Portia Reconnecting with Serge Lutens

Hey crew,

Last time we chatted I told you about bringing my Serge Lutens open, now old style, 50ml export bottles out of their box and onto my easy reach tray next to my desk. It’s been spritz changing, even in these few short weeks. With them lined up before me I think about them much more often and am revisiting long languished loves again. It’s like a fragrant voyage of rediscovery. It reminds me how deeply the brand changed the way I thought about scenting myself. The possibilities, choice and intricacies of scent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fooling myself that every release or even favourite of mine is a boundary pushing masterpiece. Some are merely beautiful, easy wear interpretations of old tropes, but always with an interesting twist and/or perfectly balanced symmetry.



As luck would have it, I’ve had the opportunity to do two masterclasses in the Yellow Room upstairs in the Palais Royale store in Paris. The first was Jin and I with Elvire. Over the course of an hour or two we were introduced to the entire bell jar range, her favourite exports and the history of Féminité du Bois. It was an unbelievably jaw-dropping event. We already had some orders to fulfill from Aussies, and then I dropped a very large wad of cash on bell jars and travel sets for both Jin and myself. Jin fell madly in love with Muscs Koublaï Khän and is now on his second bell jar of it. He lovingly decants it into a beautiful black octagonal Serge Lutens travel spray and spritzes with gay abandon. I’ve never let him see how much it cost, he’d be horrified.

The second visit a couple of years ago was with a crew of perfume buddies. It was a much louder, more raucous affair and our hosts were not prepared at all to explain fragrance to frag nerds. BEDLAM! It was still fantastic though, and I was reintroduced to a couple of fragrances that I suddenly needed to own immediately. Chene and La Myrrhe. They sit in my collection, still in their cellophane. I don’t want to dab them, and I don’t want to decant them. What I do though is look at the boxes and reminisce. I wasn’t the only one to bust out the credit card and shop. I think there were 16 of us, and everyone purchased at least one bottle. Some people, who knew this might be their only visit to the grande purple emporium, splashed out on much more. While I didn’t learn much on this occasion, it is the one I smile to myself about so much more. Nothing compares to sharing the love of perfume with frag heads, made exponentially magic because we’d come from all over the world to meet in Paris.



So, I know you’re dying to know what’s been put up on the tray. I’d be chomping at the bit if I was reading your posts and it had gone this far without a list.


I love the spicy opening that reminds me of ginger beer. When that settles down, I get a fruity, resinous melange that some days dips into apple pie territory and others into the scorch of spices sizzling in the pan in a sweet curry. Arabie lets me dream of Bedouin life from my comfortable couch.

Bas de Soie

I had been using a decant of this from Surrender To Chance, there was about 1ml left. I sprayed it all on and then wanted more. So I finally opened my bottle and gave myself a dousing. Something amazing happens to Bas de Soie at that level of heft. Suddenly it is a huge breath of spring. Even in our cold, rainy autumn here in Sydney I was transported to a springtime wonderland. Hyacinth, iris and musk blowing on a cool breeze.


Chergui is the fragrance I most recognise as a Serge Lutens. It seems to capture and embody the spirit of the brand perfectly for me. Spicy and honeyed herbal opening, sweet tobacco and amber woods to close, and it runs the gamut of olfactory gorgeousness through its heart. It gives me visions of the legend travellers of the Middle East all the way down through Mongolia to the Far East.

Daim Blond

This was my favourite Serge for a while, but along came Bottega Veneta EdP, and I was like “Daim Blond who?” Fruity almonds and leather. It now smells dank and dated to me. Sad face. The dry down of softest, well loved leather is very nice next morning if you wear Daim Blond to bed.

Datura Noir

I wear Datura Noir quite a lot. First in decants and now in a bottle. I thought it wasn’t me. Too clean and fresh, a creamy white floral without the breath or skank seemed pointless. Yet, there I was/am, reaching and spritzing and loving it.

Féminité du Bois

My bottle has less than 10ml left. It’s got the Palais Royale logo on the label. Still smells fabulous, but I rarely wear it because I’m scared to not have it in this eras bottle. Spicy stewed fruits and woods. It’s absolutely heartbreakingly gorgeous.

