One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Scentroulette Day 20: Serge Noire by Serge Lutens

True story: I was so weary of writing about scents I didn't like that on Saturday morning I deliberately chose one I was sure I would like (still at random, but from a collection of ambergris samples). I did like it, too, but as usual it took me longer to think about it than I had time for, so I saved the review for the next day, and then as it turned out the next, and now it's Tuesday morning and I just went to take one last sniff before finishing the review and I can't find the damned sample.

The vial is bound to show up sooner or later, but in the meantime, I chose something else completely at random and wouldn't you know? I don't like it. Clearly I have been cursed.

Serge Noire is, oh, let's say two years old, reputed to be in development for ten year before that, and despite that not altogether pleasant, starting out jangly and discordant (something indefinably bright that could be citrus, a freshly extinguished match, scorched cinnamon, a smidge of that hot rubber that makes Bulgari Black so interesting) but soon settling into a cloud of incense. It smells complex, not just something burned, but it is a complex of things I don't especially want to smell, at least not in this particular array. It isn't terrible, I don't hate it, but I suppose I just have to accept the fact that, although some incense scents have wormed their way into my heart in the past (I liked Gap's spicy, sweet, long-discontinued incense Om, and I still wear Demeter's wonderful Incense regularly), I just don't love them. (And I have samples of all five Comme des Garçons incense scents, only one of which I've tried, so I'm going to run across them sooner or later. Four more disappointments? Or will one of them be the full-fledged incense scent--the Demeter, it must be admitted, is deliberately made simple and sweet and accessible--that turns me around?)

If you want a better incense scent there's always Andy Warhol Silver Factory, which is just a hair more expensive than Serge Noire ($150 versus $140), is thoroughly enjoyable, and comes in that killer bottle.

Edited about three hours later to add: The drydown is very nice, which illustrates the problem of trying to write about a scent quickly the first time you wear it: fragrances--well, most of them--unfold in time, and sometimes the drydown is very different from what you smell earlier. In this case, the burning quality evaporates and leaves a warm, cuddly vanillic haze. I still don't think it's worth waiting for: if I want that, I'll just wear Lutens' own Un Bois Vanille and get the vanilla right from the outset.

P.S. The other day I used opera as a metaphor, and now I have first-hand experience of the phenomenon I was talking about, that of opera fans who never seem to be happy with opera. We went to see the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of Armida last Saturday, and hoo boy it wasn't good. The production was very silly: why does the Met keep hiring Mary Zimmermann after her much-disliked Lucia, which I didn't see, and her quite bad Sonnambula, which I did? The singing was generally good (not a big fan of Renee Fleming, though I like Lawrence Brownlee), but the opera itself was so boring that I actually fell asleep in the first act. So did Jim. So did the gentleman to my right, who was either so tired or so appalled that he left after Act I and never came back. The rest of it picked up, a little, and I managed to stay awake, bolstered by a large, expensive Diet Coke from the concessions stand, but if I had gone to the Met and paid a lot of money to see this nonsense, I would have been very angry.

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