She's a rose with thorns, don't mess with her. She's a girl who goes to extremes. When she can, she soothes; and when she wants ... !
Her fragrance lifts you higher, she rocks and shocks. — Serge Lutens1
La Fille de Berlin is the latest from Serge Lutens; reportedly it's the only new scent we'll get from the house this year (normally, there are two or three launches). It's being introduced in conjunction with his new book of photography, Berlin à Paris, and pays homage, apparently, to the women of Soviet-occupied postwar Berlin.2
The first couple of seconds — it's quick, don't miss it! — are ROSE, big and bright enough to justify the all caps, and nearly a dead ringer for The Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose. But La Fille de Berlin soon enough goes off in another direction entirely, bypassing as well the dewy springtime rose of Lutens' own Sa Majesté la Rose and the overtly seductive aura of Rose de Nuit.
After the whoosh of Tea Rose nostalgia, La Fille de Berlin is at first jammy and sweet and full, and then slightly metallic and chilly as the rose is joined by violet. For the first 20 minutes or so, it's a relatively conventional (and relatively feminine) powdery boudoir rose-violet, but as it continues to develop, it gets warmer and muskier and woodier, and the very slight green undertones of the opening intensify and take on a slightly bitter edge. The lushness of the rose fades, so that despite the velvety finish and a light dusting of peppery spice, it has something of a somber feel. So, nothing like so sunny and cheerful as Sa Majesté, but nor is it so dark and animalic as Rose de Nuit. It's somewhere in between — dusky, perhaps, and maybe a bit moody and serious. It's quietly elegant, and to me, an odd fit with the rather alarmingly vivid color of the juice.
Verdict: I'm impressed, and being impressed made me happy — the last Serge Lutens fragrance that really got my attention was 2008's El Attarine. El Attarine made the buy list (although like most things on the buy list, I've never bought it). La Fille de Berlin definitely captured my attention, but it did not quite capture my heart. So not on the buy list, but very much worth a try, especially if there's still room in your collection for another rose.
1. Quote via us.sergelutens.
2. I will not linger on the backstory here, but if it helps, Lutens told Women's Wear Daily (1/10/2013) that...
...the scent was about finding beauty in the darkness and persevering through adversity with strength and humor, as women in postwar Germany had to do, when they were as plundered as their cities by occupying forces meant to restore order. This story is movingly told in the anonymous best-selling autobiographical book titled “A Woman in Berlin,” clearly an influence.
“Beauty is the moment when you rise up. It is the moment when you pick up your head, stride through your own ruins, and climb up the mountain,” explained Lutens. “That’s La Fille de Berlin. We all have our own ruins.”