Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose ~ fragrance review

pink rose

Someone asked in the comments to last week's review of Chypre Rouge if I thought that the Serge Lutens fragrances were an acquired taste, and I answered yes, sort of. It isn't that any special knowledge is required to appreciate them: if special knowledge was required, I'd be no more likely to appreciate them than anyone else. But they do not, by and large, try to appeal to a large audience. If all you are familiar with is the standard department store fare, Serge Lutens may challenge your idea of what a personal fragrance ought to smell like. They aren't all "pretty" in the conventional sense, and a few of them qualify as downright odd.

If you are a serious fragrance fanatic, odd quickly becomes a good thing; after all, it sometimes seems like most everything else on the perfume market was dispensed from the same vat. But odd in itself obviously isn't enough, and it certainly doesn't account for the superstar cult status accorded to Serge Lutens — how many other perfume lines have their own fan sites? There is nothing else as guaranteed to cause a flurry of anticipation on the fragrance forums and blogs as the announcement that a new Serge Lutens fragrance is due for release.

It is hard to explain the allure of the line to someone who hasn't smelled any of the fragrances, and for that matter, I don't think it is easy to understand until you've tried quite a few: his fame rests on the entire body of work he has produced with perfumer Christopher Sheldrake rather than on any one fragrance. More than with any other line I can think of, the fragrances are like personal artistic statements; to smell them is akin to entering someone else's dream world. At the same time, as perfumes, they are satisfyingly rich and complex, and as such they stand in stark contrast to many other niche lines.

Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose perfumeAll of which is a very roundabout way of introducing Sa Majesté la Rose, another Christopher Sheldrake fragrance, and the one I would present as evidence that Serge Lutens can do conventionally pretty, if that is what you are after. Sa Majesté is composed of absolute of moroccan rose, blue chamomile, geranium, lychee, clove, honey, vanilla and gaiac wood, and is said to be one of Serge Lutens' favorites.

More than any other fragrance in the Serge Lutens line, Sa Majesté celebrates the beauty of a single flower. If you close your eyes and smell deeply, you might pick out one or all of the notes, but for the most part it smells like dewy rose petals with a touch of greenery. It is not quite bright, not quite dark, but somewhere in between. The initial burst can be overpowering, but after that it is very soft. Once it settles it is almost linear, although the dry down is somewhat more honeyed than the opening, and the gaiac wood, while still subtle, is a bit more of a presence after an hour or so has passed.

It isn't the most interesting from the Serge Lutens line, but it is a beautiful perfume. As with many rose scents, I simply don't reach for it very often, and then when I do finally wear it I wonder why I so rarely do.

Serge Lutens Sa Majeste La Rose is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum.

Note: top image is In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed by Parvin ♣( OFF ) at flickr; some rights reserved.

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32 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent summation of the line, R!

    I'm not a big fan of the fragrances, but I admire them greatly, and there is a distinction. Of all of the fragrances in the line, I like A La Nuit best. Like SMLaR, it is one of the “pretty” SL's. The oddest I will go is Chergui, which I love also, but only in the cooler months.

    Hugs!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Robin, what a beautiful, thoughtful, precisely right analysis of Lutens. I remember the first time I smelled the line (in a dept. store in Paris), and I had no expectations, it was just Brand X I'd never seen before. I felt like I'd blown a gasket in my brain. L'Artisan I'd smelled and felt something like, cool! But SL — kept coming up “does not compute, does not compute…” Your description of them as entering someone else's dream world is right on.
    I admire them more than love them, but now (two years into my fragrance fetish) I find myself falling in love with things I hated before (Encens et Lavande is the newest). Honestly? I think I just wasn't ready. Although $20 says I'll never be writing you saying how much I love Borneo…

  3. Anonymous says:

    I was nodding my head so often, reading this review, that it hurts now :-) I agree with everything you said, great article!

  4. Anonymous says:

    R, I know that distinction well, LOL…and I admire any number of SLs more than I love them. ALN is one of many I need to revisit. I wouldn't have called it quite so conventionally pretty as SMLaR — my notes from the first time I tried it say “Death By Jasmine” — although it is quite beautiful. Un Lys might be another in this category.

