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.