Une Voix Noire by Serge Lutens

Our dark voice is heard. She rumbles. She roars.

Une Voix Noir is a stretched take on the gardenia flower, as if taking its heady white purity then twisting it with an unfamiliar comfort unusual for this style.

As a reference to ‘purity’, Chanel’s Gardenia sufficed, with an illusionary gardenia flower constructed from white florals and a hint of dewey green, then inoculated with a coconut innocence.

This is a rich gardenia scent, untempered and unaffected by notions of typical soft femininity. What Fracas does to intoxicating tuberose flower is what Une Voix Noir does to the equally intoxicating white and grey tones of gardenia.

Dulcet tones move to and from a Björk-like technical and robust array of belches, roars, and grumbles (Big Time Sensuality). Une Voix Noire is a take on olfactory volume rolled in butter and cream. The gardenia note is a subject, that when it is indeed made the focal subject, it lends itself effortlessly to different directions. It has a sublime greenness that is hidden underneath the quirky, earthy grey musk of raw mushrooms. In my mind, the mushroom note bares resemblance to hot steam irons, the industrial, and wet concrete subjected to rain. A warmth, yes, but done unusually and pleasantly.

The Dark Voice of course is Billie Holiday whose softly raspy voice hides a morose tragedy that with excellent command demonstrates beauty within such tragedy. A narrative quality Serge Luten’s picks up on time and time again.

Une Voix Noire’s immense gardenia headiness is not tamed, but enriched with a wealth of other riches – together working at once, revealing itself slowly and slowly. Une Voix Noire is the patient person’s gardenia. One that if worn carefully the layers begin to unfold.

UVN Serge

Photo by Serge Lutens

On opening, Une Voix Noire bares a mild metallic salinity, with the contradictory freshness found deeply within rich white florals. For instance, I smell Fracas and it plunges straight into the base notes of tuberose, but one realises that tuberose itself is a perfume (not a singular scent, a clear distinction), and it has movements. A paradoxically fresh, blushingly verdant flourish on opening, moving swooningly into areas of depth and warmth rather than the initial freshness. This too is a paradigm that occurs with gardenia, and in my opinion, it is a treat.

An immensely creamy scent, Une Voix Noir travels to and from white floral richness to white floral freshness. Greenery is imparted too by indolic jasmine, a welcome additional and typical note associated with the illusionary gardenia accord, but what’s most intriguing is the note of stewed, jammy berries, that Boisdejasmin identifies as strawberries. This is the beginning of the tropical thread throughout Une Voix Noire, which is akin to an intimate evening spent at an indoor tiki bar.

As this movement progresses, one now receives creaminess of another sort: an earthy, almost dusty and dry cocoa-like note. Brisk purple colours swirled around our concrete and grey gardenia, nuttiness, and emblematic Serge incense: floating and clean. The additions are muted in this fragrance, as it delivers a graceful and fulfilling flatness: clean moves trepidatiously into soapy, fresh green moves onto harmonising bitter. Cigar smoke, soil, a new creaminess: vanilla, and difficultly defined musks move our fragrance into the oriental territory – and the gardenia takes it very well.

Look through this wall of smoke and the animalic civet undulations and find a concoction of pineapple and coconut. With gardenia’s innately humid tropicality and the prior fruity vibrations of strawberry, Une Voix Noir gives us a picturesque view of what is tiki and tropical, a glamorised and romanticised Hollywood take on the exotic: vintage movie stars in white double breasted suits with their mouths chomped onto a cigar.

Finally, with scrupulousness, I find violet and iris in a style similar to Iris Cendre that is considerably less dry and bare-boned in style. These florals here are rich and supportive – and certainly not main players. Present throughout the life of the scent is honey too, and the manner in which it blends imperceptibly throughout the body of the fragrance lifts the sweetness in charming, caramelised and blonde directions, flambéed with a boozy, (dried) fruity brown spirit – Cognac perhaps? Rum? Perhaps even the warm gingerbread spice of Angostura bitters.

Une Voix Noir is complex, and the long form is a testament to that fact, but I subjectively smell closely and find elements of decay, minute movement towards acridity, and a vanilla note I associate with the tropical vanilla of Havana Vanille (Vanille Absolument) from L’Artisan, I perfume I completely detest. The complexity cradles, the smoke warms, but the final result? Warm and salty tainted skin.

Alternatives: Sotto La Luna Gardenia by Andy Tauer, Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle, and Fracas by Robert Piguet

Layered, smoked Gardenia

Subjective rating : 3/5

Objective rating: 3.5 – 4/5


2 thoughts on “Une Voix Noire by Serge Lutens

  1. Very thoughtful review. Made me break out the bell jar to analyze more closely this lovely fragrance which I have always enjoyed but worn blithely. It does indeed benefit from closer scrutiny. Thank you for bringing me to an even greater appreciation of this remarkable scent.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s