Perfume Review – Serge Lutens La Myrrhe: Complicated Beauty

Photo used by permission: Dayle Ann Clavin. Dayle Ann Clavin Studios, photography by request: http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Photo used by permission: Dayle Ann Clavin. Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, award-winning photography and services at http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Forgive this fragrance, because it knows not what it does!

That is the express warning and plea given by Serge Lutens at the start of his description of La Myrrhe — and you should listen to him. If there is one thing that is the signature of Serge Lutens fragrances is how dramatically they can change, twisting and turning, turning you almost upside down at times, as if you were on a 100 mile-per-hour carnival ride. La Myrrhe does this perhaps more than most. It sent me plummeting me down to the depths of the abyss with an avalanche of one of my most hated notes in perfumery, before lifting me back up to a state of fascinated admiration where I couldn’t stop sniffing my arm. I’m not quite sure what to make of the complex jumble of emotions triggered by La Myrrhe, but I do know a few things: Serge Lutens wasn’t kidding with that warning; La Myrrhe is a thorny beauty; she has more layers than an onion; and I’m quite awed.

Photo used by permission: Dayle Ann Clavin Studios, photography by request. http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Photo used by permission: Dayle Ann Clavin Photography, photography by request. http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

La Myrrhe was created by Christopher Sheldrake, and released in 1995. The name translates to “The Myrrh,” which refers to the aromatic resin or sap that comes from a tree. Myrrh has a long, ancient history, not only going back to the Bible where it was supposedly brought as the most precious of gifts by the Three Magi for baby Jesus, but in other ancients religions and cultures as well. It is frequently burned as incense, and its aroma is sometimes nutty but, usually, it’s very soapy, cool and white. On occasion, it can be like licorice. Both of the latter aspects are on full display in Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake’s famous eau de parfum, La Myrrhe. It is one of the famous bell jar “Paris Exclusives,” which means that it not sold world-wide but is generally exclusive to Serge Lutens’ Paris headquarters. That said, it can actually be purchased outside of France, either from Barney’s New York or directly from Serge Lutens’ international and U.S. websites, though it’s always at a big mark-up if you are buying outside of France. 

Uncle Serge describes La Myrrhe as follows:

 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.

Fragrantica classifies La Myrrhe as a “spicy oriental,” and says its mystery notes include:

mandarin, myrrh, lotus, bitter almond, sandalwood, honey, jasmine, amber, musk, various spices and pimento.

Lotus Flower via Wikipedia

Lotus Flower via Wikipedia

La Myrrhe opens on my skin as…. well, as hair spray. The worst kind of hairspray, mixed with extremely expensive soap, and a horrible, unpleasant aroma of cheap acrylic or polyester. I once went to a used-clothing store to find 1960s polyester clothing for a costume party, and there is the exact same undertone to La Myrrhe’s head notes of intense hair spray. It’s all due to the aldehydes which explode on my skin as a tidal wave of cold, soapy bubbles. They’re mixed with the airiest of sheer, gauzy, orange notes and bitter almonds. A disconcerting note of chili pepper flickers in and out, like a red speck in a sea of sheer, frothy whiteness. An oddly aquatic element — presumably from the lotus flower — dances all around, adding a very pastel, liquidy, watery sweetness to the scent and strengthening the olfactory image of hair spray. The notes are all tied together in a bouquet by fresh, clean, white musk.

Source: megashara.com

Source: megashara.com

La Myrrhe smells like the most expensive soap and shampoo around, mixed in with really cheap hairspray — and, yet, it also doesn’t. There is something more at play, despite the chemical, synthetic blur of whiteness underscored by an equally white, soapy touch of myrrh smoke. The most unusual touch for me is that lotus flower which feels almost as if it’s stepped into the wrong play with its aquatic, pastel, sweet undertones.

Source: Wikicommons.

Source: Wikicommons.

