Serge Lutens Rousse : Fragrance Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Lipstick and candied lady apples were the first associations that Rousse, the newest Serge Lutens’s fragrance, brought to my mind. One was conjured by the powdery violet note, the other by the intensely sweet and caramelized wood. Although I loved Chypre Rouge and Mandarine-Mandarin, Rousse was somewhat of a let down. It possesses neither the distinctive presence of Lutens’s fragrances like Iris Silver Mist and Ambre Sultan nor the classical elegance that marks Rose de Nuit and Chêne. It is simply a pleasant scent, but then again, the world is full of them. From Serge Lutens, I expected nothing but breathtaking, even if not conventionally pretty. …

Based on the scent of cinnamon wood, Rousse does in fact conjure woods, rather than a cinnamon sprinkled apple pie. Its woody accord based on cedar takes a page from a number of Lutens’s classics, namely Féminité du Bois, the mother of Les Eaux Boisées (Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Bois Oriental , and Bois et Fruits.) The dense sweetness melts away in the heart of the composition, although the dry and somewhat cloying effect reminiscent of powdered sugar remains vivid.

The delicate powdery notes tinged with cinnamon, violet and vetiver form the drydown of Rousse. There is a subtle warmth permeating the composition, which is very pleasing. The fragrance is surprisingly soft-spoken, given its intense start. While the lasting power is decent, the sillage is quite minimal. Rousse is not difficult to wear, unlike some other Serge Lutens’s perfumes, and yet it is not particularly memorable. “Nice and pretty” are the only adjectives that I keep wanting to say, and this in itself attests to my disappointment.

Serge Lutens Rousse is going to be available at Shiseido Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris. Since it is a part of the Lutens export range, it is expected to appear in US stores carrying the line.

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44 Comments

  • Jason: ‘Nice and pretty’?!?! Oh no! I had such high hopes. Admittedly, nice and pretty might translate into wearable for me (as opposed to the more ‘interesting’ miel de bois) but I do like to be challenged. It sounded rather masculine when I read the notes and description, however if it is very violet-y then it might me a bit too much. What do you think?

    I suppose I will probably be dead and gone before this finally arrives in Australia… At least I won’t be in an anxious hurry to smell it!

    Thanks for yet another engaging and evocative review – I almost feel like I’m there sniffing away with you as I read, you are very good at conjuring up scents! And congratulations for being very on top of things, I wasn’t expecting to read any more about this for a while. January 31, 2007 at 1:00am Reply

  • Laura: That sounds odd! Maybe he’s mellowing in his old age. Cloying powdered sugar and minimal sillage (maybe the latter is all for the best, under the circumstances!) do not entice. Everyday I check to see if you’ve reviewed the new Chanels, dear Victoria. Not to rush you or anything (ha!) but I am waiting enthusiastically for the Victorian opinion ;D. January 31, 2007 at 5:41am Reply

  • Judith: For me, this was initially reminiscent of red-hots (a cinnamon candy); the drydown was pleasant but disappeared quickly on me. Meh.
    J January 31, 2007 at 7:21am Reply

  • carmencanada: Isn’t strange, this one is the second SL I don’t feel compelled to rush out, sniff and buy the instant it hits the stores… I must say that Chypre Rouge, an impulse buy, did not fulfill my expectations. I’ve never been head over heels with the export collection to start with… Is Lutens starting to run around in circles? Like Marina, I would like to see him try another floral or a green.
    I was also very surprised to find a full page ad for Mandarine Mandarin in a free magazine distributed in the Parisian metro (a somewhat chic and trendy one, admittedly). I’m not a magazine buyer so correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t think that the exclusives were advertised at all. Also, there was a grammatical mistake in the copy which really shocked me. What’s the world coming to? January 31, 2007 at 7:30am Reply

  • March: V — picture me, please, doing a ridiculous dance of vindication upon reading this (cup of coffee in one hand.) I got lavender/incense/woods – a Gris Clair-ish smell, only very much weaker (and Gris Clair isn’t exactly a dynamo on me to begin with.) I have no idea why my nose is misfiring, but I can say a friend tried it and got exactly the same thing — wonder if cinnamon/violet/vetiver can misfire in my brain as lavender? And the sillage is nonexistent, not my usual SL experience.

