Blog post by Gwen

De Profundis - green and floral and smoky

Photo: Palais Royale - perfumeniche

I'm generally skeptical of marketing materials, especially those promoting fragrances, and often wonder, 'Who writes this stuff?'

It's no surprise then that it was the colour of De Profundis that got my attention when I saw it for the first time at Les Salons du Palais Royal in Paris. It looks like no other perfume, a beautiful, otherworldly shade of violet. It drew me to the fragrance, and when I smelled the juice, I was so taken by it that I wanted to know more about it. Later that day, I began sniffing it out.

The perfume is named 'De Profundis' after Oscar Wilde's letter written while in prison to his lover and the man responsible for his incarceration, Alfred Douglas. De Profundis, or Psalm 130, is a penitential psalm that expresses sorrow for sin and translates from Latin as "from the depths."

Wilde's time in prison transformed him. Where once he was shallow, irreverent, and arrogant, two years of hard labour humbled him. In De Profundis he writes, "The supreme vice is shallowness."  What Wilde had written was a love letter that chronicles the death of one life and the beginning of a new one through hope and redemption.

De Profundis by Serge Lutens, expresses transformation beautifully, much like Etro's brilliant Messe de Minute. Where Messe de Minute moves from dark to light, De Profundis moves from light to darkness.

On me, De Profundis opens with a crisp green note, followed by blue flowers: bluebells, hyacinth and violet. These spring flowers signal rebirth as they shingle down to earthy, herby-scented autumn blooming chrysanthemum, the flower associated with death. It's joined by fresh, jasmine-like lily of the valley, a gorgeous fragrance but all parts of the plant are poisonous – a clever pairing. I get a whiff of bitterness at this stage along with an animalic note, likely from chamomile that plays off the florals. Lutens' signature dried fruits appear -  I wondered when they would show up. They usher in a base of woods and incense, which is often associated with funerals, that weave through the flowers, making the drydown rich yet surprisingly ethereal. It leaves me wanting to smell this and only this for a long time.  

De Profundis has an origin story I can really get behind; still, I like to let this beauty tell its own story... on my skin.

Check out De Profundis in our Shop.