Friday, June 23, 2006

Fragrance of the Moment: Serge Lutens Douce Amere

I don't know if it's a new love but it's definitely a new like and I'd wear it again. It's a very unique fragrance with sharp and almost medicinal top notes over a sweet base, two extremes challenging eachother from opposite ends yet stay friends and work together. The notes seem to be spread apart like a Chopin or Herbie Hancock chord voicing--sparse but outstretched wide, a full chord with spaces between notes but it altogether makes divine sense in a dramatic, angular way. I like spaces because to me, such open chords are beautiful--not that I don't also like cluster chords that are densely close together like Bill Evans chords, but there's a certain active feeling in openness that energizes me.

Douce Amere means "bittersweet" in French; it's a sophisticated Oriental with a fresh opening but drying down to a Gourmand-sweet base that thankfully isn't too densely powdery warm. It's not too spicy but it has just enough tingly sharpness to make it bright and interesting. This is the only Serge Lutens perfume I've tried that isn't very heavy per se, even if some of the notes are low-pitched. It wasn't love at first sniff but my second sampling has proven Douce Amere to be the perfect scent for those times when I want something non-floral but alluring. However, if you don't like sharpness in scent, this one will feel like needles up your nose. It's still not as sharp as, say, Burberry Brit or Kenzo Flower to me, but it's sharp enough, like lemon peel. For me, the sharpness saves this sweet fragrance from smelling too much like the hypersweet ambery Gourmand, Chopard Casmir (1991), which I think it may have been inspired by and certainly resembles on drydown except Douce Amere doesn't sit on my skin like rich and heavy baked goods complete with stewed fruits, syrup and frosting the way Casmir does. Douce Amere is the more subtle "skin scent", one that doesn't overwhelm yet makes a similar statement as Casmir does: Oriental exoticism mixed with dessert-loving hedonism.

If you're a fan of Casmir, this might be the more refined, honey-and-bitter-herbs version. An interesting twist in Douce Amere is the absinthe (wormwood), and there is a liquor-like scent to this perfume that I feel makes it more suitable for evening. On drydown, Douce Amere loses all of its opening freshness and ends up a soft, ambery Gourmand. I actually like it better while it still has those jagged top notes. I think they add strength and attitude which Douce Amere seems to lack in the end.

Notes on Now Smell This blog:
Douce Amere was launched by Serge Lutens in 2000. The fragrance is described as a "fresh oriental", and features notes of cinnamon, artemisia absinthium, anise, lily, jasmine, tiare flower, tagette, cedar, musk.