Serge Lutens Louve ~ fragrance review

Serge Lutens Louve fragrance

Serge Lutens is the darling of the niche perfumista world, and I have the highest admiration for his work. But Serge and me, we're kind of going through a rough patch lately. I was looking over the fragrances he's released since I started this blog, and I have to say that if this list represented the entirety of his output, my estimation of the line would quite different:

Borneo 1834 (2005) — hated it.

Cèdre (2005) — I can see why some people adore Cèdre, but it has never really grown on me.

Miel de Bois (2005) — probably my favorite of this group, but I'd be shocked if this sells. Most people apparently think it smells like urine.

Gris Clair (2006) — not me.

Chypre Rouge (2006) — admire it, but don't adore it.

Mandarine Mandarin (2006) — ditto.

Rousse (2007) — I really liked Rousse. Not quite so much as Miel de Bois, maybe, but it is higher on the wearability scale. Of all these, this might be the one I'd most like to own.

So now we have Louve, the "She-Wolf". It is the lastest to join the export line, and the notes include almond, rose petals, fruity notes, jasmine petals, amber, musk and vanilla powder. Louve starts out rather like my beloved Rahät Loukoum, with a cough syrup-ish cherried almond (although the cherry part is much more subdued in Louve). They never entirely part company, in fact, just as Rousse might have been a pared-down meditation on some of the themes explored in Lutens' spicy wood fragrances, so Louve might be the bare bones version of Rahät. It is blander, drier, considerably less foody, and stays closer to the skin. The dry down is the softest of almond skin scents, with honeyed musk and a dusting of powder.

Louve might be the most accessible fragrance from Serge Lutens since 2003's Clair de Musc. It is highly wearable, and there is nothing even slightly exotic or esoteric about it ("she-wolf" seems a misnomer for such an entirely tame scent). It does nothing for me at all — to my nose, it is rather as if they took out all the good parts of Rahät and then added some baby powder — but serious almond fans might find it a winner. Do comment if you love it.

I still haven't smelled the new Sarrasins. Maybe it will be the one to knock my socks off...

Serge Lutens Louve is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum Haute Concentration. For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

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67 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    just based on the wax sample I got, Sarrasins is a big, fat lush sunny jasmine. I don't get much else, but I do love it very much – most jasmines are adulterated with honeysuckle, which to my nose thins them out and gives them a faint wee-ish note (Joy EDT is exempt as it's in a category of it's own, being a classic). Oddly enough the only other (lush) jasmine I really like is Voluspa's room/body spray in Vanilla Jasmin Tabac/Vanille Jasmine Tabac, I can't ever remember the right spelling. Of course, I don't get much tabac to speak of, but the jasmine is rich and full with a creamy vanilla base.

  2. Anonymous says:

    A big, fat lush sunny jasmine sounds lovely! Figures that it is in the exclusive line :-(

  3. Anonymous says:

    You are one of about two people in the world who like Miel de Bois! :) Sarrasins, IMHO, is the true return to form, or even an improvement over previous form, although the ad copy is like some fever dream you ought to tell your shrink and no one else. The juice, though, is colored deep, dark purple, like ink. Makes you sort of freaked out you'll stain something when you try it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ack, now I need to get some Sarrasins. And all his ad copy is that way — would love to know who writes it! They're having a good time, whoever they are.

    What did you think of Louve, or do I need to wait for the book?

  5. Anonymous says:

    We are going through a rough patch too, Serge and I. Very rough, considering that I don't even love…oh, am I really about to say this …MKK. 'Nuff said. I thought Sarrasins would bring me back into the Lutens coven, but it failed to impress. Louve I knew from the beginning that I would not like at all, because of the almond, and of course I hated it. And thought it was just so very insipid. I can't believe Lutens deemed it fit to be released.
    The two Lutens loves that still hold strong are Daim Blond and Tubereuse Criminelle.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I hesitate to call it insipid, but now I'll have to give some thought as to whether that is because I have trouble calling an SL scent insipid or because it really isn't insipid. I did try it next to some other basic almondy sorts of scents, and decided it was better done than many (not that almondy sorts of scents are my thing). But wearing it next to Rahat is not inspiring. *sobs*

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I'm the woman, pretending to be a perfumista, who visited the SL boutique and did NOT purchase a bell bottle.

