Friday, 2 September 2011

Review: Vitriol d'Oeillet from Serge Lutens (2011)

Uncle Serge and Christopher Sheldrake have been up to their old tricks again. Their latest release could easily be dismissed as an old-fashioned feminine, a woody floral stuck somewhere in the late 70s. With its lipstick reds, hospital greens and spice-rack browns, Vitriol d’Oeillet is akin to the sort of painting you might consider hanging in the waiting area of an efficient office. Although its eponymous carnation is not unappealing, there’s an intimidating, medicinal coldness in its background, not to mention what comes across as an excessive enjoyment of its own grimacing bitterness.

But in the same way that the aforementioned painting would take on an entirely different appearance if it were transferred to another setting (say, a sunny kitchen or a bedroom in a cramped student flat), Vitriol’s impact changes when you try to read it as a masculine. Suddenly, what first came across as fairly muted sillage appears just right. The clove-eucalyptus notes that were suppressing the floral heart now seem to be keeping its excesses in check. The frostiness turns into studied detachment. In short, the outmoded is transformed into the daring. Indeed, it’s when you begin to question the identity of Vitriol’s potential wearer that the scent makes most sense. The one-line blurb accompanying the perfume on reads “What is it, Dr Jekyll?” which is perhaps an indication that the very notion of a shifting personality is this particular creation’s raison d’etre.

Then again, maybe that’s taking kindness too far. Maybe Vitriol d’Oeillet is simply a bit of a muddle. Maybe all 'retro' feminines could currently be seen as bold masculines. I doubt it’ll go down as one of the year’s more memorable releases, but its attempt to present a spiky, stand-offish floral is commendable (and, incidentally, makes me think it’s what Guerlain should have aimed for when they put together Arsène Lupin Le Voyou). Hardly indispensable but well worth trying.


[Review based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Serge Lutens in 2011; fragrance tested on skin.]


  1. Sounds like it goes w/ Alfred Hitchcock movies!!! :-0

  2. I adore carnation essential oil and was hoping Serge would give me a warm, full-bodied, spicy floral carnation. Instead I found VdO cold, dusty, subdued and peppery rather than spicy. Very disappointing for me but interesting to think of it as a masculine, not something that would have occured to me.

  3. I like my florals cold and detached and probably this is why I appreciated it so much. And as you very accurately pin down it can be a very beautiful masculine floral. Nor ground breaking but beautiful. In fact exactly because it is not ground breaking it will be a very good buy on ebay in a few months.

  4. Linda, it probably would... but the question is, which ones?

  5. Tara, I guess you have to hand it to him that he's created something quite different from what most people had expected.

  6. Memoryofscent, do you mean to say that it'll be on eBay because so many people will be trying to get rid of it?

  7. Not exactly Persolaise but that's the idea. There is a lot of speculation on ebay and some SL releases can be found at very good prices if one is interested. I got a 70% full bottle of Louve for 25 euros.

  8. Memoryofscent, thanks for that. I never seem to find good bargains on eBay, but I'll keep looking ;-)

  9. Thanks for an interesting draw, Persolaise! Andy made us all so curious at his new very feminine creation in the spirit of vintage perfume. So, I am in.

    And the link between film and fragrance. Well - before I entered the world of parfumism I never heared about this interesting game going around here - to recognize the perfume bottles shown in the movies :)

    And another rather funny link - wasn't it shown in the latest commercial of J'adore? :)

    By the way - love films made by Chanel for their Chanel No.5 advertisement.

  10. AromaX, thanks very much indeed for writing, but I think you may have intended to leave this comment on another post.


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