    I loved CR, mostly for that immortelle note.

    I am curious — do you have a favorite SL or two? A slightly different twist: which do you think is the finest or most interesting? January 31, 2007 at 7:50am Reply

  • Marina: “The world is full of pleasant smells” – exactly! One expects something more striking from SL. I can’t get myself excited about the “almond” scent that is supposed to be comeing out (if that is even true)…would it be oriental-spicy-ish again? I want SL to make a floral scent, or, as someone suggested, a green one. :-) January 31, 2007 at 9:23am Reply

  • violetnoir: “Nice”? “Pretty”? That does not sound good at all. And I was so looking forward to this one, especially since I fell in love with Ambre Sultan and Daim Blond this past Fall…

    Oh well. :( I’ll still test it anyway.

    Hugs! January 31, 2007 at 11:47am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Jason, Rousse is more in the pleasant and wearable category. I would not say that it is overly feminine. A man can wear it easily. As for Miel de Bois, I am not at all a fan. Not only is it completely unwearable on me, I do not even find it interesting (except for a lesson in how to recreate the smell of NYC alleyways in the summer). :) January 31, 2007 at 12:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Laura, I do not like many of export line fragrances from Serge Lutens, with a few exceptions. As for Chanel, soon, soon, soon! January 31, 2007 at 12:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, redhots is another thing I thought about.

    It is interesting that for me the smell of cinnamon is not that of true cinnamon (which is what redhots smell like), but of cassia. I read someplace that most of the cinnamon used traditionally in Europe is of cassia bark. January 31, 2007 at 12:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, that is indeed quite shocking! I do not remember seeing many ads for the exclusive line, but perhaps I just missed them. On the other hand, I saw plenty of editorials on it in various newspapers. January 31, 2007 at 12:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I can see the fruity facet of lavender here, although I do not notice the green aspect as much. Moreover, I can certainly see what you mean by incense. Chypre Rouge was distinctive, and I also loved its immortelle/fenugreek note. Rousse is rather flat.

    As for my favourite SLs, I would have to name Iris Silver Mist, Bois Oriental, La Myrrhe, Borneo 1834 and Santal de Mysore today. The finest is Chene in its classical (yet twisted) form and Bois de Violette for its subtle and harmonious structure. January 31, 2007 at 12:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, I am with you–I would love a floral from Serge Lutens. Another voluptuous take on jasmine, perhaps. With rich woods. That has my name written all over it. :) January 31, 2007 at 12:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I would be curious to hear what you think of it. Well, it is pleasant and lovely, but I just expect more than this from Serge Lutens. January 31, 2007 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Robin: Chypre Rouge & Mandarine Mandarin were both nice, but I wasn’t enchanted with either, and this doesn’t sound especially tempting. And I’m not likely to love the upcoming almond. So…a long wait for something to love from SL, drat for me, yay for my wallet. January 31, 2007 at 1:51pm Reply

  • allanah: I think it ‘s good that Serge Lutens also has many pretty nice pleasant sexy scents with less character and complexity than Chypre Rouge, Iris Silver Mist or Rose de Nuit and that can be ‘everyday fragrances’.

    my favorite ones are Fleurs d ‘Oranger (why no review yet? FDO ‘s become over the years the best Lutens seller, not only because it ‘s a great fruity spicy floral but women must have noticed its stunning power on men lol), Clair de Musc, Cedre and Un Lys. Tubereuse Criminelle is beautiful too, not an everyday fragrance but on me it ‘s very wearable from top notes to drydown, a fruity tuberose that ‘s so sensual. January 31, 2007 at 2:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, well, money saved, right? I am not particularly excited about the almond fragrance either, but perhaps it is going to be very unusual and interesting. January 31, 2007 at 3:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Allanah, the answer to your “why no review yet” of Fleurs d’Oranger is very simple–lack of time to review everything. I do like it very much, along with Cedre, Un Lys and Clair de Musc. They are distinctive enough, however, and this is what I admire about Serge Lutens. Rousse is just lackluster. Of course, you should try it for yourself and make your own mind. January 31, 2007 at 3:38pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Dear V., this is totally off-topic but I am experiencing sudden and irrational fear that Chanel will discontinue the rue Cambon extraits once they launch the new collection of exclusives. Octavian notes on his blog 1000 fragrances that the N°22 and Cuir de Russie testers are no longer available at the rue Cambon and avenue Montaigne boutiques. Not to start a stampede here, but are you in any way aware of their plans? January 31, 2007 at 5:02pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear D, they are probably just changing the packaging. There are no plans to discontinue anything as of right now. I asked several different people, since one time a question of parfum discontinuation was brought by a reader here. So, no need to panic. Of course, if I hear something to the contrary, you will be the first to know! January 31, 2007 at 5:13pm Reply

