Monday, December 24, 2007

Serge Lutens Midwinter part 2: Chêne

This time of the year, most of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere are celebrating a midwinter holiday of some sort. No matter what our culture or religion is, we are linked through our pagan ancestors who were connected to the Earth, knew a thing or two about nature and started some of the traditions we have later transformed into our familiar rituals.

The ancient tribes worshipped the oaks that covered much of Britain and Western Europe. Before the pagan midwinter festivals were absorbed into Christian Christmas celebrations, the sacred oak was decorated each winter solstice with bright colors. It was an attempt to lure spring back.

Serge Lutens is another fan of oak trees. He created Chêne to represent "The comfort and magnitude of oak", and fully succeeded in doing so. This is a gorgeous and unusual scent, extremely evocative of every myth and image of oak groves, comforting in its familiarity but never ever boring. It has every element of the tree, from green and sap to dusty crumbling bark and mossy undergrowth, all in a perfect balance that conjures up the whole tree.

On my skin it is dry and warm. It is a unisex scent, and while I know that many women find its stark, almost linear, woody notes too masculine unless they layer it with something sweet, I have no problem wearing it alone. I have a hard time classifying it as either a formal or a casual scent. While it's probably not the right perfume for a woman to wear on a first date or a romantic night out, I feel it's appropriate for most other occasions and events. A man who'd wear it on a date would cause major swoonage, which makes me wonder about some gender stereotypes (for the record, three perfumes I've worn recently for romantic situations were Musc Maori, Ambre Sultan and Diamond Water. I'm not sure how to interpret that, so be my guest and share your thoughts). It's probably worth of a separate post or three.

The scent's dryness (unlike several other Lutens perfumes, known for their depth, sweetness and darkness) would probably make it just as wearable in warmer weather. I have the feeling it would bloom nicely, as it does in overheated rooms and shopping malls of this season. It has a nice sillage and excellent staying power, but I doubt anyone would find it offensive or suffocating. Even with all the sap and dirt covered roots, Chêne manages to maintain a certain clean and green feel to it.

Merry Christmas to my readers and friends who celebrate it, and Peace on Earth to all of us.

Chêne is part of Serge Lutens exclusive line, but this season it's available from Barneys and can even be ordered online.

Images: trees from Choralicious! and Sharon Keating. Chêne bell jar bottle from Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido.


  1. This is a sublime scent and I am seriously considering getting some from Barneys as a back-up to my bell jar.

  2. Isn't it wonderful? And the dryness is welcome I think. A surupy vibe would ruin the effect completely.

    Your date choices show an assured woman; not that I had any doubts! :-)

  3. i just noticed this post after commenting that the korres fig scrub reminded me of oak trees! hmm now i'm worried you may be disappointed with the scrub if you're comparing it to a serge lutens! (which i have not smelled, but sounds lovely.) i stick to my barrel of woodshavings description though :)


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