Chypre Rouge by Serge Lutens ~ fragrance review

Serge Lutens Chypre Rouge perfume

Chypre Rouge is the latest fragrance release from Serge Lutens, and happily for those of us in the United States, it is in the export line so you won't have to jump through hoops to get your hands on it. It was created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, and the notes include thyme, pine needles, pecans, fruit gums, honey, beeswax, jasmine, patchouli, amber, vanilla, moss and musks.

Like so many other Serge Lutens compositions, Chypre Rouge starts with something like stewed spiced fruit, here underscored with pine needles, toasted nuts, and something that smells like a sweet dessert wine. It is both sweet and heavy, and while the notes list only thyme, the curry spices that so frequently appear in the Serge Lutens line are very much present in Chypre Rouge; if, as advertised, it "was inspired by Serge Lutens’s memories of fall in his native Vendée region of western France" (via osmoz), the memories would seem to be filtered through his more recent experiences in Marrakech.

As it calms, the sweetness slowly dissipates to a more acceptable level, and the dusky amber-moss base shines through. After a good hour or so, it finally approaches wearable status for me: a soft blend of moss and woods with a whisper of patchouli to lend some earthiness, the whole tinged red to match its name and the color of the juice. There is just a touch of honeyed sweetness, and the spices are now likewise hushed. After two hours, it starts to take on the lovely (or not, depending on your perspective) pencil and scorched cedar accord of Santal Blanc.

I took an almost immediate dislike to Chypre Rouge; since then, I've come to like it much better, but short of a major about-face, it isn't likely to be my next fragrance purchase (although I should point out that I've been known to do a complete about-face: witness Miel de Bois, surely one of the most widely disliked of all Serge Lutens fragrances). Chypre Rouge is an interesting fragrance, to be sure, and probably likely to make a better impression in cooler fall weather. The lasting power is excellent, so if you can wait through the rough opening, you will be amply rewarded, but I am still in the almost-but-not-quite captivated stage. Possibly I will make it through another year without needing a new Serge Lutens fragrance, as the upcoming Mandarin Mandarine is rumored to be very like Fleurs d'Oranger.

For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

Update: in 2010, Chypre Rouge was moved into the Serge Lutens exclusive range.

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66 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It was the other way round on me, unsurprisingly :-). nice and wearable and first and near-unabearable in the drydown. I don't hate it, but I don't need it, yay! I am very much looking forward to Mandarine Mandarine.

  2. Anonymous says:

    M, LOL…that figures!

    If Mandarine Mandarin (or is it Mandarine Mandarine??) turns out to be Fleurs d'Oranger without the cumin, I just might change my tune.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think I liked this one way more than most everyone else. There is something spicy/dusky about it that I find entrancing, start to finish, although I have to apply v-e-r-y lightly. Like you, I am really looking forward to trying this in cooler weather. Are Sariah and I nuts, or do you notice a pronounced resemblance to Dior Eau Noire along there in the middle?

  4. Anonymous says:

    M, the combo of lavender and Indian spices in Eau Noire kept me from trying it on skin…so can't say, other than that they both have those spices. Chypre Rouge really is dusky red, and I can completely see why someone would love it…that someone just isn't me. Yet. You never know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I was *sure* CR would be a safe unsniffed purchase. Except for the insipid Clair de Musc (well, insipid on my skin at least), I really like or love all SLs. But I have repeatedly tried to make this work and I can't get beyond the stage of intellectually appreciating it, but feeling no emotional bonding w/ it. :-( I am going to retry in the fall. I *want* this to work on me.
    Someone on MUA this morning described MM as “spiced orange chutney” – I'm already convinced I must have it. Of course, that's what I said about CR…

  6. Anonymous says:

    I really enjoyed this review but I want to ask a question, would you say the SL perfumes were an aquired taste? I don`t really mean in terms of age (i`m nearly 30, so my teenage years were a while ago)! but I think I mean, does your nose have to become ready for them? I don`t really know how to define my tastes (Angel, Tiempe Passate, Euphoria, Fracas, Kingdom, etc) but the state of perfume retail here in Liverpool is excellent and Manchester is even better, so I am lucky enough to get to smell practically everything (they even sell Bond No9 in Harvey Nics). Would you say that you grow into this type of, I think I mean `proper`(?) perfume?

