Rochas Lui ~ fragrance review

Rochas Lui fragrance

I know many people who love perfumes but who do not have the “vocabulary” to describe them; as they struggle to identify “notes” or “accords” they falter and become frustrated. But sometimes those same people can make a perfume come alive for me when they forget about the ‘notes’ and describe a scene or feeling the perfume inspired. Like all perfume lovers, I often experience vivid images and emotions as I smell a perfume for the first time:


It is a hot summer day. I am alone in a small, stuffy, dim and cluttered room that is decorated in the Victorian style. The room’s windows are closed and covered by heavy, moss-green curtains. The room’s walls are papered with dusty pink (and flocked) wallpaper in a Fleur-de-Lys pattern (hundreds of Fleurs-de-Lys ‘float’ all around me). All the room’s furniture is made of dark, thickly varnished woods and the chairs and settee are upholstered in plush, ruby-red velvets. Scattered about the room are large, overstuffed pillows made of antique Oriental carpet remnants — each pillow is bordered by long and thick fringe. In this room, I wear a wool suit, a starched-collared shirt, a tightly knotted tie, and shoes that pinch. I sweat. The warm, humid, almost airless atmosphere of the room makes me sleepy and I lay down on the settee and rest my head on a pillow. I close my eyes and smell the pillow: it smells of old perspiration, scented powders, heavy perfumes, and dust. Suddenly, someone is pushing one of the fringed pillows over my face. I try to breathe and scream for help — but cannot. As I begin to lose consciousness, I feel the pillow’s fringe brushing against my throat.

Breathing heavily, I wake up. Only a dream! Exhausted by the heat, my head had slumped to the side and my face had become wedged between the pillow and the settee’s bulging cushions.

The End

Rochas Lui is the pillow that almost suffocated me, the room that felt like a tropical prison, the windows and curtains that blocked out everything fresh and bright. Rochas Lui is too much.

Lui was created by perfumers Michel Almairac and Amandine Marie in 2003 and contains citron, neroli, bison grass, sycamore wood, cedar, patchouli, amber and vanilla. Lui begins with deep citrus and neroli notes; it smells familiar — like an “enriched” (or “perfume-strength”) classic Eau de Cologne. As the warm citrus and floral aromas begin to fade, a sweet, but slightly stale, note becomes apparent — this note smells ‘woody’ but it also reminds me of the scent of dried sweat on fabric.

Lui’s buffalo grass (Hierochloe odorata) note (briefly) provides an interesting vanilla-straw accord during the early phase of Lui’s development. Buffalo grass (also known as incense grass, sweet grass and by many other names) contains coumarin and when dried, the grass smells of ‘powdered’ vanilla. As Lui “ages” on my skin, it becomes cloyingly sweet (vanillic) and also a bit acrid.

I was surprised by a blurb from Cosmetics International:

Lui, the new men's fragrance from French brand Rochas…is yet another testimonial to the move away from the watery, citrusy scents of recent years towards classic, strong and instantly recognisable fragrances. "Lui is for a man who wants to be a man. It is fresh and woody with amber notes, certainly not an all-purpose fragrance," said a Rochas spokesperson. (7/18/2003)

I am a man who wants to be, and likes being, a man, but to my nose Lui is not a ‘manly’ scent when judged alongside most mainstream/designer masculine fragrances. (Lui may have smelled more ‘masculine’ in, say, the early 1900s.) When I wore Lui to work, several people thought I was wearing a feminine perfume, so Lui is firmly in unisex territory. Lui is not a “casual” fragrance and is not for the person who loves light and “modern” fragrances. But what do I know? Lui gets raves from the majority of men on fragrance blogs.

Lui is strong and rich and sweet and has excellent lasting power. After 5-6 hours on my skin, a very pleasant amber-cedar note is all that remains of Lui. Lui appealed to me only during its first breath and last gasp.

Rochas perfumes are hard to find in U.S. department stores but they are readily available online at steep discounts. A 50 ml bottle of Lui costs around $20.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh how I loved how you described your encounter with LUI!

    Rochas is one of my beloved perfume houses and yet I can so well imagine the suffocating feeling you experienced at the very beginning.

    And I'm not a man, but I will try LUI nevertheless.

