Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How does the latest El Attarine by Serge Lutens smell like?

The perfume community has been complaining lately. But let's finally admit it: Serge Lutens is the Pope of cult fragrances and Chris Sheldrake has been the archbishop to aid his vision come into fruition. And since, despite Sheldrake's new position under the aegis of Chanel, he can still work with Lutens, we have apparently not seen the last of the duo's creativity. Indeed two new fragrances have been announced: El Attarine and Serge Noire to be launched at the end of summer and July respectively. Anticipation is building. Ad copy is scrutinized for clues. But what do these really smell like? It is Perfume Shrine's privilege to reveal a few facets of that olfactory identity for you today.

One of the advantages of writing and academia is communicating with other people who write and participate in academia as well. And it is more pleasurable and infinitely intriguing when those people share the same passion: fragrance! Perfume historian, professor at the Versailles school of perfumery and writer Elisabeth de Feydeau, who we're honoured to count among the readers of Perfume Shrine, had the opportunity to experience the new Lutens fragrances and asked us to share her impressions for the English-reading public on this venue. Honoured and flattered we agreed with enthusiasm.

But how were these fragrance conceived? According to Lutens regarding El Attarine: "Today, I offer you gold, sun-drenched topaz, everlasting flowers and saps". Admittedly an image evocative of the riches of Arabia and Morocco, eternal inspiration in the Lutens universe.
The olfactory focus and main notes of this solar composition seem to be immortelle/helychrisum, more commonly known as everlasting flower, aimed at offering a new interpretation that will set a new frontier in fragrance history.
Elisabeth described El Attarine to me as intensely about immortelle after a soft opening, with copious lashings of spicy, sweaty cumin and honey notes; this might indicate that they have explored both facets of the material, essence and absolute. With a complex odour profile, immortelle is a fascinating note with a herbaceous, honey-like aroma in the essential oil and recalling the unique odour of spicy fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum Graecum) in the absolute, imparting amazing lasting power and evoking maple syrup for many. {It has been featured in the following scents: Sables and Eau de Monsieur by Goutal, Eau Noire Dior, L de Lolita Lempicka, Calypso Gardenia, Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Cologne du 68 and Coriolan, Chene by Lutens, Balmain Ambre Gris, Rosine Ecume de Rose, Amouage Jubilation XXV, Divine L'Homme Sage, Diptyque Opone, Comme des Garcons Kyoto from the Incense series and Woodcoffee from the Sweet Series, Parfumerie Generale Corps et Ames}.
However in El Attarine imorrtelle is flanked by another warm and sweet essence that is a favourite of Lutens and a staple of Middle-eastern and Mediterranean tradition: jasmine. Its intoxicating lushness appears along with pronounced woods to polish El Attarine off.

Perhaps in a more prosaic description Lutens goes on to say that: "In Arab countries, “attarin” means sweet-smelling, and refers to everything within the realm of the “atar”: fragrance, heart, flavour and essence". Attars recall the mysteries of the east, its people and the rituals in which they engage. The mingling of smell and taste is not unheard of in the Lutens/Sheldrake cosmos, as both Douce Amèreand Mandarine Mandarin are impressions of gustatory speciments (absinthe and mandarin respectively) that reveal side panels of aromas like in a Byzantine triptych ~"Attarine is not a closed door. You cannot make a perfume with only your nose".
El Attarine is also the name of a regal, elite Koranic school in Fez, thus the fragrance is another homage to the Arabic culture that has been providing Lutens with inspiration for the last 2 decades at least.
In a Parthian Shot, Serge leaves us with this: "It is an accord born out of a disagreement in the first person. From my attarinian solitude, the fruits of my imagination were abundant". Make of it what you will and we shall return as soon as it is released!

El Attarine is priced at € 110 for the standard bell jar containing 75 ml, available exclusively at the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido (August 2008). There is the option of shipping within Europe.

Next post will focus on Serge Noire: stay tuned!

Pics courtesy of Palais Royal and Wikipedia.
You can read an interview with Lutens on Scented Salamander.


  1. Anonymous22:15

    Well, if it contains my beloved jasmine, it can't be bad. ;-)
    Immortelle, who knows what it smells like? I think that L'occitane has an Immortelle line of creams and tonics and I tried two products of this line (they were excellent), but they smelled like a cream. :-)

  2. I like your way of thinking! :-)

    Immortelle, like I mentioned, has a fenugreek and maple syrup odour about it: if you have tried Sables, Eau Noire or L de Lempicka (and if you haven't, by all means do, they're very good!), these feature it prominently, so it should give you an idea.
    I am aware of the L'Occitane skin products but I think they have a focus on the beneficial properties and not the smell (the Olive line doesn't smell particularly olive-like either).

  3. stella polaris09:42

    This perfume sounds very promising! :) Sunevoking perfumes is a favourite for me, even in the dark seasons (perhaps more necessary for the wellbeing og the soul then..). And helichrysum (sun + gold! :) combined with jasmine must be wonderful!
    Thank you for the link to Scented Salamander and the interview with Lutens, to my joy he there also says that Féminité du Bois will be brought back into the/his fold; nice because it belongs there, and not at least because the bell jars of Lutens are really beautiful compared to the asymmetrical one in which it now is filled.

  4. It does indeed, doesn't it?
    Glad you caught the Greek etymology of the flower ;-)

    FdB will be in the oblong bottles I believe, though ;-)
    (I kinda liked the assymetrical bottles ~now they will become rare and expensive collectibles, especially in edp!).

  5. Lutens and I do not have a happy association. They just don't "do it" for me Helg.
    Yet - many, many are just crazy for him. Oh well - more for the Luten lovers out there!
    How is the weather going Helg?

  6. Dear M,

    nothing to be apologetic about: they're very much of a certain style and that style can be to one's liking or not.
    Thanks for your concern: right now it's exceptionally nice. Let's hope it stays that way!

  7. Woohoo a Serge for no pining over; if it is laced with cumin then I need to stay away from it. But I do imagine immortelle lovers are going to go nuts!

  8. Maybe it will be so! Although no one is really certain with a Lutens until they try it on their skin.
    Perhaps you might like Serge Noire though. Not that I am enabling! :-)

  9. Anonymous08:31

    It sounds extremely interesting to me, immortelle and jasmine, cumin and honey, a cornucopia of Arabia Felix, i am excited!!!


  10. I can't blame you! And it's true that immortelle was sadly neglected in this line, which was a shame ~such an interesting note and it has been tackled by different brands which go for different approaches, so it should be really fascinating to compare!


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