Monday, August 27, 2007

Harvest Home, Part I

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness..." Who cannot recall hearing a high school English teacher intone these immortal lines of John Keats' ode To Autumn, or remember witnessing Maggie Smith's dramatization of them in Ronald Neame's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie? I may be jumping the gun after my time in northern California, but with cool evenings, the air suffused with pine and the yellowed fields, I couldn't help but muse on a triad of scents of the soon-incipient harvest. First to come to mind was Serge Lutens' Chêne (2004), a scent that taught this sceptical nose that, while overused in winemaking, oak can be unostentatious, sedate and urbane while remaining (for lack of a better word) "woody." Lutens' nose Christopher Sheldrake–magnificent Mandarin of all things perfumed–marries the dryness of the house's trademark cedar note to rich, honeyed sap (owing to a "heart" of birch, beeswax and dark rum) and, surprise, freshly hewn oak. But the genius of the fragrance becomes apparent when the upset undergrowth (what the French call sous-bois), the crackling, half-decayed leaves, pine needles and decomposed tree stumps, peaks through the regal morning mist. From a distant field we hear the scythes felling the drooping heads of ripened grain while, unseen, an animal cries out from within the forest's dusky perimeter.

Chêne eau de parfum is available exclusively at the Serge Lutens Les Salons de Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris, but 1ml–8ml samples may be procured from


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