    Kevin, you should spend some time in central and eastern Europe, for the rooms that you describe still exist overhere…

    I have lived in central Europe for almost three years by now and I still don't know what is happening and overcoming me when staying in a old chique hotel.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a laugh! Talk about being relieved to wake up from a nightmare… Wait, hang on a minute, did you just trash a favorite of mine? How is it that my sweet'n'powder-inducing skin keeps Lui squarely in the masculine territory, I wonder? To be true, I do get a skosh of powder, but only in the far dry down. Admit Lui is rich and possibly baroque, but oppressive? I say, blame it on the skin chemistry, HA! Anyway, more for me :-)

    K, I ended up liking He Wood a lot after trying it at long last. I kept sniffing it like mad trying to figure out which other frag it reminded me of and eventually it dawned on me – Alien. The two aren't exactly similar, but the sweet 'solar' vibe was unmistakably there. The ozone accord I didn't much like but can see how flat the fragrance would've been without it. And one last carping remark: where is the *wood*? :-)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Marianne: I do need to explore central Europe: Croatia (does that count?) Austria, Hungary: all are on The List of places I must visit. If you like dense, fuzzy, ENGULFING fragrances DO try Lui!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Um, sweet'n'powder-enhancing skin, not -inducing, obviously. :-)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dusan: I was thinking of you and your Best Friend on Sunday as I “perused” the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show; I stalked quite a few Pekes that day…charming and SASSY. As for HeWOOD…not much wood except on the OUTSIDE of the bottle. And as always, blame my reaction to Lui on my skin…My Skin + Lui = fragrance BOMB.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Kevin, you are a masterful writer and conjurer of forceful images!! I was with you in the pillows all the way. Phew!!

    Somehow, this is not a fragrance I think I want to own a great big bottle of. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You know, while you are in Zagreb, Croatia, you could always drop by Belgrade, which is only a three-hour drive away. We could go sniffing together and what better opportunity to meet my Sassy Best Friend? :-)

    Apologies for not threading my comments properly — it's this darn cell phone!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Robin: Thank you and you would NOT need a big bottle…a 30 ml bottle would last and last I bet….

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dusan, you are a MASTERFUL cell phone typist! (And I would love to meet in Belgrade)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why thank you :-D (And it's a deal!)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Will try LUI and Croatia counts for you..

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wow! My throat closed up just reading your review! Wow.
    For some reason I'm tasting Grey Flannel and used motor oil in the back of my throat….

  13. Anonymous says:

    Mammabear: that's weird! A friend said it reminded him of Gray Flannel right out of the bottle

  14. Anonymous says:

    Well, you are a masterful writer, evoking all sorts of memories! That's all there is to it! I actually like(d) GF but remember that weird, gargly, suffocating feeling in the back of my throat,every time I sniffed it. Your description of Lui sounds just like that, only way more elegant!:-)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Robin –

    Sorry! Didn't mean to copy your earlier line! After I hit 'send' I wondered why the word 'masterful' came so quickly to mind…..

    I am a pathetic thief!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mamabear! It's true, too, isn't it: our Kevin can really paint a picture with words!!!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Great review Kevin.

    I have not smelled Lui (strange…when I saw the title I almost thought you were reviewing Mazzolari Lui) but that 'dried sweat on fabric' accord I can relate to as I recognize it in Eau de Hermes (which I love) – but combined with anything vanilla and powdery sounds quite gross.

    However I must smell this myself, one of these days. It sounds like a rite of passage for this fragrance freak. :)

  18. Anonymous says:

    Mike: wearing Lui is quite strange…it “feels” like a vintage perfume, like nothing made in 2003…so if you ever FIND a bottle sniff it (but do NOT buy unsniffed..ya hear?)

  19. Anonymous says:

    Dearset Sigmund Freud (Err I meant Kevin S),

    Thank you for a “Chef d'Oeuvre” review of LUI de Rochas.

    Oh well, you know too well how fond I am (or shall I say “was”) of this fragrance!

    Your review put me on the couch (so to speak) and I felt as if Dr. Freud himself was analyzing my life beginning with my early childhood memories.

    Even stranger to me was the fact that, contrary to many scents I wear, I never receive any compliments from anyone, men or women alike, when I wear LUI. Could they all have been wrong (or stopped-up) all that time???

    I always thought that LUI was a forgotten gem. I can't even count the times I cursed P&G (current owners of Rochas Parfums) for not promoting LUI.

