Scent Gourmand

sinless pleasure for the perfume glutton

Month: July 2016

L’Eau Froide by Serge Lutens

refreshing

Get a whiff of this:

It’s a bright, white day in the mountains and the sun is blasting dappled diamonds into the pristinely-laid blankets of snow surrounding the ski tracks that lie before you. Your lungs are a little sore from the cold and heavy breathing, but judging from the echos of squealing delight from friends ahead on the cross-country path, a down-sloping hill is forthcoming, which will allow you time to catch your breath. And here it is now, and you bend forward and relax into the ride down. You smile as you breathe in through your nose the scent of fresh spruce needles wafting in the cold air that slaps you in the face while gliding down the hill. It’s so crisp and clean you almost feel like you are sucking in marine air, but it’s too peppery, gingery fresh and biting to be Mediterranean. Besides, it’s snowing. The falling snow flakes prick the skin on your face in the wind created by your motion, and on impact they ooze out a mineral, slightly metallic taste on your lips. You feel exhilarated and refreshed.

L’Eau Froide was launched in 2011. When I found, surprisingly, a small Serge Lutens perfume section in one of the duty free shops in Singapore’s Changi Airport last summer, on the way home from a wonderfully relaxing stay at friend’s based in Thailand, I was so glad I’d not gone crazy with the duty free offerings in Bangkok. The ground staff in Thailand had confided to me that duty free perfume offerings in Singapore were better in quality, quantity, and price, and I can now confirm this. I knew right away I was going to invest in a bottle from Sergy baby, but I did not expect it would be L’Eau Froide. No, I thought for sure it would be a number from his selective distribution line, such as Féminité du Bois, Ambre Sultan, Chergui, or Jeux de Peau. I was sure I’d be a complete mess deciding which deep, dark, and spicy concoction I would best like before running to get to my gate and onto the plane, but much to my confusion, I ended up with a bottle from his much cleaner, more reserved and lighter line, Les Eaux. And I purchased the thing with plenty of reading time to spare.

This newer line is clear departure from the established, quintessential Serge Lutens esthetic after which raving fans continue to chase. His other gourmand oriental scents are filled with Rusty Nails, fancied-up Manhattans, and spiked eggnogs, while the new line is more like simple Vodka Martinis and Gin Tonics. The current two scents in the tamer Les Eaux bundle are so different from his other perfumes that it is no wonder many of his loyal collectors are disgruntled, but perhaps because until now I’d never committed to a classic Serge Lutens scent, my views are not as ingrained.

The first fragrance in this line, launched in 2010, was simply called L’Eau, and her younger brother, L’Eau Froide, translated of course as cold water, is the one I got, created a year later. I really like it, obviously, but this is admittedly what I’d define as a weird choice for me. Actually, the perfumer is not Serge, but rather one Christopher Sheldrake. L’Eau Froide does not have the best sillage and it lives much closer to the skin than most offerings from the Luten line.

How did I end up with this bottle as opposed to one of his heftier, louder bombshells? Well, it was summer and I was indeed hot, and I wanted to cool down. What better way to do so than to smell of winter? Also, I love the smell of black pepper. LOVE it – especially when it’s contained in scent and doesn’t make me sneeze! Black pepper is typically not the very first note that many other fume heads might get out of this fragrance, but it is for me, and that black pepper – combined with the ginger and that fresh sea water vibe – completely sold me. I didn’t make it to the frosty incense and musk, which turned out to be lovely if very faint, before taking it to the counter. It was quite simply what I was in the mood for.

Yes, perhaps it was an impulse buy, but I used my bottle it up quickly one fall season in Japan – more like summer from my perspective, being a Canadian. I later learned that L’Eau Froide has mint in it, which is likely why the perfume seems so cooling, but rather than a blast of mint, it’s the aquatic and almost citrus elements (presumably from the frankincense) in the scent that freshen my nostrils.

I perceive L’Eau Froide as a more masculine fragrance. It is a great casual summer day scent, very well-constructed, but the spices in here might allow it to do well all year around. The scent does remind me of my childhood, skiing down a hill in the dead of winter in Mont St-Hilaire, near where I grew up south of Montreal. L’Eau Froide really does smell like beautifully crisp, cold, snowy white, dry water. Yes, I did say dry water. It has an exquisite, ghostly evanescent esthetic that makes you want to sniff for more. Aside from the fact that L’Eau Froide is not a projection monster, one other downside to this scent would be the price. Although you won’t find a similarly beautifully built composition, you could probably find some men’s citrus-y designer sports flanker that carries a similar vibe to L’Eau Froide, but for a fraction of the cost. I have not found one yet, but I’m sure there is one out there.

I try not to let the packaging and bottling of a fragrance influence my view of any perfume too much, but I have to say that the crisp black and white lettering with digital water dots conveys the scent pretty well. The box, as with presumably all SL fragrances, comes with a spray atomizer you can – and should, lest this baby spill over while the cap is off! – exchange for the silver round cap to which the bottle comes attached.

Here’s what Serge has to say about this creation:

“People are always using expressions like: “The situation was too hot for me to handle.” or “A chill ran down my spine.” I simply applied a similar concept to an Eau. The hero of this story is a tree during the dog days of summer. If an incision is made in its trunk, ‘tears of glass’ come out. Without air conditioning, the heat would kill it. Frankincense helps this scent preserve an icy cool.”