    Hugs to you too!

  5. Anonymous says:

    How interesting to have tried them with no expectations. I had already read so much about the line that Chergui, my first, was something of a let down. My second was Rahat, and I liked it, but still…I think it wasn't until I'd tried a handful, plus many handfuls of other niche scents, that I started to understand what the big deal was. Iris Silver Mist was my first huge love, followed by Tubereuse Criminelle and Douce Amere.

    And yes, L'Artisan — “cool” — that is exactly right too. I adore L'Artisan, but they are a completely different kettle of fish.

    And LOL…Borneo, I'm afraid, is never going to grow on me either.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you M!

  7. Anonymous says:

    An inspired and precise article indeed! I've only tried four SLs, all of which I admire (ISM for one), but unlike you and Marchie here, I can say that I truly love Borneo. There, I said it :-). Of all the things to do before I turn 30 (i.e. by next July), exploring the entire Serge Lutens line comes first. You are right, you know, his fragrances do weave a world of their own, a world whose language I would love to master…

  8. Anonymous says:

    Actually, I may be wrong but I do not think Borneo is widely hated…if I had to guess, I would say it is Miel de Bois that has the smallest fan base. I doubt Borneo is widely adored, but still, I didn't mean to imply that one had to be afraid to admit that one loved it, LOL…

    And I was 40 before I tried my first SL, so you are way ahead of me :-)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that those would be his favorites. Okay, Ambre Sultan, but not the other two. I would have guessed something much more distinctive, like Fumerie Turque or Rose de Nuit or Iris Silver Mist or Encens et Lavande or — oh! I guess I'm saying those are MY favorites. Hmm. Maybe that's the magic of the line. He's not afraid to do something really distinctive that's NOT bound to be a personal favorite. If I were a perfumer, I'd be very proud of myself for creating something like En Passant (Giacobetti, right), given that I hate lilacs.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well, I should have pointed out that it was an interview in the Barneys catalog, so although they don't say so, it is probably just his favorites of the export line, right?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Nothing to add about Sa Majesty, but am just cracking up over “Death by Jasmine.” Hee!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Robin-

    Don't make me tell you when I first began my love affair with SL… I own many and love many, including this one [Majeste]. And I'm relatively brave, I'll wear an immense variety of scents, providing they flatter and fit…to hell with fashion !

    LOVED your review…

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hey, you need to do a Ebert & Roeper on Serge, really!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, and I won't make you tell me :-)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Excellent review, as always, Robin!!!I wear Santal Blanc, and I toyed with the idea of buying Un Bois Vanille, Douce Amere and Datura Noir. But…..I don´t know, they are really expensive and rather heavy, I think.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Of all the SL fragrances I've tried (7 if I'm right), Iris Silver Mist is the one that sticks out the most. I really enjoy it and it puts me in a very certain mood. I've decided to wear on an upcoming funeral actually. But Sheldrake wasn't the nose behind it, but Maurice Roucel, and I thought that must be the reason why it sticks out from the rest. So to be picky about it, it is not entirely a complete line resting on the shoulders (?) of one nose.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This answered so many queries for me. The Chypre Rouge review really caught my interest. Of course I had seen the Serge Lutens line before but I had never really given them more than a sniff straight off the bottle, I suppose that understanding perfume enough to appreciate them also meant that they intimidated me a bit. I am never really dissapointed with releases from the mainstream houses and I suppose it`s easier to stay in your `comfort zone`. But now I am determined to educate my nose! Living in Liverpool, holidays to Paris can be cheap and chic and we always try and go over for a few days at Christmas, so this year I am going to hunt down the Palais Royal and go and make a proper experience of it. I am really excited!! I have done some research online and I am looking forward to smelling Rahat Loukoum, as I do love my gourmands but I am going to raise my expectations and prepare for something far removed from the type of perfume I am used to. So thanks again helping me to have a better understanding of them.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Quite so, and Iris Silver Mist happens to be my favorite too. I suppose I stated it the way I did because I assume that even if ISM didn't exist, the line would still have the renown that it does…and in fact, many people say that ISM does “stick out” and isn't like the others somehow.