  7. Anonymous says:

    So sorry you don't love your bottle! There is no such thing as a safe unsniffed purchase, LOL…although I do it too so can't throw stones.

    It sounds like you like more of the SLs than I do…I adore quite a few of them, but there are any number of them I don't have any desire to wear. Spiced orange chutney actually doesn't much appeal to me, so I have a feeling I'm safe from MM…just as well, since it is going to be an exclusive.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Well, yes, to some extent you could call them an acquired taste, in that like many niche perfumes, you may find that you have to expand your idea of what a personal fragrance should smell like. By and large, the SLs aren't the kind of pretty florals that many women are used to (although he can do a pretty floral too — Sa Majeste de Rose comes to mind). Your tastes sound fairly wide ranging already, so I shouldn't think you would find the SLs that difficult.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I so wanted to like this one, but it's clumsy, ill-fitting, and the seams between the notes chafe and itch. :-(

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don't remember much of it except for a resemblance to Rum flavored Lifesavers. And I'd so looked forward to it. Clearly, I must try on skin.

  11. Anonymous says:

    K, there is nothing at all smooth about it until the very far dry down, it is true.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yep, I can see rum lifesavers. But it is better on skin than on a card, I would say, and the rum lifesavers thing mostly goes away.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I will definitely make the effort and give them a chance. I like the sound of Chypre Rouge just going on the list of notes, but smelling it may be a different matter! The only thing I don`t really like is anything too green or anything too fruity so there must be one out there with my name on it. It would be nice to own something a bit more unique, to cut through all the “same old, same old” scents in the clubs of a weekend (many of which I own)! but something a bit more niche would be great.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I will never grow into these fragrances, and there is nothing wrong with that in my opinion. I have tried so many of the SL's and have never found one of them wearable, or in need to own. Not even the mass appealed Un Bois or the boring- but -hard to get -so it must be worth it- Rahat Loukoum. I will never be done smelling what will come next from this passionate, crazed loon of a man, but like I've said before they should turn the Salon into a museum and I'll go there to sniff 'em!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Ok, I got some catching up to do. I have yet to try any of the Serge Lutens fragrances. I just wish that some of the “unsured” fragrances would come in smaller bottles so that fragrance lovers as ourselves can commit “fragrance polygamy” more freely and inexpensively… : ))) (Ok, I'm definitely speaking for myself here…)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ah, I wish EVERYTHING came in a 15 ml bottle. That would make me very happy.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I so agree. It is not just a matter of being “an acquired taste” at all — although I do think there is something to that notion — it is also simply a matter of personal taste. And no amount of trying is ever going to make me love Borneo or Gris Clair, LOL…

  18. Anonymous says:

    Another line worth trying if you want something “different” is Frederic Malle. Or, two London based lines: Miller Harris and Ormonde Jayne.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the detailed review, R. I must try and sniff it on my next trip into town.

    One thing, though: where did osmoz get that Serge Lutens was born in Vendée? He was born and brought up in Lille (absolutely nowhere near Vendée). Lille is very flemish in atmosphere and he's often talked about what he liked about that region of France. *puzzled*

  20. Anonymous says:

    It's Mandarine Mandarin. :-)

  21. Anonymous says:

    Thanks J!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Osmoz clearly got it from SL, since they used it in the press release:

    “Childhood… an intense world in which we can feel so small.

    It was late fall in the woods of Vendée. With its carpet of leaves, its trees and shrubs, the forest gave me the feeling that I was a minute cell floating in a giant organism: aortas, veins, vessels, ramified trees that gave life to a fantastic world to which I belonged.”

