There is not a person alive who has been unaffected by the wretchedness of 2020 and the pandemic that has dominated the list of traumas. I won’t even start to talk about the issues of this year because they are many and all hideous. But what about the escape methods for many of us during the best of times: scent? How much is perfumery still a big escape in the midst of one of the worst years in the 21st century?
So, I guess luxury “Choco-Florals” have now become a thing. This year alone, there have been three luxury-priced Roja Dove chocolate floral orientals ($500+) and a luxury-priced Amouage ($300+) one. And, at first glance, Serge Lutens‘ new Veilleur de Nuit (“The Night Watchman” or “Watcher of the Night”) would appear to be joining their ranks.
The reality feels different, though. To me, Veilleur de Nuit is quietly and only tangentially floral, and the fragrance is primarily an animalic chocolate with leathery, musky, and smoky facets. When wearing it, I never thought of something like a chocolate version of Tubereuse Criminelle. Not even once. I thought of a chocolate twist on Boxeuses instead, albeit only briefly.
Bapteme du Feu, the latest release from Serge Lutens, is not a scent that lends itself to easy characterisation. What I can say is that it’s different, puts a sometimes bizarre twist on traditional fragrance categories or genres, and that the old Lutens eccentricity and creative twists are back. Wearing it left me flummoxed at times, highly ambivalent at other times, but at least it feels like a Lutens, for better or for worse.
A song of fire and ice, to use George R.R. Martin’s words, is one way to describe Sarrasins, Serge Lutens‘ legendary animalic jasmine bell jar fragrance, but it is only the start. White flowers are stained purple, then given a fiery (carnation) bite that is also icy at the same time. Sweetness and a touch of girlie femininity come with a snarled lip and haughty contempt, cloaked in tough black (castoreum) leather. Delicate powder is juxtaposed with feral civet. Thick purple grapes and pink bubblegum that evoke an almost Andy Warhol-style of Pop Art run through flowers that bear a gothic feel at times. All of it, somehow, unexpectedly, works well together, and all of it repeatedly makes me think of Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones and the progression of her character.