May Melange Marathon: La Vierge de Fer

May Melange Marathon: La Vierge de Fer

Today’s floral is Serge Lutens’ La Vierge de Fer, which means “Iron Maiden” in English. The Iron Maiden was a notorious (though possibly apocryphal) medieval torture device, an upright metal box shaped like a person, in which spikes were set into the interior of the opening, which, when closed, would pierce a prisoner locked inside the device. Lovely.

I don’t follow Serge Lutens very closely although I have and appreciate several of his fragrances, and I would love to visit his boutique in the Palais-Royal in Paris some day. So I don’t really buy into the self-consciously arcane descriptions of his fragrances, but here is what the brand writes about La Vierge de Fer:

Let there be light! And darkness no more. He who wishes does not have a black soul! “I will come as a thief …” said Christ; certainly in silence and probably, for him, wearing shoes. To deserve his title, the Thief must act under the wide-open eye of the absent owners. In this case, it is not that tenuous eye with which Cain stares without regret, but another, which in some way will make an accomplice of Abel. If the fetishes, idols and charms of the Museum of Man, in Paris, had not met the 20th century, everyone would have missed that incredible mockery of Eros which The Young Ladies of Avignon certainly is. “The Negros had understood that everything which surrounds us is our enemy”, the wizard Picasso said to his paintbrush. Who, if not one of them, decided on life, by death, would dare, to unclench the teeth of this sex of the world: fear. Since it is the fruit of our entrails, it must be elevated. For that, not fearing incest, we will embrace it. In this way, she will give birth to our most beautiful monsters. That is how, a little rusty by dint of doubts, my steps have rejoined La vierge de fer (the Iron Maiden); that lily amongst the thorns.

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Perfume Chat Room, March 26

Perfume Chat Room, March 26

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, March 26, and we’ve just had some of the worst thunderstorms I can recall, all night last night. The thunder and lightning were truly epic — as in, my whole garden was lit up like a fairground every time the lightning flashed. Fairgrounds are on my mind, because I’ve been sampling Serge Lutens’ Bapteme du Feu, and that is apparently what it is meant to evoke, with its offbeat combination of gingerbread and gunpowder. It’s actually very intriguing, and I’m going to order a discounted tester.

The vaccinations continue apace; my son is now eligible, and he will get his first shot tomorrow. I’m very relieved, although it appears he must have had COVID-19 already in 2020 — we had him tested for antibodies when he came home from college for winter break, and he had them! He and we still have no idea when he might have had the virus, as he never felt unwell or showed symptoms, or tested positive under a regular screening program once he was at college. Anyway, it’s a great relief that he’ll get the protection of the vaccine and also help protect others by having it.

Spring has truly sprung in my part of the world; if it doesn’t keep raining this weekend, I plan to go out and take many photos of all of blossoms, including the spectacular pink azaleas with which my garden was blessed by long-ago owners. Their only flaw is that they aren’t fragrant. What are your plans for the weekend?

French fairground carousel
Carousel in Nice, 2019
Perfume Chat Room, February 12

Perfume Chat Room, February 12

Welcome to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, February 12, and here in the USA, Monday will be the Presidents’ Day holiday. Sunday brings us Valentine’s Day, and today is the official day of Lunar New Year. We are officially in the Year of the Ox! Now Smell This has a community project this week to wear a fragrance that evokes the traditional qualities of the Ox: dependable, diligent, reliable, etc. That had me stumped until my eye fell upon a Serge Lutens sample of La Religieuse, so that’s my SOTD. I know others have had less positive experiences with nuns, but I went to a Catholic school in Brussels for two years, run by nuns, and they were lovely, so I have positive associations with “les religieuses”.

I’ve just found out about a new documentary that follows perfumer Francois Demachy, called “Nose.” I look forward to seeing it! Do any of you have special celebrations ahead for any of these holidays or other festive occasions? Any special fragrances in mind for them?

Roses de Mai Marathon: La Fille de Berlin

Roses de Mai Marathon: La Fille de Berlin

Serge Lutens’ La Fille de Berlin is a straight-up Rose with a capital R.  The first hint of what you’ll smell is the color of the juice in the bottle — a deep, purply red. Continue reading

Thunking Thursday: Vitriol d’Oeillet

Thunking Thursday: Vitriol d’Oeillet

Happy Thursday! This week I thunked my sample of Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet. Full disclosure: I don’t mind at all thunking it, because I bought a full bottle for my husband, who has so often bought lovely fragrances for me. And it smells marvelous! Lots of carnation, just like the classic original Old Spice. I love a good carnation fragrance, like L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Oeillet Sauvage. Do you like carnations in fragrances? Which are your favorites?

