One Thousand Scents

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fast Food: Serge Lutens Five O'Clock Au Gingembre

Another Serge Lutens. Apparently I am going to hack my way through his oeuvre come hell or high water. It would be a lot easier if there were a complete set of samples, or, if one may fantasize, a complete set of bottles, kind of like that mind-bending eight-thousand-dollar Complete Penguin Classics Library.

Five O'Clock Au Gingembre happens very quickly, so you'd better be paying attention. A brilliant hit of bergamot at the beginning overlying a transparent spice gives the scent a strong, cologney feel; this rapidly evaporates to reveal a warm tea-and-ginger heart that gives meaning to the name--this is teatime, with gingerbread (and black pepper, for some reason). It's gourmand-ish because it's made of food, but not really sweet enough to be called a true gourmand scent--and there's no vanilla in sight, either.

After that promising beginning, it quiets down fast; the radiance of the tea and spice dwindles so that the scent lies prettyy close to the skin within a matter of fifteen minutes or so. Eventually a dark but presentably clean patchouli sidles up from underneath to join the party, combined with a cocoa note (are the people having hot chocolate after their tea?) that feels very much like Cocoon--a combination which, I have to note, Lutens already did in Borneo 1834.

And that's about it.

There's nothing identifiably wrong with Five O'Clock Au Gingembre: it's pleasing enough. I didn't want to scrub my skin at any point. But don't we expect more from Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake? Don't we expect mystery, magic? What makes Five O'Clock Au Gingembre a bit of a disappointment is that it feels too simple and stripped-down to be a Serge Lutens scent. There isn't any real oddness or interest to it; the craft and expertise, the artistry, are not there. It seems, to be honest, like a clutch of Demeters tipped into a vat; you feel as if Earl Grey Tea and Black Pepper and Gingerbread and Patchouli would give you the same effect, and if the production of an artist makes you feel as if you could do it yourself, there's something wrong.

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