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.