Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge : Fragrance Review



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

The most compelling aspect of Serge Lutens’s fragrances lies in their exaggerated character, whether it is the tannic bitterness of oak in Chêne, the hay sweetness of coumarin in Chergui or the mineral chill of iris in Iris Silver Mist. Chypre Rouge does not deviate from the jewel encrusted opulence that one can glimpse in other Lutens compositions; however, the finished result reflects a blend of various elements that can equally well recount the story of Scheherazade as well as that of Hänsel und Gretel. …

Created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, who despite his appointment with Chanel continues to work with Serge Lutens, Chypre Rouge seems to unfold in the reverse—the initial curried woody darkness slowly melts into the plumy sweetness of the sandalwood and oakmoss overlaid base. The spicy intensity of the top notes recalls the maple syrup richness of immortelle, the darkness of anise scented licorice as well as the savory warmth of fenugreek. It is at once a scent of pecans caramelizing in a burnt sugar crust as well as an aroma of masala spices hitting hot oil. On the blotter, this later impression is most prevalent–a strangely compelling fragrance, but completely unimaginable as a scent that one would want to carry around on one’s body.

Yet, after a few minutes on warm skin, the composition begins to display a more classical fruity chypre character, and Chypre Rouge loses its references to Middle Eastern souks and European mincemeat pies. The floral accents light up the heart in much the same way that the glow of candles inside Byzantine churches causes the mosaic inlaid vaults to rain shimmering lights. The creamy, woody sweetness softens the honeyed darkness of its composition, while the mossy chill and the fruity rose lend an interesting transparent, yet rich effect.

While Chypre Rouge recalls the woody silkiness of Santal de Mysore, its candied spicy flowers are reminiscent of Caron Aimez Moi. Notwithstanding its strange beginnings, the composition assumes a classically elegant form, making Chypre Rouge less challenging than some other fragrances from Serge Lutens. A floral bouquet twisted into a vision of a magical forest, Chypre Rouge fits comfortably into the existing line, adding yet another interesting olfactory story.



  • Elle: What absolutely gorgeous imagery! I have no doubt now that I’ll adore this one. Aedes said they’ll have it by mid-August, which suddenly seems three centuries away instead of a few weeks. I’m also very glad to hear that Chris Sheldrake is still working w/ Serge. July 24, 2006 at 12:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ina, it is quite interesting. As a Serge Lutens fan, I am very pleased. July 24, 2006 at 1:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, when I first tried it on the blotter, I was intrigued, but I could not imagine wanting to smell of it. However, on the skin, the top notes fade into the heart much quicker, and the rest of the story is quite alluring, especially if you like Serge Lutens’s exotic pairings to begin with. July 24, 2006 at 1:36pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marina, it is actually much lighter than what the top notes suggest, but I do not mind it. The reason I cannot stand Arabie is that dark, dense sweetness. It is simply too much. Not so with Chypre Rouge. It seems to be more balanced. July 24, 2006 at 1:37pm Reply

  • violetnoir: I love your review, V! Most SL’s don’t work for me, but I test all of them and can’t wait to test this one.

    Hugs! July 24, 2006 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Robin: Sounds interesting, if not necessarily like something I’ll love…and also, nothing like what I’d expect from the name if I didn’t know it was by Serge Lutens. Thanks for the great review, V! July 24, 2006 at 3:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, I agree–it is rather difficult to grasp what it is like, because it does not seem to work according to the expected patterns. Still, like all Lutens, it is very unusual July 24, 2006 at 3:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R (violetnoir), thank you! I can never resist trying something, even if I know that I may dislike it. One never knows where the gems might be found. July 24, 2006 at 3:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I certainly expected something a bit different, but I am not complaining. I am very much enjoying the entire process of development, from the strange rummy-nutty top notes to the woody floral base. July 24, 2006 at 3:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Diane, I love the unusual juxtapositions as long as they work. The overly self-conscious exoticism of some niche lines puts me off, but in SL range, none of it seems to be present. July 24, 2006 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Ina: Thanks, V.! What a scrumptious description! Sounds like I’m about to have my heart stolen once again. 😉 July 24, 2006 at 12:17pm Reply

  • Marina: Sounds wonderful! Love the immportelle note and everything esle sounds lovely too. Cannot wait for my decant to arrive! July 24, 2006 at 1:00pm Reply

  • chaya ruchama: I can’t wait…it seems to have my name written all over it-

    As always, I love being regaled by your prose- so skillful!

