I wonder how things would have turned had Serge Lutens released Five O'Clock Au Gingembre in 1998 and not 2008. I have a feeling this spicy oriental tea scent (orientea?) would have been accept with a lot more enthusiasm ten years and twenty or so perfumes ago.
I think of Five O'Clock Au Gingembre as the civilized version of Arabie (which I absolutely cannot stand). In Arabie, Serge Lutens and his prophet, Christopher Sheldrake, take you by the hand touring the back alleys of an Arabian souk. You walk the narrow streets, see and touch everything- from the sublime to the grime. Your exotic tour in Gingembre is done aboard the Orient Express. You see the sights from afar and the smells get mixed with the ones of your train car. The butler brings in your tea and cookies on a silver tray, there's an endless supply of starched linens, hot water and various delicacies.
The sharp ginger note in the opening is the only part of which I'm a bit iffy. Ginger tends to do that. I love it in ELdO Like This (and in my food), but usually it's not my favorite perfumery trick. Here the top notes are quite astringent for a brief second before the familiar Lutens magic appears with its cinnamon, honey, cookies and dark chocolate. There's something reminiscent of both Rousse and Feminite de Bois, but the black smoky tea takes the perfume in a different direction and gives it its own special character.
Five O'Clock Au Gingembre has an understated elegance. It's not quite in your face as several of the classic Lutens perfumes, which might be why some were so disappointed upon its release. I'm grateful they held back the cumin and instead explored a kinder route.
Five O'Clock Au Gingembre ($120, 50ml EDP) is available everywhere they sell the Serge Lutens export line- Bergdorf, Barneys, Aedes,Luckyscent and others.