Rousse (russet, ginger, red-headed) is the silken and frothy-sounding name in French given to the upcoming spring 2007 perfume launch by designer Serge Lutens. It will be available from February in the export line. Like the rest of the collection, it is the result of an on-going collaboration between Serge Lutens and nose Christopher Sheldrake.
It is said to be inspired by the finale of French pop singer Mylène Farmer's show "Avant que l'ombre" and the russet-colored couture dress she wore on that occasion made for her by Franck Sorbier.
Rousse contains notes of mandarine, cinnamon, carnation, cedar, sandalwood, violet, vanilline, amber, balsamic notes and more since it develops a Tiger Balm accord (like the recent Heeley Spirit of the Tiger)....
The perfume, I think, will feel familiar to followers of Lutens and Sheldrake. But at the same time the pair manages once more to compose a distinctive fragrance using recurrent, quasi-obsessive themes. This consistent exploration of notes is what makes Lutensian fragrances be Lutensian fragrances as they follow the whims of the author rather than attempt to follow or create new market trends. This inner dynamic of the Lutensian universe is perceptible and may fascinate or possibly tire out, but it is unmistakable for me that it bears the hallmark of his artistry. In this manner his other upcoming perfume - whose name is no known yet - is rumored to be a play on almond succeeding to Rahat Loukoum.
Rousse comes just after Mandarine Mandarin and not surprisingly re-explores a mandarine note that is less central here, yet is undeniably present. Similarly, it continues to explore the symbolism of the red color after Chypre Rouge.
Rousse is an ode softly hummed at times, at others briskly whistled to deep precious woods whose tonalities are declined in a near-musical manner. The perfume revolves around a theme of exotic spices and in particular, cinnamon and clove, that are at times so strong as to appear downright medicinal.
What brings an interesting twist to the whole composition in my opinion is the use of an ambiguous half-floral, half-woody violet note to make the woods seem more floral or the flowers, including the carnation, seem woodsier - we don't have to decide really - while softening the perfume further and giving it a beautiful drydown.
The perfume at first has a complex opening, being soft, aromatic, sweet, honeyed, flowery, powdery, and animalic all at the same time. It smells of ginger at first and then there is a succession of clearer impressions around the cinnamon theme. It makes me think first of red Tiger Balm (menthol, camphor, mint, cassia, cajuput, cinnamon, clove) then cinnamon sticks, Coca-Cola (an echo of Musc Ravageur), and cinnamon chewing gum and toothpaste. The spices play on a very soft woody ambery vanillic background whose texture feels honeyed rather than smelling per se of honey. The spices for a time seem to be held in check by this enveloping softness until they suddenly become much more pungent. At that point, I can feel the bite of the cinnamon on my tongue just by inhaling the perfume and my nose seems to be subjected to a Vicks de-blocking treatment. I can even feel the freshness and coolness of the Tiger Balm/cinnamon radiate through my body.
The woods then become deeper. There is more of a feeling of interiority. It feels like being in the workshop of a stringed-instrument maker and feeling the musical notes played by a cello, then a string bass while being surrounded by the acajou, mahogany, and blonde precious woods used to make the instruments. It is like a symphony of woods.
As Rousse abates and dries down, the violet note becomes more distinctive adding an interesting floral note to the woods, making one think of an abstract violet carved out of wood or made of soft suede. It reminds one of Bois de Violette but better in my opinion, more refined and complex. The drydown is woody and powdery with resinous overtones. The sandalwood is divine. It is surprisingly beautiful and for once melts into one's skin while keeping its personality rather than keeps its personality separate from the wearer's. I underline the fact that the complexity of the scent remains even in its capacity to self-efface because Chergui, which is one of my very favorite Lutens, tends to become less complex in the drydown.
Rousse ends up being a beautiful skin, veil scent, and offers an ending that will probably seduce people who are usually a bit reluctant to wear a work by Serge Lutens.
You can also read Victoria's Own lovely evocative review of Rousse which shows how much scents and memories are intertwined.