In Uncle Serge’s Garden – Review: Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier And Fleurs d’Oranger

Serge Lutens is not exactly known for his floral creations. Oriental is what he likes best and where he usually excels. The spice-laden-fruit-compote-on-wood accord of a heavy oriental is what lead me to Lutens in the first place. But once there it is kind of hard to leave…

Fleurs d’Oranger and Fleurs de Citronnier are two less typical Lutens works, let us explore Uncle Serge’s blooming garden:

Fleurs de Citronnier, lemon blossoms, was created in 2004 by Christopher Sheldrake and includes notes of lemon tree blossoms, petitgrain, neroli, honey, tuberose, nutmeg, styrax, iris and musk.

The reason why I am reviewing it now, and not in summer, is that I don’t think Fleurs de Citronnier works best in the heat. I think it is more of a cold weather scent.

It opens with slightly sharp neroli, but almost immediately sweetens and deepens, lemon and orange blossom are there, a hint of tuberose in the background reminds us that this is not a totally harmless little thing, but a Lutens after all, and a little spicy edge to the soapy musk in the base makes it interesting. Fleurs de Citronnier is very long wearing, ten to twelve hours are absolutely possible with this fragrance, sillage is above average.

I think Fleurs de Citronnier is one of Lutens’s more wearable creations, it is right up there with Clair de Musc, a fragrance also worn by non-perfume fiends and therefore one of the line’s best-sellers.

I think this is another example of the rule of thumb “A Lutens always surprises. It is never, ever what you think it is.” Conforming with this rule, Fleurs de Citronnier is not a light, summery citrus scent, but rather a honeyed floral with a strong musk base, that is as sturdy as a tree trunk, rather than delicate like the lemon blossoms of its name want us to believe.


Fleurs d’Oranger, orange blossoms, hails from 1995 was also created by Christopher Sheldrake and includes notes of orange blossom, white jasmine, Indian tuberose, white rose, citrus peel, hibiscus seeds, cumin and nutmeg.

Fleurs d’Oranger dispels right from the start any notions we might have had that florals are a delicate thing, they might be elsewhere, but not in Serge’s garden. Here they are giant, flesh-eating plants out to get you, if you are not careful.

Orange blossom is aided by copious amounts of indolic jasmine and fleshy tuberose to produce a hefty white floral, not disappointing those who love a grand entrance. Fleurs d’Oranger lasts forever and a day and its sillage is considerable if not applied most sparingly. Cumin in its heart adds to the Audrey association in my mind.

But Fleurs d’Oranger is not only in your face and overwhelming. It has a very tender, delicate aspect as well, that comes into focus now and again, before blurring into obscurity again, overshadowed by the more obvious players. And that lovely sweet and fresh aspect is what makes me like Fleurs d’Oranger a lot more than I expected. Insert the Lutens rule of thumb here, “A Lutens is always a surpirse. It is never, ever, yada, yada, yada,…”

I don’t put Fleurs d’Oranger in the same category as my other beloved orange blossom scents, like Penhaligon’s Orange Blossom, Xerjoff Oesel or L’Artisan Parfumeur Fleur d’Oranger, but rather lob it into a category of white flower powerhouses like Estée Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia or Amouage Honour Woman (which is perfectly tame and restrained in comparison).

I consider it a risk putting on Fleurs d’Oranger, because it can get on my nerves in no time and induce the mother of all headaches if I use only slightly too much, but when the mood is right, when the weather is right, when the dosage is right, it is a beautiful perfume.

But don’t forget it needs a lot of loving attention…

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38 Responses to In Uncle Serge’s Garden – Review: Serge Lutens Fleurs de Citronnier And Fleurs d’Oranger

  1. lady jane grey says:

    I have to revisit my Fleur der Citronnier – it was a present from my shy and lovely brother in law years ago (shelf life ?…) and unfortunately, I never got really close to that scent, which might be caused by the orange blossom, one of my worst enemies at the present. But one never knows…

  2. Tarleisio says:

    As you know, B, I’m not exactly educated in the school of perfectly restrained…;) so when I say that Fleurs d’Oranger was my first great Lutens love, I’m sure you understand why! I’m another big fan of Duchaufour’s Orange Blossom for Penhaligon’s, but as the end result of a Florida childhood, I can say that that of all the orange blossoms I’ve tried (I make it a point to try most of them), FdO comes closest to my memory of coming home after school and going out to the back yard, underneath the orange trees and breathing… Yes, it is a bit much sometimes, just as an orange grove can be a very heady experience when it blooms in spring…every bit as narcotic as tuberose, but with that zesty orange zing…FdO will always be special, since I gave myself a bell jar when I completed QD…;)

    I love FdC too…but I like it better as a masculine for some reason. Perhaps because it reminds me of Gaultier’s Fleurs du Male?

