Saturday, February 7, 2009

Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge: A Review

I love spicy. I love orientals. I love the color red. I love warmth. I love slightly sweet scents and I love dry scents. I love vegetal, woods and celery notes. Chypre Rouge, containing all these elements, seems as if it were made for me.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading Lutens’ ludicrously incoherent press releases. The press release for Chypre Rouge is one of his most amusing:

“I remember looking at the forest ground, covered with dead leaves, and finding it both macabre and beautiful. Something caught my attention: a strange patch of moss at the base of a tree, it looked as if it were bleeding, purple and red. Ceremonial dress, splendid and dying, lit by the rays of a nearby clearing. “Don’t deny, you will confess!” In this doorless dungeon we look for an exit. Thin light comes from a murdering hole. Eagle nest, precious stones, coat of arms, standards, what are we made of? Eternity, limpidity, freshness, beauty, velvet softness. A secret continent of which we would be the body, in golden darkness, moss of spices and vermeil. The kiss of a choirboy on the ring of an archbishop. Softness and depth, secret in scents where, laying our cheeks we can only dream.”

After smelling Chypre Rouge, there is something about the press release that makes sense to me – something I can’t put words to – something along the lines of a feeling.

Chypre Rouge is easily identifiable as a Lutens/Sheldrake creation. It starts with the hallmark spice stew – but this time sans fruits – this time, solely vegetal spice stew. I smell celery, which is a good thing, because I like the salty celery-vegetal note. I also find Bvlgari Black to have a prominent celery note and I quite like Black. The vegetal/celery note does not last but more than 10-15 minutes and then Chypre Rouge becomes all dry spices, woods, with a dash of sweetness. These spices are not listed but there’s definitely an aroma of curry, cumin, cinnamon and anise. Chypre Rouge hits the back of my throat and nearly makes me cough.

Chypre Rouge makes me visualize the Middle East – the desert – on a cool night after a hot day – it’s dark, I’m alone, I see a campfire in the distance. The air is spiced, dry and foreign as if I’m on another planet. The fire in the distance intrigues me; I smell the flames and the burning charred woods – the winds whip about me every so often, making certain I remember that I’m alone. The sky is dark inky blue with a bright full moon. I want to walk over to the campfire to meet the strangers but I’m afraid. I’m just standing there breathing, feeling the wind and breathing.

To say that Chypre Rouge is transporting, is an understatement. I like abstract perfumes – those that smell like unnatural synthetic man-made aromas – but Chypre Rouge is a wonderfully natural yet foreign aroma. It almost doesn’t smell like perfume at all – more like sticking your head into a spice cabinet and inhaling. But while it smells naturally like spices & woods, there is still something unnatural about it, something obviously man-made. This is a good thing. If Chypre Rouge smelled only of a spice cabinet I don’t think I’d bother wearing it and inhaling it over and over again while closing my eyes and feeling far away and dreamy.

I can’t imagine wearing Chypre Rouge in anything but cold weather. It is a warming fragrance, and for those who truly love spices, it’s a beautiful thing.

Notes: thyme, pine needles, honey, beeswax, jasmine, pecans, fruit gums, patchouli, amber, vanilla, moss, musk

Longevity: very good, 4-5 hours
Sillage: surprisingly close to the skin considering how it starts off so loud
Rating: 4 stars


Julie H. Rose said...

Yes, it's definately a winter scent. It was on my "fickle love" list until the days became short and cold. Now I adore it.

I was going to say some more about how I agree with you on. . .but I realized it was everything! Great review of a fabulous scent. And it deserves a good review, for it's been panned by many, thus probably keeping people from trying it.

A friend of mine sniffed it for the first time last week and was transported!

Abigail said...

Hiya Julie!
Thanks for dropping by.
You know, the whole reason I wrote this review today is because I suddenly noticed how much Chypre Rouge was being panned. I read the review by TS in The Guide and thought I just had to...create some balance...she calls it an
'immortelle disaster.'
I've always loved it and its most definitely not a mess. ;-) It might not be to someone's liking - but it's not a disaster.

Unknown said...

This sounds interesting, one I'm not sure if I would love or hate. Either way, it is now going on the "to sniff" list.

Brian said...

when I first smelled the lutens and was trying to decide which one I couldn't live without, chypre rouge was a pretty easy answer for me, so the scorn directed at it has always surprised me. What besides personal taste makes an iris silver mist acceptably challenging or winningly odd, while a chypre rouge is "confused", "wrong", "too much", etc? Many perfumes have off notes and among their devotees those are exactly the attraction. I like chypre rouge because it strikes that sought after, elusive balance between opposites in unusual ways. I'm also a huge fan of bois de paradis, and the two are related, I think.