The chilly, icy, frothiness of La Myrrhe is interesting, but the soapy, clean, fresh avalanche of aldehydes is too, too much for me. Aldehydes are my second most despised note of all time, going back to when I was seven and HermèsCaleche almost put me off perfume for life. I cannot handle aldehydes in anything but the smallest amount; and holy mother of God, there a lot of them here! It’s giving me flashbacks to Chanel No. 5 which is well-known for its floral-aldehyde opening — and I cannot stand that legendary favorite, heresy though that may be. Neither the intriguing, beautiful, bitter almond note, nor La Myrrhe’s muted, subtle flickers of ambered sandalwood infused with jasmine in the base, can save this opening for me. In fact, the bitter almond combined with the frothing, white bubbles make me think of cyanide, since it has the smell of bitter almonds and can foam up like bubbles when ingested. To be precise, I keep thinking of the death capsules that Nazis like Goebbels and Goering used to escape justice. Yes, the degree of aldehydes in La Myrrhe makes me think of death in a very clear signal from my (not so) subconscious mind. Have I mentioned just how much I hate aldehyde bombs?

Jasmine via Wikicommons

Jasmine via Wikicommons

Like a caterpillar larva stirring in a cocoon, La Myrrhe starts to move and shift quite quickly. Fifteen minutes into La Myrrhe’s development, the delicate, sweet jasmine stirs and starts to become more prominent. Unfortunately, so does the white musk which makes my head hurt a little. The aquatic, floral lotus flower recedes to the background, where it joins the orange note — both hidden under the landslide of white froth. Changes, however, are soon afoot, as the aldehydes begin to slowly, slowly, decrease to much saner levels. Amazingly, less than fifty minutes into La Myrrhe’s development, they’re almost a distant figure in what is now a very different landscape. Now, La Myrrhe is a jasmine, floral fragrance delicately veiled with only a light sprinkling of aldehydes which almost verge on the effervescent.

French Pastis. Source: Art.com

French Pastis. Source: Art.com

The myrrh has also changed. From a very soapy, white note that almost hinted at cold, churchy smoke, it now takes on a licorice facade. And it’s beautiful. It’s not salty like some black, licorice sweets, but rather cool and completely reminiscent of French Pastis, Greek Ouzo, or absinthe. Maybe it’s because I grew up partially in Europe, but I am extremely fond of the French and Greek national drinks, so I can’t stop sniffing my arm. The myrrh smells exactly like Pastis mixed with water, when it turns into an aromatic, still strongly anisidic, but almost sweet, drink. The milkiness of the note adds to the white visuals from the jasmine, the now quiet soap, the musk, the muted touch of white smoke from myrrh’s other side, and that interesting touch of bitter almonds.

Photo used by permission: Dayle Ann Clavin. Dayle Ann Clavin Studios, photography by request: http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

Photo used by permission: Dayle Ann Clavin. Photographic services available at http://www.dayleannclavin.com/

It’s almost as if the visual cues are gently teasing those who saw La Myrrhe’s gorgeous, pale ruby colour and may have thought, “Ah, spicy!” No, it’s not. In fact, La Myrrhe is still a little “bathtastic” — to use the word so perfectly coined by The Scented Hound to describe Chanel‘s jasmine-aldehydic perfume, 1932. Unlike that scent, however, La Myrrhe has actual character. (And, it’s also not boring which is more than I can say for 1932….) Thankfully, baths and bubbles soon become a distant memory.

Shortly after the start of the second hour, La Myrrhe’s final stage begins, and it continues more or less unchanged until the very end. On my skin, La Myrrhe is primarily milky aniseed atop a delicately muted jasmine base that is sweetened by a smooth, almost custardy, but slightly dry, vanilla. It’s really a compulsively sniffable combination. The changes which occur are only one of degree. Around the 90-minute mark, La Myrrhe’s licorice element softens, feeling less like pure Pastis or Ouzo, and more like a floral twist on fennel fronds. I never smell the jasmine in a truly distinct, separate, strongly concrete manner. Instead, it merely transforms the licorice note into something fragrant. It’s as if the delicate, wispy fronds of a fennel bulb have flowered, if that makes any sense.

Vanilla with fennel. Source: foodspotting.com

Vanilla with fennel. Source: foodspotting.com

Underneath, in the base, are the supporting players. There is still a touch of white smoke from the myrrh, now warmed over and sweetened, but it tends to be a somewhat ghostly note that pops up like a Jack in the Box, only to vanish for large stretches of time. A similarly temperamental, ghostly element is the honey which appears from time to time in the background, and which feels like a light drizzle of sweetness on the white accords. And then, there is the beautiful vanilla that makes up a big part of the base elements on my skin. It’s beautiful, feeling simultaneously rich and custardy, frothy and airy. It’s also very well-balanced, especially in conjunction with the myrrh which feels like a touch of green in the rich, delicately sweet, creamy base. Yet, despite the impact of the vanilla and occasional appearance of the honey, I would never call La Myrrhe a gourmand fragrance.