    But reality dawned on me today like an expensive psychoanalysis session by the master himself when I read your long awaited review of LUI.

    In reality, the heavily-fringed dusty pillows made of persian rugs in that dusky draperies-laden place with the scent of a fireplace with burning orange rinds and where a cold draft was always present, was ACTUALLY my grandmother's house in Paris back when I was a child in the 70's.

    She lived in one of those Bourgeois “hotels particuliers” style, old rustic rococco, well-maintained buildings (without efficient central heating) that are so close to the Arc De Triomphe. Buildings located in “Les beaux quartiers” (The beautiful neighborhood) of Paris and that no one can afford to live in anymore.

    They were all purchased by businesses due to the cost of upkeep and high taxes, once that older generation was gone.

    Flashback to 2004: I must have loved LUI because it reminded me of the comforting scent of my grandmother's home, a scent that was also present on her suits, scarves, jewelry and everything else she owned.

    You were so right-on with the “feminine and dusty” description.

    Her home will forever remain a dear place etched in my (olfactory) memory.

    It's a bit eery to think, from your description, that you might have been there in spirit (were you really there? if so, did we play together like mischievious boys wearing short trousers and navy blue blazers with a crest?)

    This is truly 6 degrees of separation…All mediated by LUI de Rochas. Unbelievable!

    Now that the therapy session is over (thank you Kevin, send me the bill please) I'm in a dilemma asking myslelf whether I should simply throw away my two last bottles of LUI or donate them to someone I dislike…

    Never again!


  20. Anonymous says:

    I have only one Rochas fragrance in my wardrobe and that's “Desir”, which although not the most trendy or “in demand of fragrances” is actually really nice, with one of the most enjoyable and warm drydowns out there. Yes, it's slightly sweet, but in my experience women respond well to men who can wear that kind of scent with confidence.

    I have no idea what Lui smells like, but I suspect I would wear this well.

    People get to hung up on definitions.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Kevin, I tried this some time ago at a pharmacy dispensing a range of budget fragrances, and I swear I didn't get this from Rochas Lui, if anything, it was quite light, which is why I didn't rush to purchase it.

    It is my opinion that for some people, their body temperature and chemistry can magnify one spray of any fragrance to a very high olfactory level that lasts all day; yet some like me, have to spray up to 20 sprays before it's even noticed – that's such a curse on a parfumista!

    There are some fragrances like Secretions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d'Orange, where one spray lasts until I wash it off! Unfortunately, it's a fragrance I don't ever wear in public because it's far too erotic and dirty.

    After reading your review, I shall definitely try to locate this fragrance!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Haha… only skimmed through this briefly, but I must say you have a VIVID imagination and/or fantasy life. Such descriptors!

    The room you envisioned made me think of Ingres' “Grand Odalisque” meeting an unseemly end.

    How does Lui fare when applied only in the teeny-tiniest of dabs, one behind each ear? Sounds a little “old-mannish,” or dare I say “old-ladyish” … I MEAN “OLD-FASHIONED” of course!

  23. Anonymous says:

    I am dying to try this fragrance simply because of your review. Fantastic writing, Kevin! I kept thinking of cushions on old trains that made the skin on the back of your legs itch. Your richness of phrase and keen descriptions are worth reading even if they had nothing to do with perfume.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Yes…and it's made me want to put Lui on my list of sniffs, just to see where it takes me!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Eric: I was so “fearful” of your reaction to this review!!!!! Now, IF ONLY we had been playmates at the Jardin des Tuileries…retiring after a play-date to your grandmother's apartment for a wonderul afternoon tea. (And I'm ALWAYS in Paris “in spirit.”) Lui DOES smell so “French” doesn't it? Lui certainly got a reaction from me…I was not “immune” to its powers. I think you should keep your bottles of Lui and wear the fragrance and remember your grandmother and the scent of her home. Certainly wear Lui when you're in PARIS walking the old neighborhoods. Who cares if no one else likes it! (Did you read Robin's article on that topic earlier this week?) This session is on the house…Doktor KS.

  26. Anonymous says:

    HDS1963: I could care less if a scent is “made” for a man or a woman…if I feel comfortable in it — I wear it. I've never smelled Desir but do remember liking Eau de Rochas…the one for men AND the one for women.

