Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
French fauvist painter Henri Matisse once observed that “there is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.” The same could be said about the perfumer and the art of creating a rose fragrance. At once familiar and desirable, the rose theme has been explored in the modern perfumery quite widely, which means that creating something new and daring requires not only forgetting the classical traditions, but also being able to erase the familiarity, to surprise and to even shock.
The beauty of Serge Lutens Rose de Nuit, created by perfumer Gilles Romey lies in its abstraction of a delicate blossom into a nocturnal animalic scent, as if the petals slowly transform into the warm skin. Every single quality one might expect of rose—sweetness, powderiness, brightness, is twisted into its opposite. Where the roses might evoke delicate softness, Rose de Nuit sheds dark petals, withered at the edges. …
If the honeyed sweetness is usually to anticipated, this composition is saturated with the leathery dryness. Like subtle gradations of color and the repetitions in Paul Klee’s paintings, the unfolding quality of Rose de Nuit leads one from the transparent darkness of rose liquor to the deep shadows of its ambery base.
Certain rose absolutes have an almost balsamic, vegetal richness, allowing the rose to reveals its familiar side only in dilution with a neutral substance. Rose de Nuit does not soften this raw darkness, but instead the composition highlights it with the chypre accord. The animalic note makes Rose de Nuit echo the aggressive impact of the classical leather chypre fragrances like Robert Piguet Bandit and Parfums Grès Cabochard, although undeniably its seductive refrain is made less shocking in Rose de Nuit.
It repeats the rose theme in the base, suggesting its smooth, satiny touch, but never offering the full view. Like glimpsing into the dark room through the carved screens, one is left to imagine the rose that is hiding under the layers of woods and amber. Yet, whether those veils conceal a lover or a flower is a mystery that Rose de Nuit never answers with certainty.
Like other Lutens’s fragrances, Rose de Nuit would also be suitable for a man, because its floral accord lacks the voluptuous sweetness found in the feminine fragrances. Those looking for a photorealistic rose rendition will be disappointed in Rose de Nuit, because its rose is rather abstract. On the paper strip, the fruity notes are more obvious, creating the apricot leather interplay, while on the skin, I find that the composition falls straight into the dark abyss.
Notes include Turkish rose, yellow jasmine, apricot, amber, musk, sandalwood, beeswax. Rose de Nuit is part of Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido exclusive line.
Painting: Paul Klee. On a Motif from Hamamet. 1914. Tempera on board. 27 x 22.5 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland. From abcgallery.com
Please see other Serge Lutens reviews:
A La Nuit
Bois de Violette
Bois et Fruits
Bois et Musc
Fleurs de Citronnier