Long time readers might remember that I spent years regarding Arabie as the one Serge Lutens oriental perfume I actively dislike. It was my biggest disagreement with my scent twin who likes and wears Arabie and I could never figure out why. After all, doesn't this thing smell like the filthiest back alley of the souk, the one just behind the fish mongers stores?
It may have taken me the better part of the decade but I finally got it. Yes, Serge Lutens and his prophet Christopher Sheldrake managed to conjure the smell of a place. The air in the Arab market that stands still between the stalls. The aromas of dried fruit, spicy pickles, and spices from all four corners of the globe in massive sacks and barrels. There are stands of honey-dripping pastries, leather goods, candied nuts and fruit, the dirt of centuries under your feet, the arid desert air, and as The Black Narcissus discovered, there's also a camel or two sharing the space with you.
What's not to love?
My rediscovery of Arabie started when I smelled it on the husband's skin. We were playing at the Serge Lutens counter and before I could stop him he applied Arabie to his wrist. No stinky souk, no camels, only a gilded oriental fantasy, a little dirty, a little dangerous, and quite appetizing in a somewhat perverted way that's hard to explain. It also helped that the husband ended up accidentally layering Arabie with Uncle Serge's cuminy Santal de Mysore. They go incredibly well together. But the key for me to understand and enjoy Arabie was when I started dabbing it. Spraying makes it take up so much space; both in the air around me and in my consciousness. I become a place instead of a person. But when I dab the perfume and only use enough to get that incredible sweetness, it transforms me into that ancient seductress whose skin is all honey and fruit. all of a sudden Arabie is irresistible with its warmth and forbidden undercurrents.
Notes: cedar, sandalwood, candied mandarin peel, dried figs, dates, cumin, nutmeg, clove, balsamic resins, tonka bean, Siamese benzoin, myrrh.
Serge Lutens- Arabie ($130, 50ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent, Aedes, Parfum1, BeautyHabit, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and select Neiman Marcus locations.
Art: Salome by Henri Regnault, 1870.