The recent Serge Lutens release L’Orpheline (the orphan) is the sort of airy fragrance I generally get on better with than the dense creations which make up a good proportion of the house’s output. It gives you a lot of room to breathe.
LuckyScent lists the following notes: aldehydes, cedar wood, fougere accord, coumarin, clouds of ambergris, patchouli, incense and cashmeran.
As usual, Lutens worked with perfumer Christopher Sheldrake.
For the most part L’Orpheline contrasts stark incense against soft aldehydes. A swirling mix of resins and soap which is light and dark, cool and warm, masculine and feminine. It’s like an olfactory Yin Yang symbol.
L’Orpheline is woodier than Kyoto and the antithesis of the powerful Avignon (both part of the Comme des Garcons Incense Series). Although it is quiet and vaporous it also feels grounded and this feeling intensifies over time. The aldehydes dissipate and the incense is much less pronounced in the drydown. It no longer has the flinty yet soapy feeling it did before. The overall effect is that of the dying embers of a campfire.
Lutens is burning everything down to the ground in order to rise again anew.
A circle of stones on bare soil surrounds ashy, charred pieces of crumbly wood. After starting out airborne, the fragrance becomes earthier. There are touches of spice and musty patchouli as well as a subdued ambery musk which gives relief to the dryness.
L’Orpheline is very spare and introspective in character. However, for such an inward-looking fragrance it projects outwards quite some way with a lot of throw in the first couple of hours. It has very good longevity.
It may not be complex or unique but I did find L’Orpheline wearable and contemplative.
I tend to use incense to clear my head and make me feel more centred. So although I don’t find L’Orpheline exactly comforting, I don’t find its lack of ornamentation isolating either. Sometimes I find relief in a perfume that has an aura of detachment. When everything is overwhelming me, a cosy fragrance can be too suffocating.
Although its mood is decidedly downbeat, occasionally you want company for your heartache, rather than to be shaken out of it. A kind of emotional communion which is often a necessary part of the therapeutic process.
If you’ve read anything Serge Lutens himself has to say about L’Orpheline you’ll know it’s very personal to him. It represents the healing of the wounded child within. I don’t pretend to follow everything he says on the subject but I can relate to the idea of something that in his own words is “fragile but whole”.
You can’t “un-break” something, but given time and effort you can put it back together again.
If you’ve tried L’Orpheline please let me know what you thought of it in the comments.
Otherwise, please do share your best loved incense fragrances.