After twisting and turning every which way possible, La Myrrhe is now set in its final incarnation, remaining as a vanilla aniseed with the lightest of floral touches until the very end. It becomes softer and more abstract, until, in its dying moments, it’s nothing more than amorphous, light sweetness. All in all, La Myrrhe lasted exactly 9.5 hours on my skin the first time I tested it, and just under 8.25 hours the second time with a smaller dose. The sillage was always soft after that brutal opening but, even then, its projection was generally moderate. I think it’s definitely not an overpowering fragrance, and would be quite office-appropriate. That said, I have to caution that it may be a very different story if you spray La Myrrhe (as opposed to dabbing), let alone if you sprayed on a lot

La Myrrhe is such a complicated perfume that it seems to straddle many lines. It goes from soapy, clean bubbles and hairspray with aquatic pastel florals and cyanide-like bitter almonds, to taking on Chanel’s signature floral-aldehyde opening, to evoking Mediterranean Pastis/Ouzo, to a frothy, floral aniseed-vanilla confection that is far too dry to be anything like dessert. The opening is brutal, and not just in my aldehyde-hating opinion. Take, for example, The Non-Blonde whose review of La Myrrhe begins with three things she wishes she’d known before trying the fragrance:

Three things I wish I had known before trying La Myrrhe for the very first time:
1. It should not be sprayed. Never ever. Under no circumstances.
2. Aldehydes can be more than just floral or green. They can be spicy.
3. Husbands who don’t like aldehydes will not appreciate them even in a Serge Lutens perfume. Especially not in a moving vehicle.

Other than that? La Myrrhe is gorgeous and even the husband doesn’t complain after the first 30 minutes or so, when the root-beer and spiced honey soda take over and do their thing on my skin. 

The first thing I smell if I spritz La Myrrhe is a harsh chemical you could mistake for cheap vintage hairspray (best case) or a pesticide. It really surprised me, since my first couple of La Myrrhe samples were little dab-on vials, so I never experienced this aspect until I got a larger decant. Even when it becomes more perfume-like, this 1995 Serge Lutens perfume is so carbonated and aldehydic it takes up all the air in the room. Luca Turin [sic, Tania Sanchez] compares it favorably to White Linen in his five star review of La Myrrhe. I only argue with the fact Dr. Turin sees the similarity as a positive thing. I used to wear White Linen a lot in the very early 1990s, but today I find it stomach-turning.

Yet, like me, The Non-Blonde had a very different — and entirely more lovely — experience by the end:

La Myrrhe dries down into a soft but determined oriental perfume, laced with honey and amaretto. There’s a little incense there that smells as though it was kept in a wooden box together with precious and rare spices. It has magic and mystery, a little danger of the unknown and a whole lot more sex-appeal than one would expect if they started their relationship with La Myrrhe by spraying it.

Not everyone can move past that beginning, however, no matter how lovely the end or its “sex-appeal.” On Fragrantica, one poor chap — who seems to share my mental association of aldehydes with death — wrote: “The aldehydes are a near-death experience.” Though he found La Myrrhe to improve once “the horror wears off,” he said bluntly, “I just don’t know if I can take the cave train downtown to get there without going blind from the chemicals over and over again. I just don’t know if I’m ready.” And I think that will be true for many people. La Myrrhe is a love it or hate it perfume, and it takes the Lutens level of complicated assertiveness to a whole new level. And, yet, it is also incredibly elegant.

As noted earlier, La Myrrhe bears a close resemblance to Chanel‘s legendary No. 5 in its opening moments. It’s not just me, either. On Fragrantica, a number of people bring up Chanel No. 5 — at least those who are not talking about bubble baths, “Mr. Bubble Bubble Bath,” “the smell of a public restroom with a very powerful pink air freshener,” or “dishwashing detergent bubbles.” (Can you tell how much those aldehydes dominate the opening?!) I think the similarities are very short-lived, however. Chanel No. 5 doesn’t have undercurrents of Ouzo, bitter almonds, and myrrh’s cold, soapy smoke. In addition, the true, vintage Chanel No. 5 is known as much for the sandalwood and civet tones in its base as it is for that opening blast of frothy aldehydes. Finally, as Bois de Jasmin explains so well, La Myrrhe takes the classic aldehydic tradition and up-ends it in a wholly modern manner.

