Serge Lutens Sarrasins : Perfume Review

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Sarrasins_4

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

White jasmine, black jasmine. New love, old flame. That is how I think of Sarrasins, the newest fragrance from Serge Lutens’s exclusive range, and À La Nuit, the 2000 launch. Given the deep purple color of Sarrasins, one is led to expect a dark and sonorous rendition of jasmine. However, nothing could be further from the truth—Sarrasins is radiant, almost see-through, from its initial burst of citrus and wintergreen notes to the dry, leathery base. By contrast, À La Nuit has a remarkable heft, given its high calorie oriental base of vanillic balsams and resins. …

Both Sarrasins and À La Nuit are rich flowers, with the animalic facets of natural jasmine left unmasked. However, while À La Nuit plays up the less innocent aura of the flower with indole, a material present in white florals and a product of decay, Sarrasins takes a route via horse stables. The effect of warm leather saddles and animal breath is given mainly by castoreum, a material derived from the scent glands of male beavers. Its warm, smooth aroma is reminiscent of gouache paints and soft leather.

Beautiful jasmine though it is, Sarrasins neither breaks new grounds in perfumery nor offers the same unexpected juxtapositions and exaggerations as other Serge Lutens’ fragrances. I see all of its shortcomings—the slight synthetic feeling of the leather notes, the relative linearity of its structure, the presence of commercial jasmine bases already familiar to me. However, the total is not just a sum of its parts, and the effect it has on me cannot be reduced to its lack of innovation on a technical level. I smell it, and I see jasmine in all of its simplicity and clarity. I see a now old-fashioned way of rendering this classical flower. As much allure and excitement as the future holds, discovering scents that reveal the past matters even more to me at times. I understand more about perfumery smelling these fragrances, and while I am still finding my own place in it, they guide and teach me. For this reason alone, Sarrasins has a special place in my heart.

On the whole, if you love jasmine, I highly recommend both Sarrasins and À La Nuit as renditions that are very true to nature, big and uncompromising. Sarrasins includes notes of bergamot, jasmine, carnation, woods, musk, coumarin, patchouli. À La Nuit—Indian, Egyptian and Moroccan jasmines, green shoots, white honey, clove, benzoin, indole and musk. For more information about Serge Lutens fragrances and where to buy them, please consult Serge Lutens ~ Nearly All Facts.

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36 Comments

  • Elena: I have tried S. and sorry to say, was not crazy about it. But then I just don’t like leathery notes and I have to say that this lack of affection is mutual. The leathery base became very prominent on my skin and suffocated the jasmine.
    Beautiful review, as always. May 23, 2008 at 1:19am Reply

  • carmencanada: The stable note on me was very fleeting — I loved that animalic whiff… I pretty much agree with everything you say about Sarrasins: more elegiac than baroque in feeling. But then there is a nostalgic strain in more recent Lutens releases, I find. Somehow the purple pigments seem to affect the scent — or is it the *perception* of the scent? May 23, 2008 at 2:56am Reply

  • Girlsodeadly: I have different perception of this fragrance here. To me A la Nuit ‘s jasmine is much more animalic and indolic than Sarrasins. I can ‘t wear A la Nuit although its drydown is beautiful, it ‘s just too harsh for me but Sarrasins is gentle, I read somewhere in french that Lutens calls Sarrasins ‘s jasmine a pure jasmine flower and I get that too. I also love the darker background in opposition to the jasmine flower and its hespederic feel, a subtle dusky leather, nothing aggressive or too animalic, just there as a counterpoint. May 23, 2008 at 4:16am Reply

  • Marina: I want to get gouache paints and soft leather! I will re-visit it. May 23, 2008 at 6:46am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Elena, its leather notes are very dry and quite synthetic to me, but overall I do not mind them. Have you tried A La Nuit? May 23, 2008 at 6:56am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Denise, you pointed out the quality in the recent releases that I noticed as well–something nostalgic, tender and wistful.

