...continued from yesterday's post (click here to be taken to it)
The latest entries from some of the more bling-tastic brands haven't registered on my fragrance radar. I have sniffed the odd Clive Christian and Xerjoff, but I've rarely been moved to think about them for very long, let alone commit my musings to this site. But Lutens keeps playing on my mind. Maybe it's because there's something about the Section D'Or range which I find disappointing. I don't mean the scents themselves, but the fact that, with their release, the brand has upped the ante to an alarming degree. We all know that perfume houses aren't charities, but as far as business moves go, this one seems especially cynical and mercenary, not least because it comes from an organisation which, historically, has paid considerable attention to exploring and furthering the art of perfumery.
But let's put that aside for today and focus on the aforementioned art. I've had at least an introductory sniff of all of the Section D'Or scents. Last year, I got to know L'Incendiaire quite well, but I wasn't tempted to add it to my own collection or recommend it to anyone else. I recently spent a fair amount of time with L'Haleine Des Dieux. As the official press info states, it's not unlike a sub-facet of Ambre Sultan - mainly the smoky, powdery, vanillic parts - with a large dose of the spicy, musky dampness of cashmeran. It's attractive... but it ain't no Ambre Sultan. I confess, Cannibale pushed my 'smoky-leather-lover' buttons, but I can't say I found anything innovative or unusual in its composition, although I concede it must be near-impossible to find new statements to make in this genre.
If we are to believe that Serge Lutens, the man, continues to wield control over the scented output of his brand, then I think we have to conclude that, as he's hinted in some of his (consistently impenetrable!) press releases, he's split himself in three. The Section D'Or set represents one stratum of the Lutens of old: the resins, the balsams, the spices, the headiness, the north African sensibility. But it's also too heavy for its own good, as though the weight of the responsibility to remain 'exotic' has become insupportable. The blood running through its veins is has thickened to the point of immobility.
As far as the Eaux fragrances are concerned... well, more than ever, they appear to be the output of Serge The Imp. With their unashamed embrace of synthetic odours and their attempts to out-scrub every super-hygienic American creation in existence, they provide evidence of Lutens' more freewheeling nature, of his desire to play.
As the Eaux have grown wackier, Uncle Serge's main range has become quieter, paler and thinner. I'm a fan of 2014's L'Orpheline - there were enough layers within its silence to engage my interest - but this year's La Religieuse hasn't justified my initial enthusiasm towards it. Despite my efforts to remain generous, the passage of time has caused me to see it as excessively simplistic. And now, the latest entry in the main collection, La Vierge De Fer, (strictly speaking, a 2013, 'exclusive' bell-jar scent, currently in wider distribution for a limited time) tests my patience further. It is ostensibly a lily - a nod to the virgin in the title - but instead of being metallic, as the second half of its name suggests, it is soapy, glacial and mono-dimensional. Look, there it is again: the notion that Lutens has collapsed into disparate, unconnected elements. He has stretched himself to the point of being ripped apart. Maybe Marrakesh's most enigmatic resident needs to take some time to pause and reflect. Maybe he needs to pull himself together. Or maybe he just needs to persuade the different parts of his personality to start talking to each other again... even if only every now and then.
[Samples of L'Haleine Des Dieux, L'Orpheline, La Religieuse and La Vierge De Fer were provided by Serge Lutens. Samples of Ambre Sultan, L'Incendiaire and Cannibale were obtained by the author. La Vierge De Fer and all the scents in the Section D'Or collection are by Christopher Sheldrake.]