Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Au Gingembre : Fragrance Review

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Five-Oclock-gingembre

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

Although many Serge Lutens fragrances are based on a similar oriental accord of balsamic amber, violet and pale woods, I cannot resist yet another new interpretation of Lutens’ trademark exoticism. Five O’Clock Au Gingembre fashions the darkness of amber and patchouli into a piquant morsel by building the composition around the classical gourmand notes—chocolate, honey, vanilla and sweet spices. In any other hands this would have resulted in tooth numbing sweetness, but perfumer Christopher Sheldrake (who created most of the Lutens fragrances) manages to strike a balance between oriental amber fantasy and gourmand richness. Dark and rich, Five O’Clock Au Gingembre nevertheless remains effervescent from top to bottom.

Ginger provides a backdrop against which Five O’Clock Au Gingembre develops. Initially, its lemony sharpness makes for a great affinity with the peppery citrus, which significantly lightens the heft of the composition. Once cinnamon and nutmeg begin to unfold, ginger displays yet another appealing facet. Used as part of a gourmand accord, it warms up the composition and bridges the sparkling sensation of citrus and the opaque sweetness of amber.

While Five O’Clock Au Gingembre is full of English teatime references (the bergamot of Earl Grey tea, gingerbread, so on,) to me, it is an oriental tale of candied fruit, sweet incense smoke, carved sandalwood boxes and patchouli scented cashmere shawls. However, the surprising thing is that while Five O’Clock Au Gingembre hits all of the oriental-gourmand notes—amber, vanilla, warm spices – in the end, it is neither a true oriental, nor is it a full-bodied gourmand. It is a crisp wood composition, with just enough sweet amber nuances to make it interesting. This quality is the reason I find Five O’Clock Au Gingembre so alluring. It is mouthwatering, yet abstract enough to tease the senses without overindulging the sweet tooth.

Five O’Clock Au Gingembre (fragrance family: woods) includes notes of bergamot, tea, cinnamon, candied ginger, honey, cacao bean, vanilla, gingerbread accord, patchouli, vetiver. Those who enjoy it might consider Serge Lutens Bois et Fruits, Caron Eau de Réglisse and Comme des Garçons Incense Series Kyoto. It is sold in the export range. The export line fragrances are available from Aedes, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and from some Neiman Marcus locations.

Update July 2012: Five O’Clock au Gingembre has been discontinued in the US, but it will still be available from Serge Lutens’s boutique.

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20 Comments

  • Carrie Meredith: I like this perfume very much, although I prefer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Gingembre if I’m in the mood to wear this kind of scent. It has a much less sweet, more sophisticated edge that I really love. December 22, 2010 at 1:02am Reply

  • Eric Brandon: I think that this was the first Serge I ever put on. I ordered five samples to start but this one arrived first. And though it didn’t stand out much once I tried on Iris Silver Mist and Borneo 1834, I would still get a bottle, once I decide if I need Borneo first or finally replace my broken Dzongkha, or maybe get some vintage Feminite Du Bois. Or maybe some Francis Kurkdjian’s Absolue pour la Soir….

    Yeah, I’m definitely in that stage of “Oh look, I have an extra hundred dollars! Time to buy perfume!” This quarter alone I’ve bought two Serges (Muscs Kublai Khan and Bas de Soie) and some Mitsouko EDP (new formulation–I REALLY cannot afford to slip down the vintage rabbit hole!). I might have to just settle down till summer. December 22, 2010 at 4:50am Reply

  • Olfactoria: This was one of my first Serges too. I love its ginger ale lightness, that is camouflaging a complex and richly layered oriental. I really love the way you talk about perfume, Victoria, your descriptions always hit the nail on the head for me. 🙂 December 22, 2010 at 6:54am Reply

  • Robynne: I have been hoping you might review this one day. I bought it on impulse last year and wondered if I would love it as much over time. I’ve found myself using it surprisingly more often than I expected for an interesting and soothing quality. December 22, 2010 at 8:58am Reply

  • Victoria: You know, I had a large decant of it at first, which I thought would be sufficient for me. Then, this year I kept reaching for Five O’Clock so often that I finally broke down and bought a bottle. I love its combination of sweet-spicy and smoky-leathery. December 22, 2010 at 9:33am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much! 🙂
    You put it well–on the one hand, it is very bright and airy, and yet, it has a rich complexity. I love this contrasted feeling of many Lutens fragrances. December 22, 2010 at 9:47am Reply