    'Nuff said from me today.

    Hugs!

  8. Anonymous says:

    LOL — we're going to have to confiscate your perfumista badge, sorry!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Its about time Mr. Lutens step out of the bakery/confectionery loop of creating edible scents .. there's so much almonds, honey, resins, figs, dates and nuts a human can take !

    My favorite lutens have always been the non-edible morroccan

    ones: Encens et lavande, Iris Silver Mist, and Santal de Mysore

    Anyways, 2-3 more Lutens fragrance and this line will be done for good :D

  10. Anonymous says:

    I didn't actually get to test Louve—Luca's the one who got those advance testers (he knows the Lutens people pretty well) and let me try the Sarrasins on. However, I wasn't mad about Rahat Loukhoum so maybe there's no rush? His reviews will be in the book for sure.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Aha then. No rush in any case, but guessing this will be most likely to appeal to people who didn't like RL. Can't see a RL lover being impressed…and now we'll see if someone turns up to prove me wrong.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Iris Silver Mist & Tubereuse Criminelle are my favorites, and both non-edible, but do also like several of the edible ones so can't complain on that score.

    But why will the line be done for good? Or do you just mean you'll be done with it :-)

  13. Anonymous says:

    *sigh* Know what you mean, R. I haven't found one to love since 2004's Chene. (Of course, I only tried it once my perfume craziness started the next year….) Those late ninties to 2000 vintages were just great, particularly Douce Amere and TC. Hopefully, he'll (they'll?) peak again soon.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Yes, the output from 1998-2001 is extraordinary! Tons of favorites there. I need to revisit Chene & Daim Blond, I liked both but didn't fall head over heels — and then swapped both samples away too quickly.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think the degree to which you find Sarrasins interesting will depend on how much ink you get. You love A La Nuit, and A La Nuit, regardless of my other feelings, is a more interesting scent, IMHO. And Serge better do something wildly creative soon or we're through. Why doesn't he play with woods some more? How about … herbs? How about … not something sweet and boring?
    You pretty much killed off my interest in this one with the Rahat cherry reference, although I do loooove me some almond. The name still seems all wrong for the scent.

  16. Anonymous says:

    There are more non-'edible' scents than there are 'edible' ones – especially in the Exclusive range.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Can't tell whether you're kidding or not. I apologize if you were: the 'ink' referred to in the blurb is to do with the colour of the juice, nothing else.

  18. Anonymous says:

    LOL — are you threatening Serge? But hey, Rousse wasn't sweet and boring, was it? It was playing with woods & spices, at least.

  19. Anonymous says:

    March, do you remember, after SL released Chypre Rouge or Rousse we all were saying, enough of woods and spices, why not do a floral. Well, so he went and done Sarrasins, a floral. Now I am thinking, maybe we should have let him stick to what he loves best :-)

  20. Anonymous says:

    Iris Silver Mist. Yep.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I'm still in love, even if Louve leaves me with a dreary languor. There are several fairly recent Lutens that I can't be without – Chypre Rouge and Chene most significantly. Even when he misses, he misses well.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I am with you all the way with Miel de Bois as you might remember. I love it.

    I was lucky enough to receive a decant of Louve and to be honest, I really like it. I know it could be classed as a 'girly' fragrance, but for some reason, my oily skin seems to bring out the deeper notes in it and it smells nice on my skin.

