Serge Lutens Santal Blanc fragrance review

Serge Lutens Santal Blanc

Santal Blanc was launched by Serge Lutens in 2001. It was created by perfumer Chris Sheldrake, and features notes of white sandalwood, cinnamon, fenugreek, pink pepper, rose, jasmine, orris root, musk, benzoin and copaiba balsam.

Like many Serge Lutens fragrances, Santal Blanc starts off rather like spiced stewed fruits. Fenugreek, which is used in curry recipes and also as a flavoring for artificial maple syrup, adds an interesting touch, and there is quite a bit of pepper in the mix. Within a few minutes, the fruits and spices are overtaken by the woods. There is sandalwood, yes, but also quite a bit of cedar. The woods smell ever so slightly scorched, and that helps to balance the sweetness in the top notes.

Some time ago Serge Lutens compared Santal Blanc to the smell of fresh bread from the bakeries in Lille where he was born. It does have a doughy sort of undertone once it dries down, but it is more frequently compared to the smell of a pencil. And it does smell like a pencil: a very nice pencil, mind you, perhaps the nicest ever, but still, it is probably not a smell that is universally appreciated as a personal fragrance.

I like it best when applied very lightly, and it reaches perfection after about an hour, when the spices have calmed and the woods are very creamy and smooth. The floral notes are subtle, but the iris lends a beautiful butter-velvet finish and is as much the star of the show here as the sandalwood. It doesn't strike me as sexy, like yesterday's 10 Corso Como, nor is it a calming, contemplative fragrance, like Diptyque Tam Dao. It is an enigmatic scent, evocative, a bit other-worldly, and one of my favorites from this line.

Serge Lutens Santal Blanc is an Eau de Parfum, and the lasting power is average, or perhaps a bit less than average. It is in the export range, so you can buy it online in the United States [in 2010, Santal Blanc was moved into the exclusive range]; see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses for sources.

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32 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Are you ok with cumin in Santal Blanc? I remember that it bothered me a little when I first tried it, although now I do not mind it. I agree in that it needs a good hour to settle. The drydown is nice, although initially I am put off by the sharpness of synthetic sandalwood used in this composition.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This one just smells like paint fumes on me, not sure why. I get the same effect from KM A Fleur de Peau – maybe it's the synthetic sandalwood. I wish it smelled like fresh bread!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is it sweet on you, R? It is very, very sweet on me, for some reason. Like sandalwoody vanilla. Hmm.

  4. Anonymous says:

    V, if there is cumin, it is so light (or just so many other spices) that I don't notice it. It certainly isn't anything like in Fleur d'Oranger.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Paint fumes, LOL! Somewhere I read a review that compared it to hairspray. Happily, I don't get either :-)

  6. Anonymous says:

    M, it starts sweet, but doesn't stay that way on me. Can't believe not a single fan of SB showed up today!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Yes, wait, the first SB fan is showing up! I love it, it´s very original for me, but I agree with you, it´s not the typical fragrance everybody likes or appreciates. Still, it´s the only one I own from the Serge Lutens range. I almost bought Un Bois Vanille, but people at work found it extremely sweet and totally wrong for me…Same thing for Daim Blond, I love it, but peolpe near me don´t appreciate it at all.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I think this is surprisingly good – but I am surprised that it is perceived as strong. Perhaps it is because I own the Fond de Parfum, but to me this is a very subtle, warm, lightly sweet and lightly spicy scent. And curiously enough, I can only smell it when it (and my skin) is very cold. As soon as it's warmer, it disappears, only to make a surprise resurrection as soon as things cool off again. Still: a lovely scent!

  9. Anonymous says:

    'And it does smell like a pencil: a very nice pencil, mind you, perhaps the nicest ever, but still, it is probably not a smell that is universally appreciated as a personal fragrance.' Ha! Your wit brightened my (early, early) morning ;D.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think it is mostly the top notes that I find too strong, or maybe too sweet is more accurate. Once it dries down, it is a fairly subtle scent. I'll have to try the Fond de Parfum one of these days…

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hey, and your trees at Laurelines have been brightening mine, L!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Welcome, SB fan, LOL…glad to hear from someone who loves it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I do like this, though not as much as the fragrances we discussed yesterday. I agree it smells like a pencil, but I guess I like that smell (cf. Passage d'Enfer, which many people compare to pencil shavings). Although, to tell the truth, I think I use it mostly for layering; it's great with A la Nuit, creating a beautiful (sorry V) Bois de Jasmin:)

  14. Anonymous says:

    I like that smell too — Passage d'Enfer is another big favorite of mine. Will have to try layering SB, hadn't even though of it with A La Nuit.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This is mostly light floral and creamy sandalwood on me. The cedar is subtle on my skin. I find it similar to Keiko Mecheri Bois de Santal, with SB being dryer and more masculine. I like the top notes of Bois de Santal better, and the drydown of Santal Blanc more.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how they'd layer? Hmmm….