  • carmencanada: Thank you! That means I can save up for the 30 ml… Ouf! January 31, 2007 at 5:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I actually just bought a 15ml bottle of No 5 parfum and Gardenia parfum. The more I sample other fragrances, the more I am impressed with Chanel’s quality. I think that I will save up for another bottle of Bois des Iles parfum next. January 31, 2007 at 5:33pm Reply

  • Gaia, the non-blonde: I will have to try and hope for the best. I want much more than a forgettable cinnamon scent. January 31, 2007 at 7:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Gaia, please do! I would be curious how it works for you. January 31, 2007 at 7:58pm Reply

  • March: V — thanks for your thoughtful response. I need to retry Chene. January 31, 2007 at 8:52pm Reply

  • Bela: I’m shocked to hear that Mandarine-Mandarin was advertised in a magazine. As far as I know, the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido have *never* advertised any of the Exclusives before.

    I haven’t smelled Rousse. I doubt I would be as besotted with it as I am now of Tubéreuse Criminelle.

    I did like Chypre Rouge but not enough to acquire it. February 1, 2007 at 12:34am Reply

  • Tigs: V: Interesting to see the mixed reviews on this one. The export line does not really set my house afire, but I do adore Douce Amere, and Arabie and Santal Blanc are nice enough, too. Keep meaning to try Chypre Rouge. I know you are busy, but I have to put a plug in for a review for Chene, my favourite from the exclusive line, so different from other SLs, and a desert island scent for me. I know you mention it frequently, but I’d love to see a full review… February 1, 2007 at 1:10am Reply

  • allanah: in response to Bela, yes Les Salons have advertised a few times their fragrances (Chergui, Chene, Borneo, Mandarin-Mandarine) in art magazines that are very elitist and fortunately never in fashion magazines, I m shocked she didn ‘t know that LOL!! (no offense but unfortunately her Lutens page suffers a few inconsistencies and errors).
    I saw those ads pictures online didn ‘t keep the link but it ‘s a great site that specializes in perfume ads. February 1, 2007 at 3:40am Reply

  • YUZU: What do you mean by “yet twisted” regarding Chêne. Is it because it is planned to be the next SPR fragrance to join the Export line ? Do you think perfumes could be, even the slightest modified, when they do so ? February 1, 2007 at 11:54am Reply

  • YUZU: What do you mean by “yet twisted” regarding Chêne. Is it because it is planned to be the next SPR fragrance to join the Export line ? Do you think perfumes could be, even the slightest modified, when they do so ? February 1, 2007 at 11:54am Reply

  • allanah: I wouldn ‘t be surprised, I noticed a difference with the exclusive Fleurs d ‘Oranger compared to the export version last year. The exclusive was always the same bold floral with a lot of jasmine. On the other hand the export version feels like a diet Fleurs d ‘Oranger, softer, smoother, less jasmine, more tuberose and orange blossom.
    At least I hope they won ‘t touch the original Fleurs d ‘Oranger when it comes to the Palais Royal line.
    Serge Lutens once said FDO was so expensive to produce, before it went to the export line in the 90’s they were losing money everytime they were producing it. February 1, 2007 at 3:54pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, my pleasure! It is a fun topic. February 1, 2007 at 6:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bela, Chypre Rouge and even Gris Clair were lovely. Rousse leaves a lot to be desired for me. February 1, 2007 at 6:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tigs, I love Douce Amere especially, but overall, I have more luck with the exclusive line. There are few fragrances from it I actively dislike. Rousse seems somehow bland. I wonder how well it might do overall. February 1, 2007 at 6:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Allanah, from my own experience of maintaining a website, I would say that it is a lot of work, much more than what most people envision. Of course, if one finds specific mistakes, one should alert the webmaster. Bela’s site is a free resource available to all. It is a good idea to help each. February 1, 2007 at 6:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yuzu, I meant twisted in a sense of classical structure with an edge (stylistic twist). I did not mean in the sense of the formula being changed. The formulas of fragrances that are available both in export and exclusive lines are identical. They do not change them spefically for export. February 1, 2007 at 6:32pm Reply

