Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin ~ perfume review

Giant Rose

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.

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin was developed by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake. It is available in 50 ml Eau de Parfum; for buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.

Note: image is Giant Roses [cropped and altered] by bjaglin at flickr; some rights reserved.

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.”

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  1. Janice says:

    Great review. I’m looking forward to trying this, but fairly sure I’ll be safe from buying because I definitely don’t need another rose scent. But if I did, dusky, moody, and serious would be the kind I’d prefer.

    • Robin says:

      I really don’t need another either. I’d like to have 5 mls of this though.

  2. Lila says:

    Well, now you have me intrigued. I’m very content with my bottle of Sa Majeste La Rose and I don’t think I need another rose in my collection but your description has me excited to try this one. Rose de Nuit borders on being a tad “old school” rose to me, but sometimes I want something darker than what Sa Majeste offers.

    • Robin says:

      Rose de Nuit is too much for me. Une Rose (Malle) is a favorite though, and it’s darkish. Trying to think of my other roses but gosh, I am nearly brain dead this afternoon — my mind is literally blank. I will have to come back when I’ve had some coffee.

      • janjan says:

        What about Paestum Rose? That one also strikes me as a dusky rose – but dark because of the incense rather than what you describe here. And that one screams Bertrand Duchaufour – a very good thing to me! This one doesn’t sound quite so Serge-y to me, although more so than other recent Serge Lutens offerings.

        • Robin says:

          Paestum Rose is lovely, been on my buy list forever! Other dark or dark-ish roses – 10 Corso Como, L’Artisan Voleur de Roses, Malle Portrait of a Lady, Czech & Speake Dark Rose, Ormonde Jayne Ta’if.

          Sorry I took so long to come back to this post!

  3. Lila says:

    I might add that the metallic note you mentioned does have me concerned. I don’t enjoy it in Une Voix Noire. It makes the scent a scrubber for me and that just makes me sad. I was so looking forward to a Lutens Gardenia.

    • Robin says:

      It is not heavily metallic at all! I would not worry.

  4. ladymurasaki says:

    Wonderful review, Robin, as always. I am looking forward to trying this and yes, I have room for another rose :)

    • Robin says:

      Well, let’s face it, we can all make room when we have to! This is beautifully done, I just don’t love it.

  5. Cornlily says:

    The cited “Woman in Berlin” is a fine book, one that keeps a place on my shelf.

    • Robin says:

      I was just thinking I should read it, so thanks!

      • Aparatchick says:

        It’s a very good book, but I found it a difficult read, emotionally.

        • Robin says:

          Thanks, sounds like it’s something to save for the right time.

  6. RusticDove says:

    I usually enjoy a good rose fragrance and this one sounds different and interesting enough to try. Plus, I was planning on it anyway since I’ve become quite the Serge fan. The perfume is such an amazing color. Is it really *that* bright in real life?

    • Robin says:

      Yes! And on paper it’s an odd purplish-pink color that reminds me of kool-aid. I would think it would be a concern if you got it on fabric.

      • RusticDove says:

        Oh, like Sarrasins! That stuff will leave a mark!

  7. RobWales says:

    Robin, does this develop towards a (relatively) masculine rose?

    • Robin says:

      Well, yes — towards unisex is probably more accurate.

  8. Abyss says:

    Thanks for the review, Robin.

    SL promised a sample so I’m just waiting for it to arrive. Not feeling hugely hopeful since only 2 SLs have really worked for me so far and the only rose perfume that I’d like to own is Incense Rosé (I don’t consider Lyrics a rose frag) but you never know, right?

    • Robin says:

      You never do! But that’s not much of a batting average.

  9. Annikky says:

    Coincidentally, La Fille de Berlin arrived in Estonia today (I know it was today, because I checked the counter yesterday. And the day before that. And… well, you get the picture) and I went right ahead and spritzed myself. It is beautiful and very Serge, I think – it could have been part of the line forever. Not one of the most interesting of his creations, perhaps, but interesting enough. I, too, get the huge rose in the beginning and I think initially there is a relation to Sa Majeste la Rose, although this rose is redder and more intense. Then it gets more complicated. I must try it again, as my work was interfering with the testing :) But I suspect I might be anosmic to something in the dry-down (the musk?) as it was gone too soon.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting — I would bet so too as it was not short lived on me.

  10. Jared says:

    Thanks for the review on this one! I’ve been very intrigued since I read the review over on Denyse’s superlative blog. Rose has been a complicated note for me but one I’m coming around to in a very in-depth way. I think this one is definitely worth a smell. Oddly enough I’m wearing a layering of Ambre Sultan and MKK today…My other rose in mind is Malle’s Une Rose…do you have any words on the comparison between these two (or between the other roses in SL’s line you mentioned)?