  • Victoria: Eric, wow, what an excellent collection you are building! Plus, it hits different registers, so you will definitely not be tired of your scents.
    I admit that Five O’clock is not as interesting as some other Serge Lutens fragrance, but like another favorite Serge Noire, it is really comforting and easy to wear.
    Borneo 1834 is a must have for me, one of the best patchouli renditions by far! December 22, 2010 at 9:51am Reply

  • Victoria: You and Victoria keep mentioning Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Gingembre. Under so much pressure, I cannot resist the temptation! 🙂 December 22, 2010 at 9:52am Reply

  • Alice C: I have a small decant of the Five O’Clock. I love it! It is very comforting to me…my hubby had back surgery on Monday, and I took it with me and wore it all day on surgery day and yesterday as well. (He’s home now and doing well!) December 22, 2010 at 10:46am Reply

  • Victoria: Alice, first all, I wish your husband a very speedy recovery! Hope that it will all be behind him very soon.

    I also find that some scents can be very comforting during stressful times. Maybe, there is something to the aromatherapy ideas. Maybe, it is just that beautiful things can take your mind off the worrisome things for a moment. At any rate, it is one of the many reasons I love perfume. December 22, 2010 at 10:57am Reply

  • linda: I look so forward to your writings Victoria. You have such a lovely way of describing fragrances. I have just discovered Chergui and am enjoying it so much. 5 O’Clock sounds wonderful true. I must order a sample.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Linda December 22, 2010 at 12:08pm Reply

  • March: Can I just say, I love the way you reference other scents — if X appealed to you, you might try A, B and C… I’ll dig up my Gingembre again. I love ginger and the notes sound perfect. I somehow never fell in love with it properly.

    Also, putting in a small plug for the Origins Ginger – I have a little rollerball of it. It’s nothing brilliant, certainly not Lutens, but when I just want some ginger, it’s delightful. December 22, 2010 at 12:10pm Reply

  • March: Oh, and the Roger @ Gallet Gingembre is fun too. December 22, 2010 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Marina: That’s true, almost everything is an interpretation of the same theme, and yet I can’t stop myself from wanting to try yet another one. 5 o’clock left me cold like all recent SLs. But recent releases from him that were not his usual type of scent left me colder still. Basically, I don’t know what it is that I want him to do :))) December 22, 2010 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Linda, thank you for your kind words! Chergui is one of the most interesting Lutens for me, dark, deep, complex. Five O’Clock is not as complex, but it is still very beautiful and will appeal to those of us who love woods and oriental fragrances (wood, sweet, ambery notes.)
    Please let me know how you like it when you sample it! December 22, 2010 at 12:24pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, it started out, because I wanted to keep a better track of everything I smelled. Just a little reminder for myself later. I am glad that you like it, and I hope that it is a little bit helpful to deal with the avalanche of launches!

    Origins Ginger is so fun and playful. I agree with you that it is one of the better gingery scents out there. December 22, 2010 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Victoria: Have not tried it, but will add to my list. New London Pharmacy sells the entire Roger & Gallet range, so it would be easy to try it.
    I don’t know if you’ve tried R&G soaps, but they are fantastic. I have one scented with linden and another one called milk and honey, and they are so good (and not that expensive.) December 22, 2010 at 12:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: I was not as impressed initially, but then I found that I have been wearing it quite often. Granted, when I smell it next to L’Eau or Nuit de Cellophane, it is a genius… December 22, 2010 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Isa: This is my favourite Serge Lutens, no doubt. If I had to pick just two I would choose Five o’clock for fall-winter and Fleurs de Citronnier for spring-summer.

    I don’t own any of them just because they are a little expensive and I can’t afford them. Maybe if I find a job… 🙂

    Some days ago I tried Bas de Soie and I didn’t like it at all. However, I think that Nuit de Cellophane is quite nice.

    Comme des Garçonz Kyoto isn’t my cup of tea. I think it’s because of the coffee note. I prefer Zagorsk and Jaisalmer. December 22, 2010 at 6:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree with you. Bas de Soie is not my cup of tea either. It is very cold and sharp. I would not mind it in a functional product (soap, shampoo, etc.,) but as a fine fragrance, it does not really work for me.
    Kyoto is beautiful, but I confess that I cannot really wear it because of the coffee note. Somehow, it dominates on my skin, and it prevents me from enjoying the soft darkness of Kyoto’s incense note. December 22, 2010 at 7:57pm Reply

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