Wednesday, May 22, 2013

De Profundis Clamavi: Serge Lutens De Profundis

Writing about an item that I’ve coveted a great deal is always an experience that I savor. In this case I have been ruminating on my thoughts for over two months eagerly making notes and awaiting the arrival of an extravagant treat, a full bottle of Serge Lutens De Profundis. I am admittedly new to the perfume world, but after tentatively dipping my toes into the pond I have fallen in headfirst. Since then I have been smelling as many perfumes as possible and jotting notes down in a Moleskine notebook with the aim of refining my palette, gaining a better understanding of how notes play together and how they work with my chemistry. I’m sure any perfume-ista will tell you that they have a soft spot for a specific perfume house or two. In my budding experience as a fragrance fanatic, that house is unquestionably Serge Lutens.

As a lover of intrigue and the macabre, I relish the sense of wonder and mystery Lutens manages to weave around his creations. Perhaps most so with De Profundis. Released in 2011 and created by Christopher Sheldrake for the line of Palais Royal exclusives, this fragrance seems to evoke a wide and varied array of responses in those who smell it from distaste and malaise to introspection and serenity. In typical Lutens fashion, De Profundis was released with an explanation of the inspiration behind the fragrance: an essay by Oscar Wilde written during his imprisonment that in turn alludes to Psalm 130 and a poem by Charles Baudelaire from Les Fleurs du Mal that very poignantly addresses death. Unfortunately the inspiration behind a fragrance can often color perception, particularly when it grapples with such intangible concepts. Fragrance is indeed subjective: what one dislikes another may adore … and I am madly in love with De Profundis.

Given the inspiration for De Profundis, I expected a flat and mournful fragrance upon application. To the contrary the perfume soars with bright green notes immediately upon application, mellows into the damp smell of soil and long since blossomed flowers (violet, chrysanthemum, carnation and lilac) and lingers on the skin with the unmistakable fragrance of incense. De Profundis seems equally perfect for a grey spring or late autumn day, though I love it so much that I have happily forged ahead and applied it in bright and sunny weather. This fragrance manages to achieve the sweet smell of rain drenched soil with just blooming greenery as much as it evokes the smell of autumnal decay.

Even aside from the manifold macabre inspirations, I have never encountered a fragrance that evokes more imagery than De Profundis. Smelling this perfume tells a story unique to she or he who wears it. Given the sombre funerary implications of the notes, I'm immediately reminded of a walk through one of my favorite places on earth, la cimetière du Père-Lachaise, on a cold and grey autumn afternoon. The floral notes do call to mind the appearance of a dried Victorian funeral wreath, preserved for perpetuity in a deep and ornate frame. All this imagery might give the impression that this is a deep gothic scent, yet it couldn't be farther from it. The bright green notes evoke the feeling of sitting by a window watching pouring rain, as the smell of a dew dappled garden is blown in by a gentle breeze. If "de profundis" refers to a call from the depths of emotion, then the Serge Lutens interpretation involves a sort of hopefulness embodied by the bright green notes that have been included in this complex fragrance.

De Profundis is a perfume for one who does not mind being alone, or more aptly being alone with their thoughts. It is an indulgent and somber perfume created for those who love a fragrance that tells a story, and builds upon the initial intrigue as the notes develop against warm skin.

 Have you had the opportunity to smell the Serge Lutens masterpiece, De Profundis? What is the most complex fragrance in your collection?