When L’Eau Serge Lutens appeared in 2010, most fans were up in arms. They felt betrayed, they said, by a fragrance which seemed to fly in the face of the aesthetic line that had, in the main, been followed up to that point. Now that the kerfuffle has died down and the shock value of going against the grain has diminished, it’s likely that the new L’Eau Froide will enjoy a warmer reception, although it probably doesn’t deserve to.
Naturally, it’s a well-constructed piece of work; we wouldn’t expect anything less from Lutens. But the addition of incense (always a hit with niche fans) to the musky, clean-laundry accord of L’Eau feels like a cynical move to improve the credentials of what is a pretty dull sub-line of the main Lutens range. Yes, the candle-smoke aldehydes at the top suggest the chilled hush of a stone church. True, the transition to the incense and the soapy base feels genuinely icy thanks to the inclusion of a winter-forest note of pine. But we’ve been here before. For a start, we’ve already got a commendable eau froide from Davidoff, thank you very much. And the combo of musks, soaps and white cotton-cleanliness – as presented in this creation – is the stuff of fabric softeners and detergents. Its presence here is perplexing, to say the least. Maybe Uncle Serge is getting bored with the perfume game. Or maybe he’s just sitting in his Moroccan mansion, chuckling at our attempts to work out where he’s taking us with these uninspiring waters.
In brief… Some of Tom Ford’s Private Blend scents play it safe; others serve as reminders that he was the man whose creative directorship led to the original Nu and M7. Lavender Palm lies somewhere in between these two extremes. As you'd expect from its name, it does contain a lavender note, but this quickly fades and makes way for an unwashed, musky, fougere-like accord of grass and clary sage. Unfortunately, the effect isn’t as brave as it might sound, because Yann Vasnier has turned down the volume to an almost imperceptible level. The sweatiness will probably put off people attracted by the scent’s name; the low level of diffusion will almost certainly disappoint those who’d actually like the idea of spraying themselves with manly perspiration.
[Review of L'Eau Froide based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Serge Lutens; review of Lavender Palm based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Tom Ford Beauty; both samples provided in 2012.]