Serge Lutens Vitriol d’Oeillet ~ fragrance review

Serge Lutens Vitriol d'Oeillet

The perfume world is fickle. Though some perfume notes are perennial favorites — bergamot, sandalwood, and petitgrain come to mind — other ingredients become “problematic” over time. Once, Calone was all the rage…then, one day, perhaps due to overuse or a style shift in perfumery, Calone smelled dated. Not that long ago, rose-rich perfumes were considered passé. (Alongside antiquated rose were the scents of oak moss and carnation — suffering not only from associations with old times and ‘old folks,’ but difficult to work with, or re-create, due to IFRA restrictions.) Then, rose had a renaissance, a facelift, an attitude adjustment, and became “young” again, and is used in all manner of mainstream and niche perfumes, including men’s fragrances. Oak moss and carnation are still waiting for their rejuvenation treatments. 

So, how do you “update” a dated aroma? How do you transform old-fashioned carnation, that much-maligned flower, associated with death, bad luck and bad taste, into something modern, edgy and desirable? One way would be to make carnation brazen: accent every facet of its scent, amplify its impact with newer, unusual perfume materials, make it bloom in a new way. Another tactic is familiar from the world of food: the (now ubiquitous) method of deconstruction whereby you “dissect” a culinary dish (its ingredients/flavors) and arrange them in a new way on the plate, and thus, the palate. Serge Lutens asked perfumer Christopher Sheldrake to “dis-figure” carnation.1

To me, Vitriol d’Oeillet (made to show an ‘angry’ carnation with “teeth”2) relies more on deconstruction (dis-figuration) than amplification. When I smell a fresh carnation (Dianthus) in the garden, I detect the scents of clove, cinnamon (sometimes), and rose, with perhaps a hint of nutmeg and pepper. All those ingredients are in Vitriol d’Oeillet (along with some musk and “woods” and Lord knows what else) but they never coalesce to form the aroma of a carnation.

Vitriol d’Oeillet starts off floral-aldehydic with added dry clove “powder” and a strong, but smooth, pepper accord (three “peppers” are listed in the notes — cayenne, black and pink). I enjoy Vitriol d’Oeillet’s opening best. As the fragrance develops (quickly), I smell a note that reminds me of fragrant stocks, a syrupy-fruity “pink” rose aroma…and more clove. This mid-development phase comes closest to producing a “carnation-like” scent. Right before the base notes appear, Vitriol d’Oeillet’s fragrance reminds me of rosewater soap. As the perfume enters its final phase, it goes from a slightly “wet” rose scent to a powdery-sweet, rather prim rose aroma mixed with transparent (generic) wood and barely-there fruity musk notes.

Angry carnation, you say? If so, this is anger Eskimo style: quiet, still and chilly. Vitriol d’Oeillet’s “teeth”? They’re dentures, soaking in a glass on a lace-covered nightstand.

Vitriol d’Oeillet is an old fashioned spicy-rosy fragrance; as you wear it, I doubt anyone will suspect you have on a ‘carnation’ perfume. The mention of carnation must be a marketing strategy — to hype an “angry” carnation with “teeth.” As often happens with me and Lutens perfumes, the end result of exciting, innovative-sounding ideas (presented in cryptic/confused/guffaw-inducing PR releases) is a big: “Whatever!” (followed by a feeling of disappointment at a missed opportunity).

But…apparently…I’m still a sucker for Lutens PR. I’m anxious for a sniff of De Profundis with its alleged “chrysanthemum” note and intimations of the graveyard!

Serge Lutens Vitriol d’Oeillet has decent lasting power and minimal sillage; I find it feminine in character.  It is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum, $140.

Note: top carnation images [cropped and altered] via Wikimedia Commons.

1. See the Grain de Musc blog for an interesting explanation of this perfume’s name and an interview with Serge Lutens re: Vitriol d’Oeillet and De Profundis. 

2. “…the carnation, alias the clove pink...this fragrance fraught with anger is my riposte. Its petals, lacedwith tiny teeth, hold out the solution: a burst of fragrant spikes….” via Serge Lutens news release.

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52 Comments

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  1. Angela says:

    Am I the only one getting a nice dose of patchouli in the drydown? I like it, but I don’t hear much about it in reviews.

    I’m anxious to sniff De Profundis, too!

    • Kevin says:

      Angela: didn’t get any strong patchouli in the drydown…it may have been an improvement!

  2. Ikat says:

    “Denures soaking in a glass on a lace-covered nightstand”?

