Joyous experiences with art come in all different flavors. There’s the nostalgic warmth of a favorite revisited, far different than the creeping happiness of a new favorite. One of the most overlooked aspects of artistic joy is that of confusion. When presented with something strange or nuanced, often we struggle to figure out if we like it; sometimes, we fall immediately in love with a piece without knowing why. Anyone who’s dabbled in perfume long enough will have experienced this bafflement. Sometimes it works against us, luring us into a new purchase whose deeper layers don’t synergize with our taste. Sometimes it’s the opposite, and we find ourselves falling for a perfume we’d dismissed as a ‘like’ for years and years, simply because a new facet of the composition comes to life on our skin.
When I first smelled Serge Lutens’ La Fille de Berlin, I reduced it to an old-school rose composition that was too dated for my tastes. My favorite rose perfumes – Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady and Armani’s Rose d’Arabie among them – are rich fragrances that pair lush rose notes with dense bases that wouldn’t be too out of place on any department store shelf. In other words, young people would hardly find them scary or challenging – likely the opposite. La Fille de Berlin is different. In fact, it’s so different that what initially scanned as an old-school rose fragrance now comes across to me as something avant-garde, almost futuristic. So what is it? Is it a floral from times gone by, or a strange herald of things to come?
La Fille de Berlin notes:
Rose, Geranium, Palmarosa, Honey, Moss, Patchouli
La Fille de Berlin is undoubtedly a rose-centric fragrance, and the short notes list would have you believe there’s not much else going on. A sharper eye than mine would be able to deduce the secondary effect of the fragrance just from the presence of geranium and palmarosa. These are both soft notes that compliment rose, but in a decidedly green fashion. The combined effect is that of an herbal, almost austere rose whose sharpness pulls it into urban, almost metallic territory. Each time I’m sampling La Fille de Berlin, it’s quite easy to envision the chic, ultramodern sheen of the city at serves as its namesake.
As it dries down, La Fille de Berlin begins to open up toward more conventional beauty. Honey is the star of this stage, offering a rounded sweetness that doesn’t interfere with the composition’s other qualities. It’s surprisingly pronounced yet polite, a classy statement outfit of a fragrance. Moss serves as a logical evolution of the fragrance’s higher green notes. La Fille de Berlin sticks its landing remarkably well with familiar base notes that nonetheless support the fragrance’s top notes deep into its wear time.
Serge Lutens is one of the strangest perfumes to buy on the market right now. Grey market sites will carry some of their fragrances for a pittance while others can be nearly impossible to track down. A bottle of La Fille de Berlin can often be bought for far less than $100, which is a fantastic deal for a perfume of this quality. On the other hand, this is certainly a try-before-you-buy offering from the brand. Distinctive? Yes. Elegant? Certainly. Will you actually enjoy and wear the fragrance? That’s a question you yourself might find difficult to answer. But when you’re looking for a timeless experience that oscillates between eras, it’s hard to think of a better candidate.
The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.
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