    Perhaps he spent summers there? Just a wild guess, you know I don't know a darn thing about SL, LOL…

  23. Anonymous says:

    But adding that I don't know why they used the word “native”…that is perhaps misleading. You'd know better than I.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Yes, he probably spent summer holidays there. I spent a couple of summers there myself when I was a child. It's a lovely region: long sandy beaches by the ocean.

    The whole point about SL is that here's a man who's had a bourgeois upbringing in the dark, rainy, industrial North of France and who's escaped to sunny Morocco to create oriental perfumes. The contrast between his life then and his life now wouldn't be so great had he been brought up in Vendée.

  25. Anonymous says:

    No idea. They got it wrong.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Santal Blanc, you say? I just tried that one for the first time last night and adored it unexpectedly, and with March having her moment with CR….hmmm. Of course, I believe Patty called it “tears and buttcrack”. You wouldn't say it's all that bad, I gather.

  27. Anonymous says:

    That makes sense, J, thanks.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I adore Santal Blanc too. Chypre Rouge is nothing like, really, although they both start off with the fruity-spicy thing, and I smell elements of SB in the base of CR. But all the lovely creamy-smoothness in the dry down of SB is missing…

  29. Anonymous says:

    Lordy, that just sounds like a hot mess.

    Make that a hot SWEET mess.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Now, that's not too much to ask for! I too would love 15 ml bottles! That's why I'm constantly at the dept stores asking for samples…

  31. Anonymous says:

    March-

    You're not alone…I bought it and wear it,very happily!

    And I bathe in it- with no complaints from my men, or colleagues.

    I think it likes me…even in the heat…

    Haven't smelled Eau Noire, so I can't say if there are similarities.

  32. Anonymous says:

    LOL…it isn't so bad as all that!

  33. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,

    I also had this information of Vendée forests from someone at SL. Perhaps, he had family in western France or he just went there on holidays. Or, may be it's just a marketing concept : bringing mystery and a kind of exotism (even if Vendée is not Yunnan or Samarkand!)…

    ambroxan

    Paris

  34. Anonymous says:

    It *must* be a marketing concept. It really is well-known that SL was born in Lille and spent his childhood/youth there.

    Anyone who still doubts this fact might want to read the Wikipedia article about him:

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serge_Lutens

    or

    http://www.lepoint.fr/villes/document.html?did=144195, which is wittily entitled,' Serge Lutens Nez à Lille' and goes on to say, 'Né dans le quartier de Fives en 1942, Serge Lutens a passé sa jeunesse à Lille.'

  35. Anonymous says:

    Thanks A. Guessing he just spent time there, as you say.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Oh my, very surprised at the poor state of the SL articles at wikipedia…the one in English badly needs work. But thanks for the links!

  37. Anonymous says:

    I thought that too. When I have a spare moment, I might go and add a few bits of info.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Didn't it say somewhere that SL was inspired by the memory of some red fungus he saw in the woods in his childhood? I can totally relate to that, smelling Chypre Rouge. The initial blast is almsot unpleasantly sweetish and spicy but simultaneously fascinating, just like you'd find some strange growth which both repelled and attracted you at the base of a tree in the dark, dark forest – then the woods join in, the spices meld with the honey and the wood, and it's just wonderfully warm and comforting and somehow reminiscent of Dior's Eau Noire…. freshly cut wood, the sweetness of drying herbs, spices and fruits, pine needles, fresh air…. Definitely on my wishlist, but I think it will only really bloom when the weather is cold.

  39. Anonymous says:

    The Lutens line seems such a disappointment to everyone here and I am surprised you would give it as many words as you do. Maybe a one paragraph Luca T. with 6 or 7 two dollar and 57 cent/s words, that describes everything, would be in order for this line.

    I have not found one yet that I do not like – must be my planet Zorn skin.

