Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The most compelling aspect of Serge Lutens’s fragrances lies in their exaggerated character, whether it is the tannic bitterness of oak in Chêne, the hay sweetness of coumarin in Chergui or the mineral chill of iris in Iris Silver Mist. Chypre Rouge does not deviate from the jewel encrusted opulence that one can glimpse in other Lutens compositions; however, the finished result reflects a blend of various elements that can equally well recount the story of Scheherazade as well as that of Hänsel und Gretel. …
Created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, who despite his appointment with Chanel continues to work with Serge Lutens, Chypre Rouge seems to unfold in the reverse—the initial curried woody darkness slowly melts into the plumy sweetness of the sandalwood and oakmoss overlaid base. The spicy intensity of the top notes recalls the maple syrup richness of immortelle, the darkness of anise scented licorice as well as the savory warmth of fenugreek. It is at once a scent of pecans caramelizing in a burnt sugar crust as well as an aroma of masala spices hitting hot oil. On the blotter, this later impression is most prevalent–a strangely compelling fragrance, but completely unimaginable as a scent that one would want to carry around on one’s body.
Yet, after a few minutes on warm skin, the composition begins to display a more classical fruity chypre character, and Chypre Rouge loses its references to Middle Eastern souks and European mincemeat pies. The floral accents light up the heart in much the same way that the glow of candles inside Byzantine churches causes the mosaic inlaid vaults to rain shimmering lights. The creamy, woody sweetness softens the honeyed darkness of its composition, while the mossy chill and the fruity rose lend an interesting transparent, yet rich effect.
While Chypre Rouge recalls the woody silkiness of Santal de Mysore, its candied spicy flowers are reminiscent of Caron Aimez Moi. Notwithstanding its strange beginnings, the composition assumes a classically elegant form, making Chypre Rouge less challenging than some other fragrances from Serge Lutens. A floral bouquet twisted into a vision of a magical forest, Chypre Rouge fits comfortably into the existing line, adding yet another interesting olfactory story.