Review: Vitriol d’Oeillet by Serge Lutens

Vitriol d’Oeillet is the latest floral release from niche perfume house Serge Lutens.

Vitriol dOeilletVitriol d’Oeillet (Vitriol of Carnation) is the latest release from niche French perfume house Serge Lutens. It is in the export line and will be available in August this year at a cost of 95 euros for the 50ml spray bottle or considerably more for the limited-edition engraved version.

When Serge Lutens release a perfume, they never tell you what’s actually in it (how prosaic would that be?), so it’s usually picked apart by the perfumistas and ‘noses’ out there. I am neither, so all I can tell you that what I can smell in it is violets rather than carnations (in this, one of the firm’s chic, black-clad vendeuses agreed with me), though underneath this is the clove or aniseed note that I recognise from traditional pinks such as Mrs Sinkins, which are scattered in the cider press in my courtyard.

Vitriol d’Oeillet is a sharp, bright, clean, cruel perfume that sits on the surface of the skin rather than sinking in. Lutens himself calls it an ‘ethereal’ – grouping it (for reasons I don’t quite understand) with fragrances such as Louve and Serge Noire.

As with many Serge Lutens perfumes, it has only moderate sillage – nice for those of us who don’t want to knock out everybody else in the lift – and it sweetens only moderately – it’s somewhat more talcum powdery and woody at the end, rather like Bas de Soie, and is, I think, more distinctly feminine than some of his perfumes, though the firm would doubtless disagree. As the perfume warms and softens, it becomes stronger. Right now at 10.00 at night, it seems stronger to me than when I applied it at 4.00. 

Vitriol dOeillet limited editionI have a touch of synaesthesia, so I see colours with fragrances and music, and this perfume to me smells lilac-coloured. The jus itself is a subtle lilac-grey – a colour that one of my friends decribed as ‘horrible’ but which I find rather soothing.

The text that accompanies the fragrance – as important as the perfume itself, says Lutens – conjures up two images: one of red carnations burnishing under the Provencal sun and another, more familiar to an English reader, of fog-shrouded 19th century London, with a gentleman killer prowling the streets, a white carnation in his buttonhole. Both images are somewhat violent – a violence that Lutens sees in the toothed petals of pinks, though of course to we Brits, carnations are mostly used as wedding flowers (the violence will turn up again in De Profundis – another perfume with connotations of death).

The name, however, made me think of Balzac, and the story where a man tries to kill his wife by pouring her a liqueur glass of vitriol – but she switches the glasses and it is he who dies. Chartreuse is a liqueur, bright green like vitriol, and it is flavoured with carnation petals. Not what he had in mind at all, said Serge Lutens, but he liked the idea.

Vitriol d’Oeillet will be available in selected outlets worldwide, and via




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