Red carnation boutonnieres on gentlemen's white dinner jackets or tuxedoes

Red carnation boutonnieres; image from A Gentleman’s Row

 

Scent Sample Sunday: Vitriol d’Oeillet

Scent Sample Sunday: Vitriol d’Oeillet

I have a sample of Serge Lutens’ Vitriol d’Oeillet that I finally got around to trying this weekend, for one simple reason: it was available online as a full bottle for a reasonable price, and I wanted to decide whether or not to get it. Luckily, I’ve been wondering about it for a while and already had a sample from Surrender to Chance, so I was able to make an informed decision!

I had been intrigued by Vitriol d’Oeillet because I really do like the scent of carnations and other dianthus flowers like Sweet William. Vitriol d’Oeillet has often been translated into English as “angry carnation” but I don’t think that is quite right. Vitriol can refer to anger or fury, but it has a nuance of acidity, and can also refer specifically to a sulfate of various metals. “Oil of vitriol” is concentrated sulfuric acid, according to Merriam-Webster.  Maybe a better translation of “vitriol d’oeillet” would be “sulfate of carnation”. The blog CaFleureBon review of Vitriol d’Oeillet plays off this contrast between the naturally fresh, floral spiciness of carnations and the suggestion of sulphurous fumes.

Luckily for me, from my sample I get mostly flowers and spice, and no sulfur (usually described as the smell of rotten eggs). The notes are listed as: nutmeg, clove, pink pepper, pepper, paprika, carnation, wallflower, lily and ylang-ylang. Here is the description on the Serge Lutens website:

 – “What is it, Doctor Jekyll?”

Listen, my child, and I will tell you everything. Take a carnation and a sufficient quantity of Cayenne pepper. Firmly drive it into the very center, using the “nails” of a clove. Before committing the final act of violence, let wallflower throw in a few punches.

Yes, our collective leg is being pulled. Vitriol d’Oeillet is neither hellish, nor acidic, nor sulfurous, nor violent. It is a warm, spicy, fresh carnation, and it reminds me of the original Old Spice aftershave and cologne. I like it very much, but not for myself; I think I would love it on my husband! Have I mentioned yet that I ADORED the ad campaign for Old Spice that featured the tag line “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and actor Isaiah Mustafa:

On my own skin, Vitriol d’Oeillet opens with a blast of spice, most prominently cayenne pepper and clove, but with a sweet floral note underneath right from the start. As it dries down, the spice lightens up and it becomes a bit soapy as the florals become more evident. It is very appealing! I think many of the traditional men who wear Old Spice because their fathers and grandfathers did may not realize that the scent they (and we women) often associate with solid, old-school masculinity contains some of the notes traditionally included in women’s fragrances: heliotrope, aldehydes, even jasmine. They are not the dominant notes, though; they provide a background for the more dominant spices, wood notes and base notes like ambergris and musk. The dominant floral in Old Spice, and in Vitriol, is carnation — a flower associated with gentlemen since the dawn of the boutonniere.

Red carnation boutonnieres on gentlemen's white dinner jackets or tuxedoes

Red carnation boutonnieres; image from A Gentleman’s Row

In fact, the association of carnations with distinguished men goes back centuries, as portrayed in many Renaissance paintings like this one:

Renaissance portrait of nobleman holding carnation by Andrea Solario

Portrait of Man with Carnation by Andrea Solario

As Vitriol d’Oeillet dries down even more, the floral notes fade and the spices come back to the fore, including pink pepper. I happen to like the scent of pink pepper, although I know others do not, so I welcome its return together with the cloves, Cayenne pepper, paprika and nutmeg. At this stage, the nutmeg is more prominent than it was at the start, so Vitriol closes with a certain dry sweetness.

In sum, I like Vitriol d’Oeillet a lot, based on this sample. I won’t be buying a full bottle for myself — but I might get one eventually for my husband!

Pink pepper or baie de rose berries

Pink pepper; image from CaFleureBon