    • Robin says:

      Une Rose also starts quite different than it ends up, but by the dry down, it’s much earthier, and meatier, and more full-bodied in the dry down — Fille is almost spare in comparison. Une Rose is more to my taste, it’s one of my all time favorite roses.

  11. Coumarin says:

    I can’t wait for my store to pick this up though I might have to give Rose de Nuit a chance too.

    I’m inclined to agree with you: though I bought Bas de Soie, El Attarine might be one of the few fragrances I am violently compelled to smell even though I don’t have a drop left. I’m waiting patiently for a friend (no one in particular) to travel to France. As much as I love it, I don’t think it’s worth the BNY price.

    • Robin says:

      No, I won’t pay that price even for my dear old favorites, like Rahat & Tubereuse & Iris Silver Mist. Oh well.

  12. plume says:

    Oh, Robin. :(

    This is a terribly underwhelming perfume, especially for a Serge Lutens release. In his attempt to broaden his appeal in recent years our dear gent has very much lost his way.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, sorry it was a disappointment! You may be right, I don’t know if the problem is that they’re going for broad appeal, or something else. But I do like the early perfumes more than the more recent ones.

      • morgana says:

        Nice but not amazing; it may be because my expectation that “she goes to extremes” was not entirely fulfilled. For me,at first there is some similarity with Rose Poivre, but I like the leaves in Rose Poivre better.
        El Attarine “rocks and shocks”.

        • Robin says:

          It’s true, there is no rocking or shocking here…

  13. The Perfumed Dandy says:

    The colour is a curiosity, and belies a sophisticated and quite subtle perfume.

    The rose is something of a Pimpernel here – for I seek him but can never quite catch him. He does not give himself up as easily as her majesty…

    Though for all the cleverness, ultimately I do am left a little unmoved – I think – as I say I have not succeeded in getting a handle on this – perhaps that’s the point.

    Yours ever

    The Perfumed Dandy

  14. Joe says:

    It’s hard for me to get a read on this — blog and friends’ reviews are all over the place, but mostly moderate in their gushing. It sounds perfectly nice but perhaps unnecessary. However, it’s hard for me to know what “necessary” even means anymore, because almost everything seems unnecessary.

    It sounds very safe.

    • annemarie says:

      I was thinking the same, judging on the reviews (although Denyse does talk about blood and anger in her review!). I have only a few roses in my collection, and I’m wearing one of them today, Montale’s Aoud Queen Roses, but were I explore some more, I’d probably want to try some of the classics and extremes of the genre rather than treading the middle ground. That said, I am very interested in the inspiration for La Fille de Berlin. I may content myself with reading the book and not bother with the perfume.

    • Robin says:

      Hmmm. In some ways, if I wanted a safe rose, I’d go with Sa Majeste? Maybe it depends on what you mean by safe. That one is pretty and a crowd pleaser, this one, not so much, although nor is it what I’d call “difficult”.

      That didn’t help, did it, LOL…

  15. Lys says:

    Hi Robin. Any amber in this?, she predictably asks. I loves me my violets and I need another Serge. Need!

    • Robin says:

      It does not smell to me like amber, but Victoria (Bois de Jasmin) says it has amber and she would know better than I :-)

      • Lys says:

        One drop of amber in a Serge is one drop too many for my skin type.

  16. E. Lime says:

    I really, really love this scent. I have been looking for my perfect rose for a while, and with this one, I have found it. I agree that it might not be as complicated or risky as some of the earlier Serges, but it is quite beautiful and spicy on me, with a number of different stages. It also has great tenacity on my skin and on my clothes. I wore some yesterday and it stayed on my coat and layered itself over the Rossy de Palma I wore today (which was a nice combination). It definitely opens with that Tea Rose note that is almost too much, and the drydown reminds me strongly of Yuzu Rouge, though cozier and with no citrus, obviously.

  17. Marjorie Rose says:

    I’m such a sucker for rose and violet, and I really find myself rooting for ole’ Serge–so, will definitely have to give this a sniff when it arrives at Our Lady of the Scented Wrists. I haven’t made a pilgrimage in several months, in any case. . .

    • Robin says:

      I root for him too — nostalgia is a strong pull.