In her five-star review, Bois de Jasmin writes:

The classicism of La Myrrhe (1995) is of misleading nature as it orchestrates its accords in a modern manner. The opalescent white veil of aldehydes that unfolds in the top accord almost hints at the floral waterfalls that are about to cascade softening the chilly breeze. Yet, instead of bergamot, rose, jasmine and ylang ylang of classical aldehydic compositions, La Myrrhe’s icy aldehydes become overlaid with sweet citrus, before falling into the heart spiced with anise. ….

Like other Lutens compositions, where the main note is highlighted and exaggerated (Tubéreuse Criminelle, Cèdre, Bornéo 1834), La Myrrhe brilliantly frames the myrrh by accenting its medicinal licorice tonality with anise notes and its sweetness with honey. [...][¶]

Although haunting, La Myrrhe may not be the easiest fragrance to wear as the aldehydic burst paired with the medicinal facets of myrrh left unadorned lacks an expected warm counterpoint. Yet, this very dissonance is what keeps one’s interest while the composition slowly unfolds. Like would be expected of the majority of Serge Lutens’s compositions, its aloof elegance would suit both men and women. It is not a fragrance that has a particular seasonal designation, yet its spicy coldness is associated for me with the first snow and winter chill.

On me, La Myrrhe was never medicinal, and I barely had any citrus orange notes at all, but I agree with much of her assessment. It is a very aloof, chilly, white fragrance at the start, though I think it softens and warms later on. And she is absolutely correct in finding a dissonance when comparing La Myrrhe’s opening to its end. As I’ve said many times before, one of the things I love the most about Serge Lutens fragrances is their complicated nature and how they almost feel like a living thing. Here, the nature of La Myrrhe’s stages — the way they slowly slip and evolve from one thing to the next, and, more importantly, the incredibly sharp contrast between the first and final stages — really evoke the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a gorgeous butterfly.

I think your reaction to La Myrrhe, and whether you can handle the opening, will depend largely on your feelings about “bathtastic” aldehyde bombs. If you enjoy something like Estée Lauder‘s White Linen, then you’ll probably share the admiration and love expressed by the perfume critic, Tania Sanchez. Her five-star review of La Myrrhe in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide reads, in part:

… Open the bottle and fall prey to total surprise. [...] Lutens and Sheldrake set the smoky balsamic resin known as myrrh against a radiant, rosy, modern aldehydic floral of incomparable crispness, akin to White Linen. By this unexpected route, the fragrance somehow manages to replicate the thrilling balance of incredible brightness and sweetness that Shalimar once had, before decades of adjustments deepened its voice. La Myrrhe has a pure, clear, unearthly tone with beauty and force, as if the fragrance could sing a clean high C as high as heaven and not show the strain.

Like the Non-Blonde, I don’t  think White Linen is anything remotely appealing, let alone an encouraging comparison. In fact, I suspect that Tania Sanchez loves the aldehydic part of La Myrrhe more than the rest of it, while I, in contrast, think it’s something to simply barrel through until you get to the good parts.

That said, I think La Myrrhe could definitely grow on you, and you could get used to that hellacious beginning. In my second test, when I dabbed on much less, I still thought about cyanide pills, death, and hairspray, but I wasn’t quite so ready to stick a fork into my jugular. In fact, if I weren’t engaged in this mad Lutens marathon right now, I’d probably put on more of La Myrrhe, and try it again. I actually love the Pastis and the aniseed-vanilla stages enough to where I’d be willing to just close my eyes and “think of England,” as the old saying goes, until that soapy avalanche does its business and gets out of the way. That says a lot coming from a person who doesn’t own a single fragrance with aldehydes.

So, is La Myrrhe a wearable, versatile fragrance, or just a work of art? For those who adore aldehydes with a passion, probably the former. The soft, warm, deliciously sweet beauty of the final stages makes it much more approachable and easy than its opening would lead one to suspect. For everyone else, however, I don’t know. It would really depend. But I think everyone would agree that La Myrrhe is a work of brilliance. Unfortunately, brilliant art is not always wearable.

