Louve by Serge Lutens (2007) {Perfume Review & Musings} {New Fragrance}

The she-wolf... imagination carries reality away....who inhabits this name?
Where do wolves live? At the Louvre!
The she-wolf is heraldic. It resides on top of a mountain in a snow castle
A legend of the beginnings of time...a perfume? -- Serge Lutens

Louve by Serge Lutens is like a large diamond dropped and found in the snow letting out unusual fires and colors; perhaps they mimic the color of time. The faceted diamond then slowly morphs into a magical crystal ball into which one can look at things past and perhaps things to come as well.

The scent seems to be built on a series of strange, fairy-like accords with unexpected twists and turns. The perfume is heartbreakingly beautiful like the memory of a lost kingdom you once used to visit when you were a child. The scent is all purity and innocence yet feels enriched by the dreams and memories of experience. It is a profoundly moving work of art and is so beautiful and real it brings involuntary tears to your eyes.

In a sense, it is another incarnation of Douce Amère by Lutens, not olfactorily speaking so much although there is a bitter almond note but more to the point as by the bitter-sweet feeling it elicits out of you, shedding light on deep continuities in the work of Serge Lutens...

Romus and Remulus by Rubens

After smelling the perfume it feels like Louve, the she-wolf, is in part a reference to the myth of the she-wolf who nurtured Romus and Remulus in the tale of the foundation of Rome. The perfume offers a distinct maternal accord - however incongruous this may sound - that seems to allude to the theme of nurture and warmth symbolized by the she-wolf allied with the colder side of the mythological narrative which is that of the abandonment of the two infants destined to die. They are finally rescued by a she-wolf who will suckle them under a wild fig-tree assisted by a woodpecker, both animals sent by the god Mars, the father of the twins. The shepherd Faustulus and his wife will adopt them later on.

The perfume is like a narrative series of tableaux filled with symbolism. The perfume opens on a cherry note on a bed of rummy marzipan, then Kirsh liqueur suggesting chocolate in absentia, creamy cold fresh almond (with trace nuances of nail polish and savory green olive, just to indicate the complexity of the accord). The scent with time becomes colder, turns white and creates the illusion of snow quietly falling on the ground building a silent wintry carpet. There is already a subtle undercurrent of ambergris which will become meaningful later on. Instead of a classic Lutensian arabesque motif woven into an Oriental carpet, one experiences a gentle impression of flakes of snow slowly covering warm, subtly exotic spices. The accord remains cool, or rather both warm and cool.

The voluntary displacement of normal sensations whereby one usually experiences spices as being hot or even fiery, turns here instead into a white cold snowy and soft balmy impression that is very unusual, strange, and enchanting. It is like sensing the cold wind of winter breathing upon rich spices in an attempt to chill them, turn them into icicles, yet not quite succeeding at it. The spices remain under the blanket of snow muffled down by it yet never extinguished. Both principal accords do not blend but rather it is as if the powdery scintillating cold snow had just alighted on spices.

After a while, Louve lets a soft green note peak through underneath the soft whiteness, another contrast that is mysterious and intriguing. A green balsamic note surfaces offering a minty, Eucalyptus-like sensation. A vivifying cold spreads into one's limbs. At the same time it is contrasted with an understated lactic, creamy impression with nutty and flour-like nuances. One is taken to a strange world where everything becomes possible like in a fairy tale in which a gentle witch who would be called Parfuma is intent on teaching you the ways of the magical world and disorienting you, always pairing opposites.

The scent continues to feel peppery and a certain sharpness is contrasted with delicate softness. The cherry now smells a bit woody. Ambergris peaks through; the smell of this material is sometimes likened to maternal milk. Nowhere have we felt is so literally. The scent now is gentle, comforting, loving. The purity of the snow allied with the sensation of the purity of an ideal maternal-and-child love relationship is profoundly moving, felt readily rather than intellectualized. The interweaving of a colder green aniseed-like note with the soft cuddling and tender whiteness prolongs itself as if warmth had to be always inevitably paired with coldness.

