One Thousand Scents

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's All Relative: Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

This one isn't random at all, so the roulette is officially over, I guess.

I have been doing a lot of Serge Lutens scents these days, haven't I? I can't help it: something about his oeuvre and his style of perfumery speaks to me. There is something irresistible about his offbeat take on the scented world. Even when I don't care for a particular Lutens, I can see the craft and the genius of it. (But sometimes, like any other artist, he goes dreadfully astray: he has some genuine clunkers in his line.)

Last week I gave my co-worker Eeva a bunch of samples, and like a true perfumista she sorted through them and unerringly made a beeline for the one she would like the most: Fille en Aiguilles. The name is evidently a sort of triple pun: "aiguilles" means "needles", not only sewing needles but also the needle-like leaves on deciduous trees, and it also (I have read) is a slang term for high-heeled shoes, and "fille" means "girl", but it is pronounced just like "fil", the word for "thread", so the name can mean "girl among the pine needles," "girl in high heels", or "a threaded needle", the last two being references to couture and fashion.

Eeva's taste in scents is drastically different from mine. She often wears unadulterated patchouli oil, which smells much better on her (blonde, Nordic) skin than it does on my own (redheaded, Anglo-Celtic). She loves bone-dry scents, things that are woody and difficult; I can enjoy these austerities but much prefer sweeter things, which she finds headachey and cloying. (We both hated Louve, though possibly for different reasons, but her reaction was the same as mine: scrub it off!)

Fille en Aiguilles is unequivocally Serge Lutens: it reads like a variation on Chypre Rouge, if you took nearly all the ingredients and replaced them with other Lutensisms, and then dialled the sweetness way back so that Eeva won't get a headache. The two scents have the same basic structure: vaguely winey/boozy stewed fruit on top, some tree resins in the middle, a deep woody base. Only the particulars are different. They're siblings. Fraternal twins, even. Fille en Aiguilles is more pointed, with a slight smoky brush-fire quality and an assertive outdoorsiness that is foreign to the edible pleasures of Chypre Rouge.

I am writing this so I can wear Fille en Aiguilles--despite the name, absolutely unisex, like most of Lutens' output--one last time and then give my second sample to Eeva, so she can enjoy the scent for a while longer before she has to shell out for a whole bottle, which she will certainly do. I won't; it's good, but not for me. I urge you to try both Chypre Rouge and Fille en Aiguilles side by side if you have the chance: I bet one of them will speak to you. Or maybe both!

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