    Also let me say that your reviews are always well written and your humor in your diplomatic replies is priceless, especially to the perfume designers? that go on & on with their analysis…

  40. Anonymous says:

    I think you're wrong in your assessment of the situation; the Lutens line is not 'such a disappointment to everyone here': a lot of us love it. I for one have been wearing Fleurs d'Oranger exclusively for four years and there are many other fragrances in the line that I would happily wear (the *only* one I can say I dislike is Iris Silver Mist). In fact, I have just managed to test Chypre Rouge and I like it very much. It is an odd scent but there is something compelling and addictive about it.

    Perhaps, at certain times, people orefer to talk about what they *don't* like.

  41. Anonymous says:

    The controversy was about the word 'native' in the blurb. Since SL wasn't born nor brought up in Vendée, it cannot be qualified as 'his native Vendée', can it?

    I have just acquired a sample of Chypre Rouge and I agree with you 100%. I am at the same time slightly repelled by and incredibly attracted to this scent. It's steadily growing on me. I'm looking forward to discovering more of its many facets.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I agree – quite a few of us love SL. I, for one, deeply admire even the fragrances of his line which I would never wear (and I wear a number of them with pleasure, even Miel de Bois, which few others seem to love). In my opinion, their weirdness and non-conformity is the glory of these scents. And you have to hand it to Monsieur Lutens: his stuff is never boring, whether you like it or not (plus, I love his dapper way of dressing – channeling Cole Porter, so to say…), and few perfume houses can say as much of their products!

  43. Anonymous says:

    I'm interested in trying a couple Serge Lutens and this one seems very interesting. It definately reads like a powerful, strong scent statement; honeyesque woods, pine and spiced fruits. I imagine it may smell a bit like colonial-Americana potpourri. That sort of thing equals sensory overload for many. However; the notes also remind me of “Anglomania”, and though that smelled like a mix of cherry cola and spice to most people I've shared it with, I liked it.

    Question: If I could just bathe my home in Crabtree & Evelyn's “Noel” fragrance (Frankinsense, citrus, berries and Siberian fir) or the scent of mulling spices, do you think I'd appreciate “Chypre Rouge”? Does it remind you of any Burberrys (those which always tend to smell like that “Cherry-Vanilla-Musk” perfume from the 1980's) ?

  44. Anonymous says:

    Oh you lucky girl, you're beginning SUCH an exciting journey! Getting to know the Lutens line is a great adventure – just don't give up if you don't fall in love straight away. SL scents tend to be rather complex and, as stated above, sometimes repulse and attract at the same time. Personally, I've loved the darker scents (and Chypre Rouge is certainly one of the darkest) from the beginning of my accquaintance with SL, but starting the journey with Chypre Rouge strikes me as quite risky – you might want to begin with one of the more “accessible” scents in the line, beautiful Douce Amère, or the universally loved Fleur d'Oranger or Fleur de Citronnier. You see, Anglomania and Noel and such are to the spicier SLs as water is to a cup of strong Assam (or even to the Turkish concentrate you dilute with hot water from the samovar to get your glass of tea), so you won't really be prepared for the impact!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Hahaha—thanks for the prep! Of course, now I'm intrigued. So many Lutens read like very intense and unique scents, that unless one's had exposure to the line, I'm sure ya' can't know what to expect. When I read about “Chypre Rouge”, it reminded me of days working at an historical sea-side museum; Coal smoke in the air, old…oiled and tarred woods and hemp lines, sail canvas, herbs and spices (apple-jack, gingerbreads and stews) cooking in the hearth at the olde Buckingham Hall house…in other words, I'm desperately hopeful a Lutens will capture something of that! I appreciate the pep talk, though—I'll enter the good battle, unafraid!!

  46. Anonymous says:

    You're obviously fond of strong and unusual natural smells and I believe you will love quite a few Lutens (probably Chergui, Fumerie Turque, Santal Blanc, Ambre Sultan, as well as Chypre Rouge). A lot of them are not 'immediately' likable and require perseverance, but they're all rewarding.

