One Thousand Scents

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Not a Prayer: Serge Lutens De Profundis

If my scanner were working properly, I would post a scan of a Lynda Barry cartoon, but instead I will just have to describe it for you: in one of her early autobiographical cartoons she tells of hand-knitting while in high school a lime-green maxi skirt, which she is wearing as she stares dubiously into the mirror and thinks, "Maybe this is really cool and I just can't tell."

I have that problem all the time and I don't suppose I'm alone. Not the lime-green maxi skirt: the not quite knowing if something is good or not. It is enormously difficult for me to distance myself from my opinion of something — which is generally strong and immediate and unalterable — and try to imagine how other people would react to it or how it might be perceived in an objective manner.

And so it is with De Profundis, Serge Lutens' most recent scent. I am disposed to like Lutens: I love or at least appreciate most of his fragrances, because they are interesting and thought-through and unlike other things on the market. But I really dislike De Profundis, and I can't tell if it's because it's objectively bad or because it's just not the sort of thing I like. I dislike it so much, in fact, that I'm not wearing it right now but just coasting on memory of the last half-dozen times I wore it to try to get a handle on it. Maybe it's terrific. Maybe it's even genius, as so many Lutens scents are. Maybe I just can't tell.

De Profundis is supposed to be inspired by death — the name is from Psalm 130, traditionally recited at funerals — which I guess explains the funereal look of the amethyst liquid and ink-black label. The scent itself is, if nothing else, a lesson in the uselessness of describing a fragrance as "floral", because it's floral, all right, but if you think of florals as cheerful or feminine or airy or innocent or romantic or fun or any combination of those things, well, De Profundis will disabuse you of that notion quickly enough. It is tinged with incense and bitter greenery but mostly it's a floral inspired by the chrysanthemum, a flower without a particularly strong scent of its own (and not a very agreeable one in any case). There is a hint of carnation to it; otherwise the flowers are not really identifiable.

If you packed a barn to the rafters with flowers bred for longevity and not a lovely scent, held a funeral service there, and then emptied it out and scrubbed it down with an industrial-strength cleaner, what remained would be the scent of De Profundis. I cannot imagine wanting to smell like that.



  • Love it! Thanks for the post - nothing better than a great negative review - I appreciate it!!

    By Blogger Carol, at 2:18 PM  

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