    And it is a point for debate, certainly, but my guess is that the line rests on the shoulders of SL and nobody else…but who knows?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! They are, as a rule, heavy, and there are only a few that I wear with any regularity in summer. And I suppose they are expensive too…I've become so jaded in that regard that the export line looks reasonably priced to me at this point, LOL…

  20. Anonymous says:

    Lucky you then, I would love to visit SL in Paris. Do try them, but don't be disappointed if you don't love them: not everyone does, and regardless of “acquired tastes” and all that, personal taste still rules :-)

  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh agreed. Neither do I think the view on Lutens would be changed at all with or without ISM in there, even though it is so brilliant. I'm quite curious about why someone else created that fragrance and not Sheldrake though. Very interesting inmo…

    It was a great text though, forgot to say that. Thanks.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I'm not positive Roucel did it alone…seems to me that I read somewhere or another that he worked with Sheldrake, possibly? Beyond that, I don't know except that ISM is one of the earlier scents (94, I think), and remember that when SL did Feminite du Bois under Shiseido, CS worked with Pierre Bourdon. And of course, we really don't know who, if anyone, worked with CS on other SL scents….frequently I think people go uncredited.

    And thanks :-)

  23. Anonymous says:

    By the time I received the Petit Livre des Parfums (back in… years and years ago) I was already half in love with all the Exclusives: I'd read so much about them in French magazines and people were always waxing so lyrical about them (the only other perfumes that would be talked about in that way were classics like some Carons – like Coup de Fouet – or Chanels – like Bois des Iles). I opened the envelope containing the booklets with the wax samples and fell in love with the combined smells, then more especially with Fleurs d'Oranger. I smelled it for real two years later at the Salons (the Exports didn't exist then) and I'm still in love with it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    J, is SL the most widely admired niche line in France, do you think?

  25. Anonymous says:

    It probably is, R. The most famous actresses and elegant women always make a point of mentioning that their favourite perfume is a SL. The line is always referred to as very refined. It definitely has an aura that no other line has.

  26. Anonymous says:

    That is about what I imagined, thanks!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Dear Serge Lutens fans,

    I happened upon this great site and hope any or all of you can help me. You all seem very tuned in to scent.

    I am a fan of Feminte du Bois by Serge Lutens. I am still mouring its demise. It is/was my absolute favorite scent of all time. Do any of you know of any fragrance that can even come close to the notes of this scent? I have search high and low for a new favorite, but no luck. Maybe a new Serge creation will suffice? Help please!

    Thank you all,

    Natalie K.

    nataliek1@verizon.net

    Pittsburgh, PA

  28. Anonymous says:

    Féminité du Bois is still available – online, anyway. Like here, for instance: http://www.perfumeshop.com/women-s-f-feminite-du-bois-by-shiseido.html

    Have you tried any of the other Bois by Serge Lutens? They're all supposed to be variations on that theme.

    HTH

  29. Anonymous says:

    Natalie, I 2nd everything Bela said. Do try the other Bois scents, you might even like one or more of them better, but meanwhile, FdB is still out there.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! Since the fragrance stopped production a few years ago, who knows how old this stock is and how it was stored!

    I took a chance and ordered a bottle online! Thanks so much for the tip. If it comes and it is still in good shape, I'll order more ASAP!

    You are an angel…Thank you!

    Natalie

  31. Anonymous says:

    Oh, is Feminite du Bois a former SL creation? I was just sniffing Cedre and thinking that it reminded me of FdB .

    Tried my first four SL today…Sa Majeste is luuuurvely…feels like hopping on Air France first class in a smashing pink dress to go to Paris for an afternoon drink at a cafe. :) A la Nuit is pretty…but Cedre very intriguing. The only oneI don't care for is Arabie…just too much of everything for me in that one!

    Love the reviews, thank you!!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it was by SL for Shiseido before he started the line (Shiseido-backed) under his own name. If you like it, also try the SL Bois series (Bois et Fruits, etc), which are kind of like variations on a theme.

    I don't love Arabie either :-)

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