    You should send for the Petit Livre des Parfums (you'll find details: http://freespace.virgin.net/lovely.perfume/SergeLutensWeb.html): it contains wax samples of most of the Exclusives. You have a treat in store. :-)

  47. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Bela! I really appreciate the link! Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure how to get my cilia on the samples. I noticed something about a “small book of flavors” on their website. How do go about requesting/ordering samples?

  48. Anonymous says:

    The 'small book of the flavors', as they say (I'm a translator – this is a disgrace), *is* the Petit Livre des Parfums I mentioned in my comment. I explain about it on my web page (the link I gave you) and you don't have to phone to get it: you can send for it in writing (the address is on that page, near the bottom).

    That's the only thing you can request from the Salons du Palais Royal: they don't send carded, liquid samples of the Exports and there are no liquid samples of the Exclusives (only wax samples, but they are lovely).

  49. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, again! Your website is very good…you provide lots of great info about the house and the specific scents—then I transfer to theirs and it feels far less accessible. I've only just started studying French at my university, so I'm less qualified to respond to the interpretation! I picked up “Little book of fragrance” and assumed it was the sample book.

    Now I'm excited! Thank you!!

  50. Anonymous says:

    You're welcome!

    I created that simple web page especially for the members of a message board I belong to (MakeupAlley): the two SL lines (and the way they relate to each other) can be very confusing.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Just adding my 2 cents, late as usual. I enjoyed this one, all the way through, but felt no overwhelming need to buy a bottle. This may, however, be because (as you said) it's clearly a Fall scent, and I tried in the heat of summer. I have a little that I am saving for a cool weather try. I also get the similarlity to Eau Noire that both March and Dinazad do; I think CN must have immortelle in it (as EN does), although it is not listed among the notes you gave us. Or do you think some spices are creating this effect?

  52. Anonymous says:

    I would agree — it is much more of a cold weather scent, and there is something very reddish-about the smell itself.

  53. Anonymous says:

    On the contrary, it is one of my very favorite lines…I don't love Chypre Rouge, but I wouldn't exactly call it a disappointing…it just isn't my style. It is such a wide ranging line — you are quite lucky that you like all of them!

    And thank you so much for the nice words :-)

  54. Anonymous says:

    The notes given by the lines are almost never complete. Other reviewers mentioned immortelle, so guessing it is there but I couldn't decide if I smelled it or not. Check Victoria on Bois de Jasmin, if she says it is there, it is — she has a much better nose than I :-)

  55. Anonymous says:

    I've finally had an opportunity to test Chypre Rouge; needless to say, I'm intoxicatingly dumbfounded.

    It unfolds on me with the pine needles immediately evident; However, it is specifically pine needles (think, matted, orange needles on a forest floor) and not the sanitized version of pine that often whispers as a base. It's not rancid or repulsive, but rather, so organically close to nature that I fear wearing it: I feel like an imposter–a thieve of Nature…and she's going to find me out and delve out her kind of justice.

    I can't think of anything else besides wood that can rot, yet still smell pleasantly aromatic while doing so. “Chypre Rouge” has an air of wood rot about it, but in a way that would do perfect justice to the wet, dark place where moss and mold thrives. However, before it takes you into the realm of crypts, it softens into a powdery, savory scent likened to caraway sweet loaves and lingonberry jam…eventually to soften into a sort of simmering potpurri. Yes, it makes absolutely no sense…except, that it does, in a bizzare, intimate sort of way. It's like a run through a wood with a picnic basket; break in a field for a primitive lunch before returning to a warm, wooden home.

    When I first read it's description, it couldn't have been anymore unusual, bordering on disconcerting…all childhood pain, secret forest hideways and choirboys kissing papal rings. After experiencing it, however, I get the oddness of the description. I'd go further to describe it as the juice in Alice's Wonderland “drink me” flask, Little Red Riding Hood's woodland experience, the poisoned apple in Snow White and a sunny day at an old cemetary. Dark but charming–almost comforting, in its own Victorian way.