  18. Merlin says:

    I’m becoming a little disenchanted with rose frags. For some bizarre reason the ones I love tend to drive me up the wall with agitation. Well, the worst is Citizen Queen – which i thought beautiful. Still, whenever I tried the sample I would be panicky the whole day. Even more disappointing was Portrait of a Lady; same thing! And POAL is gorgeous!
    Well, luckily there are exceptions: I do ok with bright happy roses and also with Une Rose Chypree – (I think the bay, cinnamon etc, in that one is quite soothing)

  19. martha24 says:

    Thank you for your great review! I can’t wait to try this new scent because I am a big fan of Serge Lutens, I love roses and I am a German woman (several decades ago I was a girl…). Interesting you mentioned the book. I read a lot about it, no doubt a very important book, but I haven’t had the courage to read it up to now. There is also a movie (2008) with the German actress Nina Hoss but I haven’t watched it either…There is so much darkness, fear, guilt and terror in the past. It is a good start to let some roses bloom.
    If you are interested in other olfactory impressions of Berlin, there was a perfume called “Berlin” by Wolfgang Joop. They don’t produce it anymore, but it still has got a lot of fans. To me “Berlin” was inspired by the spring in Germany. It happens so suddenly, the flowers they grow overnight and their smell knocks you off your feet.

    • Rappleyea says:

      Very interesting and relevant comment, Martha. Thanks for chiming in!

    • Robin says:

      I did not know about that Joop scent, thanks! I too am not planning to see the movie, I’d probably just cry through the whole thing. Reading is easier, at least you can put the book down and walk away.

  20. Rappleyea says:

    Robin – a great review, and you’ve actually made me want to try this one since it *didn’t* make your Buy list! But… true confession time – I’ve tried several SLs over the years, and while I’ve liked several, I haven’t needed even one!

    • Robin says:

      Not a single one! Well, that does make life easier, doesn’t it? Although it’s easier to get your hands on them now than it used to be.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I haven’t read the book “A Woman in Berlin” but I saw the movie. It gave me nightmares – real, honest-to-goodness, wake-up-with-your-heart-pounding nightmares – for days. I haven’t been inspired to pick up the book, but I’m sure it’s just as gut-wrenching, if not more. The idea of a perfume based on it seems somewhat squicky (can’t think of a better word, sorry) to me. I did try it, and found it very pretty but not particularly interesting.

    • Robin says:

      Good to know…I have a hard time with movies like that.

  22. dolcesarah says:

    I’m with Robin. It’s beautiful, but I don’t want it or need it. Rose isn’t something I wear ever, se Majeste would be my pick if I did.

  23. sergelutencio says:

    Here in Brazil there is a rock song called “A Garota de Berlin” (la Fille de Berlin) it will be impossible not to do a link between the fragrance and the cheesy song.

  24. helenviolette says:

    Spot on review dear Robin. I ordered a sample and I pretty much agree with your take. I don’t need a bottle either- but I love the color of the juice! Makes me almost wish I had been more into it. I thought it was pretty and sometimes intriguing but didn’t make the cut (that not many make anymore). I will revisit it again in spring and summer and see how it wears.

    • Robin says:

      Totally agree with “not many make anymore” — the bar is now awfully high.

  25. ceelouise says:

    Thank you, can’t wait to try. Great review.

  26. Ann-Sofie says:

    I got my sample today, tried it during the afternoon. Thought it has an almost eerie resemblance to Rive Gauche, but more inclined towards the natural rose fragrance. And the sweet, and perhaps a tad soapy drydown differs of course. To my nose at least, but I am but a rookie. Uh – Rive Gauche is better!

  27. dora says:

    reminded me of the original ‘China Rose’ by Floris of ‘Lipstick Rose’ A rose is a rose is a rose-but not to a perfume lover. I found it lovely, but the red dye was unnecessary.

  28. manon says:

    Hi! And greetings from Greece!
    I am very much into rose scents the last few months, maybe it’s because of hormonal changes and all, anyway…My favorite is Red Roses of Jo Malone…quite strong and aggressive, but I totally loved it!.. can you tell me what,in your opinion, is the relation of La fille de Berlin to Red Roses? Equally ros-y or somewhat more distanced from the pure rose smell? Because that’s what I get from all these comments. Also, it struck me that no one mentioned Malone’s roses as a reference.. I find it really substantial
    Thanks, and have a nice afternoon or whatever :-)

    • Robin says:

      Other than the top notes, it is less of a straightforward rose than the Jo Malone. Hope that helps!

      • manon says:

        Thanks! (Great blog, btw! Keep it up!) :-)

  29. AnnS says:

    Late, but I think, useful comment: I just tested this today thanks to a swap with a generous NSTer. LFdB smells very, very similar to AG’s Ce Soir ou Jamais edp. Not the same (there is ripe and juice pear in CSOJ at the opening which fades during the middle), but the rich, deep rose, jammy notes, musks and skanky base are very, very similar.

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