Thursday, April 08, 2010

Heresy? Layering Serge Lutens Perfumes

Perfume lovers can be split into two categories: those who layer and those who don't. Even among the first group, sometimes the idea of wearing together two (or more!) complex and statement-making perfumes can be regarded as both crazy, tasteless or being disrespectful to the perfumer and his vision. In the case of Serge Lutens, it's usually all of the above. But somehow, despite the fear of the Palais Royal and its wrath, there are quite a few of us that dare to experiment.

It might have begun for some by using a drop or two of Muscs Kublai Khan to add depth and raunchiness to some more innocent perfumes. It makes sense, after all, right? Then came other perfectly reasonable ideas- Un Bois Vanille in its sweet and creamy glory can lift up dry woods that some women find too masculine and add depth to citrus scents. I've been using one spray of UBV when wearing Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien.

Next- Ambre Sultan. Adding an amber base to florals, especially roses, works beautifully. Just like Tom Ford's Amber Absolute that layers beautifully with his Noir de Noir, one can do the same with Ambre Sultan and Sa Majeste La Rose. And Clair de Musc is the perfect clean musk base that works with just about everything...

Once you start layering and realize that Uncle Serge isn't going to come after you and confiscate your bell jars it's hard to stop. Yes, for the most part Lutens perfumes are round, complex and full of their individual personalities. But there's something about them that allows these scents to coexist and play well together. There's a special magic and satisfaction when you find a pairing that works for you, so why not?

Here are some of my favorite combination:

Rousse+Louve+Clair de Musc (one spray each)
Un Bois Vanille+Fleurs d'Oranger
Ambre Sultan+Rousse
Fleurs de Citronnier+Clair de Musc
Rousse+Cuir Mauresque
Santal Blanc+Nuit de Cellophane

Do you layer your perfumes? Please feel free to add your suggestions.

Photo of Serge Lutens:


  1. I have to admit that I'm a little lazy when it comes to layering. That's why I like Jo Malone's Fragrance Chronicles - she tells me how to layer. I was good at paint-by-numbers too. [wink]

    I have found most of Serge Lutens' fragrances too heavy/complex/je ne sais quoi for me. The descriptions hook me, and then they sit. Maybe I'll try one today with a light floral for lasting top notes. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Rousse and Cuir Mauresque you say? Now why haven't I thought of that? Off to try it out.

  3. I'm going to try this one, Santal Blanc+Nuit de Cellophane. Sounds good and each on its own is a bit too simple.
    I think you mean "Heresy" in your headline.


  4. I'm not a layer-er myself, but I think that certain houses, Lutens included, are more forgiving when layered, because many of the scents are essentially extensions of others.

    The only layering combo that's ever worked for me was Avignon with Montale's Original Aoud...mostly because both are very simple and linear. Every other experiment has been a disaster, so I leave it for the more adventurous.

  5. around surreptitiously to make sure no purists are watching)...yes! I don't keep track of the specific combinations, much, but lately I've been mixing florals, orange blossom perfume from Bourbon French with greener flowers. One combo I do remember is Jean-Louis Scherrer 1 with Paloma Picasso EDT, for hot summer days. I layer different things at night, experimenting with my rose scents, sometimes, as you said, by layering them with musks and ambers. I have found that Barbara Bui is a good warming scent, with its heliotrope, much like a bit of burnt sienna will warm up cool reds. (I'm a painter and love to mix and experiment with pigments, so this comes very naturally to me.)

  6. unfortunately, my wimpy constitution can hardly deal with one full spray of a lutens (this brand is a dabber for me) that just *thinking* of 2 or more sprays makes me queasy.

    and layering by dabbing hardly ever turns out well for me.
    Whah, whah (insert 'you lose' sound)

    also, this post reminded me of those jelly belly recipes on the back of the packages. i love jelly bellies.

  7. This is such a timely post for me because I have been wondering how to go about layering. Also I've wondered whether perfumers resent the idea. I admit that I don't own many high end fragrances; none are Serge Lutens. Still, I could experiment...

    I hope more will comment, as I am very curious about this topic.

  8. Since the new Chanel Cristalle is so wimpy, I now layer it with Carthusia Mediterraneo to bring it back to full citrus level.

  9. Yes! My first Serge's (and the beginning of my adventures with non-department store perfumes) were Ambre Sultan and Une Bois Vanille -- got 'em together specifically to layer. I've since used both to add depth to fragrances that are too light or pitched at the high end, if that makes sense. UBV is really nice with Parfums de Rosine's Ecume, for example. I've also tried layering Chergui, mostly because I got a decant and didn't like it. Turns out to be pretty good with Burning Leaves from CB I Hate Perfume. Also (and this has been covered a lot on Perfume Posse), sandalwood and fig are great together, as I discovered layering Santal Blanc with Premier Figuier Extreme. I bet Chene would be a good match in the same woodsy-underpinning way...

  10. Today I tried layering Ambre Sultan and A La Nuit. Its a surprising good combo IMO. The amber and spices of Sultan go really well with the jasmine. Thanks for letting me on to this Gaia.

  11. I'm too lazy to layer, I must admit. But when I first met the lovely SA in the perfume shop in Schaffhausen and started investigating Lutens' range, she insisted that they were designed for layering. I was a bit sceptical at first, but she's very knowledgeable. She maintains Clair de Musc is indispensible to 'bring down' screechy fragrances and make them wearable.

    You've intrigued me now - I must go haul out my samples, decants and bottles and start playing around.

  12. Un Bois Vanille plus Fleurs d'Oranger is heavenly! Sometimes Fleurs d'Oranger can be too much and UBV brings a fluffy feel to it which is perfect. I'm going to try the Rousse+Louve+Clair de Musc tomorrow - I can't picture this one.

  13. I've tried layering Daim Blond and UBV and it was a very good combo. I thought the DB too leathery and the UBV sweetened it up a bit. Now I've come to appreciate DB on its own and it's now my favorite perfume.

    I am going to try the Santal Blanc with various rose scents as well as with Premier Figuier Extreme.

    P.S. Love your blog.

  14. I've had excellent results layering A La Nuit with Santal Blanc, Sarrasins with Cuir Mauresque, and Un Bois Vanille with Bois et Fruits (the vanilla tames but does not remove the cumin on me). I imagine that Un Bois Vanille would also work with Chergui, but I can't bear the thought of layering Chergui which, by itself, is too perfect for words. Also, I have to thank you for recommending layering CM with FdO. Without CM, I just get a weird vinyl shower curtain-y thing from FdO until well into the drydown. (Vinyl shower curtain also dominates ELdO's Jasmin et Cigarettes for me -- I can't figure out what does it.) Anyway, you saved FdO for me. Thanks!

  15. Back again with my new all-time favorite Serge layering combination: one dab of A La Nuit on top of a generous helping of Fumerie Turque. This is just to die for and is everything that ELdO's Jasmin et Cigarette should have been (but, alas, wasn't).

  16. Today I layered Ambre Sultan and Cuir Mauresque by accident, it's the absolute best thing I ever smelled, apart from some Japanese traditionals.

  17. Vetiver Oriental layers amazingly with Iris Silver Mist. You would be surprised how the cold and ethereal ISM takes over what seems to be a stronger perfume.

  18. Cèdre + Arabie : it's gorgeous !

  19. I've only just begun collecting decants, trying to find "my" SL fragrance, and while I haven't found a single one yet that drives me wild, I did discover that Datura Noir and Chergui smell amazing together. :)

    Shani x
    She Dreams in Perfect French


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