The dry-down offers a third unusual tableau or scene; it becomes fruity, both prune-y and flour-like, the latter being reminiscent of the texture found in Bois Farine. The superposition of a rich floral and prune accord (mixed with a tinge of cherry liqueur) is reminiscent of Femme by Rochas. This accord is the color of pomegranate.This accord being set on a voluntarily bland unsweetened flour-like background with a subtle undercurrent of white milky caramel is the third contrast that continues to make the perfume feel surprising, unexpected, and very original.The fruity prune accord becomes quite vibrant, brilliant, a bit aldehydic with time but always associated with the soft opacity of a white gourmand flour. There are sweet jam-y overtones. It feels more like spring. There is an interesting edge of burnt resinous amber. It feels a bit incense-y. The longer dry-down is powdery, animalic and dirty with musk and civet and hints of sandalwood.

In Louve there is both a feeling of intimacy and solitude, of a warm presence and a lost kingdom of dreams. Somehow, the snow continued to fall on the ground covering all traces, effacing paths that led somewhere and time stood still while the snow continued to fill the dreamt landscape. The scent literally makes you step into an enchanted world where everything feels topsy-turvy, possible, feasible and more beautiful and interesting than in this world. It is like the symbol of both a refuge for dreams and a loss of something more real, a fundamental nostalgic representation of mother-and-child love, which is to say that it is the story of the foundation of a person.

Louve is a wonderful winter scent. Some may be tempted to liken it to Rahat Loukhoum because of the cherry note (which is treated differently here), and the almond, but it is a completely different kind of work psychologically speaking.

Top note is white almond; heart notes are fruity, rosy notes, rose petals, jasmine petals; base notes are amber, vanilla, balms.

It is an eau de parfum haute concentration and is available 50 ml for $130.

(Rubens from Histoire du Monde)

Related Posts

10 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Snow is the last thing that comes to my mind when I smell Louve...the She-Wolf dichotomy might make sense, although the fragrance is still too gourmand for me to conjure any romantic notions. It could be because I am a guy. Eitherways, for the bracing smell of snow capped mountains you can try Geir, Creed Himalaya or to a lesser extent, Penhaligons Blenheim Bouquet (although the pine in this one might be too victorian). I will have Louve for dessert please :D

  2. Wait, you know what, all this time I thought you were Zz Zorn:D

  3. Dear Marie-Helene.
    I must say your masterful review of this Serge Lutens scent is so beautifully written. I am so driven to seek it out this weekend . Your descriptive writing is simply brilliant . I enjoy the juxtaposition of the coolness of the snow element against the warmth and ultimate surrender to intimacy on many levels. I really like Douce Amere and am slowly exploring the Lutens line. This superlative analysis is in my opinion the pinnacle of perfume expression and meaning.Thank you for this motivation.

    Madelyn E
  4. Dear Madelyn,

    Thank you -- I recommend to try to take a sample home because otherwise you might not be able to concentrate enough on the subtle aspects of this scent.

  5. Dear Marie-Helene,
    Once again, having reread your review of Louvre - I feel it should be nominated for some kind of literary prize . You are such a gifted writer.I will take your advice .. I will head to Aedes this weekend for a sample and a spritz of this intriguing scent!
    Question: Have you tried Guerlain new Double Spiritueuse Vanille ? I just bought it last week. I would be interested in your thoughts on this one .

    Madelyn E
  6. I don't know about that:)

    No, I haven't tried SDV.

  7. Dear Marie-Helene, I retried "Louve" after reading your wonderful review. I smelled a warm soft fur of a wild animal (a touch of forest and earth) with drying drops of maternal milk (you described it as "an understated lactic, creamy impression with nutty and flour-like nuances").
    "Louve" cannot be romantic or sexy, because it carries different meaning - It is a poem to Motherhood. The opening is sweet and fruity, maybe, because twins are sweet as little babies are :)

  8. Dear Lada,

    I am so glad you liked Louve:) Isn't it wonderful? And the motherhood theme in perfumery is seldom touched. It is a deeply emotional perfume and an authentic work of perfumery art.

  9. yours is the first review i've read that does this perfume justice. everyone is writing it off as a cherry-almond-pale-shadow-of-rahat-loukhoum-powder scent. and it has so much more magic in it, as you so beautifully point out. but i didn't see that the first time i tried it in the cluttered air of the scent shop. this time, though, i got it. i find this perfume to be quite lovely, deep and fulfilling. it reveals itself in all of its glory if you take the time to know it.

    • It requires much focus to smell/feel a perfume, so indeed, it can be a bit challenging in the crowded-store context, especially for Lutens scents which are usually more difficult. If they come across as simple it usually means "deceptively simple." For instance, his L'Eau is a very complex and nuanced composition...

      Chant Wagner

Leave a Comment