Serge Lutens El Attarine ~ perfume review

Serge Lutens El Attarine

Two quick and somewhat contradictory thoughts sprung to mind when I first smelled El Attarine, the latest fragrance from the Serge Lutens exclusive* line. The first was to ponder how much longer Serge Lutens could possibly go on releasing three new fragrances a year based on this same rather narrow thematic palette. To my nose, many of the newer releases smell like riffs on older scents in the range — interesting riffs, to be sure, but how many riffs do most consumers, even rabid Serge Lutens fans and collectors, want or need? My second thought was simply to wonder how long it would be before El Attarine was selected as the limited edition export of the year so that I could buy a bottle.

The Serge Lutens ad copy, as always somewhat less than helpful, describes El Attarine as "gold, sun-drenched topaz, everlasting flowers and saps". El Attarine's opening is strong, dense citrus; it very quickly devolves into that blend of stewed dried fruits and curry spices that Serge Lutens fans know so well, albeit done here with a somewhat more pared down approach. The heart is a blended floral dominated by immortelle. Immortelle is not a favorite note of mine; it is too frequently given a sweet, syrupy finish that I find overwhelming. In El Attarine, it is honeyed — the fragrance does indeed achieve a golden glow — but not so much so that it feels claustrophobic.

Serge fans will likewise recognize the woody, pencil-ish notes and middling-skanky musk in the base, finished off here with just a pinch of powder. It's not a light scent, but it's quieter than some of the others in the line. Luca Turin noted that "You certainly don't go shopping for fabric softener wearing this",** but if forced to choose, I'd be more likely to run my errands wearing El Attarine than Arabie, a fragrance cited by many perfumistas as the main source of inspiration for El Attarine's motifs (other likely suspects that have been mentioned, and all with good reason, include Muscs Koublaï Khan, La Myrrhe and the whole of the Bois series leading right back to Shiseido Féminité du Bois).

El Attarine is my favorite from the Serge Lutens line since 2004's Chêne. Very much worth a try, if you can get your hands on it.

Serge Lutens El Attarine is available in 75 ml Eau de Parfum. The bottle shown above is the special limited edition (850€, 30 numbered bottles available); it is also sold in the "plain" bell jar (110€).

* For buying information (including an explanation of the difference between the exclusive and export ranges) see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

** From the Fall 2008 newsletter supplement to Perfumes: The Guide.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Squeeeee! I want a bottle, this minute! Yours is the final validation I've been waiting for :)

    one question, how *much* similar is it to La Myrrhe (in my top 3 SL)? You see, I was going to get myself a bottle of LM and now wonder if I need two similar SLs.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I found it most similar to Arabie, very much Indian spice, but way more wearable. It starts off with a bang but dries down softer within a short period of time. I look forward to a full bell jar bottle of this on my trip to Paris in April!

  3. Anonymous says:

    La Myrrhe is one of the few (maybe the only, I'd have to check) SLs that I've never tried on skin, only in a wax sample. Luca Turin says EA is a “supercharged version” of LM, I wouldn't have thought it, but everyone knows the wax samples aren't the best. I would have called EA a minimalist riff on Arabie + Feminite du Bois, with a little drop of MKK for good measure, maybe.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Agree on more wearable, and jealous in advance of your bell jar!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am at the very end of my decant of Arabie. I have to admit – there are only so many times I can endure wearing Arabie in the Miami weather, but when it works, there's nothing quite like it.

    Sounds like El Attarine is right up my alley.

    Unlike you, though, I have fallen hopelessly in love with Serge Noire – so perhaps EA is going to have to wait in line. :)

    BTW – would you compare EA to Fougere Bengale by Parfums d'Empire at all?

  6. Anonymous says:

    it truly smells like arabie light on me. much more wearable.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanx for another great review, Robin! I would love to try that scent if I had a chance, but I would absolutely love to get my hands on this gorgeous bottle!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Eh, I kill off your lemming for Baume a little, and you torment me with this?!?!? I love immortelle, and Arabie's a bit much. This sounds perfect. Fine, I needed a new lemming.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ohhh lah lah- need to update the MUA wishlist pronto ;-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    A lighter more wearable Arabie? Oh Serge, I am yours, again.

    I can't say that I wasn't already chomping at the bit to smell this, but thank you for (another) lovely review. It is killing me that our trip to Paris got bumped to next year. I guess it gives me more time to sock away money for a limited edition bottle (just kidding).

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ahhh, I love. that. bottle. The woods and skanky musk add to the temptation.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Don't know that I'd call this one a hot weather scent either, but more so than Arabie I'd think.

    I only got a quick try of SN (that was Kevin's review) so couldn't say what I thought of it except that for the hour I wore it, thought it was better than I'd expected it to be.

    Gosh, offhand don't see much comparison the that particular PdE…maybe ought to try them together.

  13. Anonymous says:


  14. Anonymous says:

    They really do a great job on the LEs. Mandarin Mandarine was even better, maybe Sarrasins too.

  15. Anonymous says:

    HA, that hardly begins to get you back. What have I got to look forward to now?

