L’Eau Déesse – Goddess Water

A review of Serge Lutens’ Fleurs D’Oranger

My mother always said I’d come to no good. My mother also said that one should never underestimate the importance of a very good bra – and a killer perfume.

She was right in both instances. Then again, in a certain manner of speaking, it’s all her fault anyway. She should never have taken me to Paris, never have taken me to Dior and Guerlain, never have bought me my first bottles of Miss Dior and Jicky, never, ever worn so many of the glorious perfumes I will always associate with her – Fidji, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noire, First. As a child, I remember sneaking into her closet and closing the door, breathing in Eau de Maman, and thinking – if this was what womanhood smelled like, it couldn’t possibly be bad.

Now that I’m a woman grown, now that my mother has passed away, now I discover that – it is. Not just bad – but horrific.

Because now, I have graduated into the perfumeaholic equivalent of heroin, of crack cocaine, of…one is far too many and two not nearly enough.

Now, I own my first bell jar of Serge Lutens, and it’s all a slippery downhill ski jump from here. My bank account may never recover.

Back when I first grew addicted to perfume blogs, one name kept coming up. Serge Lutens. The sweet, occult secret of the initiated few. It was said that Serge Lutens perfumes were emotions bottled, olfactory journeys caught in glass, the epitome of what all true perfumes should be, but in this over-regulated, mass-market, youth-obsessed fruitchouli age, so rarely are. They are not mass market, not made to definite demographics, not…common.

These epiphanies are not advertised and in a few cases, rather discombobulating as perfumes go. So…some long time later, I made an effort to investigate the brouhaha for myself, draw my own conclusions and sample them for myself.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to determine that in my quest for liquid divinity, my perpetual search for something as unusual and unique as myself, Absolute Essence of Tarleisio, I had, at last, arrived.

It was just a matter of time before I had my hot little hands on The Drug – a bell jar but which one? So many of them and so little cash.

So when I finished my first ever novel – all 170000+ words, and in less than nine months – I decreed that my carrot henceforward would be a bell jar of Serge for every completed book, and another – it is to be hoped – for every time I have a hardcover copy in my hand.

A good thing I’m just young enough to be prolific, because so far, nine bottles have my name on them, and those are just the ones I’ve tried.

Alors – a bell jar. I finally decided on the one that completely swept me off my feet from the second I tried it – Fleurs D’Oranger. Orange, bergamot, lemon and all citrus notes have always been my favorites, and orange trees are my favorite trees. I blame my Florida childhood.

Orange blossom is one of the most used notes in perfumes. You would be hard-pressed to name a few classics that don’t contain at least a little. Orange blossom can be…innocent, bridal, fresh, summery, invigorating or – ask anyone with access to an orange grove in full bloom – heady and dizzying.

A few years ago, I invested in a bottle of Dior’s ‘Escale à Portofino’, another orange blossom perfume, and loved it. Sultry, however, was not a word I would use to describe it. It was flirty, lighthearted, summery sunshine in a bottle.

Staring a long, dismal winter in the face in the not-too-distant future, heady sounded like just what I needed to put the va-va in my voom.

My precious arrived the day before yesterday. I almost swooned with pleasure, and that was before I had even opened the box.

I was not disappointed. Because this is the scent of Happy In A Bottle, distilled Absolute Essence of Tarleisio. From the first exuberant arpeggio of true orange blossom and the swelling orchestra of jasmine and tuberose building to a honeyed bright yellow-orange crescendo and finally, to a zesty drydown of orange and nutmeg, this is – heavenly. Not in the light, flirty, fashionable way of Escale á Portofino, nothing in the least like Prada’s wan, anorexic Infusion de Fleurs d’Oranger, this is hot-blooded, sultry, sexy, all-out w-o-m-a-n, drawing honeybees and testosterone bombs by the dozen. Small children will come closer and snuggle on your lap, strange men will ask for your phone number and a dinner date yesterday, just so they can breathe it in. Resistance will be futile. They will be assimilated. Other women will eye you askance, wondering what on Earth is THAT…that breath of celestial happy you exude?

Some have complained about the note of cumin that sneaks in, adding a touch of human sweat to the proceedings, but on me, the cumin combines with the nutmeg to become spicy and smoky, and I don’t get so much as a whiff of skank, or if I do, I could care less.

And that was only three drops. Three drops applied with a cotton swab that permeated my entire apartment, my clothes and even my pillow thirty-six hours later, wafting through my dreams. This is potent to the max. So potent, so outrageously sexy, I really can’t see this on anyone under the age of thirty-five. It takes experience to handle this kind of mojo with conviction. It takes confidence to handle this kind of sillage. A little dab will do you, and if you spray, spray wisely, otherwise your surroundings will be swooning.

On my skin, which usually eats citrus-based scents in nothing flat, it lasted over twenty-four hours, and on cloth, even longer. The orange blossom is apparent from the first seconds all the way to the far drydown, and that’s another unusual thing about this perfume. It’s all about the orange blossom, but it is not boring, not bland, not one-dimensional.

I breathe it in, and I am all of a piece, happy, comfortable in my devastatingly sexy skin, wafting blossom and promises I may or may not keep, knowing I have become – if only for a while – a Goddess walking the Earth.

If this perfume were a Tarot card, it would be the Queen of Wands. Self-contained, sexy, secure, creative, inspiring and strong.

