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Friday, July 11, 2014

Serge Lutens L'Orpheline: fragrance review & sample draw

Much like the mysterious (and incestuous) half-sister in Leos Carax's  radical adaptation of Melville's Pierre: or, the Ambiguities (1852) in "Pola X", the specter of the missing family member being visited while in almost somnambulist state, L'orpheline (the orphan girl), the latest Serge Lutens fragrance, becomes "un visage….sans age…une souffle, une presence" (a face…ageless…a breath, a presence) which disrupts the flow of a seemingly smooth, luxurious life with its secret of a tormented and deprived past. And again much like the play of light & darkness throughout the film by Leos, L'orpheline presents a play between the cool and warm register, between madness creeping underneath love, and between comfort emerging where you least expect it. Like Pierre, Lutens, you see, views himself as an artist in love with reckless gestures, only thankfully his charm lies not in any thorough immaturity. On the contrary, he has revealed intimate, personal stuff to us with the maturity that comes from acceptance.


Serge presents the new perfume in these words written in a vertical sequence: " Friable mais entière.À demi-mot, son nom se fêle. Avant la brisure, les deux premières syllabes portent le nom du poète qui même pouvait charmer les pierres. " Lutens of course winks at Orpheus, the legendary Greek poet and prophet who charmed every being with his music and tried to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the dead by way of his skills, only to meet with his own death from those who could not hear his divine music…which ties with the cryptic text he has written on L'Incendiaire, his other fragrant release, in a new "golden line", announced here a while ago. How's that for two shots with one stone?

Does Serge try to bring back his repressed beloved, his mother, a small bit at a time, with each of his fragrances? Possibly. Lutens is a grown Remi (after Malot's "Sans famille"), on a journey of the roads of France, on a journey of the roads of perfume. And like Carax or Rivette or any master of that school, he certainly takes his time into letting us share his journey.
The poetic concept of the "orphan", "fragile but whole" (this is a French expression that really loses in the translation), is inspired by Lutens's own childhood, "of ashes" and rage, his painful memories of being raised without a mother and abandoned by his father, though the change of sex in the fragrance name suggests a Freudian transposition regarding the significance of the Father (as suggested by Lutens himself). He conflates the male with pain ("le Mâle : le mal"), an Oedipal symbolism that doesn't go amiss. Nor is it intended to.


For this coolish and quiet fragrance (sequentially warmish, like Gris Clair) named  L'Orpheline, Lutens and his sidekick perfumer Chris Sheldrake focus on incense notes, not as cold and soapy as in L'Eau Froide, neither as spicy warm and shady as in Serge Noire, but somewhere in between; entre chien et loup, between daylight and darkness. Frankincense, the impression of bittersweet myrrh and peppery-acrid (elemi? cumin? ginger?) rather than clove-y carnation notes seem to rise, a cross between spirituality and carnality? Lutens knows how to marry contradictions and swath the opulence of orientalia into Parisian refinement. The spicy note in the heart reminds me of a mix between mace and cumin, reminiscent of both Secret Obsession (the now discontinued Calvin Klein fragrance) and a lighter Serge Noire by Lutens.

Yet the end result in L'Orpheline is apart; neither a true Moroccan oriental like hardcore Serge fans have built an online cult out of, nor a classically French perfume for the salon, but a mysterious, vaporous emanation "between the storm and clear skies", between the ashes of the past and the uncertainty of the future, a Delacroix painting, a dwindling match leaving embers behind. The peppery accent on the incense reminds me of the treatment of carnations in Oeillet Bengale (one of the best releases of the year so far) while the musky underlay is soft, subtle, meditative and not entirely without a certain poignancy.

L'Orpheline would suit anyone who like Pierre "had been waiting for something", regardless of their sex. Haven't we all?


L'Orpheline is an haute concentration fragrance, meaning more concentrated than the beige label ones, belonging in the "black line" of the so called "export range" by Serge Lutens. It will retail at 99 euros for 50ml, is already at the Palais Royal and eboutique and will be widely launched internationally on September 1st.

One sample out of my own decant to a lucky reader commenting below. Draw is open till Sunday midnight.

83 comments:

  1. CallaLilly10116:41

    "the ashes of the past"

    this is so expectant

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  2. It's a quiet and mysterious fragrance, I think it would be quite wearable actually!

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  3. Sounds wonderful, thanks for such and eloquent review.

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  4. I haven't madly, capital-L loved a Lutens scent since Jeux de Peau back in 2011. I refuse to believe that he's lost his touch, and I will be trying both Orpheline and L'Incendiaire with high hopes.

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  5. Poignant, coolish, quiet, incense notes, perhaps a bit melancholic and strange? Sounds quite possibly perfect.

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  6. Scentella18:38

    If only. Trying my luck.

    I remember the first time I came upon the Serge Lutens line, years ago. Having smelled almost everything the store had to offer, I thought there was something wrong with me because I hated it all. And then the shop assistant led me to his scents (I think it was the only niche line there), and, guess what? - there was nothing wrong with me after all.

