“Weird. Perplexing. Why this?!” That pretty much sums up my reaction to much of L’Haleine des Dieux, one of Serge Lutens‘ new luxury parfums in his Section d’Or Collection. Are you familiar with “The German Shepherd Head Tilt” when they’re trying to understand what you’re saying? That was me with L’Haleine des Dieux for the first three hours, not only in terms of trying to understand the notes I was smelling or where they could possibly come from, but also why such a concoction existed in the first place and how anyone could ask $600 for it.
Sidi Bel-Abbes is one of five new releases from Serge Lutens, and part of the second wave of the Section d’Or or Gold Collection that debuted last year with L’Incendiaire. The press release at the time described the series as “Serge Lutens at the culmination of his art.” I see it more as a return to Luten’s signature dark orientalism after a flood of drippy releases over the last five years, most of which I find to be icy, metallic, watery, and/or excessively clean. The Section d’Or collection differs in other ways, too: they are extrait de parfums instead of the usual eau de parfums, and their prices are not cheap (to put it mildly). Sidi Bel-Abbes and its compatriots were released at Serge Lutens’ flagship Palais Royale store in June, and I’m very grateful to a dear friend of mine who picked up a sample of it for me on a recent trip to Paris, along with one of L’Haleine des Dieux (Breath of the Gods) which I’ll cover next time.