    To be honest, though, you managed to pinpoint both beautifully and precisely why I love Uncle Serge so much…for that constant element of….surprise! 😀

    • Olfactoria says:

      That is interesting to hear from someone who knows the real thing so well. No orange groves in Austria, so I don’t have that olfactory reference (nor the lovely memory).
      What Lutens is all about in my mind – surprise!

  3. Ines says:

    I was wondering if you could wear Fleurs d’Oranger, it’s a really loud and bold perfume. I couldn’t agree more that it needs careful attention when applying as it tends to be very willful and won’t always show its best side. 🙂
    But when it does… Oh, I swoon.

  4. Tara says:

    L’Artisan’s Fleur d’Oranger is the one for me but it was nice to read more about the intense Lutens version. Very interesting to learn that Fleurs de Citromnier is very different to the light summer citrus I assumed it was. You’re right though, I should have remembered how SL likes to surprise. I’ll try it the next time I can.

  5. andrea says:

    The Little shop of horrors photo sums FdO up for me, I tried it, I scrubbed, I don’t like how cumin reacts on my skin, maybe I should give it a go again now, after all my nose is starting to get a little bit more sophisticated (ha, I wish, sophisticated is something I can only imagine)
    I am, if nothing else, persistent in finding a perfume that I like with a note that I have previously dismissed, oud and tuberose being 2 cases in point. 🙂

  6. At the risk of being stoned for being a heretic – I have to admit that I much prefer Uncle Serge’s florals to his orientals.

    Fleurs d’Oranger is one of my favourites (after TC obviously :P). You hit the nail on the head when you said it was both overwhelming and tender, it really is one you have to be in the mood for. I love the heady florals and spicy cumin in summer and winter 😀

    • Olfactoria says:

      Now that comes as a surprise! 😀
      Seriously though, Serge has undoubtedly very, very interesting florals. Nothing is more interesting than the unusual and unexpected after all.

    • Sugandaraja says:

      Adding to the chorus! I love Lutens Florals… Tubereuse Criminelle, Sarrasins, and Rose de Nuit rank as all-time favorite scents for me, and many of the others are just as good.

  7. vanessa says:

    I rather regret swapping away my sample of Fleurs d’Oranger, as I think I would be ready to handle its indolic juiciness now – or some of the time, certainly.

    I do still have my Fleurs de Citronnier sample, which I rejected a few years ago as being too soapy. It still is on the soapy side, but I don’t mind it today in this chilly weather. It is like the best lemon scented hotel soap infused with sherbet – is there mimosa in there? *Scurries to check note list again*. No, it must just be the neroli.

    I like it so much I shall apply it to the other arm, while in the absence of Fleurs d’Oranger I have splashed some Aterlier Orange Sanguine around my neck area. I smell fruity today!

  8. Sugandaraja says:

    FdC is a classic case of weird skin chemistry on me. Ten seconds of beauty, then soap, soap, soap. On my mother, however, it smells great – but she doesn’t like it, sadly! It is intriguing though, as it’s not just a matter of taste: others can smell the curiously large difference between her and my skin. ( The reverse happens with her and Sa Majeste – it smells like wellington boots on her, all cheery roses on me! )

    I like Fleurs d’Oranger, but I feel it somehow ”grew up” when the same accord was used in the less literal, more sophisticated Mandarine Mandarin.

    Love the Audrey 2 reference. My nomination for Lutensian Audrey-florals is Cedre. 😀

    • Olfactoria says:

      A certain perfume blogger recently wrote that many of us delight in writng endless tedious prose about perfume and how it is different on us, because we are special. Obviously he is not a believer in subjectivity and personal viewpoints, but I am (as evidenced by my endless tedious prose), and your comment is one more example of how skin chemistry or whatever it is, is an important factor. We are special after all. 🙂

      Do you know, I never smelled Cedre, and it is coming up again and agin recently. Time to remedy that hole in my Lutens knowledge…

      • Sugandaraja says:

        Apply cautiously! If you know Dior’s Poison, you know a creature that shares 80% of its DNA with Cedre. I like it, but too much of this is what induces tuberosaphobia in some! 😀

  9. deeHowe says:

    Just coming into an appreciation for orange blossom, I think that I am not yet ready for either of these. I’m still at By Kilian Love, which is more marshmallow than orange blossom! However, I enjoy reading your endless tedious prose! 😉

    • Olfactoria says:

      Thank you! I like your tedious prose as well! 😉
      Did you try Sweet Redemption yet? What about the orange blossom in there?