    As for Sarassins, I received my wax sample (it's petroleum jelly really, read the ingredients), I just got got a massive blast of beautiful, creamy jasmine. I find that this one is so much nicer than A La Nuit too.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Another rough patcher here. The only one I like on your list is Gris Clair–and while I DO enjoy this a lot in the summer, it doesn't strike me as having the wild originality for which I love Serge. Like March, I find that all the talk about Rahat/cherry has killed my desire to try Louve, and the reviews haven't helped. I found Sarrasins to be a very pretty jasmine, but I'm not sure it's more (on me); I will try again when more is available.

    Serges I love: FT, Rose de Nuit, MKK, Encens et Lavande.

    Also quite fond of TC, Chene, Chergui, Daim Blond. And I do like most of the others. But I'm beginning to give up hope. . . .

  24. Anonymous says:

    :-)

  25. Anonymous says:

    All so, although Louve might be the first that I didn't even think missed well.

  26. Anonymous says:

    LOL — you are the 2nd lover of MdB that Tania mentioned above :-)

    But glad a fan of Louve showed up! Nice to know it works for someone. And I *need* some Sarrasins!

  27. Anonymous says:

    If you adore almond but didn't like RL, I'd still try Louve. There isn't nearly so much cherry. I adore RL, so from my perspective, hard to see the point of Louve.

    I wonder if SL is just releasing too many perfumes? Esp. given the size of the range already, 3 a year might be too much.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Serge is still my man. MdB is my favorite, but I have every one on your list above (and several others), save for the bell jars (working on it). Gris Clair is more my husband's, but I do wear it occasionally, just because it's pretty. The ones I can't tolerate because they turn into a horror on my skin are the white florals (it's not an anti-serge florals. I suspect that even Andy Tauer can't make a white floral to love me). I appreciate the idea and theory, but putting on Datura Noir makes me both suicidal and homicidal. With my skin chemistry, it can be used for mass destruction. It's that bad, so I have no expectations from Sarrasins but high hopes for the she-wolf. Bring on the almond!

  29. Anonymous says:

    The blurb I read said, essentially, jasmine … gloved in jet-black ink. Unless you've got other, more clarifying information, which is certainly possible (SL seems a little coy about the notes) I can't see why that statement excludes ink as part of the scent, not just the color. Ink is in other fragrances. Sarrasins has a vaguely ink-like smell to me, but maybe that's just me wishing for something more interesting.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like you are a way more loyal SL fan than I am — hope Louve will live up to your expectations!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Oh, another Miel de Bois admirer here, but not enough to buy a bottle, I´m afraid…I have several SL scents: Douce Amére (looooove it), Santal Blanc, Rousse and Mandarine-Mandarin. The only one I truly love is Douce Amére, and I have also a lot of affection for Santal Blanc. I find it sophisticated (at least on me). Mandarine-Mandarin is O. K., I just don´t really like “fleur d´oranger” a lot (don´t ask, yeah, I bough it unsniffed…). I got the wax sample of Sarrasins a few days ago and I find it very heavy on the jasmin (I´m not a big fan of jasmin). I want to try Fumerie Turque, but I think it will be very much like Ambre Narguilé from Hermés, which is more or less my signature winter scent. Wonderful review as always!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Fascinating stuff!!! I need to delve deeper into SL's portfolio, obviously. Oh, and apropos of sexy scents, R., I'd mentioned FM Carnal Flower, I believe — hard to follow my threads back — as one my BF thought smelled like poorly aerated compost. My mistake. It was Une Fleur de Cassie! But last night I wore it and got no complaints (!) There's something decadent about that slightly decayed note that is clearly erotic. . .Gosh, I just LOVE fragrance — good, bad or indifferent, they're endlessly discussable, arent' they?

  33. Anonymous says:

    I actually liked Louve a lot. Enough so that I will most likely buy a bottle, even with the bottle of Rahat I own. I think of Louve as a better summer/ hot weather fit than Rahat.
    I can't believe Columbina wrote that she doesn't like MKK!?!
    Sarrasins I would like to whiff, but I am not sure that II would ever wear. Jasmine- not so much for me

  34. Anonymous says:

    MR, I don't need a full bottle of MdB, but then, I don't need many full bottles of anything. Decants are plenty! I do have full bottles of Santal Blanc & Douce Amere, but never would have bought them if I knew how huge my collection would end up being.

