Vitriol d’ Oeillet: a pyramid in the shape of an hourglass

My sample of Vitriol d’ Oeillet arrived today. And this is the best time for a quick sniff post. At least that’s the idea but let’s see how close I am going to stick to it.

VdO opens like not a carnation. The top notes are violet and iris. A thick opening reminiscent of ointment, shaving cream, pomade. Some warmth added to it by cinammon or nutmeg and pepper. In a way VdO opens very much like Iris Silver Mist. Instead of a pointy top you get a big flat cold rock of earth and grease. Clove starts picking through in about 5 or 10 minutes but it is not the clove I feared it would be. Combining clove and carnation is the obvious association that eventually kills al the beauty of the flower. This clove is tame and used sparingly the way italians use spices, not the way they are used in curries. Together with the clove there is a hot tingling sensation in the nostrils, what I have already expected as cayenne pepper. It is there, it feels hot, it has the vapour quality on finds n Serge Noire, like burning spices for a ceremony. The fragrance starts getting sharper, like focusing its energy and pointing to a culmination. Still no sign of carnation. Please keep in mind that all this time I have been sniffing my wrist up close. At some point though I stop paying attention and suddenly I find myself floating in a cloud of fresh, sparkling, clean carnation. So I do what everybody would do and go sniff my wrist again. No carnation there still. Move back and the pink innocent carnations start floating around. Now I have never seen such a duality in a fragrance. Except perhaps in Arpege where the opening and the drydown feel like two different perfumes but that is a duality in time. I have never seen such duality in space. In a strange sense it feels like I am a vessel for this perfume: I cannot smell it on me but I can smell it floating around me. Or at least what I smell on me doesn’t have the floral elements of carnation.

About half an hour into the development clove and carnation meet but clove never covers the floral aspect of the composition. Now the carnation appears n the skin as well for the first time. The bitterness of violet and iris are sweetened by carnation and warmed by clove and cayenne pepper. It feels like the composition focuses at last on the focal point that carnation is supposed to be. Projection is not huge but still you can feel surrounded by clouds of carnations.

About two hours into the development a light leathery base emerges to support the composition and give it the warmth of Daim Blonde.

Throughout its evolution I have the impression of an hourglass shape: top notes that lack effervescence slowly focus into a sharp carnation note only to open up again in a sweet mellow leather-floral drydown.

The verdict: a floral in the ethereal floral tradition of Sarrasins, Un Lys, Tubereuse Criminelle. A floral that remains afloat, never anchoring on heavy notes, a platonic rendition of a flower. Will I wear it often? I really don’t know. But it definitely makes me conclude that Christopher Sheldrake is one of the most important perfumers alive and Serge Lutens a genius of aesthetics.

Disclaimer: sample provided by Serge Lutens as a promotion for members of the mailing list


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. What an interesting review. I am still waiting for my sample, I have not been hugely interested in this before, but slowly it is getting my attention through reviews like yours.

    • I admit I was looking forward to it, was playing the mindgame of “no, your’re not going to surprise me this time Serge” and yet he did! I really don’t know if it is just my skin that makes violets stick to it and carnations float so I am really interested in hearing what others have to say on this.

  2. Excellent review. Very in depth. I am excited to try this!

    Quick question. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being very dissapointed and 10 being school girl giddy happy.

    How would you rate l’eau Serge?

    Your answer to this determines my internet opinion of Vitriol d Oeillet. lol

    Thanks for reviewing it

    • On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “I don’t even want to be near this” and 10 is “get me my credit card” it is a 6,5 for me, only because I have a wishlist as long as my arm.

      On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “I just smelled this in the elevator yesterday” and 10 is “……????!!!!!” it’s a 11.

      Does my answer make sense?

  3. Thank you for the review.
    Am I going to try it? Definitely. Will I pay for a sample? Nope. But I’m not a SL fan. Not that I do not like perfumes from this house, I’m not familiar with it yet.

  4. hedonist222

    Ok I smelled a few days ago.
    Starts out very spicy and peppery then I get the carnation.
    I dont get the Serge Lutens aspect of it!?

  5. I was actually hoping for red fiery peppery carnation scent like Caron Poivre (because I miss the older Poivre so much!!)..However, the first time I applied, it smelled transparent – almost like a pale purple..I dismissed it..But then I wore it again and really enjoyed wearing it the second time- there is a peppery yet creamy thing happening, especially in the drydown, that I find very addictive. I think I will wear it again tonight while re-reading your review..(btw, I am a huge SL fan too..:))

  6. Sam

    Is that a flyer for Amsterdam art space De Appel?

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  8. GeM

    This is one of the few positive reviews I’ve read about of Vitriol d’Oeillet!

    For the first time I tried I didn’t care for it so much…. Some time after, I gave it a second chance and although carnation is not a favorite of mine at all, this is a scent around the flower that -why not?- I could consider to wear. I also find it’s absolutely clean/innocent in the begining (as you’ve said) but then there’s a juxtoposition of scents that dries down leathery and the whole thing turns into a light spicy fragrance.
    In regard to a preference of light or dark, I prefer Clarobscure, and I think VdO conjures this perfectly.
    Absolutely not as uninteresting as most people thinks! It’s underrated

    • I think it is underestimated myself. I love carnation but I haven’t been able to find one that is not a clove overkill. This one is pure carnation. You might also like Etro Dianthus which is a violet-y carnation with a very creamy base. And this blond suede base of Serge Lutens is just amazing.

  9. GeM

    Oh, I quite like Dianthus! one of the most beautiful of the line, particularly interesting in the drydown. I’m not a huge fan of Etro, I think I need more risk in a sense of vintage feelings (not Etro but Retro :D) and for sure they’re ‘classics’ but in a modern/avant-garde way. However, I appreciate its good qualities and they’re undeniably well composed. And back to VdO, I’m also with you that the main thing is that nothing compares to its distinctiveness, it’s such kind of unusual frag: a rara avis.

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