Serge Lutens made a reasonable enough showing in our latest poll on scrubbers (as did most major brands, mind you). Contenders included Iris Silver Mist (those people are obviously crazy), Jeux de Peau (surely a love-it-or-hate-it fragrance), Arabie, Fille en Aiguilles, and the subject of today's review, the new Laine de Verre. Laine de Verre, named for everyone's favorite source of fragrance inspiration, fiberglass, is the third fragrance in the L’Eau series that includes 2010's L’Eau Serge Lutens and 2012's L’Eau Froide, and if you're too busy to read a whole review today, I'll just start off by saying that reader Lady Murasaki's comment comparing Laine de Verre to Lemon Pledge was too kind. Really.
We never get full lists of notes from Serge Lutens, but the short list for Laine de Verre — citrus, aldehydes, musk and cashmeran — sounded innocuous enough, and the short film for the scent was charming, in the usual, determinedly inscrutable sort of way that Serge Lutens prefers to communicate with his fans about his creations. And personally, I thought L'Eau Serge Lutens and L'Eau Froide were both just fine. If clean is what you're after and if you're willing to pay niche prices to get it, either one is worth a shot, although I did like L'Eau Froide best of the two. Surely there will be people who will love Laine de Verre as well, but I'm not one of them, and I do suggest you approach it with caution.
The opening smells industrial, and it's industrial-strength, literally: if you apply heavily and then breathe in deeply, right away, nothing you do will get the smell out of the back of your throat for a good three or four hours at least. It's a massive burst of cold, soapy aldehydes and citrus, with a notably metallic edge. There are bits of fruit, and bits of something bitter and green and almost vegetal, and later, vague bits of "flowers". The interesting part (or the fun part, if you find it fun) is the first 45 minutes, when it's rather like a carbonated, possibly toxic potion made with soap bubbles and metal shavings, and garnished with a few sprigs of herbs and perhaps a wilting rose. After that, there isn't all that much to distinguish Laine de Verre from the many other contemporary fragrances (or functional products) that emphasize white musk, and that all smell, to one degree or another, like laundry detergent.
Verdict: In addition to the Lemon Pledge and laundry detergent, Laine de Verre has been compared to the smell of hand sanitizer and soggy clothing. L'Eau de Serge Lutens was meant to evoke the smell of ironing; Laine de Verre, early on at least, calls up the scent of whatever cleaning product you might properly use to scrub down an operating room, or a chemical laboratory, or some other place that had to be absolutely, positively, clean. It's as though Serge Lutens decided to take (relatively) recent consumer preferences for clean, and push the envelope as far as it could be possibly pushed with modern chemistry. For that, I salute him: Laine de Verre would have made me laugh if it hadn't given me such a headache every time I wore it, and if smelling the lingering remains on my scarf had not made me feel slightly queasy.
If you have a favorite clean fragrance, or if you loved Laine de Verre, do comment!
Serge Lutens Laine de Verre is available in 50 ($110) and 100 ($160) ml Eau de Parfum. For buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.