Friday, 27 July 2012

Persolaise Review: Santal Majuscule from Serge Lutens + Alien eau de toilette + Alien Essence Absolue from Thierry Mugler + Amazingreen from Comme Des Garçons (2012)

Image: Papillio

Asking whether a perfume contains real East Indian sandalwood is almost as pointless as asking whether it contains real oud: as has been widely reported, the finest quality of the stuff is very difficult to source and extremely expensive to purchase. But this doesn't mean that skilled perfumers can't use the other ingredients at their disposal (notably the Australian variant) to produce convincing sandalwood effects in their scents, as we've seen with the recent Santal 33 (Le Labo) and Santal Blush (Tom Ford). Serge Lutens already has several much-loved sandalwood scents in his portfolio (Santal De Mysore and Santal Blanc, to name two) but he has now decided to revisit the ancient material, via the themes which inspired 2011's Jeux De Peau. The result of his olfactory rumination is Santal Majuscule, one of the heaviest, most mellifluous releases we've seen from the house for a few years.

Its link with Jeux De Peau is clear: both scents essentially place gourmand heart sections on a sandalwood base. But where last year's creation piled on the almonds and the caramelised sugars, Santal Majuscule goes for booziness (somewhere between brandy and a chocolate liqueur) as well as spices (cloves, ginger), butter, nuts, rose and cocoa. The sandalwood itself is devoid of its usual smoky, milky notes; consequently, the emphasis is placed on the material's distinctive, partly-sweaty, partly-musty wood scent. The drydown also offers a suggestion of balsamic powderiness, an unexpected development which wrong-foots the wearer and proves that Uncle Serge still has a few surprises up his purple sleeve.

SM is going on world-wide release at various stages throughout the summer, which probably means it'll have the potential to attract the cash of thousands of tourists. But I do hope this scheduling decision won't cause it to slip out of the public eye by the time the next winter comes around. With its hefty, beautifully textured warmth, it would make a most appetising companion during those months when temperatures never rise into double digits.

In brief... The folks at Mugler have been looking back too. As they did last year with Angel, they've produced an eau de toilette of Alien (composed by Dominique Ropion) in which they've opened up the edp's unique, endlessly compelling woody-jasmine heart by topping it with bright citruses (clearly, the flying saucer stopped off at a Tuscan orchard) and tailing it with aldehydic soapiness. The transformation is completely believable, albeit less extra-terrestrial than some might have hoped. For those who prefer to remain within touching distance of Planet Mugler, Ropion has also created an intense edp dubbed Essence Absolue. A dense, thick, syrupy take on the original (there's more than a hint of last year's Taste Of Fragrance flanker here), it throws up interesting comparisons with Ropion's own Portrait Of A Lady. Both scents feature gigantic floral hearts on equally massive woody-musky bases and both produce similarly unearthly effects.

Finally, after 2010's underwhelming Wonderwood, Comme Des Garçons move even closer to the mainstream with Amazingreen, signed by Jean-Christophe Herault. It supposedly contains notes of hazelnut, ivy and gunpowder, but in fact, it's little more than a generic, fresh woody-amber scent with a whisper of an interesting idea buried deep in its background. It's not amazing and it isn't even particularly green. A more accurate name would've been Humdrumaroon... or Humdrumahogany... or maybe just plain old Boringrey.

[Review of Santal Majuscule based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Serge Lutens; reviews of Alien eau de toilette and Alien Absolu eau de parfum intense based on samples provided by Thierry Mugler; review of Amazingreen based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Comme Des Garçons; all samples provided in 2012.]



  1. Real Sandalwood is gone, Persolaise.
    Just the other day, I tested Indian sandalwood perfume oil from a perfume connoisseur's collection using those porcelain dip-sticks. I sat there absolutely dumbfounded. I realised I had forgotten in the interim what the real ‘Santal’ smell is, since the market has been invaded with every tom, dick and harry molecule pretending to be the real thing. It brought back memories of my grandfather’s perfume made of damask rose and sandalwood oil, it reminded me of the sandalwood Chinese fans fluttering in lazy hot afternoons, and worse of all... it reminded me that it is gone, I can’t have it, perhaps small moments of deliberate relish now and then (like the one above) but it won’t ever be a part of my life the way it use to be.

    Can people who have never smelled it (in perfume form) even begin to understand what all the fuss is about: I don’t think so! It is so difficult to make another comprehend the feeling, that elusive, evasive feeling of true, genuine sandalwood scent. Perhaps something like that shocked serenity when your beloved finally gives in, the utter unbelief that it has happened... that it is happening.

    1. Ash, thanks for writing. I think real Indian sandalwood is still used in some niche scents, but yes, generally speaking, it's going the way of the dodo. Having said that, I confess I do love some of the synthetic substitutes.


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