Reviews En Bref: L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer & Serge Lutens A La Nuit

As with last week’s rundown, this post will be a brief summary of my impressions of several perfumes that I didn’t think warranted one of my full, extensively detailed reviews.

Passage d’Enfer by L’Artisan Parfumeur needs another name. Badly. Alternatively Passage d'Etranslated as “the passage to Hell,” or the “gateway to Hell,” the name would lead you to think this is a scent that is fiery, smoky, and the gateway drug to all sorts of dark things. Instead, it is light, soapy, extremely short in duration, and a floral musk. Apparently, the name really refers to the street on which L’Artisan’s offices were located which is fine and dandy, but then give this name to another perfume! NST provides the following details: “Passage d’Enfer was launched in 1999; the perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti and the notes include white lily, aloe wood, frankincense, benzoin and white musk.”

Passage d’Enfer is a unisex fragrance whose opening is light, fresh, clean and soapy. There is lily and a faint musk. I love lily and its soft touch here, but it’s too soft. Too ethereal for me. It’s also of too short a duration. I also love frankincense in perfumes, but I smell none of it here. I do, however, smell pencil shavings?! I had read that that was a frequent impression of the dry down, but I hadn’t believed it. I do now. And it didn’t require the dry-down for it to appear it, either. I smelled it within the first five minutes! (Just how fast does my body burn through the pyramid notes anyway?!) If forced, I would call Passage d’Enfer an elegantly austere perfume. I suppose.

If I were to be frank, however, I’d call it linear, boring, and redolent of hotel soap. (Definite hotel soap — without question — and not the expensive kind either.) I should probably bite my tongue, but I cannot. The almost antiseptically clean, synthetically soapy scent conjures up the soap bars with their slightly brown, plastic paper wrappings that are so common in cheap, tacky and faintly seedy hotels. And the combination of floral musk with that soap is rendered me faintly nauseous. I know I have a bias against the clean, fresh soapy category of perfumes but, nonetheless, I find this one to be a particularly revolting version of it. So, I take back what I said about the perfume’s name being a misnomer. No, this really is the gateway to hell, and it calls to mind things that are probably better left unsaid.

A La Nuit by Serge Lutens is a lovely jasmine soliflore for women that evokes the bright green of spring.A La Nuit Created by Lutens’ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, it was launched in 2007 and contains several different types of jasmine along with green notes and musk. Fragrantica describes it as follows:

Several variances of jasmine are combined in the composition: Indian, Egyptian and Moroccan. The jasmine blend is accompanied by green branches, honey, clove, benzoin, and musk. The composition starts with intensive jasmine notes, warmed and deepened by benzoin in the base. The base notes are surprising here because they are greener and lighter than the central notes, and thus they emphasize the spring-time floral character of this fragrance.

A La Nuit’s opening made me go “Mmmmm” out loud from the sheer pleasure of that lovely, gorgeous jasmine. It’s heady, but it’s not a ripe, overblown jasmine. The green notes give it a lightness and freshness. There is almost a milky element to the greenness that is hard to explain. It’s as if the fresh lightness of the green branches have combined with the honey and faintly musky feel to create a sweetly milky green note. The scent brings to mind a green bamboo candle I have and love it.

I love A La Nuit’s jasmine and I keep putting more on. Mostly, because the bloody scent doesn’t last on me! Within 10 minutes, it starts to fade and become close to the skin. That has to be a new record, both for me and for niche fragrances on me. If I remember correctly, A La Nuit was the third Lutens fragrance I ever tried; its incredibly brief shelf-life was what cemented the impression in my mind that Lutens perfumes were a dubious proposition for my skin chemistry.

I’m obviously a bit of an oddity when it comes to perfume duration and projection but, nonetheless, I was amazed to read the NST review in which the jasmine-loving writer Jasminefound it too strong and too sweet. In fact, her reviewing notes flatly state “your basic death by jasmine.” Her comments may prove useful to anyone considering the perfume:

the top notes […] are as close to being buried alive in flower petals as anything else I can think of. If you don’t like jasmine, it will seem like an awfully long wait for it to calm, assuming you bother to wait at all — I should think a true jasmine hater would find A La Nuit a scrubber. If you adore jasmine, you might find it heavenly. I do love jasmine, but the top notes are SWEET and STRONG, and I find it nearly unbearable sprayed. A little dab here and there is plenty enough heaven for me.

A La Nuit does calm — and doesn’t really take all that long — and then it is even more heavenly: a sumptuous jasmine, ripe but no longer heady. […] The longer it is on skin, the more the lushness fades, and eventually, it nearly qualifies as fresh, but there is fresh and then there is fresh. A La Nuit isn’t at all clean, in fact, it is more than a bit indolic (several reviews mention dirty diapers, or even cat urine).

It is the prettiest jasmine I know, although it isn’t girly-pretty in the least. It is jasmine with attitude, and while I don’t tend to classify my fragrances as for day or evening wear, in this case the name suits. I find that it just doesn’t feel right during the day.

I agree that it is definitely one of the prettiest jasmine fragrances. (I, for one, certainly do not smell cat urine or dirty diapers.) It’s an absolutely gorgeous fragrance that any jasmine lover should try. I don’t think this is a night-time only scent, either. The freshness and the greenness counter that, but I realise that it depends on a person’s individual style. For me, it wouldn’t be an issue for one single reason: A La Nuit wouldn’t last 30 minutes on me, day or night! If it lasted a good few hours, I would be very tempted to buy a full bottle.

15 thoughts on “Reviews En Bref: L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer & Serge Lutens A La Nuit

    • Thank you, Lanier. You’re very kind. These were both very short by my standards, btw, and just mere thumbnails! And don’t get me started on fresh clean scents. I did a 4 part series on modern trends in perfume and I essentially ended the Clean/Fresh/Soap section with “Let us speak no more of this horror.” Acqua di Gio and its progeny are the bane of my existence. *grin*

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  8. This is a beautiful review indeed. Am following Your blog now on! Happy I found it! Now, anyone has ever thought of comparing it with Lust of Lush? Just curious. I keep hearing complains about its lasting power every now and then so it looks U are not alone!

    • Hi AdrianaGalaniAdina, and welcome to the blog! I haven’t heard any comparisons with Lust of Lush, but am now quite intrigued. Also, I’m glad to know that I’m not alone with regard to the longevity issue for the fragrance. Anyway, good to have you here and happy holidays.

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