 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: La Myrrhe is an eau de parfum that is part of the Serge Lutens “Paris Exclusives” line, which means it is available only in the larger 2.5 oz/75 ml Bell Jar size. It retails for $300 or €140 for a 75 ml/2.5 oz bottle. You can buy La Myrrhe directly from the U.S. Serge Lutens website or from the International one.
In the U.S.: you can also find La Myrrhe sold exclusively at Barney’s New York store. The website has a notice stating: “This product is only available for purchase at the Madison Avenue Store located at 660 Madison Avenue. The phone number for the Serge Lutens Boutique is (212) 833-2425.”
Personal Shopper Options: Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass reminded me of Shop France Inc run by Suzan, a very reputable, extremely professional, personal shopper who has been used by a number of perfumistas. She will go to France, and buy you perfumes (and other luxury items like Hermès scarves, etc.) that are otherwise hard to find at a reasonable price. Shop France Inc. normally charges a 10% commission on top of the item’s price with 50% being required as a down payment. However, and this is significant, in the case of Lutens Bell Jars, the price is $225 instead. The amount reflects customs taxes that she pays each time, as well as a tiny, extra markup. It’s still cheaper than the $290 (not including tax) for the bell jar via Barney’s or the US Serge Lutens website.  Another caveat, however, is that Suzan is limited to only 10 bell jars per trip, via an arrangement with the Lutens house. There is a wait-list for the bell jars, but she goes every 6-8 weeks, so it’s not a ridiculously huge wait, I don’t think. If you have specific questions about the purchase of Lutens bell jars, or anything else, you can contact her at shopfranceinc@yahoo.com. As a side note, I have no affiliation with her, and receive nothing as a result of mentioning her.
Outside the US: In Europe, the price of La Myrrhe is considerably cheaper at €140 from the French Lutens website, the International one, or from their Paris boutique. Other language options are available, though the Euro price for the item won’t change. To the best of my knowledge, the Paris Exclusives are not carried by any department store anywhere, and the only place to get them outside of Barney’s New York boutique is the Paris Serge Lutens store at Les Palais Royal. 
Samples: You can order samples of La Myrrhe from Surrender to Chance starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. I actually ordered mine as part of a Five Piece Non-Export Sampler Set, where you can choose 5 Lutens Paris Exclusives for a starting price of $18.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. 

58 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Serge Lutens La Myrrhe: Complicated Beauty

    • So, does that oblique statement mean that La Myrrhe tempts you or not? lol. :) To be honest, I don’t really see it as being your thing, Jordan. Are you surprised by how it turned out with the aldehydes? I certainly was. The notes led me to think it would be quite different.

      • No but I was hoping it would! Especially with a name like La Myrrh. Your comprehensive review does not entice me but your thoughts on Fille en Aiguilles have captured my interest. That would be a unique addition to the library.

  1. I adore your reactions to this and the whole review. I love that that soapiness makes you think of death, find it compelling.

    Personally, I love aldehydes (and LOVE Caleche, jeez, one of my very favourites of all time), especially when combined with mandarin (i.e. Caron Nocturnes), and the whole experience, bathtastic, joyous, mysterious, of this perfume makes me wish that I had bought it in Paris instead of that bloody Cuir Mauresque. If you had an actual bottle of La Myrrhe instead I would gladly swap!

    • Heh, you may be the only one who finds my thought of cyanide capsules and dead Nazi officials to be compelling. *grin* ;) And how funny that Caleche is one of your favorites of all time. You know, my first “adult” perfume was Van Cleef & Arpel’s First which I got for my 7th birthday. I hated it. Hated it with a passion. So they got me Caleche instead — and I almost got put off perfume for life. It was Opium which saved me.

      And that, right there, sums up the differences in our perfume tastes in a single paragraph. LOL. But, you know, I can fully see why La Myrrhe would be your cup of tea, and why you’d find it mysterious and joyful. Cuir Mauresque definitely doesn’t seem like you. Did you sniff it before you buy it??

      • OF course, in a miasma of Lutensian swooning. I could hardly see the wood for the trees at that point….