    I know that’s not actually a description of actualy olfactory experience of VdO, but coupled with the old-lady Lavender color, leaves an indelible and unappealing imprint.

    De Profundis = Chrysanthemum. I just don’t have any positive thoughts on this.

    • Kevin says:

      Ikat: HA! There was no “bite”! ‘Mums’ are so unusual for a scent I’m anxious for a sniff.

  3. FragrantWitch says:

    ,Vitriol d’Oeillet’s “teeth”? They’re dentures, soaking in a glass on a lace-covered nightstand.’ LOL! What a fab description!

    Despite my snarkiness upon its announcement, I am looking forward to sniffing De Profundis as well. Floral unisex still makes me think funeral parlour but I hold out hope..maybe something along the lines of Messe de Minuit??

    • Kevin says:

      F.W.: I always associate chrysanthemums with autumn, the first chilly days, and even Japanese art. I”m hoping for no funeral parlor vibe!

  4. HemlockSillage says:

    Love your writing Kevin! Harsh, with the “dentures, soaking in a glass on a lace-covered nightstand,” comment, but funny.

    I must be one of the few that likes this scent. I won a decant from Grain de Musc, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It is an odd combination. Notes that I consider hot, spicy and dense, like pepper and clove, come together in a fragrance that is sheer and cool. At times up in the opening, almost medicinal (the clove?) and then later powdery and pretty, it is definitely a shape shifter. It is fascinating to me every time I wear it. My nose is glued to my wrist for several hours. Even writing about it makes me want to put it on, and smell its evolution.

    Do I need a full bottle? Hmmm, no, but I’ll want more next spring, as my decant is nearly gone. All that, and it was more pret-ty than other shape shifters that fascinate me (Onda, Luctor et Emergo, Tubereuse Criminelle). Sorry you hated it.

    De Profundis sounds interesting, and I hope to try it as well. I love your “intimations of the graveyard” phrase. There again, you sum it up very well. I look forward to your review. Be well.

    • Kevin says:

      Hemlock: “hate” is too strong a word…there was just no “blip” on the heart monitor as I wore it. But glad a fan wrote in!

  5. dominika says:

    With the amount of perfume I’ve bought over the past several weeks (there was a sale…) I was actually relieved to *not like this one. Dare I say I’ve never met a floral-dominant Serge that I got along with?

    • Kevin says:

      Dominika: come to think of it… in all the many Lutens fragrances I’ve bought there are no big florals either.

  6. RusticDove says:

    Well pooh. I love the scent of carnations, I always plant dianthus in the flower beds and enjoy that spicy whiff as you walk by. Vitriol d’Oeillet sounded great on paper. I was anticipating a big-ass, mighty carnation fragrance and this doesn’t sound like it’s doing the trick. Though, it still sounds like something I’d like to sample. A nicely done spicy rose scent is a no-brainer for me, there are plenty of those around though.
    And yes! Bring on De Profundis! It sounds so weird and cool.

    • Kevin says:

      Rustic Dove: I wonder if there’ll ever again be a Monster Carnation…all the “stuff” that made that scent possible is in trouble with IFRA.

      • RusticDove says:

        Sad & depressing. Guess I’d better get to Ebay for vintage Bellodgia. I’ve been checking out bottles of that lately anyway.

        • Ikat says:

          Who do you trust on Ebay to buy vintage from? I’m very shy of any vintage stuff, as I keep reading about fakes.

          • RusticDove says:

            IKAT – I just saw your message. I don’t have a lot of experience purchasing vintage on the ‘Bay, but the bottles I have won were authentic and I had no issues (well, except for one problem when the bottle arrived damaged ant the seller did give me a hard time about it, but we worked things out in the end). They were different sellers each time. I haven’t dealt with any one specific seller. Sorry I’m not much help!

  7. mals86 says:

    Like a lot of people, I absolutely adore the smell of carnations (which, as you point out, has a large share of detractors too), and that’s why I was looking forward to smelling this one. I still think I may like it – a peppery, spicy rose has appeal – but I’m less and less sanguine about the possibility that I’ll LOVE it.

    This is one of your funnier reviews, by the way! Thanks.

    • Kevin says:

      Mals: you’re welcome

  8. Rappleyea says:

    Saturday Night Live is going to be calling you NST writers before long! :-D I really enjoyed laughing over this review. Being raised by a Blue Carnation wearing mama, and carnation scents (or more likely the clove that always accompanies carnation) eating a hole in my skin, I think I’ll pass on this faux-angry carnation.