    So sorry you ended up with MM unsniffed & don't like it! But I'm a huge fan of jasmine, so still aching for the Sarrasins!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Ah, Cassie does not work on me at all. Love Carnal Flower though…

  36. Anonymous says:

    Glad another Louve fan showed up to defend its honor! I can see that it might be a better hot weather scent than RL, which admittedly I don't reach for when its very hot.

  37. Anonymous says:

    No love for Daim Blonde???? Jammy apricots, cardamom and leather – it's my Hey Baby scent.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I was really only including scents since 2005 in my general complaint :-)

  39. Anonymous says:

    I truly think in this case it only refers to the colour. I take 'gloved in' as meaning 'housed in', i.e. the outside appearance. Before we knew that the juice was so dark, people tried to understand that cryptic blurb and work out why ink was mentioned. Someone decided it must be one of the notes and said so, but now it seems obvious that it isn't. Still, if it pleases you to think so… :-)

  40. Anonymous says:

    Why? Why does it seem obvious that your interpretation is correct? Does your spidey sense tingle when you smell ink? Did one of the Lutens folks whisper the notes in your ear over coffee at the Cafe Flor? Do you have a memo on their elegant letterhead (probably written in French) saying, “this fragrance does not contain the smell of ink?” Are you a chemist/master perfumer, capable of discerning all the components of Sarrasins in a single sniff?

    If not, then my guess … is as good as yours.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Back to the drawing board, Serge! Chypre Rouge looks better all the time, eh?

    I think I may end up liking Louve.

  42. Anonymous says:

    This one sounds interesting – but I concur with the other posts above. I admire the artistry of what Lutens does (especially in this day & age), but I simply cannot wear any of his fragrances. The closest I came was with fleur citronnier, which smelled divine, but then turned to straight talcum powder on me!

  43. Anonymous says:

    Well, it seems obvious to me, but, as I said, you can think whatever you like.

    There are lots of things I could say in answer to your sarcastic comment. I will refrain, out of respect for Robin. I'll just point out that it's Café de Flore.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I would never have the gumption to wear compost-y Cassie anywhere but between the sheets. I love Carnal Flower, but can't wear it to bed; sneezing volley from the other side ensues. Only have small samples of each, anyway; saving my $$ for Therese, thanks to you steering me in that direction, R!

  45. Anonymous says:

    Ah, then you're saving lots of $$$, aren't you? There are plenty of other fish in the sea.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Therese is worth saving money for, IMHO :-)

  47. Anonymous says:

    Then I'm doubly determined.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I think I should thank you for giving me the idea of writing to the Salons and thereby helping to settle this question once and for all: I now have 'a memo on their elegant letterhead (probably written in French) saying, “this fragrance does not contain the smell of ink”', well, two emails, actually, and, yes, they are in French because I am French and the manageress of the Salons is French too. (Btw, if you feel such contempt towards the French why are you even contemplating using French perfume?)

    You can read the original emails here: http://freespace.virgin.net/lovely.perfume/Sarrasins1.jpg http://freespace.virgin.net/lovely.perfume/Sarrasins2.jpg

    Here is the translation of the first email:

    The mystery of ink.

    The perfume is a means of self-expression, of self-description. It is, in essence, an ink.

    Olfactorily speaking, 'Sarrasins' reveals a high sensuality. It's jasmine, but seen from its wildcat side, savage in its furry pelt. Unlike other jasmines that are smoother, cleaner, more floral, whiter.

    Through the colour of 'Sarrasins', a deep purple-black, I therefore wanted to bring out the animal side of that jasmine scent.

    The colour black is also a way of evoking the forbidden, the sacred.

    From a literary point of view (see the press release), both the name and the colour of this perfume correspond also to the vision I have of buckwheat/Saracens*, namely:

    - the cereal grain, which is black;

    - the Moors as seen by medieval Christians, with their dark skin.

