Artists are allowed to change direction. But their fans aren't obliged to follow them wherever they go. So when Serge Lutens decide to propel themselves as far away as they can possibly leap from their usual terrain of thick, balsamic scents, they shouldn't be too surprised to hear more than a little disappointment, because whatever else it may be, L'Eau certainly isn't typical Serge.
According to the (unintentionally?) comical presentation on the SL site, this new creation is supposed to smell like the world's most exclusive soap. Its aim is to convey a long-lasting sensation of wearing clean clothes that have just been taken off a wind-swept washing line. Sure enough, the first whispering notes are ozonic and marine-like. There's a hint of borderline-salty, aquatic transparency, a touch of melon green and the faintest wisps of citrus peel. There's a sprinkling of sweetness. But all is bloodless and quiet. You wonder if the whole thing's going to vanish almost as soon as it's arrived. And then, after a few minutes, you realise that, actually, nothing else is going to happen. The rabbit has been pulled out of the hat and is staring you in the face. You've been given the familiar top notes... and the trick is that they're going to be sustained all the way through to the end.
As far as technical accomplishments go, this is not unimpressive: the sweetness and softness increase - culminating in a translucent vetiveryl drydown - but the central soapiness does remain faithful. However, it also makes you realise that perhaps top notes are as bracing as they are precisely because they're fleeting. Smelling as though you've just stepped out of the shower after having spent the day on an Atlantic beach is undeniably wonderful, but only for a few minutes. Drag the experience on for several hours and the effect you achieve is more like being forced to spend a night on the same beach and not managing to fall asleep because of the drone of a mosquito that just refuses to go away.
[Review based on a sample obtained in 2010; fragrance tested on skin.]