In the world of perfumistas, Serge Lutens can be a divisive character. He's known for his artisanal fragrances, many of which are quite "dirty" (this is in the perfume world, where words like "dirty" and "skanky" don't necessarily mean bad!). He's got a cult following, but his scents are not for everyone. I'm personally fond of a bit of skank in my perfume, so I was very excited when I opened my mailbox to find my Petit Livres des Parfums.
The little wax samples are covered by a thin sheet of plastic, but you can easily get a whiff of what you're in for. So I started sniffing. In the midst of lots of mmm! and hmm! there was one "sweet mother of creation what the hell is that?!"--and that, my friends, was my first introduction to Tubéreuse Criminelle.
Everyone* always** asks me, "Hey, you like fragrances--why don't you do a little perfumery taster course?" My response to that is that I don't really have a super nose. Other people say "oh yes, that's definitely the scent of juniper and violet leaf" while I'm saying "yeah, there's something there, what is it--reminds me of something . . . ah yes, it's some dude I was standing behind in line at the State Fair in 1988." In other words, I can't always name the particular notes, but I know where I was and what I was wearing the first time I smelled them.
When I smelled Tubéreuse Criminelle through the little plastic cover, I knew my initial reaction of "GOOD HEAVENS NO!" really meant I had to try that one first--I'm enough of a perfume addict to know that a scary opening can often lead to something that's worth the initial pain.
That reaction, incidentally, was because my overwhelming initial thought was of mothballs. My initial thought process once it was on my skin went "This smells like mothballs, but not quite mothballs, there's either something else there or it's not mothballs at all, oh I just don't know, hey wait a minute, now that I'm wearing it it's really creamy, wow that's pretty, I think I could buy a bottle of this."
Because I don't have a great nose, I didn't trust my mothballs reaction, so I went to NST--where I found out that my reaction is common. In doing a little search around the internet, I found that many other people also smelled wintergreen/spearmint and thereby concluded that the fragrance is a colder one. Once I read that, I could sniff my wrists again and understand that the "something else" I was getting was indeed spearmint--not that I would have ever got there on my own.
The reviewer at NST doesn't get the creaminess that I did (and also concludes that the scent is cold), but for me, after that initial "great-aunt's closet" blast, it's warm and creamy, and really complex.
Sadly, that's where Tubéreuse Criminelle ends for me. It quickly falls down into a really simple tuberose floral on my skin, and for me florals need to be either very special or very simple throughout their life on my skin--otherwise I can't maintain my interest in them. The simplicity of this drydown is really a betrayal of the incredibly interesting and complex things that happen earlier on.
In short, I don't think there's anywhere I could wear this and be truly satisfied: I'd want the simple tuberose for everyday officewear, but I'd have to apply it at 5am! Equally, I'd want that fantastic first hour for some glitzy special occasion--but I'd need that hour to last all night long.
(This is only the wax sample--an actual spray might well yield different results. I'd be more than willing to try that.)
Tubéreuse Criminelle, Serge Lutens, 1999 Notes: tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, musk, vanilla, styrax, nutmeg, clove, hyacinth (and mothballs and spearmint :) )