It was something of a relief to escape from the chemical confines of Boots The Chemist (exactly the same nose horror as Amsterdam Schiphol) and, before getting the train back to my parents’ house, having a quick, cursory sniff around Birmingham Selfridges.


I was dismayed at my having fallen away by the wayside in my knowledge of the most current niche brands, however – quite a few new groove houses that I had never even heard of – but pleased to encounter, finally (as they have not yet crossed the sea to Tokyo and probably never will), the niche-within-niche collection of Serge Lutens, The Section d’Or.


It was inevitable that such a spendy quintet should emerge. With the exponential gap between high street and exclusive getting ever wider in price and scope, the original set of Serge Lutens was starting to look curiously cheap. These new perfumes are most certainly not, but before we get to all that, let’s see how this exotic assemblage actually smells.


With provocative names such as Cannibale and Renard Le Constrictor we can be forgiven for perhaps expecting big, outrageous olfactions that will re-establish the Lutens/ Sheldrake collaboration as a creative fragrance force to be reckoned with. Instead, while all  are good in their own way and I would possibly even consider wearing two (which, in this age of unappealing muck is gargantuan praise coming from me), only one strikes me as going out slightly on a limb and breaking new ground for the house, while the others are somewhat denser rewordings of familiar themes.






To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a full on amber release from this house since the classic Ambre Sultan (2000), which is a perfume I have worn myself with its rich, effulgent apothecary of a sultry, but which has gradually become meek and attenuated in its far blander, recent reformulation. Cannibale takes up a similar theme but with an emphatic celeriac/ fennel note, plus a more macho-ish, almost Axe body spray streak underneath that I consider offputting but which could definitely work as a manly, ambrish hybrid. Not deserving of a cannibal though, who would surely smell effortlessly more monstrous, and/or seductive.






‘L’Haleine Des Dieux’ or Breath Of The Gods, is more appealing to me. A smoother, more quietly rapturous and wearable Ambre Sultan, but without the quirky, and to me, slightly unpleasant herb/spice dustish facets that I never truly liked in Sultran toned right down, alongside a fresher, more floral /citrus undertone that makes the perfume more seamless and luminescent. I could wear this, definitely, as a straight amber, even if in truth I have to declare that it contains nothing divine.







Sidi Bel Abbes is the most conventionally masculine scent that the Lutens house has ever produced. It is an interesting hybrid of East and West tropes, combining dense dark Arab conventions that remind me of an afternoon I once spent in an Arabian perfume shop in Kuala Lumpur’s China town, and a hairy, eighties sexuality that smells like Naples circa 1982. I can’t say I like this exactly, as it is almost brutishly smooth and hair-oiled – leering – yet at the same time, if the right (preferably Middle Eastern, hirsute hunk) were to approach me with some of this sprayed on his thighs and upper torso (and no deodorant),  I can’t say definitively that I could actually resist.







Far more up my own street personally is Cracheuse De Flammes, or Flame Spitter, which is a beautiful rose jammy raspberry licked foreshow of a coral pink perfume that smelled perfect on my skin ( I kept sniffing and sniffing), with a quite gorgeous throw and crystalline demeanour; a kaleidoscope of fruit flower and spices with a soap creamy underthrow  whose nearest recognisable relatives in the Serge Lutens canon would probably be Fille De Berlin and Vitriol D’Oeillet, but more appealing to me than either, mainly because it does what I like best in a perfume – namely become, eventually, a moreish and delectable skin scent (despite the name this is a very homely comforting dry down, clean and floral), while stimulating the mind and senses in the opening light diffusing salvos. Bravo  – except for the price. I was quite genuinely stunned to hear the sales assistant coolly say £480, when I had been expecting at most half that. Much as I like the scent, it simply doesn’t merit such a tag in my view: the difference in luxuriousness and inventiveness between this range and the ‘standard’ one is not so noticeable as to necessitate such a huge luxe chasm. Still, if you have that sort of cash to spare and like optimism-drenched rose scents, this jammy little charmer is worth a splash.








As is Renard Le Constrictor, a silky, alluring and peculiar orange blossom violet somewhere in the Indianish ballpark of Guerlain’s Insolence eau de toilette: lurid, heady and possibly quite hypnotic on the right person who wants a perfume that is a touch left field and out of the ordinary, something striking . Duncan hated it immediately, but then he would , as a confirmed detester of orange blossom in any form (which today he memorably described as ‘residual hormones in a bathroom’ – and I know what he means, even if I remain more open and persuadable on the neroli  and orange blossom front). Compared to the original flirty, citric room-opener Fleurs D’Oranger,though, this is quite plummy and mysterious, serpentine even, which, given some of the bland and uninspired recent releases from Monsieur Lutens, gives us hope that there is still some imagination and sensual exotica left in the old fox yet.











Filed under Flowers


  1. Lilybelle

    The rose jammy one sounds nice. But at that price I admit freely that the chasm between have and have not has widened way beyond what I can leap. I already know that the world of luxury brands has left me far, far behind in the dust. Do I care? Not *too* much. If I can’t afford it, it’s not for me, and I can (must 😉 ) live with that. I’m glad you got to try them so I can read about them. ❤ 🙂

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write up these über-$$$$ releases from Serge Lutens, dear Neil. Money saved. (A LOT of money. I think I have been spoiled by beautiful vintage extraits with those incomparable, extinct ingredients bought for peanuts over the years.) Although the last two I would definitely wear if bottles fell from the sky. Speaking of money, this comment came from a Fragrantica reader/reviewer re: Cracheuse de Flammes:
    “According to Le Monde Le liquide inflammable de Serge Lutens 10/7/15 interview, this fragrance was originally assessed to be around €1000, they decided to sell it below cost.” Whaaa?! Could Uncle Serge be laughing . . . all the way to the bank???!!!!

  3. P.S. I ought to have put “below cost” in italics with a “(my italics)” note. The B.S. is so blatant here, my tiny wee head is spinning.

  4. Holly

    So okay, I’m honestly wondering if you had plans to get your nose on particular things while you’re there? Do you feel overwhelmed, like you’ve been missing out? With the vast array available, how do you choose what to sample?

    • It is a bit like that, actually, and I am the very overwhelmable type. I will probably go back to Japan not having got to try all that much, although I am staying at co-writer Olivia’s on Wednesday and I reckon | will discover quite a lot there.

  5. My goodness, but these are terribly pricey. I will be in New York City this week, I will make it a point to try and find these to smell. I would never spend that type of money on them though, even if I were a millionaire.

  6. Thing is, the reformulations of the standard Serge Lutens range are so unforgivably bad – and sad, because there were some really good ones before they were compromised, including the intense, haunting, once-exquisite Bois de Violette, now a lame, plain, watery approximation – and this “elite” bunch unforgivably overpriced, that we’re truly scuppered, caught between the two ranges. I think there are several that haven’t been tampered with yet (the newer ones are safest; my Vitriol seemed to be fine) but I’ve kind of gone off them in principle.

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