  16. Anonymous says:

    I was chomping at the bit to try this (and it's really hard to make a 1ml sample last!), but I have to say that I was sort of underwhelmed. It's certainly a nice, warm, fruity-curry experience — almost like a rich and delicious couscous dish or nutty spice bread. However, I was led to expect an olfactory ambrosia of apricot, honey, and immortelle — and El Attarine isn't that. Still, I'd kill for one of those LE bell jars.

    Thanks for a great review! (PS: I received my partial bottle of Chêne last week.)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Later remembered that I do have a liquid sample of LM that I just hadn't gotten around to yet — will see if I can find skin space for it tomorrow!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Wonder if anyone is swapping it yet?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, you have some serious socking away to do if you want that one! Wonder how long it is before they sell out, anyway? Not that it matters to me :-)

  20. Anonymous says:

    I wish they'd do more LE export bottles while they're at it, and maybe at a slightly more reasonable price. Ah well. I love that bottle too.

  21. Anonymous says:

    No, would agree with your assessment — it isn't an olfactory ambrosia of apricot, honey & immortelle at all. The base is very dry, for one thing — much drier to my nose than Arabie, and I find the heart much less foody in general than I expected.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The new Daddy Yankee? Kate Moss? Speaking of skank.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, thanks. And you forgot Paris Hilton Fairy Dust.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Oh, the glory that is El Attarine!

    I ordered one as soon as they had it online on 2 September – unsniffed and not regretting it! This is how to survive Autumn until I finally can ritualistically take out my Fendi Theorema in December.

    El Attarine is the most wonderful concoction of apricot and cumin imaginable. I don’t get much wood, nor jasmine, nor any of the aldehydes Luca Turin mentiones (good news!!!), just a burst of something “green” (saps?) and then apricots and cumin twirling around each other. It’s not really fresh apricots, it reminds me more of some kind of Egyptian dried apricot candy called Qamar ad-Din, which is both sweet and zingy at the same time. El Attarine is sweet, but neither cloying nor foody. Rather, it’s almost a skin scent kind of fragrance, with very good lasting power but quite modest sillage. It is a very happy, comforting, cozy fragrance, and it indeed is solar.

    To me, it feels like a bright morning in Marrakesh, slowly walking over the main square and into the spice souk, all bright blue skies and sunshine, the air still keeping some of the night’s crispness but with the promise of a very hot day.

  25. Anonymous says:

    If memory serves, I wrote upon smelling it that El Attarine was Bois de Violette with Santal de Mysore wedged in the middle: same violet + cedar structure, enhanced with sandalwood and cumin, plus that candied/stewed apricot note, and a nod to Fleurs d'Oranger. Not so much La Myrrhe in my opinion, but the cinnamon and orange facets of El Attarine could point in that direction too.
    What's interesting is how close to the smell of food this gets for a lot of people: it seems Lutens is deliberately experimenting with that, from his press release (inasmuch as one can detect anything straightforward from SL's cryptic declarations).

  26. Anonymous says:

    I would love to try El Attarine, for Bois de Violette is my favorite of the non-export line. That bottle is really beautiful but 850 Euros is way too much money for my taste and my wallet. ;-]

  27. Anonymous says:

    My SL cred is seriously low. The only full bottle I own is Chene and though I very much like Rose de Nuit and Bois de Violette and Bois des Fruits I always imagined myself immune to the lures of a bell jar. All that changed last night when I decided to give my sample of MKK another whirl and as Tanca reported in TG, same scent but the horror had disappeared. Beautiful stuff. And now your review of this one makes me think I could lemm another bell jar. I love to smell Arabie but I don't want to smell of it – too much. Thanks for the review!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Now I'm fascinated…I've been wearing Theorema since September, and find this one needs much cooler weather than Theorema.

    Agree this one wears oddly like a skin scent, given that it isn't really light at all.

  29. Anonymous says:

    You'll do that for me? Aw thanks, R! :D

  30. Anonymous says:

    I certainly can't detect anything straightforward — and that seems to be the intention I'd say!

  31. Anonymous says:

    I have a number of export bottles, but not a single bell jar. Some day, Iris Silver Mist! Although keep hoping one year that will be the LE export.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Dear Dusan,

    I am butting in to assure you that having my own bell jars of both La Myrrhe and El Attarine, the two are nothing alike except for the sweet aspect. But wheareas in LM it is mandarin with a deep resin/balsam background that vibrates in the brown frequency, in EA it is honeyed, luminous and intensely golden; very reminiscent of a more wearable Arabie (although I personally am a fan of Arabie, but I use this caveat emptor based on other people's hesitancy for this more hard-core souk fragrance). I think you might like it.

    I was splitting a jar at the beginning of September, so if you want a gratis sample to assuage your curiosity (and thus enable your splurge or alternatively save your wallet), please mail me at :-)

  33. Anonymous says:

    Hi Mike!

    Fougere Bengale has a salty curry note (the immortelle is not maple-like and folded in sweetness, like in Sables) so it is not similar to the rather subdued and honeyed use in El Attarine. I vastly prefer the latter myself which is surprising as I usually don't go for so sweet scents. It's that good!

