Christopher Sheldrake: 58 posts

Chanel 1932 : Perfume Review


Do you know the feeling when you try an outfit and can’t decide whether it suits you or not? You think, “maybe it would be fine if I were to add a different purse or wear my hair up…” Those are the kind of pieces that end up gathering dust in the closet. Perfume is not exactly like clothing, because some fragrances don’t cast their spell on you immediately, but as my recent experience with Chanel 1932 proved, sometimes the first instinct is the correct one.


I admit to having a certain reverence for Chanel. Its perfume collection includes some splendid gems like No 5, Bois des Iles, Cuir de Russie, and No 19, and even releases like Allure and Coco Mademoiselle have the kind of attention to quality that one rarely finds at department store counters. For this reason, I wasn’t ready to give up on 1932, a new addition to the Les Exclusifs collection, but when I first tried it on my skin I found it to be pale and limpid.

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Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin : Perfume Review


Several years ago I walked around an exhibit devoted to Marlene Dietrich’s collection at the fashion museum in Paris, The Musée Galliera. Among her famous pant suits, feather dresses and sexy lingerie (you had to look through a peep hole for a glimpse of her lacy underthings), were bottles of  cosmetics and tanning oils. One was labelled rose, and another–jasmine.  I don’t remember who made them or what the bottles looked like, but the image of Dietrich stretching out her gorgeous long legs, her glistening skin catching the fine granules of sand, is what surfaces in my mind whenever I hear the star’s name. I can almost smell the rose tanning oil and salt on her warm skin.


I don’t know if in creating La Fille de Berlin, the dream team of Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake thought about Dietrich, and I have never visited Berlin to understand their source of inspiration completely. For me though, it’s a perfume that I imagine Dietrich wearing. It’s beautiful and surprising, but with a dark side. A classical Lutens, in other words.

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Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire : Perfume Review


What can one expect from a fragrance inspired by Billie Holiday’s gardenia, called Une Voix Noire (Black Voice) and created by the dream team of Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake? Heady, dark, convoluted, perhaps? Well, Une Voix Noire is none of these things. It has a surprising combination of softness and warmth. Its presence is generous, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s dramatic without being heady or dense. Une Voix Noire feels velvety the moment you put it on, and it gracefully moves from one stage to another. Frankly, if Lutens said that he was inspired by ballerina Maya Plisetskaya’s Black Swan, rather than by Lady Day, I would have believed him.

I admit that this Lutens wasn’t love at first inhale the way Bois de Violette or De Profundis have been for me.  I anticipated the heady, the dark and the bittersweet, and I missed them in this soft perfume.  Nevertheless, I’m glad that I went along for the ride, because Une Voix Noire forced me to take our courtship slowly and to fall in love with it one layer at a time.

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Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule : Perfume Review


As I described in my post on sandalwood fragrances the other day, I’ve always had a romantic and exotic association with sandalwood. Its perfume of roses and cream–so rich, so haunting, so long lasting–seems like a whiff from some other world. Scheherazade’s palace in the Arabian Night Tales must smell of sandalwood. If so, who would be better placed to create a fairytale sandalwood perfume than the man who made a career out of worshiping beauty–Serge Lutens.

Like a modern day Scheherazade, Lutens weaves one tale after another, with the leitmotif of a fantasy running through the collection. Perhaps it is for this reason that his large range doesn’t feel redundant. Or perhaps I’m too much of a fan of his tales to be tired of them. Whatever the case may be, Santal Majuscule is the latest fragrance to cast upon me the Lutensian spell.

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Serge Lutens L’Eau Froide : Fragrance Review


When Serge Lutens presented L’Eau, I found it baffling—it smelled of laundry musks and a whisper of florals, but eventually I took it in stride. When the master has been busy weaving opulent tapestries for the past twenty years, it is only fair that he pursues some other olfactory avenues to remain inspired. When L’Eau Froide crossed my path, I no longer felt any strong emotion about Lutens’ new direction. After all, the man has given us glorious Jeux de Peau and De Profundis! As it turns out, L’Eau Froide is wonderful—a crisp, sparkling cologne of incense and citrus.


The first impression is a chill of ginger and lemon. Ginger sometimes smells like the most citrusy of all citrus fruits, and this is exactly how it features in L’Eau Froide. Its effervescence lends itself perfectly to the cool demeanor of a perfume that means Cold Water in French. After a few more minutes, the bergamot, lemon and pepper begin to sing a cappella.

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