Fille en Aiguilles

Also in the Palais Royale logo. More stewed fruit, but this time backed by incense and sharp pine. i love this so much for winter that I bought a few bottles and gave them out as gifts to various friends. Every one of them (non-perfumistas all) has re-bought it for themselves after using up that first bottle.

Five O’Clock au Gingembre

My favourite Serge Lutens fragrance so far. 10% into my second bottle. There is something about that opening zing of fruity ginger that I find so invigorating. You know I haven’t read the note list for years, and my nose tells me it is a ginger, tea, white flower and honey fragrance. I’m surprised to see no white flowers or tea mentioned, and find chocolate and patchouli there. WOW! My nose is clearly broken and has been for years.


The only notes given for L’Orpheline are incense and musk. To me they miss out on the smell of icy cold, snow filled winds in the monasteries of the Himalayas. Funnily, I get cold incense like you’re standing outside the temple shop, and the breeze is stealing most of the scent but it’s there.

Sa Majesté la Rose

This is not my favourite rose perfume. It does smell like you’ve stuck your nose in a particularly fragrant bloom early in the morning while it’s still got the dew on it and the scent hasn’t had time to burn off. The problem is that I find myself wanting a rose perfume to do a few more tricks than that. I need rose +++. This has rose. When the mood takes me, I look for and wear this but it’s a rare thing.

Santal Majuscule

That creamy, soapy sandalwood smell. So smooth and elegant. None of that rough, eucalyptus like opening of the Aussie stuff. This smells like the grown up, wealthy, settled down, gravitas version of Samsara. I have a really happy memory associated with Santal Majuscule. When it was first released I went in a split and bought 10ml. After wearing it twice I was about to write a review. As I reached for the decant, I knocked it over, and it smashed all over my desk. I was so upset at my clumsiness. Jin rushed in and saw the problem, after asking if I was OK and hearing the story, he said very calmly, “Well, you better buy a bottle. It smells fantastic” or some words to that effect. So I did.

Un Boise Vanille

The last of my Palais Royale label bottles. A thick, rich, crunchy vanilla that goes on strong and stays all day. Its simplicity hides depths and layers, if you bother to look, but for most non-perfumista wearers I imagine it just smells fabulous.


So that’s how I’ve been spending my lockdown time lately. Our restrictions ease gradually. One of my club groups got in touch, and they are hoping to reinstate trivia nights in late July. So, I’m a ways off working again. Maybe I’ll finally get to the mending pile on the floor in front of my sewing machine this week. It’s getting so big, I think it might take two full days.


What are your favourite Serge Lutens? Which bottles do you have open and use?
Portia xx


40 thoughts on “Portia Reconnecting with Serge Lutens

  1. I’ve been exploring Lutens for the first time as of late. Have sampled Feminite du bois, Chergui, Un bois vanille and Five o clock au gingembre. All have been excellent. Un bois vanille has been my favourite so far.


  2. Portia, what a great Serge Lutens collection you have!
    My favorite Serge Lutens are Iris Silver Mist and A la Nuit. I enjoy Feminite du Bois , Nuit de Cellophane, Daim Blonde and Ambre Sultan. I have been a fan of Serge Lutens for many years.

    I am glad you will be back to work soon! Be safe!


  3. Serge Lutens is just never going to be one of my favorite perfume houses, and I take a virtual duck every time I admit it online. I have tried many over the years and they just don’t hit the spot for me–with the exception of Arabie, which I cherish. One of the few that I haven’t yet tried and that mildly interests me is (the unfortunately and offputtingly named) Dent de Lait.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my best houses. I love the way you describe Un Bois Vanille, it does change and sneak up on you with a blast of smooth black vanilla, for me it shines in the summer. Have full bottles of Fleurs de Oranger, Feminite du Bois, which I wear all seasons, I save Arabie, Fille en Aiguilles, Le Participe Passé , La Fille de Berlin (could this be your Rose Portia?), for cooler days. My bottle of Douce Amere is empty, can’t afford the bell jar in retirement, Do have a decant of Sarrasins that is the first thing I would buy if I won lotto along with DA. Also have a bell jar of Chergui from 2002 or 04.


