“Whatever you do, just don’t be boring,” used to say my longtime ballet teacher. In her class, being off music and being boring were the worst crimes, because while everything else–a wrong arm position, an awkward turn or a weak jump–could be corrected through careful guidance, not listening to the music and not caring to excite the viewer spoke of more serious flaws. My teacher’s admonition flashed in my mind when I first smelled Serge Lutens La Religieuse.
La Religieuse belongs to the collection of understated compositions from the master-duo, Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake. It’s in the same polished and well-mannered corner as Nuit de Cellophane, Un Lys and Sa Majesté la Rose. If you want a pleasant fragrance that doesn’t try too hard, the type of perfume that sales associates call an “office scent”, it’s a good choice. If you want a soft, fluffy jasmine, La Religieuse will also hit the spot. But if you come to Serge Lutens to be thrilled and surprised, then you might want to pick another magic carpet ride.
In the typically obscure Lutenesque press release copy, which is unfortunately emulated by too many niche fragrance houses, La Religieuse, The Nun, is described as a fight between good and evil. As this white kitten of a perfume murmurs on my skin, I fail to see anything remotely as dramatic. Instead, the name evokes my favorite dessert, two cream filled choux pastry spheres that obliquely resemble a nun in her habit. The jasmine in Lutens’s version has a candied accent, with strawberry and apricot seeping into the white petals, and the first impression is mouthwatering. A swirl of peppery incense is a sobering touch, enough to cut down the sugar. It gently shades the frilly jasmine accord, and if you were to stop time at this point, La Religieuse is lovely. Not intense and smoldering, but alluring nonetheless.
But time doesn’t stop however much I wish it to, and the fragrance sheds one layer after another, until all that is left is musk and jasmine in soft focus. No need to go all the way to Palais Royal for this experience; your local department store will do. After the initial buildup, this run of the mill finish is disappointing. It doesn’t even last for long after that, although a mild musky aura lingers. La Religieuse is doubly disappointing, because the line already includes two excellent jasmines, À La Nuit and Sarrasins. The former is heady and dramatic, and the latter is introspective and suave. Either is anything but boring.
For more jasmine ideas, please see my article All About Jasmine Perfumes. If you indeed want a soft jasmine musk and don’t want to spend niche prices on it, Yves Rocher Tendre Jasmin, Jennifer Aniston, and Fresh Index Pink Jasmine are good alternatives.
Serge Lutens La Religieuse Eau de Parfum is part of the export line collection.