Serge Lutens 101- Five To Get You Started


I’ve been doing this a long time and as new brands come, and go, I tend to be there at the beginning which allows me to grow along with the perfume house. I often wonder how somebody new to the world of niche perfumery deals with some of the larger lines that they hear so much about. When you are faced with trying to figure out a place to start you generally have to rely on your best guess at what will work for you. With this series I am going to take some of the larger perfume houses and suggest five introductory fragrances as a place to start your journey. First to get this treatment is Serge Lutens.


Serge Lutens (l.) and Christopher Sheldrake (r.)

Serge Lutens was established in 1992 and for over twenty years Creative Director Serge Lutens and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake have been creating some of the best perfumes in the niche perfume space. With over 40 perfumes released under the Serge Lutens label it is a formidable task to figure out where to start. With Serge Lutens the best place to start is truly at the beginning.

Feminite du Bois was originally created under the Shiseido label but now is under the Serge Lutens imprint. I remember smelling Feminite du Bois for the first time and being absolutely fascinated that a fragrance with Feminite in the name had such a pronounced cedar heart. The real genius here is the pairing of violet with that cedar note. The core accord is bracketed by orange and a trio of spicy notes to create a vibrancy one rarely finds and it is a hallmark of Serge Lutens fragrances that will appear time and again. Feminite du Bois underwent a re-formulation when Serge Lutens acquired it from Shiseido but this is one of those which manage to keep the spirit of the original alive.   

In 2000 with the release of Ambre Sultan this style would become more refined with another inspired pairing of herbal notes with a warm amber. Bay leaves, coriander, oregano, and angelica root provide a feisty contrast to the languorous warmth of amber made even warmer with the additional resins of benzoin, styrax and a full suite of balsamic notes. This is often the fragrance which turns many into amber fanatics.

sa majeste la rose bottle

Also in 2000 Sa Majeste La Rose shows M. Sheldrake’s adeptness with a simple rose soliflore. By using an opulent Moroccan Rose as his nucleus he then sends into orbit around it lychee, clove, and honey to impart a mobility to the rose which elevates it to something much more than just a soliflore. Sa Majeste La Rose is one of the most versatile entries in the entire Serge Lutens line perfect for a wide variety of uses.

One of the hallmarks of the Serge Lutens style is a “stewed fruit” accord which pops up frequently. In 2004’s Daim Blond it shows up swathed in cardamom, orris, and suede leather. You will swear there are dried apricots in the note list, they aren’t listed but they are there, and this is a good place to see if you like “stewed fruit” in your fragrance.

Five O’clock au Gingembre is my last choice as it shows the skill of M. Sheldrake with a gourmand in the Serge Lutens style. An exquisite tea accord leads to a mix of gingerbread, ginger, and cinnamon which have an unusual warmth that will make you think a tray of gingerbread cookies are cooling somewhere nearby. It slowly settles into a honeyed cacao and vanilla finish that manages to keep from turning into treacle and always stays terrific.

Serge Lutens is one of the perfume houses that really produces quality fragrances year in and year out and if you’ve been needing a place to dive in the five above make for a good place to introduce yourself to Uncle Serge.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles of these fragrances which I purchased.

Mark Behnke

8 thoughts on “Serge Lutens 101- Five To Get You Started

  1. I will copy this from Fragrantica (disclaimer I am Zoka from Fragrantica)

    Chergui Serge Lutens

    Ambre Sultan Serge Lutens

    Un Bois Vanille Serge Lutens

    Fille en Aiguilles Serge Lutens

    Feminite du Bois Serge Lutens

    Datura Noir Serge Lutens

    Five O`Clock Au Gingembre Serge Lutens

    Daim Blond Serge Lutens

    Arabie Serge Lutens

    Borneo 1834 Serge Lutens


    This is the list of 'most popular' S.L. fragrances and Mark as you know I am a very fanatic about 'numbers' and statistics and you are more person tolking from gut feeling but I have to say your article is very good start ot S.L. journey… let's be frank books might we written about Serge but I am really looking forward to see what will you do with this series. The first brand was quite tough one if you did this you will be able to do anything 🙂

  2. Just side note… don't you thing Serge Lutens one of the most characteristic themes of the brend are introducing gournamond scents to the fine fragrance market… so many others followed Montale, Keiko Mecheri… to name some? 

  3. How timely! I'm trying to decide whether to visit the Palais Royale on my flying stop in Paris to get some Serge Lutens. Thing is, I've never been that big on Serge Lutens. I think I need to smell some more of them. The ones I've liked are not the ones mentioned here – I like his Fleur d'Oranger, I like L'Eau Froide, and though I like Ambre Sultan it's not an amber I go nuts for.

    I think you picked a good one to start with, though. I remember when I first started reading perfume blogs, everyone was crazy about Serge Lutens and I'd never even heard of the brand. Certainly an introduction to niche!

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