Fragrance of the Moment: De Profundis by Serge Lutens {Scented Thoughts}


Grilles au cimetière de Montmartre © 2011 Chant Wagner

The heat was sweltering today in Paris. The taxi driver told me it was 40 degrees Fahrenheit and that the knowledgeable ones had said that it would be the hottest day of the year. Think hair blow dryer attack as you would cross a street. It made me think of one of my worst experiences of murderous heat in North-Western China. Or think fear of a sunstroke although you're sitting under the roof of a car with a hat. Maybe the hat was to blame.

I was on my way to a funeral and thought that we might well all fall on the ground like flies, as the French say, in the oppressive heat especially being dressed in heat-sucking black garb for the occasion. Fortunately, I had forgotten there are welcoming shady trees in cemeteries and so the air got gentler under their sway...

Out of ethnographic curiosity and because I was not amongst the severely bereaved (it was a relative but I did not know him personally due to the difference in age) I had finally decided to wear the upcoming De Profundis by Serge Lutens to see how it might feel against the backdrop of a cemetery although I usually prefer to initilally concentrate on a perfume indoors.

As I walked up the alley to join the "procession" as the cemetery guardian told me, already at a stand still, I was struck by how the floral nuances of the scent seemed to be coming from the tombs lining the pathway. As you get engulfed into the atmosphere of a cemetery, the funerary bouquets send toward you their variegated scents in waves, all the more so when it's a merciless summer day. It also smelled of chrysanthemums although I did not see any chrysanthemums in the immediate vicinity. There were so many different types of bouquets, some living, other made out of delicate, mournful ceramic, that being among the tombs felt like being in a florist shop of sorts, but with more contrasts of dry hay and curiously ever greener, vegetaly nuances.

Whenever my gaze fell on more Gothic pieces of funerary architecture, De Profundis seemed to be their scent. The old mossy stones seemed to echoe from the incense-y, earthy aspects of the perfume.

My conclusion: De Profundis offered a seamless olfactory link to the atmosphere of the cimetière de Montmartre, as if the perfumer had sat there on a gravestone, smelled the environment, and captured its main inflections. There is even a note of a specific type of decay which I will go back to when I review the fragrance, which I thought was an interesting touch.

On my way out of the cemetery, it seemed it was time for the perfume to start smelling more of living, joyful flowers.

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