        Restraint has never been my strongest attribute…

        AS for your childhood perfumes, what hilariously inappropriate choices they were. Brilliant.

  2. Mmmmm, myrrh, incense, licorice, vanilla…..sign me up. I used to hate aldehydes too but now I actually enjoy them sometimes. Maybe it’s because it’s 5:30am and I’m barely awake but this stuff sounds great to me. I used to have an oil for my nails that was supposedly myrrh oil. It claimed to work as a super nail strengthener. I only remember I loved the smell of it, no recollection if it did anything for my nails.

    • You may like this, though Kevin who likes aldehydes a lot more than you found the opening to be far too difficult. Still, with your tastes, I’d definitely recommend trying it at least! You’ve tried so many Lutens and this one is hugely praised, so it would be worth a sniff just to see what the fuss is about. It really is Lutens at his most complicated, artistic best.

  3. I thought I had tried all of the SL Bell Jar scents but, somehow I missed this one. You make it sound quite intriguing even though I am not a huge fan of aldehydes. Great review!

    • I’d be interested to see what you thought of this one, but I can’t see you really loving it, to be honest. Admiring, yes, appreciating its brilliance, yes. Wearing and loving? No. lol

  4. I liked your review very much! La Myrrhe is extremely unusual and really not like anything else. When I tried it out earlier this year I enjoyed the ride for the thrill but I’ve not felt inclined to get more juice :)

    • It’s definitely a thrill ride, with all the ups and downs that that entails. LOL! I remember you talking about the licorice note being similar to some Swedish treats. I can’t recall if your review talked about how you felt about the aldehydes. Did you like the opening? Or was it too much?

      • Yes, I did get Swedish licorice and also a kind of artificially flavored Swedish fruit jellies. I’m not saying that La Myrrhe smells anything remotely like fruit, but the esters used to create create certain artificial fruit flavors sometimes tickles my throat, in the same way that hair spray can do, and I also get that feeling from La Myrrhe.

        I did find the opening a bit much, especially when I smelled it just after having had a cold when my nostrils still were dry and brittle feeling. But I did enjoy the rest (at least, on some days) and when I think about it I enjoyed it most on very cold, snowy days, just like Cookie Queen :)

        • Yes, I can’t imagine trying La Myrrhe in enormous heat or humidity. GAH!!! Interesting about how the opening reminded you of the same feeling you get from the esters. It’s strange how the perfume goes from such a painful artificiality to something so pretty and lovely at the end, no? That opening, that opening….. so damn difficult!!!!

  5. I like aldehydes in moderation (though I have to say, I do like Caleche, but I wear it rarely) – but I agree that La Myrrhe is difficult for a number of reasons and you really put into words a lot of my feelings. The opening, even as someone who enjoys aldehydes on occasion, is off-putting for me. Unfortunately, it never really gets to something I truly enjoy. I go from disappointment –> ambivalence over the life course of this one. At least it isn’t boring… :P

    • The opening was hellish! What were the later stages like for you? Do you like licorice or anise much? Did you get Ouzo, or something else? If you don’t like anise, I can see the end stages not being very enjoyable. It’s definitely quite a rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure.

  6. I`m not a fan of aldehydes to be honest, but La Myrrhe and your review intrigued me, Kafka! So this scent goes to my “must try list”. Like with most Serge Lutens one needs to have patience and couple of wearings to truly underdsand and appreciate his creations.

    • You’re right, many of the Lutens require some patience and repeated efforts. La Myrrhe more than most though. I think it’s *definitely* worth trying, Ross, mostly because of the later stages. But I can’t wait to see what you think of that opening….. Promise me that you’ll let me know when you try it? :D

  7. Fascinating review, Kafka! I’m a fan of aldehydes (and even a bit of bathtastic soapiness), but I’m wondering if I’d love the aldehydes in La Myrrhe. By your description and The Non-Blonde’s, these sound like a rather wicked form of aldehydes (hair spray, ugggh … and cyanide, yikes! :( ). I’m guessing, though, that chances are good I would like La Myrrhe, as the drydown you describe sounds like a sure bet. Myrrhe often smells rootbeer-ish to me (and sometimes even like cough syrup), but I also enjoy it when its anise-like facets are accentuated.

