were trying to say, bad if like me you bought the last ones. I don't get any of the menthol in here that others have reported, at least in the beginning. As a matter of fact this seems to be the least of his line to do an opening fireworks kind of thing (the one that he's usually famous for), even with the openings delicious earthy heat. This one it seems is all about the drydown.

And what a drydown: there's something a little melancholy about it, something contemplative. It seemed to fade in and out on me, like listening to the radio at night at the shore: something from a ballroom in New York and the signal gains and loses strength as the clouds pass over the brightly starred sky. Or perhaps from the dance under the big tent as you steal away to the beach for a walk along the shore. You can see the Bioluminescence in the surf, almost as bright as the stars in the sky, stars that you never see in the city The air is warm with the smell of woods and the remnants of bonfires, but still has a trace of a chill (finally, the menthol) reminding you that summer is nearly over and another year has gone by. There you stroll, your shoes in one hand, perhaps a drink in the other, your toes in the cool coarse sand, the warm hint of patch seems like a reminder of reckless, feckless youth.

Was I blown away by it? It's certainly the best new Serge in a while. If it hadn't been preceded by what seems to be three drafts, I'd be thrilled. Will I buy? Of course, it's brilliant, it's epic, it's a tone poem. It's Charles Ryder remembering his love for Sebastian and Julia. It's stunning. But I still feel I should get a rebate for buying Rousse and Louve...

Available at Aedes, $140.00 for 1.69oz.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, you mentioned the magic book, Brideshead Revisited. Now I must have the perfume to go with it! Great review, Tom!

1:41 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God I didn't buy Rousse or Louve, 'cuz I have a feeling this is gonna be my next full bottle purchase. I love it and only get the tiniest bit of menthol, enough to add to the intrigue. It's not loud or flashy, but quietly takes you to a number of places, almost around the world in a day. Wonderful post, you have me craving this bottle even more.

4:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Tom... that have just painted a most beautiful and evocative description of it, thanks. It will be hard to resist a bottle, can't wait to try it.

4:23 AM EDT  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

You're right, there is something very meditative and serene about the drydown. I just love the benzoin-amber roundness of it.
I bought a full bottle before even using up the sample, and am having quite a love affair with it.

4:42 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

What a beautiful review! I absolutely loved it during my first few samplings, but have yet to fork over for a full bottle. You hit on the reason why in addressing its somewhat melancholy feel - I basically want to have this scent be matched up in my future memory file w/ the quieter mood of the time between summer and fall. Steamy August weather and sunny beaches are just not in sync w/ it for me.

8:22 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, this post is so beautifully written that I now feel compelled to sample Serge Noire. (For some reason, I had no interest in it until I read this.) Your melancholy evocation of the end of summer at the shore--the shore of a different era--is simply spellbinding.

8:24 AM EDT  
Blogger March said...

I've loved this more than the last three (five?) and will at minimum end up with a larger decant. I never did get the magic of Rousse; I think I must be anosmic to some part of it. I like your "draft" theory -- to me this is a finished Rousse.

9:55 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your words make me so want to like this but on me it was a sad mess. I could tell there was genius in there but after promisingly spicy opening it settled sour & dank. I tried to wait it out for the drydown but it just got worse & worse until I scrubbed. Incense can go sour on me unless it's subtle & warm; this was just too much for me. And the cumin amped that up into something very wrong. I envy you your walk on the night shore & toes in sand.

11:03 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Try it before though- I am hearing reports that on some (including myu scent twin) that it gets all tandoori-delight on them..

11:16 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


That is exactly what I got from it too: a quite, meditative journey, with some nostalgia. Loved it!

11:17 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


try it first! I'd have for it to go wrong on you!

11:18 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I somehow have a credit at Barneys which I take as mandate to get a bottle...

11:19 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

ah but elle-

I think it gets here just in time for fall...

11:19 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think a lot of people are going to think that given the last three or four releases. I almost didn't pop for the sample (and certainly got a small one) but am glad I did. The last four were the orchestra tuning, this is the symphony.

11:21 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...



I expect to see a lot of Louve and Rousse on eBay now..

11:22 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I believe it; it didn't love Gaia and she's my scent twin. Which only goes to prove that even twins are ever sl slightly different..

11:23 AM EDT  
Blogger Gaia said...

I'm so jealous. Not sure what's up with my chemistry that I got so little incense and so much all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. I wanted to love it and I'm determined to try it again when the weather cools down. after all it took me months till I learned to love Zagorsk.
I agree about Louve and Rousse, though. I love and wear them, but they are better layered with darker stuff to make them shine. Like a "choose your own drydown" perfume. Interesting concept, but Uncle Serge could do better.

And, Bridsehead... *sigh* I'm worried the movie has totally ruined one of my favorite books.