  56. Anonymous says:

    I know I've already ragged on enough about Chypre Rouge, but I finally remember what memory it connects me to: Visiting a monastery with my grandparents as a child and young adult. The wood of the benches, the incense, the way it was tucked up on a hill in the middle of the woods, as well as the little shop where they would sell candies, breads, jams and incense. Perhaps that's the papal-ring-kissing effect? Haha…

  57. Anonymous says:

    What a really great description — sounds like Chypre Rouge made a much bigger impression on you than it did on me. I did retry it again recently, and decided it just wasn't something I was ever going to love.

    At least you feel in love with one of the exports!

  58. Anonymous says:

    I didn't mean to ramble–this was just, such an odd try. I predict it smells completely unique on everyone who tries it. However, I'm not sure I could wear it for any period of time–but I'm affected, just the same :D!

  59. Anonymous says:

    No worries, ramble any time! I am quite sure I wouldn't wear it often enough to buy, but glad to have my little sample to smell from time to time.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Bought it today at the Sniffapalooza event at NYC's Bergdorf Goodman. It is fabulous on my skin – rich and heavy and unusual. Others raved about it on me and I love it. Like wearing a silk brocade robe. I could not stop sniffing my wrist.

  61. Anonymous says:

    I just tried this one the other day ( I caved and got a bunch of samples from La Creme- you must try to review a perfume or two from Scent by Alexis…very interesting). It was okay on my skin…actually rather interesting- although I must confess I'd tried so many that I forgot to check it again in the drydown (I almost always try things on my legs or feet until I know they're safe). I was totally smelling the pine and a bit of the fruit. I hate the smell of wine, but this wasn't too bad. However, I sprayed a bit on a piece of paper so that my grandma could see the color of the juice- red! eek!- and it was awful. She said it smelled someone who has a wicked hangover. Somewhat turned me off, but I'll give it another try. I also ordered Miel de bois (I'm a glutton for punishment) and Douce Amere, so I'm going to have some fun over the weekend.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Not likely you'll see a review of Scent by Alexis — no easy way to get samples, unfortunately.

    LOL at “someone who has a wicked hangover”, that's a good one. Hope you'll do better with MdB & DA.

  63. Anonymous says:

    I have read lots of reviews about Chypre Rouge, according to almost all of them it is an unusual scent. It is definitelly something I'm going to sample very soon because I am very, very curious about it. I love woodsy scents, not interrupted by too many florals, even a load of spices can ruin a great woody fragrance. I love the idea of a perfume that would evoke a real forest, this is the reason why I am in a big rush to find a sample of it. To be honest with ya, I've already been thinking about buying it unsnifed but oooops it might be risky. The CUTEST part of Chypre Rouge are those fruit gums, awww how cute and adorable (lol). I know it's ridiculous, but as I was reading the description of it, and there were fruit gums listed in the ingredients, I just cracked up! Well in the very least this perfumen will make me smile with it's gummies but it sounds so deliscious anyways, it might become my fall MUST.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Ooo–must sample first! I found this scent interesting but it is very odd, like savory pine needles. There are hints of sweetness to it, but almost of a simmered fruit variety. It's unusual and I think it might be in the “must-sample-first” realm. If you really enjoy a raw, foresty kind of smell–one with no powdery florals and pines, something that smells like long fallen pine needles and wet wood—you might appreciate “Chypre Rouge'.

  65. Anonymous says:

    I'd agree with that, it isn't something to buy unsniffed.

  66. Anonymous says:

    Yea, I'll sample it first. I need to STOP buying unsniffed because that's just crazy. Well I've been pretty lucky buying stuff unsniffed lately but that's not gonna last forever. I'll sample it first!

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