In an ideal world, perfume should lift you, move you, and make you happy. You don’t expect it to send you into a funk, fill you with overwhelming sadness and a tinge of despair, particularly not when the perfume comes from one of your favorite houses, from a brand justifiably celebrated the world over for its visionary brilliance, and from a man who you respect and admire above all others. Unfortunately, sadness and feeling depressed are precisely what ensued when I tried the remaining three new Section d’Or releases from Serge Lutens. I wish that were dramatic exaggeration or hyperbole, but it is not.
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.