From Fragrantica:

  • OLFACTORY GROUP: oriental woody or aromatic spicy
  • MAIN ACCORDS: aromatic, green, balsamic, fresh spicy, smoky, aquatic
  • TOP NOTES: olibanum (frankincense), mint, vetiver
  • MIDDLE NOTES: black pepper, ginger, sea water
  • BASE NOTES: Somalian incense, musk

Streamlining your perfume collection

scent-management

As long as it gives you joy, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a collection, be it stamps, coins, books, dolls, or in my case, and probably yours – perfume. But how do you know if your collection is getting out of control, and how can you manage it?

This year I have been trying to simplify my life, aiming for a more minimalist way of living. Minimalism to me is not about just having enough to survive; it is all about possessing only the most essential things, the things that you need and/or add joy to your life. As everyone’s life is different, everyone’s definition of what is enough and what is essential will be different. For many people the act of collecting is a valued pastime and owning a collection brings a sense of pride and joy. It doesn’t matter what your collection is. Someone who plays video games as a hobby might consider my perfume collection a ridiculous waste of money. I would likely consider their stacks of games and consoles to be nothing more than ugly electronic clutter. If both sets of items are loved and used, however, it’s irrelevant what someone else thinks about your collection.

However, if you are starting to feel overwhelmed with your perfume collection, if you don’t feel comfortable with being in the space which is used to house your collection, or if you feel your fragrance bottles are starting to take over your life, it may be time to get a hold on the situation.

With my perfume, realizing I had to get a grip came one day when I noticed that my scent collection was not only beginning to look cluttered and take up a lot of valuable real estate in my cabinet, but also when I became conscious that I was overwhelmed with the choices I had each morning I reached for a spray. That very day I sat down and calculated how long it would take me to get through the entire collection should I use a few sprays everyday from the next day forward, and was shocked to discover how many years that would take. It was not easy to let go of my treasures, especially since I had invested so much in them, but I ended up making compromises that I am happy with. Here are some guidelines you can use to get your fragrance collection under control, and these tips will work for any collection, actually.

1) Recognize when your collection is getting out of control.

This is actually the hardest step for many people. If not recognized, collecting can potentially turn into hoarding. Are you really a collector, or are you simply an acquirer and a keeper of similar things that do not serve you? Recognize that there’s a lot of conflict, guilt and sentimentality invoked by pastimes in which much time, money, and emotion were heavily invested, and it’s normal to feel this way.

2) Find out what fragrances in your collection are of real value to you.

Go through each scent in your collection to find out which ones are of particular value to you, and those whose stories are not ones you care to have around anymore. This means taking inventory, and going though your fragrances one by one. If you find you love every single scent but are determined to declutter, rate them in importance. Be honest with yourself and donate, sell, give away, or even trash what you can do without. Apply the 80/20 rule – Determine the 20% of perfumes you use 80% of the time, and ditch (or decant) the rest. In the case of my perfume, I found I actually used a great deal of them equally, but I still managed to get rid of 25% of my bottles in this phase. If your collection has become so big that the mere thought of this is overwhelming, enlist the help of a friend or two, and create a scheduled plan of attack. The process need not be completed in a day if more time is really needed.

3) Find out ways to have your cake and eat it, too.

In my case, I am more interested in the precious liquid held in my perfume bottles than the bottles themselves, so I transferred all the perfume I wanted to keep into very cheap 5 to 20 ml decanters. Though plastic is not an ideal container for perfume, I wanted the containers to be light, unbreakable, portable, and cheap (so I could recycle them in some way after use), so I bought some atomizers from the 100 yen shop, then went about transferring perfume into them and making some labels to identify them. I sold or gave away the remaining contents in their original bottles. Now I feel comfortable in knowing that when I move house again (as an expat who changes jobs and location every few years, I will!), my culled perfume collection is now lighter, smaller, cheaper, and safer to transport. Of course, I admit that I also still have full bottles, and there is still that massive box of samples I have, but they all still definitely bring me joy. Sometimes I go through my samples just to literally have a sniff at them, not necessarily to use them right away.

Of course, if the bottles are really much of the joy in your collection, you may need to adapt your strategy. There is nothing wrong with taking pictures of your bottles, for example, and only keeping that 20% that really gives you great pleasure to hold and look at.

4) Organize your fragrance collection.

Now my collection literally takes up 1/10 the space it had originally in my cabinet, and is well-organized, though it is not quite as easy to identify on first glance which perfume is which. The collection is small enough, however, that I can pretty much tell which container contains which fragrance based on the colour of the decanter alone. Can you easily access by memory all the items in your collection? If not, perhaps more culling is needed. Some people create elaborate digital organizing systems for their collections. However, I feel that the best way to organize is to have just the right amount for you such that it’s painless to manage. As you can see from the picture above, I have an transparent acrylic container in which to house part of my downsized collection, and it has its place in my home – my cabinet (now a shelf, actually).

5) Control future collecting.

I will now not be purchasing any more full bottles of perfume unless I am willing to swap out a decanter or two. I am happy with the downsizing progress of my liquid treasures for now, and though it was tough, I’m glad I got rid of so much. I don’t intend to stop buying perfume, but in the meantime I am limiting myself to sample sizes and decanters. This way my collection will slowly decrease even more in size. To manage a collection once you have downsized, I recommend following the one-in-one-out rule; don’t buy a new bottle of perfume unless you are willing to part with one already in your collection. Well, I am practicing what I preach now, but… 😉

Have you ever tackled your fragrance collection?  How did you deal with it?

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