I finally got my hands on a decant of De Profundis. I was looking forward to it because it wasn’t received with the usual enthusiasm and this sort of reaction always attracts me. I cannot say that I have deciphered it yet. I am writing these lines in an attempt to put what I smell in an order, hoping to unlock the daemon that lives inside the purple liquid.
My decant came in a spray bottle and I sprayed eagerly to get a first whiff. Big mistake. Serge Lutens does not give this option for De profundis and I discovered there is a good reason for this. Actually I consider De Profundis an extreme in terns of how differently it manifests itself when sprayed and when dabbed. My first impression from a spray wearing was that of an astringent, cold incense tear fragrance that vaguely reminded me of Messe de Minuit. It took a lot of effort to separate the chrysanthemum note in the opening and when I did it was rather brief. Remembering previous experiences with Serge Lutens fragrances I dabbed a small amount to discover a completely different construction.
The opening is characterized by an acerbic floral note that has the sweaty, animalic characteristics of chrysanthemum but also has a sweetness and lift that reminds me of tagette. In fact I get a stronger resemblance to chrysanthemum from Kokorico than from this one. The floral note here is softer, rounder, sweeter and has a candied aspect that reminds me of a very familiar accord from many Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier releases. I think violet plays a big part in this candied illusion. There is a green hue in these flowers, just enough to keep them fresh and non-sensual. As the floral opening relaxes it becomes obvious that this will not be a big fragrance. It is very subdued, close to the skin and rather shy. Within a few minutes a rather soapy, cool, unburned incense enters the scene and composes most of the heart of the perfume. The incense in my opinion remains in the background, giving the flowers a more cerebral quality. It doesn’t try to steer the composition towards a different direction. In the deep drydown I catch whiffs of something warm and rather unexpected. To my nose it smells somewhere half way between coffee and baked clay. It has a spicy quality and reminds me the cloves in Iris Silver Mist. Barely there but still doing their work. I can only suppose that this is the reported soil tincture note but since this note is outside my recognition repertoire my guess is as good as yours. There is something ashen in this phase of the development.
De Profundis, unlike its dark promotional prose, is not a dark fragrance. It is another member of the ethereal floral family of Serge Lutens creations, right next to Un Lys, Bas de Soie and Vitriol d’Oeillet. It is not a revolutionary fragrance either. What I find most interesting is the way it juggles with some very feminine notes without dropping them, without allowing them to go full speed feminine. It is a very cold and detached fragrance and it made me think that if it had been bottled in the oblong, square bottles of L’Eau Froide I probably would be writing a dithyrambic review but the truth is that I was expecting something with more depth from De Profundis. Of course when it comes to a Serge Lutens I don’t get I always leave a window open for an epiphany. After all it has taken me about 5ml to reach to this very reserved review. The reason for this is because what I smell is something very pleasing but little engaging. I cannot help but think that this is exactly the purpose it is supposed to serve. It feels somewhat ceremonial and although death is not what comes to mind, I keep getting a mental image of a wax statue. Could it be a wax death mask? I have always thought of wax death masks as the last kiss to life. The reverse effect of dipping my face in a bowl of cold water. Dissipation instead of invigoration. And most death masks boast a mysterious Gioconda smile, like the model had finally found the solution to a puzzle.
Notes from Fragrantica: violet, green notes, soil tincture, plum tree
Notes from my nose: tagette, candied violet, incense tears, coffee, baked clay