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Encens et Lavande – Audacity got involved – September 6, 2013 New Fragrance Listing

Photo - Wikipedia - Bee on Lavender, SW Australia, by T. Taylor, 2005

“What would you like me to bring you?” asks my Parisienne friend. She knows me and my obsession well, and has called to tell me she is coming to Toronto for a visit.

Encens et Lavande  - it’s one of the Serge Lutens Palais Royale Exclusives in the bell jars.” I say. I don't even have to think about it.

“Pas de problem – I’m on my way there, as we speak. I love that store, and thanks to you, I’ll probably end up buying one for myself, too! Fall is coming, and I’m craving one of his signature exotic scents like Arabie or Fumerie Turque.”

I’ve been craving Encens et Lavande (Incense and Lavender) precisely because it isn’t one of Lutens and Sheldrake’s typically full-bodied, complex, exotic, rich, spicy/woody/ambery scents with the serious sillage. This 1999 fragrance built around two notes is described as a simple, quiet, restrained fragrance, and a definite departure from the Lutens house style.

I can't remember ever sniffing Encens et Lavande, but I know I want it. There are strong hints in Serge Lutens comments on the webpage that there is more to this fragrance than the simple name conveys, that it is somehow special:

“…The limpid name of this fragrance came to me unbidden; I dared not change it. Incense and lavender; it was nearly fifty-fifty, until audacity got involved.”

Audacity? What does he mean? Boldness, daring, with an unconventional twist, is one meaning of this under-used word. Take two simple perfume notes, add some audacity from two brilliant minds, and voila!  we have a perfume that comes close to perfection.

Encens et Lavande must be tried on skin – on paper it’s a sleeper, a ho-hum, a pass. I dab the mauve-coloured juice generously with the stopper from the bell jar on my wrists and backs of my hands, and the first sniffs are pure lavender, sun-warmed lavender plants in the ground, aromatic, airy, peppery and pungent from the mix of purple blooms, stems and leaves. The scent is delicious - very fresh and real, not dry or powdery, and before it becomes too much, I detect a green herbal undertone to the lavender cloud – must be the clary sage. The accord smells really natural, and feels like an expensive cologne, until the incense notes emerge.

The incense immediately pulls the lavender into balance, adding a smoky warmth and softness as Encens et Lavande starts to move into the heart. From the bright fresh-air opening, the scent has become darker, and with addition of amber in the heart, it sweetens but only slightly. But the light airy quality maintains, so that the fragrance becomes ethereal, like walking in a cloud of scent rather than wearing a veil of scent. The smoky incense is the yin to the lavender yang, there’s a delicate balance and interplay between the two notes that is unexpected, and absolutely beautiful.

I catch whiffs of the clary sage in the drydown, which seems to add a dry woody sensation, almost ashy. Mixed with the smoky incense, warm amber, and  lavender, these four main notes form an accord which makes the long drydown of Encens et Lavande become a soothing, contemplative experience, a tranquil meditation. The fragrance is not sweet, it’s very soft with low sillage, a highly personal, almost private scent.

Serge Lutens has paired two notes, lavender and incense, both of which are known for their calming qualities. On their own, these two notes are likeable, together they are truly lovely, but when the audacity gets  involved, then you end up with a fragrance that Serge Lutens himself describes as a  “transparent mystery”.

Encens et Lavande is different, and is decidedly VERY special. I breathe in, I breathe out, and meditate on the beauty of simplicity, and the importance of audacity.


Encens et Lavande is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1ml.