One Thousand Scents

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scentroulette Day 10: Serge Lutens Rousse

There may, in fact, be a Serge Lutens scent out there that is just plain beautiful without a hint of the truly strange or offbeat, but I have not smelled it yet (and I think I would be disappointed if I did). His fragrances span a wide range, from gorgeous-with-just-a-hint-of-weirdness (Un Bois Vanille) and gorgeous-but-overwhelming (Sa Majeste La Rose) through various ravishing oddities (Douce Amere, Muscs Khoublai Khan) right down to things that some people think are unwearable, though someone must be wearing them (Miel de Bois, which I do wear, and Louve, which I certainly don't).

Rousse, one of the house's 2007 offerings (along with Louve and Sarrasins), ranks high-to-middling on the weirdness scale: It's not freakish, but it's unmistakably Lutens.

I should say at the outset that my Rousse is a little roll-on bottle, and as a consequence the contents are not simply an eau de parfum, which is too wet for such a delivery mechanism (it would leak badly), but oil-based, probably some sort of silicone oil, as a result of which the top notes are likely damped down somewhat. There are top notes, but they're subdued--submerged, really. Instead of Lutens' frequent opening act, stewed red fruits, there is a hint of citrus that I expect is bigger in the EDP, after which a storm of spicy, dry wood comes flying at you, and that spice, that wood--for the two are the same thing--is cinnamon. Cinnamon is the theme of Rousse, as the image above will suggest; Rousse means "redhead" in French, and the scent is an essay in redness, as was the previous year's Chypre Rouge, though this one is a dark, brownish-orange red. The cinnamon is not some powdered grocery-store product--not cinnamon-sugar toast!--but something big and potent and vibrant.

It's not absolutely dry, either: there is a sweetness lurking under the dry-wood surface that occasionally calls to mind cinnamon candy or, as bizarre as it sounds, Coca-Cola syrup, since cola consists mostly of lemon, lime, and cassia oils on a base of vanilla, and cassia bark is commonly used as a substitute for cinnamon.

Despite the repeated suggestions of candy and cola, it isn't overwhelmingly sugary. because other elements won't let it become that. Alongside the inherently harsh loveliness of cinnamon there is an odd breath of menthol, and perhaps a stem or two of vetiver; sometimes I catch intimations of Yves Saint Laurent's cruelly medicinal agarwood-drenched M7. It's grown-up and a bit severe until the soothing drydown (soft ambery sandalwood, mostly, with a tiny hint of vanilla), and while it took me a while to warm to it, I suddenly feel as if I want to wear it all the time. I suspect it will be a bit much for the heat of summer, but it's still spring, and a cold, rainy one, too, and I am going to be wearing this for a while to come.

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