  17. Anonymous says:

    i dropped by aedes today at lunch and said hi to robert, karl & miguel. played with the dogs. then i got down to buying the 'fumes on my list.

    but miguel wanted me to check out the santal blanc. i don't wear sandalwood even tho' i love it, simply because my DH dislikes it. (sigh) i agree with irisla above who uses the word “creamy.” exactly.

    i went to aedes to buy stock on up lp's chase d. pap., which i've been wearing steadily for oh, a couple of years now.

    robert — he's let his hair grow, he looks fantastic and happy — suggested for a change i check out the sl f.d. orangeurs, which i thought i wouldn't like. but it clicked with me big time, much to my surprise.

    of course rosine has discontinued my beloved rose argent, just like they did my very favorite coup d'or, so robert suggested i try the sl sa majeste d. rose. very different than i usually wear.

    some people call these scents granny, but they seemed like instant classics to me, and ones that the people in my circle aren't wearing a lot. this is a problem with the chase, to which i've converted too many of my friends!

    i also wanted a basic vanilla, which is what my husband loves. he's a big fan of the st. barth's vanille because it smells like creme caramel, his favorite dessert. and it's true, if you wear that, most people love to stand next to you, even if as a 'fume fancier you think “foodie = not so good.”

    but aedes was out of that, so robert offered me montale vanille, which worked for me as a near substitute, but less “on the menu.”

    robert himself was wearing the serge iris perfume you can buy only in france, layered with patchouli. he let me smell his neck and it was heavenly.

    i continually find robert just the sweetest individual and i love giving him my money, basically — which is good, since i walked outta there with 2 sl bottles, the montale, the lp safran troublante, and the prince j. bouton de rose.

    in short, everytime i go there, robert just turns my world upside down scent-wise. and that's a good thing, because his perfume choices “make” me better than the ones i'd take myself.

    i swear half the people who meet me scarcely remember anything about me except the faint impression of whatever robert thought would be fun for next season. the other half are constantly asking me why i seem so well-dressed.

    it's not the clothes that give you that impresssion i say, it's the scent! can robert go wrong?

  18. Anonymous says:

    oops, lemme correct my comment — i talked to robert a lot, but it was *karl* today who was wearing the patchouli layered and let his hair grow. my bad, i was typing too quickly. sorry!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh, Robin, how you torture me with your review of this. I think I might really love this one. Pencils, sandalwood, cumin, rose and pepper, jasmine, musk? Did I read all of that correctly.

    Sigh, this one is a lemming for me.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Wow, you got quite a haul of fragrances, and some great ones at that. I need to try the Prince Jardinier — how does it compare to the Serge Sa Majeste?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Do try it before you buy, it is a bit unusual and maybe even qualifies as a love or hate kind of scent. But for me, it is love :-)

  22. Anonymous says:

    “It certainly isn't anything like in Fleurs d'Oranger.” *shakes head in disbelief* LOL! (I'm still looking for the b***** cumin in my favourite fragrance of all time.)

  23. Anonymous says:

    LOL!!! I am sorry, J — Fleur d'Oranger is a lovely perfume but I do smell cumin. Perhaps I am just crazy. Don't slap me.

  24. Anonymous says:

    the majeste la rose is a spicy moroccan rose, with clove, that dries down to a honey musk. the prince j. bouton de rose is english rose with peony, with a dry-down to an amazing amber.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I have a mini of this and love love love love to sniff it on myself at home but would never wear it out. Overall the woodsiness is too much for me. Incidentally I also detected church incense and a drop of ashtray smoke. Great review!!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Thanks!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Ah, a closet SB fan! I wish I had bought some of those minis when they were still floating around.

  28. Anonymous says:

    you're welcome, r. the difference i think is that the sl sa majeste is going to appeal to those who aren't afraid to wear a more heavy, velvety, spicy scent. some people feel these aren't modern, but sl seems to have a classic french basis to many of his perfumes — that women are a kind of dramatic public performance and your perfume makes a subtle but definite statement of character or mood. i guess this comes from his makeup background.

    the prince j. is going to seem to those of the “simple” and “modern” mindset as better, because it's lighter, fresher and in this vein will seem more “youthful” to the current taste. imvho, anyway.

    myself, i just wear what i like depending on my mood, combined with what robert or karl suggests, since i've come to trust their taste to help me find things i might not otherwise consider on my own.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Well, I'm late, but I am also a Santal Blanc fan. I love the opening, which reminds me strangely of home-brewed root beer. The drydown in marverlous, creamy sandlewood. Love it!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Never too late! I love it too, but wouldn't have thought of root beer. Will have to give it a little spray later this week and see if I can catch the reference.

  31. robinhoo says:

    Argh, this smells EXACTLY like chicken tikka masala on me for at least an hour. After that I like it okay, though I can’t say it’s high on my list, especially when compared to other Serge Lutens fragrances that I adore. But even if the second hour was sheer heaven to the nostrils, I’m not sure it could counter a whole first hour of smelling like take-away. :-/

    • Robin says:

      I would not sit through the chicken tikka masala either…plenty of other fragrances out there!

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