Monday, August 03, 2009

Serge Lutens Clair de Musc- A Perfume For All Seasons

Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens is often ignored or neglected, even by Lutens devotees. The other musks by Uncle Serge tend to get more press: MKK with its beastly reputation and the elegant Bois et Musc that kills you softly. I understand why it happens: the very first time I tried Clair de Musc my first thought was: "is that all?". I already owned three or four other Lutens perfumes and expected something... different, I guess. I remember thinking it reminded me of older hand creams and mostly dismissed it until a bit later I realized I was wearing a gorgeous, understated scent.

I went through five or six samples before finally getting a bottle of Clair de Musc. I reach for it often, especially on days I want something that fits effortlessly but has enough personality. This is probably what many fans of Chanel No. 5 feel towards their bottle- an easy to wear, smooth and exquisitely made perfume that always feels right.

I get a lot of powdery iris, which probably gives Clair de Musc the elegant, put-together air. Other flowers here are ethereal and well-blended. It's like a feminine veil over a creamy base of sandalwood and almost clean white musk. While it feels perfectly coiffed and restrained, it's not a schoolmarm of a scent. The musk has enough body and soul, and while very abstract, it still shows just enough skin to make the wearer aware of her own.

A couple of sprays are the equivalent of putting on the right dress for an event or the right suit to impress a new client. It doesn't overwhelm on a hot day and actually feels cozy on a winter evening under a cashmere sweater. I know Clair de Musc is often compared to classic 70s musks, but to me it smells much more expensive and refined.

Clair de Musc ($120) is available from top department stores: Bergdorf, Neiman, Barneys, as well as from Aedes in NYC and Scent Bar/Luckyscent and Beauty Habit in California. I can't remember where I bought my bottle, but I'm pretty sure I ordered it online.

Photo: Butterfly by Declan McCullagh


  1. I love this one even if my review makes it seem like I didn't. It's gorgeous but I found it a little too femme for me.

  2. Thank you, Gaia ! I'm a big admirer of CdM and wear it, when I want to look clear and competent with style (with tailored suits - I take either CdM or Gris Claire). Or I wear it on summer evenings with elegant white dresses. I've always felt it's not taken seriously enough, but I dared to love it. Nice to see I'm not alone...

  3. Wonderfully said, it's a very elegant and casual musk fit for just about anything as you say. I get a delicate iris-lily tonality from it, which is lovely.

    Congrats on the new look!! :-))

  4. It's interesting that you referenced N°5 in this review: to me, Clair de Musc is actually a very pared-down version of a classic aldehydic fragrance and it could easily serve the same purpose. The drydown veers subtly into dirty musk -- well, not quite dirty, just a little bit smeared...

  5. Clair de Musc is one of my all-time favorites. I, too, reach for it all year round. It melts right into my skin. It doesn't stand-out and shout "look at me" but it is enveloping, and lovely, and smooth and clean. In the winter it comforts. In the heat it doesn't overpower and never sours, even in the most humid of weather. It goes with cashmere and shorts. Nothing else I own can do it so perfectly.


  6. I have to agree- it's lovely and classy- and sometimes that's all you want from a scent. I like the out there, unusual smells but all the time. Plus it's a scent you can really feel comfortable in and that gives you a bit of extra confidence but without any shouting, like putting on a pair of good heels when you usually wear flats. It's also a lovely name too I think.

  7. Tom, I know what you mean. I also think of it as very feminine, even if I can't put my finger on the reason.

  8. Lady Jane, those are perfect pairings of scent-outfits.
    As you can see, you're definitely not alone. I think Clair de Musc requires some patience and introspection before one gets just how gorgeous it is.

  9. Thanks, Elena :)
    I'm glad (and not surprised) you're also a CdM fan.

  10. Denyse, I'm very happy for this validation. Sometimes when I wear it I could swear I get an aldehydic feeling.
    I keep this bottle next Eau Premier. They serve a similar purpose.

  11. Gretchen, you've put it perfectly- it really melts into the skin. I think it's sensual in a subversive way.

  12. Rose, I'm so glad to see all the love for Clair de Musc. And, I agree- the name is lovely and fits perfectly.


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