      • dee says:

        I liked Sweet Redemption okay, but certainly not the first ten minutes or so! It does this weird trick on my skin where it smells like tropical-incense, and it’s just too bizarre! But I love the heart notes and the dry-down… I don’t think that I even realized that it had orange blossom, lol 😉

  10. Suzanne says:

    This may shock you, Birgit, since you know what my tastes are like, but Fleurs d’Oranger is , most of the time, too much for me. 😀 But you, Ines, and Candy Perfume Boy are right … there are time when it’s breathtakingly beautiful. I almost feel like that perfume has a will of its own.

    Really enjoyed reading your description of Citronnier, too, as I’ve never tried it and there doesn’t seem to be many reviews of that one. Or maybe I’ve just missed most of them, somehow.

    • Olfactoria says:

      So there is something that is too much for Suzanne! 😀

      I didn’t find FdC reviews either, maybe because it is not as “shocking” as many other Lutens’s that capture a blogger’s attention first.

  11. Undina says:

    I tested Fleurs d’Oranger against Sweet Redemption today. Both are great perfumes, both smell very nice and both are not for me. The former because of how cumin in it reacts with my skin, the latter because it’s too sweet. I like them both like scents but I don’t want to wear them as perfumes. I’ll try again next year.

    • Olfactoria says:

      It is fine not to like something. I don’t like many things as well. We have to draw the line somewhere, and sometimes it is very liberating to say – No, thank you. Not for me.
      No matter what perfume it is or how well made it is.

  12. GeM says:

    Bravissimo, Birgit!!! What a perfect picture of The Little Shop of Horrors along with the final sentence… 😀 You rock!

    FdO is a well known thing to me.
    It tends to be really sweet and LUSH on my skin. I live in a sunny mediterranean place -hot and humid weather- where it seems to work amazingly. Anyway [I know the creature]… it can be quite a bit suffocating in hottest days, so I reserved it just for spring and/or summer nights use (and early autumn, too). My bodychemistry was always right with this uplifting, beautiful fragrance. As I see, it is 90% womanly, and there’s something almost ‘childish’ in the drydown that I love – as I see that’s the ‘tenderness’ probably you’re refering to…-.

    Question—-> Don’t you think the association probably comes due to such amount of baby products containing neroli=orange blossom…?

    I stopped using Fleurs d’Oranger just because I’m a bit of a perfume-aholic and I can’t be faithful to just one fragrance, but it lasted me almost 8/9 years (using some others, meanwhile). Now FdO is over (full empty bottle -which seems to happen with every Serge Lutens I own-), but I’ll keep it in mind and I’ll never forget… so we will see in the future, maybe I’ll come back to it. I agree is not as interesting and unique fragrance as many others are… it’s just so special in its ‘fierce’ simplicity.

    …about oranged things… Apart from it’s one of my all time favorite colors, which symbolizes vitality with endurance that gives warmth and stimulates enthusiasm … also it is the color of many typical food like Gazpacho and Paella, the ‘burning’ contests popular traditions like the Revetlla de Sant Joan and other fireworks and Fiestas, the orange candles in the romanesque wall’s churches, of the afternoon light & sunset, the orange blossom coasts, the orange peel we use for some liquors, desserts, etc. I think whole land is predominantly colored yellow/orange because of the sun and the light falling. Not strange that when I had FdO in my hands for the very first time, I was particularly comforted and induced by the color of its juice much more than, for example, the name ‘Fleurs d’Oranger’ itself.
    But I also believe orange blossom has been my favourite perfume ingredient for ages, along with the heliotropes and vanillas, mimosa/cassie & violets with a hint of fruit (that’s usually peach, apricot or plum). I see that I’ve been rounding the same things time after time (recently I also started being particularly interested in licorice, also in creamy milky notes and so on… I think the older I get the more I tend to gourmands, WTF?!).

    Whatever be the reason of the FdO’s Sex-appeal…, at the end was one of my very truly beloved scents, and of course, as you pointed, I gave a lot of my loving attention 😀

    I’ve truly enjoyed your review !!

    I also have full respect to FdCitronnier, which I consider a light but true gourmand -to me smells like mum’s freshly baked lemony cake- and is not only lovely, but so special and understated by many people.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Thank you, GeM!

      I think your association with childgood innocence might ondeed come from orange blossom scented baby products. Those are more popular in France and Spain, not here, so I don’t share that experience, but I’m sure that is where your association comes from.

      Funnily, I tend to go for gourmands more, the older I get too. 🙂

      • GeM says:

        haha!! I think we’re not alone. It’s so curious, I’m always surprised that gourmand perfumes are associated to the preferences and the attitudes of the youngest, teen girls… I think in most cases should be the opposite.

        Yes you’re right about the neroli point, I guessed it would be that, but I wasn’t sure!!
        Now I’m intrigued what’s used for baby/children cosmetic products in your country…? 🙂

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