  27. Anonymous says:

    desmondorama: TWENTY SPRAYS! Goodness! But I do know people who must reapply perfume constantly in order to smell it because their skin EATS scent…even ones I consider on the heavy side.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Joe: you certainly DO mean “old fashioned!” (I allow NO mention of “old lady” or “old man” on my articles…I should have Robin and Blogharbor make it IMPOSSIBLE to type those words! HA!) Where you live I feel even two sprays of Lui would be too much…escept on the foggiest/most blustery of days. (Who knows…you might love it)

  29. Anonymous says:

    clarestella: Thank you and I hope you can find some Rochas to sniff…I bet you'll have better luck if you're in Europe…even mini's are hard to come by in the US.

  30. Anonymous says:

    If you want to source Lui check out Strawberrynet cos they definitely have it!

  31. Anonymous says:

    I have never had the oppourtunity to smell lui but from your description I would think it is not for me sounds extremely “stand offish”…The only Rochas I have ever owned was Rochas Man which I really liked alot.. it was like sitting in the coffee house on warm spring morning for me …Great Review “Sir” K


  32. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, G. I've never tried Rochas Man (but I assume there's come coffee bean in there…?) Rochas scents are just too hard to find where I live.

  33. Anonymous says:

    That was hilarious! I could feel the suffocation, of course, after you drew me in with your elaborate description.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Anne, forgot to mention in the review that the Lui bottle rocks on its base! (adding another element of unease to the Lui experience). Can't you just see it? Opening the perfume cabinet door roughly and amidst the sea of perfume bottles, LUI beging to move slowly from side to side…tick-tock-tick-tock…)

  35. Anonymous says:


    I did thoroughly enjoy reading Robin's article. That said, it just makes for a better day when you like the scent that you're wearing AND when others around you do as well.

    I've had lots of mixed experiences with famous scents like: Eau D'Hermes, Bel Ami D'Hermes, Hemes Ambre Narguile', Antaeus by Chanel…where really outspoken “friends” would point blank tell me that it wasn't a good scent at all!

    But back to LUI, the bottle base rocks VERY slightly which is barely noticeable only if you place it on a very smooth surface and watch.

    I just realized that LUI can perhaps be summarized as a Vintage Dusty Guerlain like L'heure bleue or Shalimar (vanilla) mixed with citrus and neroli…

    That's where the grandma closet scent probably comes in!

    I'll wear it in Paris for you, may be for a walk at the Jardin des Tuileries? and I'll let you know what they say!

    A bientot…

    PS: You still owe me a review of Eau D'Hermes and Antaeus so I can “exorcise” those two and move on as well…lol

  36. Anonymous says:

    Kevin, spectacular review.

    I totally agree and I think Rochas needs to hire a creative director for fragrances (although I think someone else, like a corporation, handles this like a franchise) in the manner of Helena at Hermes.

    They are all over the map… I just wish they come up with another “Globe” but they keep churning out things like “Aquaman”….

    I mean AQUAMAN? images of the comic book hero come to mind, and the smell of fishes and algae come to mind…

    They need to put someone with a little more connection with present times (without going Hugo Boss on us) and at the same time with a little style sense ;-)

  37. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Kevin for this review!

    I was close to purchasing this, as the sparkling and glamorous opening accord absolutely fascinated me. But each time I tried it the heart note bored me to death and even seemed a bit “chemical”, so, similar perception as you I guess.

    Funny though how you guys descriptions – which come to a negative conclusion – use association that are amongst the most bautiful I can think of (Paris/Hôtel particulier/Rokoko/a walk in the Tuileries)…

    BTW: They sold it at TK Maxx in the UK just some months ago.

    best wishes,


    PS: I would like to express support for that call for an Eau d'Hermes review made above… ;)

  38. Anonymous says:

    KG: “Aquaman” is one crazy name…you'd at least expect some FUN from the concept…not something ordinary. I need to check my “notes” but didn't P&G buy Rochas?

  39. Anonymous says:

    Lars: all the positive/Paris connections for me with Lui come in those first few minutes of wear…that “sparkling” and “glamorous” opening you speak of. I will get around to reviewing Eau d'Hermes (one of my favorite layering scents)…but I must brace myself for a LARGE NUMBER of brand-new releases I must review. Let's hope ONE of them is worth buying!

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