    This animalic note reminiscent of horses is present in natural jasmine, which is why Sarrasins has such a true to life effect. May 23, 2008 at 7:02am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Girl, we have the same perception them, because I find A La Nuit much more indolic. However, since I love indole, it does not bother me. On the other hand, Sarrasins is more luminous and easier to wear. May 23, 2008 at 7:06am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Marina, if you want to see the gouache note of castoreum, smell Paloma Picasso or vintage Shalimar. They showcase it really well. May 23, 2008 at 7:08am Reply

  • chayaruchama: I SO much enjoyed your review.
    These scents are indeed so much more than merely the ‘sum of all their parts’.
    Many great fragrances have glitches one must ‘get past’…
    [ I enjoy these both, btw- for lots of reasons]

    In Dior Homme, for example, there’s a ‘plastic doll’s head’accord that drives me nuts, but once it’s past- aaaaaah.
    In Lys Mediterranee, there’s a wee bit of Calone that screams in my ear- if I can be patient, then there’s bliss.

    Funny, isn’t it ? May 23, 2008 at 7:09am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Chaya, sometimes flaws throw into relief the beauty of other facets. I can definitely relate to what you’ve experienced! May 23, 2008 at 7:31am Reply

  • Marsi: I haven’t had the chance to smell this one yet, but I just want to say what a treat it’s been to read your reviews again. I have missed your style and substance (and not necessarily in that order) for the last year or so, and your blog is still my top go-to when I’m revisiting old favorite fragrances and want to remember what their compositions are. YOU are the one I wish would write a perfume book!

    Cheers,
    Marsi May 23, 2008 at 10:15am Reply

  • Musette: I must try Sarassins! I love the ‘animal breath’ concept, though obviously it wouldn’t work as a soliflore (wait – what is it when it’s not a flower? ). whatever it is, that plus leather and jasmine sounds like a definite sniffer!

    Thank you for a lovely, luminous review, as always.

    xo May 23, 2008 at 10:16am Reply

  • Suzanne: I’ve not ever tried Sarassins (have sampled A La Nuit, which is exactly as you describe, and I love its sinfully indolic personality!), but I wanted to chime in and second what Marsi said: I wish that you and some of my other favorite perfume bloggers would write a perfume book. I’d stand in line to buy such a book, as I greatly appreciate the stylish, classy and enlightnening way you describe perfumes. May 23, 2008 at 11:12am Reply

  • Sveta: It sounds just lovely. I’m not a big jasmine fan but reading your reviews makes me want to try them all. May 23, 2008 at 11:34am Reply

  • Judith: I need to revisit this. On an initial sniff, I liked it, but was not moved beyond that. So far, I prefer A la Nuit. May 23, 2008 at 11:55am Reply

  • violetnoir: I love A la Nuit’s big indolic blast. Unfortunately, my loved ones feel like they are suffocating when we are “trapped” in the car together. Oh well!

    The color of Sarrasins, that deep rich purple, suits my style, but of the two, I prefer A la Nuit.

    Hugs! May 23, 2008 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Tarn: I LOVE A La Nuit, but it’s not a scent I’d wear to the office – unless I wanted to impress a watercooler crush.. ;-) Sarrasins, on the other hand, sounds like one I may get away with at work. I’ve already ordered a sample of it, which is winging it’s way to me now, so I will find out soon enough! May 23, 2008 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Yelena: You have hit the nail on the head- Sarrasins isn’t innovative or dramatic in any way, but it’s still gorgeous and vital. Like any composition, it has it’s flaws but when viewed from a broad perspective it is masterful. The first time I smelled Sarrasins, I felt shivers of pleasure up and down my back- definitely a rare reaction for me. That type of reaction, I imagine is the perfumer’s most elusive goal. May 23, 2008 at 4:04pm Reply

