Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule ~ fragrance review

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule

Somewhere between the over-spiced/overpriced, under-sandalwooded Serge Lutens Santal de Mysore and the nuclear-strength, feminine, flowers and fruit of Santal Blanc (now residing in exclusivity, in Paris, smart thing!) is an open slot for a perfect Serge Lutens sandalwood perfume. (Or at least a sandalwood with charm, balance and a carefree attitude.) When I heard Lutens was releasing a new sandalwood fragrance, Santal Majuscule*, I was interested…but cautious. It’s been a long time since a new Lutens fragrance has tempted me.

Santal Majuscule goes on smelling mildly/vaguely spicy with aromas that remind me of candied orange peel and immortelle (and is there something “minty” in the background, too?) Quickly, the perfume becomes denser and gives off the aromas of shortbread cookies (on the verge of burning) in a wood stove — incensy, and not at all unpleasant. Then, unexpectedly, a rose scent mixes with the toasty wood notes (and for a short spell, smelled on the air, not up close, Santal Majuscule smells like a richer version of Cartier Déclaration d’un Soir). As the perfume develops I get hints of brown sugar/molasses and sweet cocoa (is Serge Lutens starving himself…does he put all his high-calorie food cravings in perfume and not his stomach?) Though this all sounds “heavy”…Santal Majuscule is not. The overall strength of this perfume is neither too airy nor too “solid” — it has good projection and lasting power, but it’s not quite as sturdy as other Lutens wood-spice perfumes.

If you are worried about the food notes in Santal Majuscule, don’t…they’ll make you smell good, not “edible.” The note I was most worried about, the chocolate, is harmless; this note is not bitter or stomach-ache-inducing like the “cocoa powder” in Borneo 1834 — it’s smooth and ‘digestible’ and mixes nicely with the rose note.

Overall, Santal Majuscule presents a mix of ‘seasoned’ woods and rose. But, as with Santal de Mysore, I must ask: where’s the sandalwood? There does seem to be a “sandalwood-like” aroma simmering under the roasted woods, rose and gourmand notes, but it never gets a chance to shine (or shimmer). Santal Majuscule smells most like sandalwood two hours after application when the wood turns sweet with tonka bean. I personally like an open-faced sandalwood fragrance in my perfume ‘arsenal’ and Santal Majuscule doesn’t qualify. Still, I enjoyed wearing Santal Majuscule and recommend it to those who want an “ornamented” sandalwood fragrance…accent on the ornaments, not the santal.

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum ($140). For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

*Perfumer: Christopher Sheldrake; notes include sandalwood, cocoa, rose and tonka bean.

Note: top left/right images [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.

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37 Comments

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  1. Janice says:

    I was also surprised by how much rose was in here, and how little sandalwood. It reminded me of a tamer, less-interesting 10 Corso Como, without the oud. It was nice enough, but didn’t inspire me to buy even a decant.

    • Kevin says:

      Janice:agree completely; it’s nice but didn’t tempt me

    • poodle says:

      So this is tamer than 10 Corso Como? That’s too bad. I love 10 Corso Como but want to find something that smells like an amped up version of it.

      • Kevin says:

        Poodle: as 10CC stands today, I’d say this is equal in strength

        • poodle says:

          Kevin, any suggestions for a 10 Corso Como on steroids?

          • Kevin says:

            P: nope…sorry!

          • Rictor07 says:

            One of the Tom Ford Private Blends, either Bois Rouge or Bois Marocain, cant recall which, reminded me of 10 Corso Como, and was much stronger. Of course much more expensive too.

          • poodle says:

            Thanks!

      • georgiawells says:

        My nose is a little inexperienced, but I think Tam Dao is CC 10 on steroids.

  2. lucasai says:

    I really liked Santal Majuscule after I sprayed from a sample I got from them via newsletter (and it took ages to arrive)

    • Kevin says:

      Lucas: now I’M waiting to smell Voix Noire!

      • lucasai says:

        I tried it from a solid I got from SL but it’s definitely not for me. I’m not a gardenia kind of guy.

        • Kevin says:

          Lucas: argh…I hate those solids!

          • lucasai says:

            Spray or dabber would be a hundret times better, but, oh well, let’s be happy with what we have.

  3. NeenaJ says:

    I was skeptical about this one. Newer sandalwoods turn sour on me. 10 Corso Como, for example. I was patient. I tried. But, it was an absolute scrubber.

    After sampling Santal Majascule from a tiny vial, I immediately sought a larger sample. Having 3mls fresh in my hand, I’m wondering if I should go ahead and grab another while I can. It blooms beautifully on my skin and I find myself wondering throughout the day “what smells so good?” Oh, it’s me.

