It has probably long been obvious to everyone else, but it only struck me for the first time the other day placing them side by side, that there is a perfect design cohesion and style continuity between the first and the most recent Serge Lutens. My bottle of the ultra rare and ultra coveted Nombre Noir, the legend that the maestro of maquillage created for Shiseido in 1982, is probably my most ridiculous bargain of all time (as in ridiculous: please read the story here). There isn’t much left now, as I used it all in one Christmas frenzy, but still enough for me to enjoy, once in a while, the plummy, damascene apricot glamour of its churlish, preening osmanthus.
The latest by Lutens, La Proie Pour L’Ombre, is of course from the Gratte Ciel, or skyscraper, collection, and the bottles look perfect together, though almost forty years apart. A vanilla amber, with incense/licorice and a hint of leather (this is not a leather, ultimately, no matter what you read, but an immortelle-laced, ambery, warm and sweet, luscious scent that brings to mind so many of the old Lutens like Ambre Sultan, the incense of Serge Noire, a hint of Arabie (the celery note is problematic here; D doesn’t like the beginning but likes how it evolves on my skin), the warmth of Cèdre; it went perfectly this weekend with a dot or two of the new Christian Dior Vanilla Diorama – another glinty vanilla amber that begins with a fresh spritzy opening that reminds me of a delicious dessert I once had at a French restaurant in Nagasaki that was infused with citruses and star anise, leading to a cacao-touched, sugar-crusted texture of marrons glacés and a light woody amber basis that prevents the scent from becoming too sweet or flayed open. I haven’t worn vanilla in a while; it has become a note I save for special occasions in case I feel it is eating me alive; but this one is not a vanilla bean monster: I would say it is more along the sleeker, less ice creamy lines of vertically structured cents such as Pure Distance Gold or Guerlain Tonka Impériale. While the name of the scent may raise a few eyebrows among perfume purists (what next? Chocolate Dioressence? – actually, that’s not a bad idea) – playing with classics from the Dior Heritage Archives and giving them a contemporary remix, the perfume itself is is a warm, lingering, and at first, slightly unassuming perfume that gets better as the day goes on, eventually lasting for a good twenty four hours on the skin. It was very enjoyable with the Lutens on Sunday, which I wore on my clothes and on my beard – some Dior on my wrists; the cooler weather a perfect backdrop for being wrapped up in rich, but strangely subtle, dreamy, autumnal amber.