Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe is the essence of the moment when the sunlight enters through the stained glass windows of an old church, bathing its cold stone in iridescent glow and lending a jewel-like splendor to the liturgical vestments and the vessels of the altar. The contrast between the light and the dark is what makes the fragrance one of the most intriguing compositions resulting from Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake’s partnership.
The classicism of La Myrrhe (1995) is of misleading nature as it orchestrates its accords in a modern manner. The opalescent white veil of aldehydes that unfolds in the top accord almost hints at the floral waterfalls that are about to cascade softening the chilly breeze. Yet, instead of bergamot, rose, jasmine and ylang ylang of classical aldehydic compositions, La Myrrhe’s icy aldehydes become overlaid with sweet citrus, before falling into the heart spiced with anise. ….
Like other Lutens compositions, where the main note is highlighted and exaggerated (Tubéreuse Criminelle, Cèdre, Bornéo 1834), La Myrrhe brilliantly frames the myrrh by accenting its medicinal licorice tonality with anise notes and its sweetness with honey.
The contrast between the chill of the opening burst and the bite of the spice set a stage for a series of subtle contrasting sensations folded into an elegant composition that has the cold smoothness of polished red marble. Luminosity of sweet hesperidic notes persists into the woody drydown, where its glow, while no longer having a sparkling citrusy brightness, nevertheless recalls the smell of oranges purchased from the winter markets, their exotic fragrance contrasting with the icy freshness of air. Just like the light streaming from the church windows colors the stone pillars, La Myrrhe’s glow merely illuminates its form, without softening its somber mystery.
Although haunting, La Myrrhe may not be the easiest fragrance to wear as the aldehydic burst paired with the medicinal facets of myrrh left unadorned lacks an expected warm counterpoint. Yet, this very dissonance is what keeps one’s interest while the composition slowly unfolds. Like would be expected of the majority of Serge Lutens’s compositions, its aloof elegance would suit both men and women. It is not a fragrance that has a particular seasonal designation, yet its spicy coldness is associated for me with the first snow and winter chill.
Notes include mandarin, myrrh, lotus, bitter almond, sandalwood, honey, jasmine, amber, musk, various spices, pimento. La Myrrhe is part of Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido exclusive line.
Photo: Canterbury Cathedral. From twinisles.com.