    Thank you… July 24, 2006 at 5:32pm Reply

  • Laura: Wow, this sounds complex and unique—and then you say it has elements similar to Aimez Moi! I guess that’s part of the complex and unique character, though. And somehow it has a classical feel, too. I can’t grasp all of this, but if I could, there’d be no need to buy it! Excellent essay, V. July 24, 2006 at 2:36pm Reply

  • Diane: It sounds interesting, if anything else–an unusual juxtaposition of notes. I love this phrase in your last line: “A floral bouquet twisted into a vision of a magical forest… ” Just wonderful. July 24, 2006 at 3:23pm Reply

  • Katie: Interesting. It will be cool to see how different folks wear it as it becomes available. “The creamy, woody sweetness softens the honeyed darkness of its composition, while the mossy chill and the fruity rose lend an interesting transparent, yet rich effect.” This sounds quite old-fashioned in a way (thinking specifically of Fath’s Canasta.) Can’t wait to try it! Thanks, V 🙂 July 24, 2006 at 5:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Chaya, thank you. I am glad that you are enjoying it. Chypre Rouge is certainly interesting, and the more I wear it, the more I am drawn to it. July 24, 2006 at 10:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, there is nothing old-fashioned about it or reminiscent of Canasta (I do love that composition by Fath). It is quite a modern composition, however I would agree that it has a number of classical elements. Very interesting. July 24, 2006 at 10:27pm Reply

  • marchlion: I admire most of the SLs I have smelled rather than love them — they’re like compelling works of art that I wouldn’t choose to hang in my own home. This one surprised me. I am just … head over heels about it. I am not even sure I could say objectively that it smells nice on me — it’s very dark, and the sweetness is quite subdued. But there is something profoundly moving about it. July 25, 2006 at 11:18am Reply

  • uella: Sounds like another Lutens composition that morphs beautifully on the skin and can ‘t be trusted by its top notes only. I ‘m very intrigued by the immortelle note. I love the mystical imagery of “The floral accents light up the heart in much the same way that the glow of candles inside Byzantine churches causes the mosaic inlaid vaults to rain shimmering lights.” July 25, 2006 at 3:09pm Reply

  • carmencanada: I’ve already bought this one… It’s a very intriguing scent, intensely poetic, both gourmand and dry, exotic and familiar. It borders just on the edge of being something wearable — ie a scent you would want to smell of, rather than just smell to appreciate. But I have worn it and every time I’ve smelled different things going on. Either the Lapsang souchong-licorice note comes out first, or the “ras-el-hanout” note (mixture of Moroccan spices), but always with an intriguing coolness along with the warmness, reminiscent of anise, cardamom, fennel seeds. To me it reaches a new level of achievement for the Lutens-Sheldrake team, yet it might also mark a limit. Where can they go from there, in that direction? I would love to see that sort of complex work on floral notes. July 26, 2006 at 4:44am Reply

  • cynthia: It sounds like a must try! Thank you for another fabulous review. July 26, 2006 at 1:38pm Reply

  • Tara: Aha, so you liked it enough to buy it Carmencanada! I am loving my bottle too, I notice different things every time I wear it. For me, it starts out as a sweety woody scent like Chene, then morphs into a spicy Arabie, then I get Bois et Fruits candied fruits, and finally a tea note. It starts off heavy and sweet but the drydown lightens considerably and it is quite wearable even in the summer heat. Another masterpiece by SL/CS! July 26, 2006 at 6:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I cannot agree more with what you say about Lutens’s work. Chypre Rouge is quite wearable, however. Its sweetness is just enough, never overwhelming. July 30, 2006 at 10:00am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Uella, I smelled it and I immediately imagined a cross between churches in Ravenna and palaces in Rajasthan, where the ceilings are inlaid with tiny pieces of mirrors, creating an illusion of starry skies. July 30, 2006 at 10:02am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear D, I am with you–a work on a complex floral is certainly in order. I would have loved to see Sheldrake-Lutens’s take on mimosa. July 30, 2006 at 10:03am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, it is my pleasure! Thank you. July 30, 2006 at 10:04am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, that is a beautiful description. I definitely notice a bit of Bois et Fruits like fruity sweetness, which is very alluring. July 30, 2006 at 10:04am Reply

  • Redhead: Thank you for making me feel better, I thought I was going crazy, honestly. I’ve had a sample of Chypre Rouge in my possession over a year now and there was something not quite right about it, but i couldn’t put my finger on what is it was. I felt like there are some red/dark red berries (like those Siberian cranberries with soft skin, overripe and with a distinct flavour), but there was no mention about those berries in the notes and none of the reviews i read pointed them out. I thought I was going crazy. Your review is the first which mentions “fruity rose” which makes sense now! Who knows, I might be able to appreciate this scent even more now! October 6, 2021 at 4:51am Reply

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