11:34 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasgoing back and forth about whether or not to sample this and now I just have to try it. I really hope it works on me. And I'm in the market for more "quiet, meditative"scents these days.

12:05 PM EDT  
Blogger March said...

Wait .... how do I get a credit at Barneys? (whines)

Or Scent Bar?

How 'bout Graff?

Wow, Tandoori-Deelite would be such a letdown.

12:29 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Try it again- I can't think that we would have had such a diverse reaction to it.

Of course now I'm scared that it's going to go all "taste of India" on me..

1:16 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Give it a shot. I loved it.

1:16 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Sadly, you get one by paying your Barneys bill early like a good boy, then forgetting you paid it and paying it again.

1:18 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having spent my 'growing up years' summers on the northern shores of Lake Michigan, I was particularly engaged by your wonderful descriptions....the elusive radio stations, the faint sound of dance music wafting over the dunes as the adults partied at the marina, and that faint sense of melancholy that starts to intrude as August wanes toward September. Such special memories.

I think I must sample this scent now, with my fingers crossed that it does for me what it did for you.

1:23 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I hope it does..

1:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Perfumeshrine said...

I couldn't leave this be, when I got informed there was a review of my latest love here :-)
Thanks for spreading the love, this needs to be tested by all.

When I reviewed it, I was mesmerised by its somber, pyrocaustic opening followed by what seems like a heaving bosom later on: it is both serene and candle-lit, but not cool or churchy in the sense that other incense fragrances are.
I am going through my bottle very quickly!

Do try El Attarine too, it's equally fabulous! ~Although completely different: the equivalent of a sun-lit precious gem on a coppery trinket hid in the hot sand ;-)

2:23 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your review and several others, I'm definitely getting a sample of Noire. Maybe it will work for me, maybe it won't; I'll see. What is certain is that I'll keep on reading your writing. What an incredibly evocative description! You took me back to a half-forgotten memory of a place I've been. where I'd like to be again some day. If I could explore those memories further by spraying on a bit of Serge Noire, what a gift that would be. Thanks.

2:51 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


How did I miss your review?

You are making me want to try El Attarine sooooo much!

2:52 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Thank you for your lovely words; I am truly honored.


2:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Existentialist said...

And a hush falls over the room.

Seriously, I'm so glad that all the 'meh' reviews dissuaded me from trying the recent Lutens'. This sounds wonderful, poignant, even. Thanks for a lovely review, I will be getting a sample soon.

7:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

BTw, I am slowly meandering my way through the BR miniseries, and it is just wonderful!

Love your review, that said so much more elegantly what I was thinking

7:45 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I would love to read how you find it..

9:35 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...



(Will Netflix EVER give that one over to me?!?!)

9:37 PM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Holy cow.....I am so there. You spoke the magic words...shore, radio.....ballroom in New under the big tent....STEAL AWAY. THis sounds like a perfume that I must have....I fear that life will be unbearable if I don't try it. Thanks Tom for creating such lust:)

10:49 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You make me blush!

11:59 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An incense note over a been there - done that Lutens spicy sweet base (albeit toned down a bit). Competently constructed, but a hardcore Lutens fan familiar with the houses heavy oriental style will be a tad disappointed nonetheless.

1:33 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

A dear friend sent me a smidge, and I must agree, Tomaloo.

While the opening didn't wow me-
The drydown did.
I bneed to spray this one, to see what it does over time- but the drydown is superb.

7:02 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


disappointed? I'm a hardcore Lutens fan and I wasn't

11:53 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


this is definitely a sprayer. Oddly I decanted MKK and decided that it is most decidedly NOT a sprayer. funny, huh?

11:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Tania said...

This was almost lovely on me - but only almost. I understand the love of the drydown which others have mentioned - it is gorgeous. But I keep getting a 'fried onions with cumin' note, and though it comes & goes, it's so 'wrong' it tends to ruin the scent for me.
I'll try again at a different time of the month (if that's TMI, sorry... ;-) But I really do find it changes my chemistry...)

1:42 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


You're not the only one who got that note. If I did I would have been far less enthusiastic..

4:41 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tmp00 - I meant a hardcore lutens fan, not a hardcore lutens fanboy :D

3:03 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, all I got was a huge blast of cumin and tandoori-delite... and I was so looking forward to a meditative incense scent! Waaaahh...

6:19 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

With all kindness, respect and openmindedness, I observe that the head of SERGE NOIRE has a note in it like grilled onions.
Or, more specifically, the stale smell of grilled onions one's car interior takes on when one has accidentally left a McDonald's bag somewhere within it on a summer's day.

8:09 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE this fragrance! I get the incense part at first, then a bit of cinnamon, and some undertones of woody vanilla (not too sweet). When I first came across this, it was on display with a number of other Serge Lutens eau de parfums, and there was at least one other that was nice - and similar - but just didn't have the complexity and slight femininity of this one.

12:32 AM EST  

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