Serge Lutens' first "anti-perfume", 2010's L’Eau Serge Lutens, was mildly controversial in the perfumed blogosphere. I didn't love it, but I didn't much mind either; as I said then, Mr. Lutens can do whatever he needs to do to keep himself interested — and/or to keep his brand afloat and attract new customers in new markets. Now we have the second in the L'Eau series, L’Eau Froide.
L'Eau Serge Lutens referenced clean shirts and cleanliness in general; L'Eau Froide, of course, is about cold water, and the brand's website mentions "some fresh air in the rusty old water pipes". That's marginally more appealing to me than the clean shirts, but only marginally. As it turns out, I like L'Eau Froide much better than L'Eau Serge Lutens, but if you want the ending now — saves time, right? — I'll add that while I enjoyed wearing it, it's not going on my buy list.
L’Eau Froide opens on very cold lemony citrus, and the scent's mineral facet is evident right away: it smells like verbena and crushed frozen stone. It gradually turns mildly spicy, but in a cold rather than warm way, with emphasis on the mint and ginger (reportedly, the other notes include frankincense, aquatic accord, vetiver and four different types of musk). After that, it's a woody-musky incense, sheer and crisp early on, slightly warmer in the far dry down, but still reasonably summery.
Smelled up close, L'Eau Froide is an enjoyable twist on a unisex summer fragrance, and it probably has enough heft to take it into spring or fall as well. It's clean, but it isn't as relentlessly clean as L'Eau Serge Lutens. Still, from a distance, the early stages teeter dangerously close to what I think of as "generic department store man smell, sportified", insofar as mint + ginger + chilly citrus are the hallmarks of the modern masculine sports flanker. Luckily, that phase doesn't last, and anyway L'Eau Froide is better done than most — if you know a man who has to wear a sports scent, perhaps L'Eau Froide would be a viable alternative?
Personally, I'd prefer something a bit less clean, with a bit more oomph — Comme des Garçons Ouarzazate, although warmer and sweeter still, is my idea of a perfect summer incense, along with the classic Passage d'Enfer by L'Artisan.1 But L'Eau Froide is worth trying, even if L'Eau Serge Lutens left you absolutely cold (with sincere apologies for the bad pun).
Serge Lutens L’Eau Froide was developed by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake. It is in the export line, and is available in 50 ($105) and 100 ($150) ml Eau de Parfum. The lasting power is good, although it is rather close to the skin after a couple hours. For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.
1. The best for spring is of course Etro Shaal Nur, and fall is Tauer Incense Extrême or Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure. Winter is Donna Karan Black Cashmere or Amouage Jubilation XXV or Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline (actually, there are too many great winter incense fragrances to decide which is best). Do feel free to add your own incense favorites in the comments!