    Btw, I love how you started this review: the warning words of Serge Lutens and your paragraph in which you say “and you should listen to him!” Too funny. I’m glad you survived your ride with La Myrrhe. :D

    • The Non-Blonde said it was hair spray AT BEST, and, at worse, pesticides which….. Oh So Much Worse than mere hairspray! LOL. I didn’t get the pesticides, but perhaps that’s because I was thinking about frothing Nazi corpses instead. *grin* I do know that I initially wanted to stab someone under that incredible deluge the first time around, but, as noted, I don’t share most people’s views on aldehydes. If you have some tolerance for them, then I think you should try La Myrrhe, only because it truly is a work of genius. Plus, if the drydown sounds like a sure bet, then you REALLY need to try it. The horrors of the opening do pass, and I genuinely do think one might get used to them, if one starts off with small doses and works one’s tolerance levels up. Just listen to the Non-Blonde and do NOT spray on a lot at first. *shiver*

      Really, I hope you get a sample, Suzanne, because I think you’d find it to be worth the trip, from an intellectual, perfumista, knowledge level alone. It’s brilliantly done!

  8. I think my head is spinning from this review. Hair spray?? no thank you. Bathtastic??? no thank you (btw, I’m so glad you got some use out of the word). The jasmine sounds lovely but it all seems to be wrapped up in this weird “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” package. All said, of course I will have to give this a try someday! :)

    • I really hope you do, Mr. Hound. I would pay money to be there for the opening, just to see your face. Seriously, I would pay to watch your face…. Just the thought of your inevitable reaction is making me laugh. La Myrrhe really is THAT intense of an experience at the start.

  9. I dabbed on some La Myrrhe (a small amount, on the back of one hand) after reading your review – and even knowing what to expect, my reaction was “WTF?!” It was like rolling down my window halfway through a car wash and taking a wall of slathery, synthetic-smelling, soapy foam right in the face.

    I like anise and fennel, so I enjoyed La Myrrhe after the soapiness wore off. I hate aldehydes almost as much as you do, though, so I won’t be heading back into that car wash anytime soon (and I’ve made a mental note to avoid White Linen – I’ve never tried it and this gives me even less incentive to do so).

    At least I didn’t get any cyanide pills/dead Nazis or hairspray! Thanks for turning your trauma into a funny and enlightening take on this fragrance. ;-)

    • HAHA, I can’t stop grinning. Your “WTF?!” — despite having fully braced yourself for impact and trauma — is really the perfect response to La Myrrhe’s opening. It really is. I shouldn’t laugh at your ordeal but, you know, misery loves company. ;) I’m glad you didn’t get the hairspray or pesticides, but I’m almost a little disappointed that you didn’t experience any bitter almond cyanide. Don’t we all need to smell like cyanide once in a while? ;) LOL. You know, if a tiny amount of La Myrrhe gave you a full car wash experience, imagine what *spraying on a lot* would do…..

  10. I must not be a fan of aldehydes either, as I’ve never understood the appeal of Chanel N.5. I do like the concept of a perfume with lots of twists and turns though.

    • Do you like licorice or anise notes, Lulubelle? If so, then I’d encourage you to give La Myrrhe a shot just for the wild, wild ride because, who knows, you may like it once the aldehdes die down. :)

  11. This was very interesting to me because I have been testing this fragrance recently! It is quite strange, but fascinating, and I don’t love it, but it has a certain quality that makes me think I might love it eventually. I absolutely agree it is better dabbed than sprayed (as many SL’s are). Also: I too used the word “custardy” in my review! There’s a sort of lemon custard effect in the middle … and the drydown to me was like lily and vanilla.

    • It’s odd how La Myrrhe has that “je ne sais quoi” which makes it stick in your head and think you may love it eventually, no? It’s strange, as you say, and yet, oddly mesmerizing despite the trauma of that opening. (Well, trauma for me, at least.) The drydown sounds very pretty on you with the lily note. :)

  12. Yikes! Boiled celery! Soap and licorice! I’ve made a vow to stick to sampling perfumes from the more affordable end of the spectrum until I find a couple I want to buy, and I thought your Serge Lutens marathon would weaken my resolve, but instead I’m kind of terrified. Maybe a year (or two or three) from now, after my nose is more educated, I’ll jump into the deep end. For now, I’ll just enjoy your reviews.