    • Hi Morgana82,
      YAY! Another Un Bois Vanilla fan. Yes, shimmers in the heat.
      So, I do have both Le Participe Passé and La Fille de Berlin in the modern 100ml bottles. They don’t fit on the tray, or with the lovely line of the matched 50ml DCd bottles. Normally they’d be seeing a LOT more wear in this weather but because all these other beauties are within hands reach I have not grabbed them once. Thanks for the reminder.
      Portia xx


  5. I have so many Lutens, it would probably be easier to list the ones I don’t have. Your bottles of Chene and La Myrrhe sitting there unworn make me sad. :-(. I have an export bottle of Chene, back from the days when they would rotate one of the bell jar line to the export line each year. La Myrrhe never made it into that rotation alas. Right now I’m wearing Five O’Clock au Gingembre and Rahat Loukhoum most. Will move on to La Vierge de Fer and La Religieuse as it heats up.


    • Hi there TaraC,
      I bet they line up beautifully and look perfect.
      Maybe one day I’ll get to those bell jars but I really do know myself well enough to understand that that opening wear would probably be the only one. Enjoying their cellophaned perfection is enough joy for me.
      YAY for Five O’Clock au Gingembre!
      Portia xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have Fille en Aiguilles and a pocket spray of Fourreau Noir and like both. My decant of Chergui is not lived and will possibly be swapped. I wore the original Femimite du Bois as a student, but it was not my favorite. I think I don’t like woody scents a lot.


    • Hey Tanja,
      How freaking good is Fille en Aiguilles?
      I promise I won’t take away your perfumista card for not liking woods. Not everything suits everyone. Also, you may find down the track that your taste will move around a bit. Never say never, eh?
      Portia xx


  7. Love the pictures of your collection of Lutens!

    Three months ago, in one of the Saturday Question posts I asked readers to name three favorite SL’s perfumes, so I myself had to make a hard choice and name just three. But now I do not have to, so here’s a list of SL perfumes that I enjoy wearing (and have at least a decant of): Ambre Sultan, Boxeuses, Chergui, De Profundis, Fille en Aiguilles, Gris Clair, Iris Silver Mist, Jeux de Peau, Vetiver Oriental and Vitriol d’oeillet. I wouldn’t mind getting more of Santal Majuscule and La Myrrhe, but for now I’m still have something left in large samples.


  8. Admirable collection of SL you have there, Porta!
    I don’t consider myself a fan of SL. I didn’t bother to try anything that came out after L’Orpheline. Feminite du Bois is in my top five perfumes though. And I have a bottle of the strange Jeux de Peau but I don’t wear it often.
    I had a bottle of Santal Majuscule when it came out but in the end I gave it away. I’d love to own Sarassins but I think it’s a bell jar only perfume so it won’t happen anytime soon.
    Your post makes me want to try the whole line once again :-)


    • Hey there Neva,
      Sarassins!! That’s a total cool kids fragrance if ever there were one.
      It’s interesting smelling them so often again. I really think my nose has been learning stuff because before I didn’t notice half the magic. They are definitely worthy of a resniff.
      Portia xx


  9. My ultimate favs are Sarrasins, Feminite du Bois and Arabie. De Profundis is a close ultimate favorite but heard that it isn’t the same when they put De Profundis in that goofy bottle. I do have a liking for MKK but don’t get a chance to wear it often.


  10. Hi all! I have and love what is perhaps the most unpopular of SL – Fleurs d’Orangers. I love its big, oily, thickness … if orange blossom can be meaty, not in smell, but in, I don’t know, texture? then this is it.
    I find it incredibly beautiful and I feel like it gives me backbone.
    Must try more. I have a decant of Chergui which I must get on to.
    Thanks for the article, you have given me more ideas, Portia, as always.