    • Kevin says:

      Neenaj: glad you found a sandalwood that works … Ever try Etro Sandalo?

  4. Ajda says:

    I must say I fell in love with this immediately and that hasn’t happened in a long time. It feels so right to/on me, cozy and undemanding, but so delicious! It’s first on my to-buy list :).

    • Kevin says:

      Aida: it’s certainly my fave Lutens of the last few years…but have not tried Voix Noire yet

  5. Tatiana says:

    Kevin, can you recommend an open-faced sandalwood fragrance? I’m still looking for one.
    The first time I tried SM at a sniff event, I loved it. I”ve been waiting for it to arrive at Barney’s forever. Now that I have a generous sample of it, I’m not enjoying it as much as I did the first time. Guess I’m having second thoughts. Or maybe it’s just the weather!

    • Kevin says:

      Tatiana: I keep buying my old favorite – Etro Sandalo

  6. sinnerman says:

    Over priced / over spiced ! That sounds like cuir mauresque , I shouted myself yesterday a fb ! Oh my what a stinky beauty she is , absolutely love love love love it ! Now I just need tube crim , sighs *

    • Kevin says:

      Sinner man: Cuir Mauresque is very nice

  7. Sandalwood or no, that woody rosy chocolatey combination has me salivating to try it!

    • Kevin says:

      FF, hope you enjoy it

  8. nozknoz says:

    I have a small sample of this and haven’t tried it more than once or twice as I was put off by the jangly, synthetic (to me) ornaments. Perhaps I might appreciate it more if it wasn’t labeled sandalwood: I expect sandalwood to be rich and smooth, and this doesn’t meet that expectation.

    Perhaps I’ll try it again now that it’s cooler. On the other hand, there are a number of new perfumes this fall that I’m really looking forward to (like Diptyque Volutes and the Anne Gerards by Duchaufour), so this sample may continue to languish.

    • Kevin says:

      Noz: looking forward to the Diptyque too

  9. cath says:

    Funny thing with the SL sandalwood fragrances. Personally, I find Bois Vanille smells more of sandalwood than Santal blanc and santal Mysore. Maybe that’s just me?
    As for an open sandalwood, I would recommend Sandalo from Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze, or my favourite: Sandalwood from The Art of Shaving. That is the one I bought after my long search for a true, honest sandalwood perfume. Definitely worth trying, even for the gals.

    • Kevin says:

      Cath: hmmm…I’ll have to try The Art of Shaving one.

      • cath says:

        Kevin: I just checked the website and the bottle has changed, hopefully the formula is still the same.

      • Dusan says:

        Cath’s right – the Art of Shaving Sandalwood is the real deal.

  10. KRL says:

    Sounds a bit like last years JdP: immortelle, cookies, sandalwood, except for the rose. How do they compare? I wonder if the formula was kinda borrowed from JdP…

    • Kevin says:

      KRL…there are similarities for sure but JdP was foodier (pardon that terrible word) ha!

  11. Louise says:

    SM was an immediate no-go for me. I am a real sandalwood snoot and love many scents in which it plays a strong role-Bois des Iles, older Samsara, Tam Dao. But the wood in SM was very harsh to my nose and a real asthma trigger. After getting over my gasping, the scent quieted into a very dull, rather thin rose and cocoa skinscent. Disappointing!

  12. Kevin says:

    Louise: there is an ‘edge’ to the woods for awhile; hope you’ve fully recovered

  13. CM says:

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been visiting the Serge counter at Barneys wiring for this to arrive… Maybe now I can take my time and continue to enjoy 10 coro como and tam dao.

  14. RobWales says:

    I tried this at the Palais Royal shop last week and was hooked immediately. For me it’s a big full rich sandalwood that billows wonderfully for hours and hours. I couldn’t resist buying a bottle.

  15. sweetgrass says:

    I finally got a chance to try Santal Majuscule. I got a small sample form Surrender to Chance recently. I really like it. I don’t get anything minty, fortunately.. I mostly get wood and rose in the opening. I get the cocoa note, but it’s pretty subtle. I also get a buttery note in the drydown, almost like butter-flavored cooking spray. It’s not strong, and I don’t find it particularly unpleasant. I get the same note, but stronger, in Ineke Sweet William (maybe it’s a synthetic sandalwood thing?). The first time I tried SM I thought the drydown was more similar to Sweet William than it actually was because my brain had linked the two together with that buttery note. I really do like SM, and I think I’ll probably want more after I use my sample up.

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