Cèdre by Serge Lutens (2005)
It would be highly tempting to dismiss this scent directly off the cuff if you knew nothing about it other than its name, as some sort of outrageous trash with this semi-hairspray bubblegum style top note on opening. “This is supposed to be cèdre [cedar]!”, you utter, in utter disbelief. Not so fast. What’s in a name? Must it promise anything at all? But there’s certainly cedar in here. In fact, there’s heaps of it. But before that – what’s up top is tuberose. The receptivity to this scent is doomed on account of its title. But that is of little importance. The tuberose rests on this exotic woody oriental base, and indeed you’d first be positioned to recall those wacky big hairdo soft oriental powerhouses (like Poison or Coco) that manage to skip over that whole lesson in etiquette and present the complete opposite of some sort of sterile calm and collectedness. But, here in Cèdre, this sense of grand fullness works to great effect. And what ties this bubblegum ephemera down to cedar wood is in fact clove, with an antiseptic spiciness that smells scratchy as opposed to sterile.
Cèdre is a stunning cedar wood, and with a bit of time on skin to let it become gentle, it turns into a supremely elegant and pleasantly complex fragrance in the manner that it contorts and warps into an infinitude of different shapes. For cedar is a metamorphic wood, and we learned this clearly in Féminité du Bois – Cèdre is the addendum – the afterthought – the distant descendant – the variation of this theme, which openly refuses the transparency and luminous freshness of purified cedar wood bathed in a symphony of light of its predecessor. Cèdre is dusky, full, gutsy, and spicy in its earthiness. Féminité du Bois satisfies none of these qualities – it is celestial. And so, Cèdre to me is more convincingly genderfluid, because the cedar wood is superfluid and androgynous. It is Victor/Victoria. It is elegant roughness and rough elegance all at once – whatever oxymoronic juxtaposition works for you. Cèdre demonstrates the instability of an arbitrary gender binary, no less in perfumery, and deconstructs it from within. By placing ultra-white tuberose on a very rough, purring cedar wood, and drawing the two notes even closer with the equally camphoraceous spice notes of clove and cinnamon, you’re forced to see this in one perspective: the androgynous one. The perspective that openly refuses gender marketing, but too, above all else, plainly smells like a well composed fragrance. A little cloying at times, but reassuring, memorable, and strong, and maybe even a bit oblong too. It is especially curvy, but it forces itself back into some tall and tight dimensions post-haste. A very nice cedar. Or is it a very nice tuberose? I say: both. It is a tall dancing flame against the background of an exotic night.
4 / 5