    * sarrasin means 1) buckwheat; 2) Saracen

    The second email says:

    ‘….. and, no, Sarrasins does not smell of ink at all.’

    An apology for all the silly sarcasm is in order, I think. I won’t hold my breath.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Why does he have the exclusive line that will not ship to the US? I think about this A LOT. Sure, it makes me want it more. But, then you have to go through places like Perfumed Court in order to get any. So, really is Serge making any money when someone else is buying and selling the product? Any insight you have would be appreciated. I get so mad that they won't ship it that, at times, I think of never tracking down one of his scents again.

  50. Anonymous says:

    It is highly annoying, isn't it? I would guess though that the line is just too big now to distribute all of it world-wide and still be cost effective. And of course, it generates demand, doesn't it? At least they throw one scent into the export pool as a limited edition every year, although of course, it is never the one I want :-(

  51. Anonymous says:

    PBI. There are masses of things are not available globally. I can think of quite a few items that are available in the USA but not in the UK – like Ginger Chews, for instance. LOL! The Exclusives are not the only fragrances that are not on sale worldwide.

    As I've said before on this blog, the Perfumed Court should be very careful about selling the Exclusives: they are not licenced to do so. No one is, except the Salons. It's one thing for one person to sell the odd bottle, quite another for a proper business taking credit card payment, etc. to sell them in quantity.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Bella, is there an actual license for selling exclusive perfumes? Is there an actuall law that prohibits the sale of decants, provided they are genuine? I have bought parts of other items on ebay, e.g. jewelry containing pottery shards without concern for the potter's rights over his creation. Are the rules different in perfumery? You may know something I don't; would you share?

    (No sarcasm here).

  53. Anonymous says:

    Hi! There is no law, but the one thing one has to remember is that no one is obliged to sell anything to anyone (a shop can refuse to sell you whatever they want: it is their prerogative). I believe companies issue licences to retailers (for a great deal of money – the more famous the company, the more expensive it is to be allowed to sell their goods). If the Salons wish to retain exclusivity it's their right. A very famous company (Dior, or Chanel or YSL) succeeded in having their perfumes (which are not exclusives) removed from Superdrug in the UK because Superdrug sells cheap stuff and they didn't want to be associated with it. The law probably looks at luxury goods in a different way.

    Re. The Perfumed Court: I wasn't talking about their selling decants (the sale of decants on eBay is not allowed any longer so the owners of TPC got together and created that website); I was talking about their selling full bottles of the SL Exclusives, for which they do not have a licence. I'm quite sure the big companies are not happy about people selling decants still but perhaps they don't feel like suing every single small seller. They put pressure on eBay and stopped there.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Weighing in. I guess I'm the only one out there who absolutely LOVES Louve. Hmm. I'm wondering if there's something wrong with my nose to be so outnumbered by naysayers? It reminds me of a more subtle, more complex Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose — all Turkish Delight almonds, honey and rosewater. I don't find it dull or insipid, simply rich and mellow. I also find it refreshingly different; while I'm not a very experienced nose by any means, I find it avoids that extremely sweet, dried/stewed/spiced fruit element in so many other SL creations, Chypre Rouge being one recent example. Perhaps I'm waaaaay out in left field with this, and if so would love to be set straight by more knowledgable noses!!!

  55. Anonymous says:

    First off, I am quite sure you are not the only one who loves Louve. People are always more likely to comment if they agree w/ the review, and to just shake their heads in disgust (but not comment) when they don't.

    Second, seriously, wear what you love w/ pride — it all comes down to personal taste in the end.

  56. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate both points. Not sure if anyone was shaking his/her head in disgust — it was your usual excellent review — but I see how opinion could flow a little more easily in the same direction.

    My own insecurities about my budding opinions aside, I think I'm pretty safe to find merit in a Serge Lutens fragrance however the tide flows!

