Is a movement over when the last stalwarts capitulate and join the bandwagon? I found myself asking this a lot as I wore the new release from Serge Lutens, L’Incendiaire. Uncle Serge has steadfastly avoided jumping on the oud craze that almost every other niche line has happily embraced. I was eagerly looking to Serge Lutens return to the darker style of fragrance which has seemingly been replaced with perfumes pitched to a different market, which does not include me. L'Incendiare was described by the press materials as containing, “rare resins, saps, ambers, and tarmac”. I was excited to try something composed by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake which captured that snippet.
I have written that I thought that many of the recent releases by Serge Lutens have felt like they have played it safe looking to appeal to one specific segment of the perfume wearing audience. Those have mostly been lighter bodied compositions and I have finally come to grips with the concept that I am not part of that audience. I am the audience that “rare resins, saps, ambers, and tarmac” sounds divine to. I had expectations of something a bit avant-garde from Messrs. Lutens and Sheldrake. I was surprised upon sniffing it and wearing it for a few days that L’Incendiaire is still playing it safe but at least this time I enjoyed the effort.
L’Incendiaire is a pretty simple perfume to describe in a few words; it is a smoky oud. Now it is a smoky oud as envisioned by M. Sheldrake which makes it good. It just feels like a throwback to some of the early oud perfumes from other luxury brands where the oud was there front and center and a few dancing partners were added. These perfumes were mostly ways of showing oud to a western audience. L’Incendiaire acts like it is introducing oud to an audience that is most likely overwhelmed by oud at this point.
L’Incendiaire starts off with a mix of wood smoke along with a hint of sharp acridness. The opening seemed to promise what the snippet had implied. Before L’Incendiaire can get too far afield it is firmly pulled back to the middle of the road by the presence of the oud. Myrrh is present also in what has become one of oud’s favorite perfume partners. Here is where I would have hoped for something different to skew this fairly common combination. M. Sheldrake lets the myrrh and oud smolder for hours before fading away.
L’Incendiaire has 10-12 hour longevity and very modest sillage. It is a pure parfum strength which accounts for the longevity and the sillage.
Am I happy that I got a new darker Serge Lutens? Yes I am. Am I happy it is an oud fragrance? Yes I am. Do I wish for a little more risk taking? Yes I do.
The bottom line is L’Incendiaire is an oud perfume that fully lives up to the Serge Lutens aesthetic. It just seems that other perfume houses got to this one first and did it as well or better. I am happy to have a small decant of it but this is not one that will join the other bell jars in my collection. If you like smoky oud fragrances I think you will like L’Incendiaire.
Disclosure: This review was based on a decant I purchased.