Serge Lutens Une Voix Noire: Gardénia déguisée

gardenia in disguiseSo it seems that Serge Lutens has abandoned the Orient as a source of inspiration and has now turned to icons of Western culture to “materialise” into  perfume…  After Oscar Wilde, Billie Holiday. Both tormented and creative personalities who lived outside social boundaries. De Profundis was a mysterious and morbid exploration of chrysanthemum, a slightly claustrophobic and stark floral. Une Voix Noire is an ambitious approach on the most difficult of all flowers, gardenia. I do not necessarily expect a life-like gardenia perfume, although it would be most welcome, but what I don’t like is a soapy gardenia, which accounts for the vast majority of gardenia-centred perfumes. Sheldrake has definitely managed to avoid the pitfall of a boudoir version of the gardenia accord. The flower is there, under a lush layer of beeswax lightly spiced with clove and cardamom. Deep in the heart of the composition I can pick up traces of the clay note from De Profundis and this is a very clever addition that keeps Une Voix Noire from becoming too sweet or too oriental. The cold, urban note keeps everything vague and uncategorisable. Although the floral element is immediately evident it never comes to the forefront, instead it remains anchored to the base, not only in the classical temporal definition of a perfume basenote, but also in the sense that it is never distinct and isolated. There is always something between the wearer and the flower. As it progresses gardenia becomes a little creamier and brings to mind the buttered tuberose of Tubéreuse Criminelle but the flower is on a tight leash. What I smell is closer to the sillage of someone wearing a gardenia scent than an actual gardenia scent. Overall this is a very nice scent although not ground-breaking. The use of gardenia is really remarkable because it offers a glimpse into a new version of this flower, not green, not soapy, but rather sparkling and boozy.

My impression of Une Voix Noire comes from a purchased decant so I had the opportunity to try this both dabbed and sprayed. Of course my notes come from dabbing, the only way possible when using a Paris exclusive bell bottle. But as a side note, when I sprayed, this gardenia was a lot more evident from the start to the detriment of spices. In the deep drydown however my dabbed patch of skin had a clearer gardenia scent while the sprayed sampling was more sweet and waxy. In short, dabbing allows the notes to develop more independently while spraying forces everything to coexist even in the drydown. So if you are interested in this perfume and read reviews keep this difference in mind when interpreting other’s impressions.

The first moment I smelled this I had an immediate association with the French dessert Marons Déguisés, the chocolate covered candied chestnuts. To me there is a very intense contradiction of textures between the candied, dry chestnut and the melting chocolate and Une Voix Noire manages t capture that textured duality between gardenia and sweet, waxy opening.

Notes from Parfumo: gardenia, rum, tobacco

Notes from my nose: beeswax, clove, cardamom, gardenia, clay

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MemoryOfScent by Christos  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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. Hmmm, interesting. What do you see as the connection between the scent and Billie Holiday … I’m guessing it’s the “sparkling and boozy” representation you mention? I’ve not smell this yet, but a boozy form of gardenia does sound rather unique.

    • I get Sarah Vaughn from it maybe, successful and content, not Billie Holiday. I don’t get the listed tobacco note, I get honey and beeswax instead. I would not call it a dark scent. I think Serge Lutens tries to make amens with death, with both De Profundis and Une Voix Noire, and in the end these perfumes have a serenity and elegance because of this. The tragic element is toned down.

  2. smellythoughts

    You’re review is beautiful – I now can’t wait to try this in the Palais Royal in a couple days! Before I thought it would be one I wouldn’t be interested in, despite loving gardenia. Have you tried Jardenia at all? If not – please do! For me, it’s not the holy grail gardenia because it is so literal – but it is undoubtably THE BEST interpretation of a gardenia, it’s just there’s been no effort put into what surrounds it – it is a pure soliflore.
    Anyway, yes, can’t wait to try this, beautiful description – a boozy gardenia sounds to die for.

    • I have always wanted to try JAR perfumes but I haven’t found the gateway yet. I have read your reviews and I know I am going to like them

      • smellythoughts

        I know you will too 😀 I’d offer to send the rest of my samples but some of the vials are now empty and I rely on the miniscule remains of sticky residue glued to the applicator in order to try them again :’) Looks like you need a visit to Paris – but sniffing them in an empty glass isn’t quite the same. Find some samples! 😛

        • I have a feeling about this line… I tried Grossmith Hassu No Hana and although I usually don’t fall for very expensive perfumes this one is definitely full bottle worthy. So I am trying to keep my distance from houses that are over my budget. But eventually I will succumb 🙂

          • smellythoughts

            I know I always feel like that! D:
            I haven’t tried the Grossmith fragrances properly but have heard nothing but good things about Hasu No Hana so I’ll be sure to explore it – I trust your nose a lot so will look forward to sniffing it 🙂

  3. Ah! Marons Déguisés the very candies Great Garbo asked Robert Taylor to buy for her in the opening of “Camille”. Now I have to try this perfume.

    “Why shouldn’t one have fancies when one hasn’t long to live?” Greta Garbo as Camille.

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