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  7. I admit I have been curious about this one ever since the news of it coming out. The way you describe sounds like something I might very well enjoy, it has been awhile since I fell in love with a Lutens but keeping up with his releases is a bit of a circus act at times.

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  8. oh, lordy, please do enter me in the drawing...i would SO love to try this one! "entre chien et loup", "between daylight and darkness", "between the storm and clear skies", "a cross between spirituality and carnality"---this sounds like the perfume version of my life.

    "fragile, yet whole."

    yes.

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  9. I'm always ready to try a Serge Lutens perfume so count me in!

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  10. I'll throw my hat in! It sounds interesting. Thanks for your take on it.

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  11. Trésor21:46

    Thank you for the beautiful review! I have a similar feeling to the others who have commented, this sounds like just may be perfect. I would love to be entered in the draw.

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  12. Christineb22:54

    A lovely review - the scent sounds very calm and meditative. My favourite of the Serge Lutens perfumes that I have tried so far is Encens et Lavande so I would love to try another of his featuring incense.

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  13. Fiona23:47

    Wow, beautiful review. This sounds so like my kind of perfume! More than happy to throw my hat into the ring for the draw.

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  14. This one sounds interesting. Please throw my name into the draw. Thanks!

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  15. Laurels01:41

    I've never heard the phrase "fragile yet whole," but it is extremely evocative. Thank you for the review.

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  16. spankysparkle04:16

    Lovely intriguing review. Makes me want to smell right this minute.

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  17. Missionista04:58

    This sounds quite interesting, even liminal. I'd love to be entered to give it a try. Thanks!

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  18. would love to be able to try it
    thank you for the lovely, poetical review

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  19. I am waiting for something... something that will knock my socks off. :) Thank you for this opportunity.

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  20. Anonymous10:00

    Ah, I love the wonderful strange world of Serge Lutens. Would love to try this
    Lynley

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  21. Sounds wonderful! Very eloquent review!

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  22. I'd love to try this-I've had trouble with Lutens in the past also but something keeps drawing me back. I wore Tubereuse Criminele to death before I couldn't anymore but your review really intrigues me. Sample me, please!

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  23. SL was my entre into niche perfume and like any first love, will never be entirely forgotten or abandoned. I can't wait to smell the new releases. Thank you for the draw!

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  24. Elia12:50

    Everyt Lutens is worth a try, so obviously I'm interested in trying this one. My favourite is Gris Clair, so like that there's mention of a loose link between them,
    ty

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  25. Anonymous15:51

    MariaA
    Love the review, can't wait to try this one from Serge!

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  26. I'm already a goner with incense notes. Then, the thread of anticipation weaves it's way into my heart with these poignant words! Thank you.

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  27. Thank you for this sensitive description of the new fragrance. I will try it as soon as I can find it. Many people feel as if they are "orphans" even when there are "family" members still living. I am one of them, and feel kinship with others who are.

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  28. His stuff is always interesting, so, yes, please, count me in.

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  29. This sounds really nice. I love Lutens and his latest offerings have all been really good, in my opinion. I love Une Voix Noire and La Vierge whatever it's name is. It's a beauty as well. Thanks for the draw!!

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  30. A lovely review, Elena! I enjoyed reading this & my curiosity is piqued!

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  31. Mary-Karen20:33

    This sounds wonderful, and I've been a hardcore Lutens fan since I first smelled Arabie. As well, I seem to be on a bit of a roll with incense right now, so this ones seems to hit all the right notes. Thanks for the review and the chance to sample!

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  32. Anonymous20:42

    can't wait to experience this one. sounds like it will be wonderful !

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  33. Ellen21:47

    So many elements here that I love. Frankincense and myrrh....oh be still my heart. Please enter me for the draw and thank you so much for the opportunity.

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  34. Glannys22:46

    What an atmospheric review! And the Delacroix picture is a great touch. I would love to sample this fragrance. Thank you for the draw, Elena.

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  35. How interesting. I'd have thought that L'orpheline would be a pale floral, an iris or heliotropin, sort of apres l'ondee. Instead, an incense ...

    cacio

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  36. Wonderful review. I loved the old Gris Clair (new formula not so much) and its elegant whiff of ashes, I hope this is done in similar spirit. I need to sit down and watch Pola X, this is the second time this movie comes up as reference here.. Thanks for the draw!

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  37. Clover03:30

    Who doesn't love a good orphan story? I am certainly intrigued by this one as told through scent. Very generous of you to hold the draw, Elena!

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  38. Wonderful review! Thanks for holding the draw!

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  39. maureen m06:31

    Serge Lutens' fragrances are always an adventure to explore! This one sounds intriguing.

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  40. flowergirlbee06:35

    sounds interesting..love your blog!!

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  41. Let's see if I'm lucky to try one lutens before the much anticipated trip to Palais R. Thanks again for the draw.

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  42. Oops guess I missed it... Damn holidays with limited internet access! Haha sending some love anyway from the Aegean

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  43. Maria11:57

    I don't want to enter the draw, our post service makes it meaningless... Just to say that this second press release in a row convinced me to just ignore his writing and head straight to perfume counters. Same theme, same personal references. Yes, finely constructed, but still predictable... boring. But in the end the important thing is the perfume, and his are never dull.