    • Hey Sue,
      Great to see you.
      Fleurs d’Orangers! I haven’t heard it spoken of in ages. There was a decant of it around here somewhere but I’ve no memory of how it smelled on me. Maybe I was going through an incense, woods or amber phase and it just didn’t register.
      Now it’s in my head and I want to sniff it. Sounds amazing.
      Portia xx

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I loved this post-I love it when fume heads go to best places in Paris, and report back-it’s almost as good as being there, so thank you Portia :)

    I was late to the SL genre, but then I made up for it. I have Fille en Auiglles, and a La Nuit, and Daim Blonde-and two back ups of each one. I have De Profundis, which I’m not so sure I like but when I wear it to work I get a lot of compliments-and they never compliment me on perfume-they pretty much hate it lol. A friend gave me Vetiver Oriental, and who doesn’t need a chocolate vetiver in their collection? I have Fille de Berlin, and ISM in the Vapo. I love ISM because I think it’s elegant, and it reminds me of my mom. she would have loved it-her signature scent was Je Reviens. I just found a good deal on Clair de Musc and added it to the stash. And I have to say I love some on the most unloved SL scents-suit de Cellophane, Rousse, and Cedre. They’re so easy to wear. Funny no one’s mentioned Tubereuse Criminelle – I had a sample of it. I loved the opening but my favourite tuberose scent is Annick Gout’s Tubereuse, which isn’t made anymore.


    • WOW Carole,
      You have a super cool Serge Lutens collection.
      There is an unopened Tubereuse Criminelle here but when I feel like tuberose I reach for Tubereuse Couture by PG, Piguet Fracas, Madonna Truth or Dare or Blonde by Versace. Datura Noir kinda scratches the same itch too.
      De Profundis is a queer fish. We are in the same boat. I really like it but I don’t LOVE it. Sometimes nothing else will do though.
      Portia xx


  12. Lutens’ Chergui was my first niche perfume when I fell down the fraghead rabbit hole. I still adore it. I cherish my pre-formulation bottle. I alternate it with a newer version. I also love Iris Silver Mist, Ambre Sultan, La Fille de Berlin and L’Orpheline. My favorite Lutens, though, are Encens et Lavande and Une Voix Noire. I have bell bottles of both. I often put dabs of Encens et Lavande on my pillow at night. Great sleep with that lovely scent wafting over me.

    Une Voix Noire is my favorite of all the Lutens. It is Serge’s paean to Billie Holliday, who often wore gardenias in her hair and on her dresses when she performed. It’s a soft creamy gardenia, with some smoke and rum in the background to give it depth, some sandalwood and something fruity. Some people say plum, others strawberry. It’s a dark heavy sweetness, but it’s in the background, not overpowering. This perfume is swoon worthy IMHO, but I do adore white florals. I could imagine that someone who is not fond of white florals would hate it, but this is so great on a summer night. It really ‘blooms’ in the heat. It’s my Lutens ‘true love.’

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Took me a while to look things up and read this post, so full of love and information! I just bought Gris Clair which is essentially a blind buy for me as I have no recall of what it was like. When I was first into perfume Lutens was The Most Important Niche and I sampled them every chance I got. Though I have bought multiple bottles of Jeux de Peau over the years as a gift for a family member who loves it (and smells divine in it) I have never clicked enough with any Lutens to purchase. And that has frustrated me quite a bit because surely there was a lot to love there. The Gris Clair was an impulse purchase, used, and I do hope it will turn my Lutens luck. I can’t really understand why I haven’t clicked with them, there are other houses I could tell you exactly why but here I feel like I have somehow failed?


    • Narth,
      Don’t sweat it. Not everyone loves everything. It would be exceedingly boring if we all did.
      I’d love to spend three days going through the WHOLE range with you at the Palais Royale store in Paris. Really spend some time with a couple of blotters at a time. It’s so nice to wander through the garden there, lunch or coffee at the cafes. No time but Serge time. Many of them require you to notice their beauty, get past the cacophony and into the heart. They are not top heavy perfumes where you can sniff it in a department store and understand it.
      Fingers crossed for the Gris Clair. Does that mean Crazy Grey? If you hate it I’ll grab it off you.
      Portia xx


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