Serge Lutens De Profundis: the mystery remains

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


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. Pingback: Kokorico: a handful of chrysanthemums and patchouli leaves « Memory Of Scent

  2. I was testing it (not for the first time) a couple of days ago and I also thought that it wasn’t dark at all. I tested it only dabbed (so now, after reading your review I’m a little bit concerned for the future spraying it) and I really liked it. I should probably buy a decant and wear it for a while. My only complaint was that chrysanthemum disappeared too quickly: I really-really-really enjoyed that note (and I still haven’t had a chance to try Kokorico to see if it had more of it to my nose).

    • Yes it is really good but I think the hype raised expectations. To me it is the prefect Eau Froide. To my nose chrysanthemums are a little more herbal than they are presented here, they gave more of an acacia/cassie/mimosa vibe. Here I smell more of the actual smell of the flower of tagette.

  3. Amy

    Thanks for the review – perfect timing for me as I just re-visited testing De Profundis last night. I was taken by the cool incense and green “stem-y” feel. (Forgive my inept descriptions!!) When I tested it months ago, I wasn’t impressed at all. Now I am considering a decant or full bottle.
    It looks as though it isn’t available in US – I tried Aedes and several online outlets. Would you recommend just ordering from Serge Lutens website direct?
    Thanks again!

    • Stemy is a good term. I know what you mean. It reminded me of smelling a tablet of fizzy vitamins, where you know it is fizzy just by smelling it.
      I have bought several times from the online SL boutique but I think they only sell in Europe so I guess you have to have friend who will grt it from you.

  4. smellythoughts

    Something about De Profundis is fascinating (I’ve never smelt it by the way) – the fact it alawys gets such so-so reviews just pulls me in more – I worry that if I try it I’ll be disappointed, but it is something that I’m desperate to sample. I’ve also never smelt a chrysanthemum note. Gotta get a hold of this somehow.
    It sounds beautiful. Lovely write up 🙂

    • Chrysanthemums are one of those flowers whose smell is very herbal, like tulips for instance. They do not smell big and floral but rather shy and green.
      De Profundis is interesting even though it is not ground breaking. I think you will not be disappointed if you like the concept of a frigid floral, something like the Nicole Kidman of florals 🙂

  5. hedonist222

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Pingback: Bas de Soie: Silk Fetish « Memory Of Scent

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  8. Pingback: Serge Lutens De Profundis EDP Perfume Review | EauMG

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