A lot like the woman I try to be. So I better finish off those bestsellers…

Fleurs D’Oranger, an eau de parfum, is in the export line of Serge Lutens perfumes, and available in the 50 ml oblong bottle at Barneys NYC, Luckyscent and Aedes in the US, and at Salons Shiseido in Paris. The 75 ml bell jar – the limited edition – is only available to customers in Europe. I have read elsewhere that there is a definite difference in strength between the oblong bottle and the bell jar, with the bell jar being stronger.

Image: Parfums Serge Lutens, Salons Shiseido, Palais Royal, Paris

The Djinn in the Bottle

A review of Magie Noire (Lancôme, 1978)

She knows tonight will be the night it happens. She knows because it has built up to this since the beginning, since that August afternoon she looked up from her book at a sidewalk café and a man she had never met before asked her if the other seat was taken.

His smile had been just wide enough for her to put the book down. The rest of him had been so interesting they had sat there and talked like old friends until the café closed nine hours later.

So it began. All this civilized concourse later, the conversations at that café, the dinner dates, the movies, the exhibitions and openings and the concert, and all the while, it was a question of time and opportunity before it came to this moment, this instant, this very particular kind of anticipation both intellectual and erotic.

Oh, yes. Tonight. It had been hard enough to wait this long, but that was also half the fun – to put it off, to wait, to get to know him, to torture and titillate him just enough to make him realize how good it will be.

He won’t stand a chance, he’ll never know just how much she has planned for this. The black silk velvet and the satin under, the embroidered lace, the smooth and polished heated skin beneath it all – all of her nerve endings tingling at the idea of his touch, of what happens when.

But even despite her preparations, she knows it will not be her clothes, her laugh, or her conversation that makes him cross the line.

It will be her perfume. Tonight, only one of them will do. Tonight of all nights is when the djinn gets out of the bottle, the bottle shaped like the glowing reliquary of some satanic sacrament, with the contents that smelled of danger, of desire, and of desires that are dangerously alluring, perilous to resist.

Like hers. Like his. Like tonight. Like not being able to resist any more.

She opens the bottle, and the djinn slithers out.

“So then, mistress. It has been a while. This one? Are you sure?”

The heady floral blend shapeshifts into a velvet-black and thorny rose, a rose with eerie secrets.

“Oh, yes,” she whispers back. “I’m sure. I’ve known it for weeks.”

The rose unfolds and glows in the light of her bedroom, whispering the secrets she needs to know. And the civet, the patchouli, the oakmoss, the dark and witchy blend that exhales smoke and fire and double-dares only the bold and audacious to come closer, unfold their potent bloom upon her skin.

She is ready. The djinn is out of the bottle, lurking in the scent-trail she leaves behind her, an invisible ghost in the room.

The doorbell rings. It’s him. Tonight it will finally happen.

Tomorrow, she will blame the djinn she let out of the bottle. Tomorrow, the djinn will make sure that he stays for breakfast, too.


The bottle I reviewed was a pre-reformulation eau de toilette sold in the flat, long bottle with the black top and cap, not the glass, gold-capped bottle sold as such now, a ghost of what it was. It can be found, if you’re lucky and know where to look.

Top notes: Cassis, bergamot, hyacinth, raspberry, green note
Heart notes: Honey, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, narcissus, orris, rose oriental
Base notes: Patchouli, castoreum, civet, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, benzoin

Image and note information: Yesterday’s Perfume

The Ivory Shirt

A review of “Ivoire” (Balmain, 1979)

There are days when life just gets too. Too much, too complicated, too many layers to misapprehend, where the simple act of getting dressed in the morning has all the complexity of a PhD thesis in Hegelian philosophy.

There are days when you crave the simple, the classy, the understated, the kind of sexy that murmurs more than it moans.

The kind of day when all you crave is the simplicity of the perfectly cut, flawlessly sewn and immaculately ironed ivory linen shirt to go with the five-dollar jeans that make even your less than stellar legs perfectly long. The kind of chic you don’t even have to think about – it just is. You are. Infinite and entire and all-of-a-piece, comfortable in your skin.

This day, today, is a Saturday, an endlessly blue Saturday and for the first time in years, life feels like an entire crate of black and luscious cherries. You don’t want to try too hard, do too much, you want something to echo that casually chic vibe. Something that smells like you feel or like you, but better, more refined, greener and sharper yet with a soft, powdery edge of smoldering embers under all that class.

Like the shirt, the kind you don’t have to think about, the kind that simply is – no more, no less. Effortless and elegant, inviting yet cool.

So you contemplate those bottles of liquid emotion in your cabinet. And there, toward the back is a slightly tacky bottle with a slightly tacky ivory plastic cap, but the contents are anything but tacky. The contents are womanly, sharply green to prove you have serious intentions, bracing with bergamot to breathe summer into the air that surrounds you. There are flowery accents in there, too, not one discernable flower so much as an ever-shifting, ever-changing bouquet of summer blooms that all exude the air of a beautiful August day, before they shimmy down to a woody, smoldering incense that you just know will make him come as close as you can stand it.

You know how close that is.

You button that ivory shirt. It will be an endless and endlessly perfect summer day, the kind of day where even you will feel Californian.

Today is a day for “Ivoire”.

Notes according to Jan Moran:
Pierre Balmain Ivoire (1979 Floral – Green)
Top Notes: Jasmine, galbanum, bergamot, violet, mandarin, aldehydes
Heart Notes: Turkish rose, lily of the valley, Tuscany ylang-ylang, carnation, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, berry pepper
Base Notes: Vetiver, oakmoss, sandalwood, labdanum, amber, vanilla, patchouli, tonka bean

Available for dirt-cheap in many locations.