    • Kevin says:

      Rappleyea: that “blue carnation’ reminds me…as a child I would LOVE to “tint” white carnations with food coloring (in the vase water).

      • Rappleyea says:

        I never tried that trick, although there is a pretty big market around here for blue-tinted carnations/arrangements during football and basketball season (U. of Ky.).

  9. JolieFleurs says:

    I got my sample a few days ago, and I don’t know what to make of it.

    I get a hairspray note over all, probably the aldehydes. When I put my nose directly to my skin, I get a powdery carnation, but the sillage is pretty much just that hairpsray note. I probably do not need to tell you that I d o not have the most sophisticated nose on the planet….

    This one works far better on me than most Lutens do. I do not miss the stewed fruit note I generally get from his line, which is no doubt going to be what ruins de Profundis for me. (Other than candied fruit, the notes sound right up my alley!)

    • Kevin says:

      Jolie: I’m a big jam-maker so I guess that explains my love of the stewed fruit aromas in Lutens?

  10. maggiecat says:

    I love carnations – real ones – but have not yet found a perfume that replicates their scent. Oddly, I’m not sure I’d want to wear it if I did: carnations may be for me what rose is for many: a scent that we enjoy smelling but don’t necessarily want to smell like.

    • Kevin says:

      Maggie: me too…I love carnations in the garden, or even in soaps, but have never really loved wearing carnation-rich scents (and all the good carnation scents are NOT what they used to be…wan little things these days)

  11. RuthW says:

    Thank you for the review Kevin, I was curious about this one since I love carnations but is sounds really bleh. Guess I will stick with my beloved Bellodgia.
    Do you have any other suggestions for carnation perfumes?

    • Kevin says:

      RuthW: I’m not the one to ask since I only like carnation outside the perfume realm. But Robin here mentioned a POWERHOUSE carnation that’s been discontinued…Malmaison by Floris. I used to LOVE that soap too Maybe somone will write with more suggestions.

    • 50_Roses says:

      Do you have vintage Bellodgia or modern, and is it EdT, EdP, or extrait? I have a bottle of EdP (fairly new), and bottle of vintage extrait. I love the extrait, but don’t particularly care for the EdP. It is too much clove, not enough floral. I had tried the tester of EdT in Nordstrom and liked it, but thought it was too faint and short-lived. I thought the EdP would be stronger, but it is really quite a different scent.

      You might try DSH Oeillets Rouges. It seems to get a fair amount of love around here. I have a sample vial of this, but haven’t tested it enough to make up my own mind yet.

      • RuthW says:

        I have a bottle of the modern EDT from an online discounter – Parfum1 – and it is a bright, creamy carnation with just enough floral and lasts about 6-8hrs on me. I always enjoy wearing it. I also have a bottle of vintage Parfum de Toilette from ebay which is deep, lush and much more of an evening/formal fragrance. I love it and would buy more if I ever saw it listed, also it lasts 10-12 hrs on my skin.
        My understanding from various articles is that dreaded reformulations of the Carons were done only on the EDP’s of the line, the extrait and EDT’s were left alone . . . so far.

    • MollyG says:

      Prada made a gorgeous carnation in their exclusive collection 3-4 years ago (No. 2 Oeillet). Ava Luxe has one, too — she used to make both an Oeillet Blanc (white carnation) and Oeillet Rouge (red carnation), but I see on her website she sells just one that looks to be more like her former Oeillet Rouge.

  12. debbie says:

    I will stick to my CdG Red Carnation-it packs the perfect carnation punch!

    • Kevin says:

      Debbie: I forgot all about that one. It USED to be good…but I have not tried it ages. Have you smelled a new bottle to see if the formula has changed?

      • debbie says:

        I havent smelled the old bottle-my bottle isnt old-I treated myself to bottle at the end of last year, having had a few small samples from TPC. It doesnt smell old and fussy just a strong spicy carnation-luv it!

    • Filomena says:

      I love CdG Carnation! I don’t think of myself as a “carnation” kind of girl, but looking back I used to love the vintage Bellodgia. Also, I remember a summer years ago when L’Artisan came out with a trio–one was a violet scent, one a hyacinth scent and the other a carnation scent. The carnation scent was called “Oeillet Sauvage”. I remember liking all three and especially the Ceillet Sauvage as it kind of reminded me of vintage Bellodgia. I am awaiting a sample of Uncle Serge’s Vitriol d’Oeillet from Lucky Scent–I purchased their September Sampler Bag. I am so behind in my sampling due to lack of shopping and./or $$$ and am looking forward to the bag, which includes Mona d’Orio’s Oud, among others.