    I'm with you on the “personal taste” criterion, Robin, in the sense that we obviously are the only arbiters of what we ourselves like best. As a wine critic, I often find myself saying the same reassuring thing to rookie wine lovers. I need to remind myself of it, because so easily I can put too much weight on objective quality — as who could argue that a Serge Lutens is made of better ingredients than an Avon, a Chateau Lafite is made of better grapes using better winemaking methods than a garden-variety Cabernet — and look down my nose at someone who happens to like the Cabernet better. The mistake for a “connoisseur” like me, in other words, is to feel superior for prefering the superior wine.

    So, again, Robin, you have demonstrated what makes you such a trusted fragrance reviewer to us all. We are lucky to have you.

  57. Anonymous says:

    A newbie here, both on your website and as a perfumista. Have read your reviews with great delight and would now like to join in, too.

    I have tried Louve for two days now, and I quite like the almondy smell at the beginning. However, when it starts drying down, due to my skin chemistry a strange almost cheesy scent starts to appear. Very weird, so I think I'll give that one a miss. I've also received a sample of Rahat Loukoum, so I guess that'll be my next attempt.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Hello RenaRuadh, and welcome! Hope the Rahat will work better on you!

  59. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin!

    I have been reading your blog for some time now and just signed up to post. I must say I do enjoy Louve and mainly because the lasting power of Rahat was so minimal on me. I liked RH but just couldn't rationalize the expense versus its elusive nature. Louve has great lasting power and I get a bit more rose, which I surprisingly enjoy. I find both scents to be very comforting, but I am also a POTL fan for the same reason.

    As for Serge – my taste runs all over the place – I love Un Lys (probably my fave SL for being simply gorgeous), Fleurs d'Oranger & Tubereuse Criminelle are also amazing, but I also enjoy Un Bois Vanille, Chergui, Douce Amere, Clair de Musc, Miel de Bois, Bois de Violette, Gris Clair & Datura Noir.

    I still need to try ISM, Sarassins, Encens et Lavande and a couple Bois series exclusifs, but for the most part, I have had good luck sampling with Serge. Even those that aren't a match for my chemistry get a vote for being a step or two more original than the department stores.

    I do enjoy reading your reviews! Not everyone has the same taste and skin chemistry but if we all smelled the same and wore the same scents life would be terribly boring!

    Keep up the great work!

  60. Anonymous says:

    Hi and welcome!

    You are much smarter to fall in love with Louve in terms of accessibility, that is for sure! And many people do seem to prefer it to Rahat — heresy, in my book, LOL :-)

  61. Anonymous says:

    Clair de Musc reminds me of Chanel No. 5, Datura Noir reminds me of Guerlain's Champs-Elysees, Rousse brings to mind Bvlgari's Omnia but this one is completely unique on its own. I have to give it to SL to come up with something so daringly almond – to me, it is a love it or hate it kind of scent. I was looking for something sweet, lush and creamy and ended up going for Datura Noir. I suppose one day I may get myself to like Louve enough to buy a retail size.

  62. Anonymous says:

    I like almond, just like the almond better in Rahat. This one is cheaper though!

  63. Anonymous says:

    I agree, R….

    While I quite like Louve….it is too powdery for me, and I prefer Rahat any days :p

    Can you believe that a very sweet swapper in MUA sent me 5 ml decant of RL as an extra? :O

    super generous!!!

  64. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that really is a very kind extra!

  65. Lars Lapsus says:

    Got a huge sample (15ml) in a shop over a year ago. Didn’t like it at first sniff then. Found it in a box today & tried it for the first time on skin and quite like it. Have to try again. It smells very earthy-balsamic to me. And of course the weird opening is cherry juice + Amaretto di Saronno ;)

    • Robin says:

      I love the cherry almond stuff, just much prefer it in Rahat!

  66. Lars Lapsus says:

    In the sale Louve must have had quite a bad start, they gave me and a friend a 15ml sample each, although we didn’t even buy anything!

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