The way the ‘r’ in Myrrhe rolls off the tongue is much like the eventual smoothness of this fragrance. A cacophony resolving to silence; from discord to accord.
Serge Luten’s La Myrrhe is something recognised immediately, but never quite grasped. Its complexity is a testament to this fact, and seems to pull down and become finely stretched on the wearer. A fine tulle and layers of chiffon, La Myrrhe is dramatised largely with a severe dosage of aldehydes at the top. I consider the aldehydes to be like elegant wrapping paper: it is extravagant and beautiful on the outside, but on the inside features a complex gift, and much like the biblical tale, this is the gift of myrrh put on a golden pedestal.
Victoria’s review on her blog Bois de Jasmin hits the mark. She poetically describes La Myrhhe as the moment “sunlight enters through the stained glass windows of an old church, bathing its cold stone in iridescent glow and lending a jewel-like splendo[u]r to the liturgical vestments and the vessels of the altar”. Long rays of light are weightless yet infinite, and the aldehydes diffuse into different colours. Amber toned myrrh, orange hued mandarin, golden honey, and a brown wooden chest containing a wealth of surprises in this fragrance’s composition.
© 2015 Liam Sardea
At this point, La Myrrhe seems like an aldehyde-driven fragrance than anything else, and if you don’t persist that is all you’ll get. These synthetic compounds reveal almost gourmand complexities within the scent. Green almonds with its fuzzy hull and milky sap combined with bitter almond, honey, and bitter cherries that call to mind Luten’s Rahät Loukoum without its blinding saccharine qualities. Further, a chemical astringency: clean linen and synthetic aerosol sprays. Happening in a short matter of moments, the aldehydic discord moves swiftly into accord, and the biting front recedes and quickly shifts with great breadth. It now takes a supporting role and serves to spotlight the other notes present in the fragrance.
The soapy quality, noticed from the very beginning, is due to the myrrh. The fizzy aldehydes have wrangled the resin into submission with a near intolerable soapiness, teetering on the edge of sublime bitterness. If you let your guard down and let the imagination to wander, imagine bare flesh scrubbed clean with white soap – a skin-like smell along with cold metal.
We cascade downwards, softening gracefully and resembling the supple layering effect seen in both Chanel No. 5 and No. 22. A smoothness develops only possible through flowers – sweet and narcotic, I detect jasmine alloyed closely with sandalwood that pulls in the direction of Chanel. I allow the blinding top accords to mellow more and find a mandarin orange stripped of its acerbic characteristics. What this does is round the fragrance further with a quality that is both cutting and smooth; present and then gone, but nevertheless imperative.
La Myrrhe succinctly captures the chill of the arctic circle while putting its namesake note in complete domain and even more, as the myrrh note is put in the open with all of its facets opened and revealed. I notice that the bitterness of the resin morphs into something smokey at times, yet even this serves as something to be more cleansing and thin, rather than thick and smoggy. The clinical and astringent purity of the scent further exaggerates the soap impression. This too combines wonderfully with the aforementioned bitter notes compounded with viscose honey. Finally, it is impossible to miss the aromatic ‘ouzo’ (anise liquor) impression adding a new and surprising dimension of freshness.
With long period of wear, the fragrance has totally settled on the skin and pushed itself drastically back. It calls to mind sweet washed skin glorified with an anisic heart and creamy sandalwood, offering a moreish gourmand note (à la Lutens) abstracted beyond recognition with the style still clearly detectable.
“Forgive this fragrance, because it knows not what it does! You know about myrrh and the Three Kings. What you don’t know is that, here, myrrh takes on the fragrance of the night. I make it sparkle and fizz like champagne, sustained by a base note of mandarin orange.” -Serge Lutens
Aldehydes and resins – exalted.
Subjective rating: 5/5
Objective rating: 5/5