    • I would never recommend the Paris Exclusives for someone new to perfumery because they are SOOOOOOO much more complicated, complex, and, yes, often a little disturbingly different fragrances. That said, his regular line is much, much more approachable, from Chergui to many others. (The recently reviewed Fille en Aiguilles, for example. Or look up past reviews of Five O’ Clock Au Gingembre which is hugely discounted as it is being phased out of US markets. That’s a very cozy, approachable one, like Chergui. Or there is Ambre Sultan, an introduction to more unusual niche ambers.)

      I’m interspersing my reviews of the difficult Bell Jar fragrances with the usual ones which are much easier and better suited to someone starting out, so please don’t get freaked out Laurels. I promise you, not all of them are like La Myrhhe (or Mandarine Mandarin)!!

  13. Wonderful review, as always, dear Kafka. Doesn’t sound BJ-worthy (that would be Bell Jar for some of your “special” readers) but I feel like this must be experienced. I have no issues with aldehydes or soapiness, but may be inclined to stay away from cyanide. In any case, I need to think about visiting Barneys soon to take a quick whiff of this and maybe score a sample just for the heck of it.

    • “BJ-worthy” sounds terrible! LOL. Naughty, naughty, Hajusuuri. *grin* I’ll be interested to see what you think of La Myrrhe’s white tidal wave if you try it. :)

      • My filthy mind went to the same place :-)

        There is a discount liquor chain called BJ’s in the city and every time I see the sign, I shake my head.

        And once I met a woman named BJ. This was really what she went by. Since it must have been an acronym (clearly, right?), I couldn’t help thinking I would have gone by something else if I were her.

  14. I have tried this but don’t remember as I was covered with a bunch of other things at the time. I remember liking it. Not a fan of aldehyde overdose, but I like unusual and challenging.

    Sigh. Your SL marathon is going to be very bad for my bank account as well! :-)

  15. Pingback: Sunday Link Love, Volume #148 | FFBlogs

    • It’s wonderful to see you again, David. :) Thank you for popping back in. As for La Myrrhe, do you like aldehydes? If so, then I imagine that opening must work very well for you.

      • I do like aldehydes. La Myrrhe, Chanel No. 5 & No. 22 are all really pleasing to me. I have much more to learn about aldehyde chemistry and use in perfumery, but so far I find it pretty interesting.

  16. i’m wearing la myrrhe this evening for the first time in ages (the bottle will last a lifetime). i almost never wear it out of the house as i find it just too ‘feminine’. it doesn’t have quite the complex stages of development on me; i’ve never picked up jasmine or any florals for that matter. in fact once the orange-suspended aldehydes – which i really like – start to fade after 30 min, the earthy myrrh breaks through and sorta glows its earthy glow for hours & hours. you are correct about the export line being luten’s much more challenging fragrances. this one is among the most ‘strange’ and impressive of all. doei!

    • “Earthy glow” sounds lovely, Tim. As for being the strangest of all the Lutens, I personally might reserve that spot for Iris Silver Mist, but they’re both impressively crafted and made. :)

  17. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!

    Ahem. Sorry.

    I love this thing. I mean, it was absolute adoration at first sniff. I snagged another sample… and then a 2ml decant… and then a 5ml decant… followed by a partial bell jar. Oh holy angels, how much I love this thing. It’s like sunrise on snow.

    I am HILARIOUSLY amused at your describing, in the comments, Fille en Aiguilles as “approachable.” (That one caused spontaneous cursing to erupt out of me.)

    I love aldehydes in general (exceptions? White Linen, which I always think should have been called Mildewed Laundry, and No. 22, which has this weird texture thing that feels like sugar cubes crunching in my teeth, ow), and I love all the root-beer/smoke/licorice/medicinal aspects of myrrh, too.

    I don’t notice lotus – which can be, as you say, intrusive – but the floral aspect is very damped down for me. Probably because I’m wearing florals most of the time, I think. In any case, I do notice the jasmine, which is sheer and floaty, and I would have sworn there was a very delicate, translucent rose in the mix as well.

    • Ah, my dear, our Evil Scent Twin thing continues…. ;) That’s all I will say on the subject of aldehydes, though I do think La Myrrhe has genuine, complicated beauty and the thought of it doesn’t make me want to shudder like Chanel No. 5 does.

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