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  44. I ve never tried Serge Lutens fragrances but had had already few times my finger on "buy" button in eshop. I love fragrances with incense - Coromandel, Shalimar... so I would be happy to try this one. Thanks for a draw. Lubka

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  45. Genny17:02

    Thanks for the review and the giveaway - always so much fun!
    I am throwing my hat in the ring to give this a try.

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  46. CallaLilly1,

    it is a very fetching cool fragrance, it's minty frost on top is exquisitely chilling and the muskiness on drydown is just lovely.

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  47. Sassa,

    thank you for such a kind compliment. You're in, good luck!

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  48. C,

    I did love Jeux de Peaux myself but didn't come round to getting a full bottle (I wonder why!!!!).
    I personally prefer L'Orpheline to L'Incendiaire (just published the first review of this upcoming fragrance on Fragrantica.com if you care to check it out), but that's because I like cool unsettling fragrances with something disturbing in there. ;-) *evil grin*

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  49. Amy,

    it's quite interesting to be sure and I think I need a bottle of it in my collection, could do with another cool incense + musk!

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  50. Scentella,

    I just love your story. Adore it! Thanks for commenting and good luck!

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  51. Jen,

    thanks darling, it does get a bit crazy as they do a lot of releases, comparatively, though many have been worked up far ahead of time, so…
    It's an interesting take, especially if one likes cool fragrances.

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  52. NFS,

    mind you, these are personal impressions, so forgive me if I have raised your expectations too high, though I have to admit you have made me very curious and intrigued about your life now! (so good job!)

    "Fragile mais entier" is a French idiom I love.

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  53. Tomatefarcie,

    of course you're in! Hope you win!

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  54. Becky,

    you're welcome, you're in.

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  55. Tresor,

    thank you for the kind compliment, it's a a scent that makes you feel things, I think. It will have fans as well as distractors, I'm sure. Good luck!

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  56. Christineb,

    thank you for the kind words and I believe you will love it, based on your prior love for E&L.

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  57. Fiona,


    awww, flattered, thanks. Good luck!

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  58. AD,

    I thought it is! You're in, best of luck!

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  59. Laurels,

    it's commonly used in French for people (mostly) who appear to be on the edge, doing things that maybe they shouldn't be doing, but who have a certain forthrightness and honesty about them, revealing a good soul beneath. It's been used a lot about Guillaume Depardieu, who stars in Pola X (and for people like Dewaere, Dalle etc), so the train of association had been a natural for me. :-)

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  60. Spanky,

    aren't you sweet, well, maybe the minute is getting closer, who knows!

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  61. Missionista,

    (love your alias!),

    hope you win!

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  62. Comment deleted because it was clearly spam.

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  63. irina,

    you're welcome, best of luck!!

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  64. Jolene,

    interestingly, the person who was waiting for something in the film didn't get something good, but it did provide a hell of a ride! So maybe it might be a rough but exciting journey. Good luck!

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  65. Lynley,

    he is a magician in making us hanker for more, eh?
    You're in!

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  66. Would love, love, love to sample this! Your review has sparked my interest on this wonderful contrast of light and dark! Thanks Tati

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  67. LizzieB,

    thanks honey for the kind words, I hope you get to try it. Good luck!

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  68. Calraigh,

    ooooh, your previous one is a GLORIOUS choice!
    Hope you like this one too.

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  69. Lynne,

    a great gateway into niche! And such a true turn of phrase you used. ;-) :-)
    Best of luck!

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  70. Elia,

    there's a good chance you'd like it then.

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  71. Maria,

    glad you do, good luck!

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  72. Holly,

    awww, very cool, thank you!

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  73. Anita,

    many thanks, this is such a poignant statement, yet very true. Thank you for bringing this here.

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  74. Rickyrebarco,

    thank you darling for chiming in and hope you get to win the sample!

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  75. Thanks Jaime,

    hope you get to try this! He does manage to pique our curiosity, so it comes naturally to write in such a way. ;-)

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  76. Mary Karen,

    oh a fellow Arabie lover, I find this so unsung, largely. :-)

    I think you'll find it interesting, it's cool.

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  77. Mary K01:33

    Sounds interesting! I like a lot of other Serge Lutens perfumes. Wonder what this one will be like.

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  78. Finanna09:09

    Thank you for a helpful review...unfortunately it only made me want to try it even more:( please count me in in the draw.

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  79. So ever the American, I have Doc Watson's Orphan Girl stuck in my mind now.... no doubt sadder and more syrupy hopeful than any dream that plagues Serge Lutens...

    Would love to sample the new fragrance :)

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  80. Incense and Christopher Sheldrake, my three favorite words! Thank you for the heads-up and tantalizing review :)

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  81. Please count me in too and very generous of you. I adore incense and feel like it could be the perfect scent for transitions. Have put Oeilett Bengale down on my list of must-tries too.

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  82. Anonymous01:01

    OMGoodness, with your description of this fragrance, I would love to try it!

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