  • sariah: I’m happy to see your positive review of this one. When it was first released, I read a bunch of meh reviews saying that it was nice, wearable, nothing special, and didn’t seek it out. When a sample came my way in a swap, it was a great surprise. I like your description of a warm leather saddle with jasmine – it’s a good expression of my impression of the perfume. And it is beautiful, while at the same time nothing to be scared of wearing. May 23, 2008 at 5:18pm Reply

  • Chanel22: I think Sarrasins is simply brilliant. It is hard to find a good jasmine fragrance. The leather is nice too. At think point in my life, I’m looking for beauty, not innovation. Thank you for the lovely review. May 26, 2008 at 10:04am Reply

  • risa: Ah, V, beautiful review as always! I vastly prefer Sarrasins to A La Nuit – ALN’s sweetness in the base compounds the sweetness of the jasmine and I end up smelling like I’m trying waaay too hard. In Sarrasins, the animalic factor makes everything seem more pleasant and outdoors-ish, almost fresh despite the nature of the notes. There’s also a grain-ish note to it, like freshly threshed wheat berries, in my mind – picked out of the patchouli by me, I’m sure.

    Of course, my preference might be slanted due to the fact that castoreum works wonderfully well on my skin – Le Labo’s Ciste 18 (I have the original formula) is one of my favorites and one on which I get lots of compliments. I believe I’m biased. ;) May 26, 2008 at 5:05pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Marsi, thank you very much for your kind words. Such encouragement means so much to me. May 27, 2008 at 8:30am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Musette, I would still call it a soliflore, because the animal note is present in jasmine naturally. It is just emphasized slightly more in Sarrasins. I would love to hear your thoughts when you try it. May 27, 2008 at 8:32am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Suzanne, thank you very much! I hope that when the time is right and the inspiration is present, such project will materialize. May 27, 2008 at 8:33am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, this one is definitely for jasmine fans only. :) However, do give it a try! May 27, 2008 at 8:44am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Judith, I also love the intoxicating quality of A La Nuit. Sarrasins is softer, less heady, on the other hand. I oscillate between the two. May 27, 2008 at 8:47am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: R, oh yes, that indolic blast can definitely be overwhelming, but when applied with a light hand, A La Nuit is gorgeous. It is not easy to dose it well, though. May 27, 2008 at 8:49am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Tarn, I would love to hear your thoughts on them. I agree that Sarrasins would be more appropriate for the office. It is somewhat less diffusive. May 27, 2008 at 8:50am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Lena, it is true–nothing is more precious than such a response. All flaws would be forgiven! May 27, 2008 at 8:52am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sariah, “it is beautiful, while at the same time nothing to be scared of wearing” is a perfect description. May 27, 2008 at 9:03am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Chanel22, it is so true–a good jasmine is very difficult to find. Very few jasmine soliflores capture the true aura of the blooming flower. May 27, 2008 at 9:05am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Risa, I may be biased too, because I love castoreum. Its scent even in a raw state is gorgeous! So rich, smooth, velvety… It is amazing what nature produces. May 27, 2008 at 9:08am Reply

  • Cindi: A La Nuit is so nice, but you have to apply it in the right places or it can be too strong. My mother loves it but sometimes if she is a little bit “hot” it can turn, and not in a good way! I have yet to try Sarrasins, but I know that I need to and quick. I love Jasmin, especially black Jasmin. I know I am pretty much alone on this accord, but to me it is almost sexy. May 28, 2008 at 7:58am Reply

  • Tara: I like Sarrasins, although I wish I got more of the leather – all I get is a light jasmine soliflore. I prefer the indoles of A La Nuit. Must try le Labo Ciste 18… May 28, 2008 at 7:47pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cindi, I think that you might enjoy Sarrasins then. It is definitely very close to natural jasmine, with a very sensual undertone. June 4, 2008 at 8:38am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Tara, indole fan like myself definitely would prefer A La Nuit. The indoles are quite underplayed in Sarrasins. June 4, 2008 at 8:39am Reply

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