      • Filomena says:

        OMG, I still have that L’Artisan trio and just sprayed my wrist with a little of the Oellet Savage and it stills smells really good–almost like a wake-up call (not that wake-up calls are ever that good unless you are on your way to a wonderful vacation, but I’m talking about the initial “jolt”).

      • 50_Roses says:

        Lucky you! I just got the email about the sample pack yesterday afternoon, and when I tried to order it yesterday evening, it was already sold out!!!

  13. nozknoz says:

    Kevin, sometimes you and I are ESTs! To be sure, I have only a manufacturer’s sample spray and, hence, have not properly worn it yet, really, but it does smell like carnation to me – it almost captures the creamy petal side of carnation that I like. AND I think it would smell great on a guy – playing carnation against type.

    I wouldn’t wear it often and don’t need a bottle, but I plan to acquire a 5-ml decant.

    Nonetheless, I do enjoy our witty disdain. Poor Uncle Serge’s ears must be burning!

    • nozknoz says:

      (That was meant to be “your,” not “our,” of course.)

      • Kevin says:

        Noz: I’m sure Lutens could care LESS what I say! HA! And I do love so many Lutens scents….

  14. Flora says:

    Kevin, i think you hit this just right! I was hoping for “amplification” but I did not get it. It’s nice enough, and I enjoy the clove, but I wanted it to be BIG, the second coming of JAR Golconda at a more earthbound price. I guess I will have to start yearning foe De Profundis now….

    • Kevin says:

      Flora: De Profundis is in my top-five anticipated scents for fall/winter…may it be good.

  15. hongkongmom says:

    Ooooh Serge, it has been so long since I have loved one of yours!!!I It would be so good to fall for another in the future. Will stick with my vintage bellodgia! Thanks for the great review Kevin!

    • Kevin says:

      HongKongMom: you’re welcome…the way Serge pumps out the scents were bound to love one soon!

  16. I agree that the teeth are in the glass but this one feels so sheer and refreshing that I have to say I like it. And there is no clove overdose. I like what you say about the deconstruction of carnation in its components and it probably explains why I smelled the carnation in my own sillage but not when I smelled my skin up close.

    And yes, it is wearable by men, which is a big plus for me!

    Excellent report. Thank you.

    • Kevin says:

      Memory: the powder took away the refreshment for me..but glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Joe says:

    Hi Kevin: I’ve only sampled this once, and I really need to give it a proper “wear.” I like carnation as part of a composition, but I’ve realized that I don’t like it so much as the star player. At one point, I enjoyed CdG Carnation, but I find that a bit oppressive now.

    On first sample, something about Vitriol felt very synthetic and “buzzy” (the aldehydes?). I didn’t enjoy it so much, but perhaps catching little wafts of it throughout the day would be pleasant.

    I am VERY eager to try De Profundis!

    • Kevin says:

      Hi, Joe: I need to sniff the CdG again…that was one carnation I liked when I first wore it. I keep forgetting about Harissa too!

  18. eminere says:

    I love the colour of the juice.

    • Kevin says:

      Eminere: I thought a bright, ruby-red bottle would have been nice…but I guess wasted on this one.

  19. Andreea says:

    I have no further experience with carnation I guess, because I do not remember such a smell in perfume at least before.
    My skin and I! loved it, though the lasting could have been better.
    The perfect face for this scent would be Catherine Deneuve, smoking, this scent around her, wearing men clothes and shoes with some carelessly make-up put on.
    It reminds me at the same time of childhood (oh! sure! carnation!) and of my mom.
    I totally would wear it!

  20. Pimpinett says:

    Now I’m curious to try this. I love the smell of carnations, but I rarely enjoy it in perfume, although I really want to. Fans of old-school carnation fragrances might want to keep an eye out for vintage Krasnaya Moskva, though; I recently picked up an old bottle, 1960’s or earlier, which turned out to be a glorious, warm and heady carnation-centered floral in the classic style. I haven’t tried vintage Bellodgia, but I imagine that they may share some similarities.

  21. Ysbrand says:

    I believe the name “vitriol” refers more to Sulphuric Acid rather than the “vitriolic” mood. The scent of carnations and the acid is apparently similar. Vitriol d´Oeillet has a bit corrosive start. Not the violence you may expect of the name, though. Is more a flowery anger than an angry flower.
    I think is a lovely perfume.

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