I tend to think of lavender as a very French note. From crisp white sheets in a Parisian hotel room to delicately embroidered Provençal sachets for one's drawer of fine unmentionables. and then there are favorite lavender perfumes such as Vero Perfumo Kiki, a homage to Paris, from laundry to pastry and the eternal Jicky. But then there's also Serge Lutens and his lavender- here, in Encens et Lavande as well as in Gris Clair and the newer Fourreau Noir. Not surprisingly, Uncle Serge has his own unique take on the classic note.
Encens et Lavande feels like world music. Not the cheesy Enya stuff, but the authentic thing you catch here and there in your travels. It's foreign and yet familiar like your own voice chanting, and it transforms you to a place of serenity. Unlike many Lutens perfumes, there is no kaleidoscope of spice and amber in Encens et Lavande. It actually smells quite simple on the surface- a herbal opening of lavender and greens (sources list clary sage, I can't say for sure but there's also a hint of cool rosemary) and a dry-down of smoky incense, dark and ashy. That might be all, but it's the progress from outdoors into a dark alcove, a shrine, perhaps, where incense has been burning for days and penetrating the stone walls.
The frankincense is among the richest and most beautiful I've smelled. It's woody at times, sweet and dry, tells of warm embers and cold dried ash. On the skin everything comes alive. Some may find it too masculine, probably because of the vast and airy lavender field of the opening that makes people think of men's cologne. But incense lovers have a good chance to find a lot more than soapy herbs in this blend. Also, anti-Lutens perfume lovers should also give Encens et Lavande a chance. This is not a drama queen of a scent that demands your attention at any turn. Instead this perfume serves as a silent companion on quiet rainy afternoons at home.
Encens et Lavande (120 euros, 75 ml) is one of Serge Lutens exclusive non-export perfumes, only available at Les Salon du Palais-Royal Shiseido in Paris. For us North Americans, The Posh Peasant and The Perfumed Court sell samples and decants.
Art: Enlightment by Hessam Abrishami