  34. Anonymous says:

    For me, Theorema is THE Christmas Scent – that combination of pine tree in the top notes with orange and spices in the dry down is just so Christmas, hence I really only wear it in December (reason might also be that, once upon a time, it was introduced in late autumn…).

    EA is surprisingly light on me, I find, and it wears very close to the skin. I wore it happily in very warm September weather. I think it is the perfect fragrance for a sunny autumn day, or for creating that feeling on a very not sunny autumn day.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Wearing it now, and would agree w/ Helg below — this is Arabie Lite, not La Myrrhe Extreme. Woodier than either Arabie or La Myrrhe, though.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Ah, that makes sense — I can see it as an Xmas scent.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Have to weigh in as the odd one out. I took an instant dislike to El Attarine, and — with all due respect to our beloved blogmistress — found nothing of the gorgeous-sounding concoction she writes about. Just to encourage everyone to try it for themselves before losing too much sleep over this potential lemming. . .Your nostrils may have other ideas!

  38. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Robin

  39. Anonymous says:

    That was Helg, not me!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for weighing in, and yes, nobody should EVER lose sleep over a potential lemming just because they read about it here!

  41. Anonymous says:

    R., I have lost whole NIGHTS dreaming the impossible lemming dream, thanks to this blog!!!!

  42. Anonymous says:

    By all means butt in, H! :) Thanks for the clarification AND the offer. I've sent you an e-mail.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the side-by-side test R, you're very sweet, as always! :) Have never tried Arabie but def see what you mean w/ EA being woodier than LM. I guess, and doubt the liquid sample will change my mind, that I'll need both after all! :) How are you finding La Myrrhe now, btw? I'm really curious…

  44. Anonymous says:

    La Myrrhe reminds me, first of all, to go out of my way NOT to smell the wax samples. This one is nearly as misleading as MKK.

    Anyway, myrrh is not a favorite note of mine, and this one is also heavily aldehydic. So, interesting, nicely done, enjoyed trying it, don't need any: my very favorite kind of SL.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Lol, glad to see you cross another SL off the list! Consider it as money saved towards a bottle of ISM ;-)

    Have you tried the infamous Kouros? Gosh, I love the aldehydic bite of its opening!

  46. Anonymous says:

    Blame me, go ahead! Seriously though, have you had dreams in which you receive or lose perfume? Because I've had a few weird ones, and maybe we need to do a lazy poll on the subject.

  47. Anonymous says:

    oh, this one sounds great, a ligher more wearable Arabie ! I love Arabie, but it often feels a little bit too much for me…I love smelling it, but don't really enjoy wearing it, it sort of wears me instead.
    I'll give this one a try! Bottle looks great.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Kouros is a great scent! But like the LM, don't think I'll need a bottle. And do think it would be hard for a woman to pull off, you know?

  49. Anonymous says:

    It's worth a shot!

  50. Anonymous says:

    I've had some beautiful dreams of wearing gorgeous fragrances that don't exist in real life. . .I wake up, and it's SO frustrating. Like those ones where the man of my dreams has me in his arms, and I wake up to the same ol' empty bed. . .

  51. Anonymous says:

    I received my decant of El Attarine today. I must say…I LOVE it! Much more easily wearable than Arabie and Aziyade. I've recently e bayed most of my Serge collection :-( .

    I am down to Chene, Cedre, Ambre Sultan. Gris Clair is up for bids. If El Attarine ever makes it to the export line…I'm sure I will add it to my collection. Bois de Viotette is on my other hand…I am off to hide or burn my bergdorf card.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Glad you love it! Curious which ones you fell out of love with?

  53. Anonymous says:

    It's not so much that I fell out of love with…just weren't my go to fragrances…Bois Vanille, Fumerie Turque, Chergui, Arabie, Chypre Rouge, and Santal Blanc. I know I know….trust me….I made another perfumista VERY HAPPY!

  54. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I guess you did!

  55. Anonymous says:

    I am on the lookout for a bell jar to add to the collection. Is the Gris Clair in the bell jar?

  56. sue says:

    Al Attarine=al’attareen(العطارين) arabic word, is the plural of Al Attar (العطار): the person who makes and sells perfumes.
    the Letter “ع” pronounce form the throat, hard to pronounce it in english and french it’s different that pronciation of A, it features in the name Ali علي.
    Al Otor العطر (plural al outourat) is actually an herb with very good smell, it can be used for food:

    So Al Otor in the arabic language have multiple use: is the name of an herb, it’s also the meaning for perfume, it’s also the good smell.

    • Robin says:

      Thanks so much Sue!

  57. sweetgrass says:

    I’d try this if I came across a sample, but the mention of Arabie does give me pause because I really didn’t like Arabie on me. I tried it once, and it was kind of ok at first, but as I went about my day I kept getting whiffs of it and feeling like I’d spilled chicken tikka on myself. It was just too Indian-foody, and I felt really uncomfortable in it.

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