  • chayaruchama: I liked the Rousse, as it was very soft and pretty.
    Will I buy it ?
    When I have Un Santal and Bois Oriental tucked away… probably not.
    I do think that it is very wearable, but one would expect something more from SL… February 2, 2007 at 11:52am Reply

  • evilpeony: was at the shiseido les salons du palais-royal just a week ago…. completely ignored the export lines, so too bad to miss this one out. even if it is a bomb, i still would like to experience it myself and form an opinion about it :-( it would be nice to know how a “nice and pretty” SL compares to blockbuster department store juice… just as a benchmark case ;-) February 4, 2007 at 7:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, I completely agree with you. If I did not have a few other similar Lutens, I would have viewed Rousse differently. As it is, I shall enjoy the extraordinary others from the line. February 4, 2007 at 9:56pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evilpeony, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. One thing is, for sure, Rousse is far better than a blockbuster department store juice. February 4, 2007 at 9:57pm Reply

  • Charles: Thank you for your review and congratulations on being a judge at the FiFi Awards this year. I am sure is was exciting.
    The last time I wrote I was disappointed of your lack of interest in the Parfumerie Générale line as a whole however, I understand for you are speaking from your experience. I do value your opinion.
    When I first started to read you I felt we had similar tastes but I suppose we can not always agree on everything.
    This now brings me to your disappointment in Rousse. After one quick spray on the arm, without going to a lot of comment, it seems a little light in its projection. Second to the scent projection is key for me… If I can not detect the scent then no matter how much we all theorize the accords, notes, how well its blended and if it will become a classic, its all academic if I can not smell it. I like Rousse but I shall see on Monday with a full test run as I have the bottle.
    Would it not be fun to sit, one on one, with Serge & Christopher both – no recorders no paper, no pencils and just have them give it to us straight their thoughts on each creation. What they feel the successes and failures were on each one… the real truth and nothing but the truth, so help you Serge and Cris. March 25, 2007 at 5:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Charles, definitely! Projection/sillage is a very important factor for me as well when I review something. I like some light sillage fragrances, but in general, the scent should be easy enough to detect on the skin after a couple of hours.

    Moreover, thank you for sharing your thoughts, as always. Whether one agrees or disagrees with me, the most satisfying aspect of writing on a blog platform is in obtaining thoughtful and interesting comments. March 25, 2007 at 7:06pm Reply

  • voyageuse imaginaire: I found Rousse the most exciting subtle refined scent of Lutens latest releases. an initial burst of sparkling cinnamon, mandarin with apple undertones and hot pepper evolving into more profound deeper notes of soft spice, cedar, sandalwood and cinnamon wood, violet, carnation, iris, musk, vanilla and balsamic amber. the gourmand notes are understated and not overwhelming and overtly sweet making it an all year round perfume. Rousse is not a cookie cinnamon, it is an aphrodisiac erotic cinnamon, nicely mysterious, elegant and ladylike. nothing smells sexier to the opposite sex! just like Serge Lutens ‘Fleurs d ‘Oranger this fragrance is getting me a lot of hot compliments by men. women who loved the sensuality of Féminité du Bois and the airy/earthy abstract complexity of Bois de Violette will fall in love with this one too. April 10, 2007 at 1:41am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I got a few drops from a sample of Rousse and fell absolutely in love with it. Such a comfortable, refined, soft glowing smell of cinnamon. Sillage modest, longevity idem dito, but I would spray it in my hair and on fabric. I want it for Christmas…but I think it has been discontinued. October 4, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

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