Monday, April 06, 2015

Serge Lutens- La Réligieuse

One of the interesting aspects of having a scent twin is that even on those rare occasions when we're not in full agreement about a perfume, we still experience it in the same way. We just interpret it differently. The latest example is Tom's review of the new Serge Lutens fragrance, La Réligieuse. I smell exactly the same things: sugary mimosa, a touch of incense, sweet jasmine, and a not-so-clean musk. Tom even mentioned "The Sound of Music", which I was going to use as an example for my very limited knowledge of nuns and their ways. The only difference? Tom thinks that  La Réligieuse is a good perfume, while I remain unconvinced.

I'm not among those who weep with despair with every new Serge Lutens release as none of them walk the same path of Iris Silver Mist or MKK. As a matter of fact, I think that the previous perfume in the export series, L'Orpheline, is just wonderful and I wear it so often that a backup might be needed before the end of the year. But with this one Uncle Serge has totally lost me. I don't get it. Or more precisely, I don't get why he even bothered. I might not wear his other jasmines, A La Nuit or Sarassins, but I definitely appreciate the story and craftsmanship behind them, as well as the quality of the jasmine used (at least in their original form. I think Sarrasins is still impressive, but I got a whiff of the recent Nuit and had an eyebrow raising moment).  La Réligieuse starts with a welcoming sweet floral medley that I enjoy very much, especially with other notes lurking underneath, promising more fun. I like my jasmine sweet and thick without a hint of green, and on that front Lutens certainly delivers. But eventually the monotonous of this effect wears me down. Nothing else happens, and the sweetness becomes as sticky as a toddler's hand. I want to return this tyke to its parents and go take a nap.

I have little more to say about La Réligieuse. None of the promises come to fruition. The rather cheap smelling jasmine doesn't let anything else emerge past it on my skin, and the overall impression is boring and uninspired. I don't expect Lutens and Sheldrake to repeat themselves and do the same thing again and again and again. I don't even demand they only do stuff that I like. But tedious and monotonous are traits I never associate with these two gentlemen.

I have no idea how exactly Mr. Lutens thought this juice evokes the world of nuns or any of his mixed emotions towards them. I've found this excellent interview with him nearly impossible to process. I've always known that my favorite uncle might not be the best guest at my imaginary dinner party (you know, the one with Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, Tim Gunn, Pierre Guillaume, and a selection of my closest friends). But his inner world confused me so much that when I shared the link on Facebook I also made the comment that I've never ever felt more American or more of an agnostic Jew than after reading this interview. Just as with La Réligieuse, I don't get it.

Serge Lutens- La Réligieuse ($150, 50ml EDP) is available from Twisted Lily, Luckyscent, and the rest of the old haunts.

Image: The Jasmine Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker, c.1925.


  1. After reading the interview I think Lutens had a difficult childhood and has mommy issues. I would not let the kooky things he said about God and nuns sway you more into being agnostic because what he said was, well, kooky.

  2. There was a great interview with Lutens in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter about a month ago. Something that struck me as telling is that he was abandobed by his mother during the war. He was an illegitimate child and his parents didn't marry until the war was over. He talks about how he allways tries to portray his mother in photos and ideas for perfume. So that might be an explanation to his view on women. He adores them but see them as cruel. Lutrns himself went on to father a son 'not from love' as he expressed it.
    It was an interesting article taking place in his 'palace' in Marrakesh.

  3. That party sounds amazing. I also would love to have Pierre Guillaume and Tim Gunn sitting at my table, a bit tipsy and seriously funny!
    With regards to La Religieuse: I went to an Italian nuns' school and then to Spanish nuns one and I had enough.

  4. I gave up on sampling this after three tries. My main thought was that, whatever he said in the press for this, Uncle Serge had conceived this scent as something specifically for nuns to add to their unscented detergent in the convent laundry. Something that would ensure that no one getting near enough to smell them would ever be inspired to convert to Catholicism and also as vengeance for what I'm guessing must have been less than wonderful experiences with nuns in his childhood. Maybe it's my skin chemistry, but on me it was a terribly synthetic laundry detergent scent with staying power to match the half life of plutonium.
    Wonderful choice of guests for your imaginary dinner party!

  5. I think when I child had been abandoned as a child ... even for just a day ... they can never forget or forgive.... the anxiety! As for the Nun's .... in those days ... not nice for he was illegitimate and perhaps the Mother was not "very nice" to the Nun's either.
    I wish these sort of people for their own sake would forget and see what wonderful work they have done in living with that sad start to life. I have always thought it "mean" to tell a child "Oh the birthing was so terrible !" ... its blaming really and the child was an innocent party.

    OK .... I too have not found a Luten that I have liked and this one sounds like another to add to my list..... what a shame but there you are.


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