In 2010, Serge Lutens announced to the world he was about to launch a new fragrance, an eau de parfum that would change the way his collection read. Everything was different. The bottle looked different, the theme was different and of course, the scent itself was so different from anything Lutens had created, I believe many of his fans became paralyzed with a fear that their revered leader had turned his back on them. Luten’s coined the term anti-perfume to describe this new scent. When I visited the Lutens boutique hidden away in the Palais Royale gardens of Paris, Sandrine, the boutique’s director aptly described the parfum as Serge’s break. I guess, a break in the sense of L’Eau being like a palette cleanser that is served during a degustation menu of haute cuisine. I say degustation, because Luten’s work is often associated with food. Either literally, with the notes his perfumes carry, or in a thematic sense because the stories and emotions his work evokes are not dissimilar to those aroused by a decadent culinary experience. If L’Eau serves as a break from his previous work, like a rest between musical notes or an orator’s pause between words, then it makes sense for the viewer to appreciate L’Eau within the context of Luten’s entire collection. After all, a rest or pause only makes sense in the company of the music or words it lies between. Amongst his other creations of carnal flowers, burnt resins and gourmand spices, L’Eau is a refreshing breeze, like a wind carrying the scent of clean laundry drying in the morning sun. It is the smell of white, like the stylized white faces in Luten’s fashion photographs. Next month, another Luten’s eau will be launched into the collection, L’Eau Froide- cold water. It is reported to feel like the initial shock of cold, which awakens the skin. The new perfume received a discrete press launch in 2011 and initial reviews have again captured my attention. The L’Eau series is a nice reminder from one of perfumes most respected minds that we should not make the assumption that a Lutens perfume needs to conform to the boundaries many critics as well as fans have placed on Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake’s creative partnership.
During the product’s launch Serge Lutens proclaimed his disinterest in creating an eau de cologne, preferring his new scent to be described as eau de cleanliness or even better, an anti-perfume. To achieve this, L’Eau is a clever layering of notes the Now Smell This website have listed as aldehydes, citrus, magnolia, white mint, clary sage, ozonic notes and musk. The scent is relatively linear and most ingredients are immediately perceivable. Only the citrus accord and some fruity top notes take their early leave. What is left is an ozonic haze that includes aldehydes and white musk. The floral notes are delicate and feminine and extend right to the end of the fragrance in terms of tenacity. Garnishing this chemical cocktail, mint and sage give the fragrance an earthy, natural edge.
The clean scent of L’Eau is one of a number of recent perfumes well suited to sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorders. It genuinely smells of freshly washed skin. Lutens describes it perfectly as the scent of “stepping out of the bath, putting on a freshly ironed shirt or slipping into bed with clean sheets” (via Osmoz website). On men L’Eau holds a sense of innocence. This is a softly spoken man who is considerate and attends to details. Some men may find L’Eau too timid, or perhaps even pointless. Others who are not accustomed to wearing fragrance may find L’Eau extremely comfortable. I have two other ‘clean’ scents in my collection. One is Frederic Malle’s Outrageous! by Sophia Grojsman and Francis Kurkdjian’s Aqua Universalis. Outrageous! is an abstract male and Aqua Universalis is for the dreamer. Serge Lutens’ L’Eau is for the thinker who records his thoughts with cedar pencils and recycled notebooks.
Perfumer: Christopher Sheldrake (Givaudan)
Bottle designer: Serge Lutens
Release date: 2010
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Soft Floral