Reviews of La Couche du Diable by Serge Lutens

La Couche de Diable by Serge Lutens (2019) roughly translates to "The Devil's Bedsheets", which automatically brings a scented devil like myself to attention. Of course, daring to call a perfume such things is a high-stakes game of chicken not just with me, but the rest of the online fragrance community, especially among both old fans of Serge Lutens and generally collectors all-too familiar with perfumes boasting virility or malfeasance. In this case, La Couche de Diable really delivers neither, and will disappoint both oud fans expecting something more barnyard-oriented, and animalic perfume lovers expecting skatoles and indoles galore to take your nose to the naughty corner. Instead, we get perhaps a side of Satan that is less-known to the "Christian lion-hearted men" of the world that shrivel at the opening note of Dio's Holy Diver or think banning books about sex from public libraries will keep young people from having it anyway; and that side of the devil is the teasing side. Luring one in, giving the come-hither finger, the promise of great riches or power, and the denial of such reward, only the taking of one's soul for signing on the line; that sort of absolutely diabolical carrot-dangling is what's at play here in La Couche de Diable, and it isn't bad. Despite what you might have heard though, this really isn't an "oud fragrance" the way folks were spinning it before release.

What I primarily find here is a woody rose and labdanum scent, with incense qualities tacked on, falling back on well-worn grooves within the "Collection Noire" theming that established the raison d'être for Serge Lutens to break away from Shiseido and become his own brand. That said, a lot of the really cantankerous fans that wall up around the 1992-2008 period of the brand's halcyon creative period (or at least Christopher Sheldrake's output) will probably yawn and cry "more of the same but the older perfumes were better" because they're older, if for no other reason. Okay, I can get that. Nothing is new under the sun, but I also don't think that is a valid reason for staying indoors like an agoraphobe either. The orange and tangerine opening notes feel sufficiently 90's Lutens to me, as does the following of cinnamon, something very cedary, and of course amber; this just isn't the musky amber of Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens (1993), more of the Chergui by Serge Lutens (2001) variety, tamed by mulled dustiness. The oud here is rubbery and medicinal, which is of course the huge let-down as this goes in league with designer oud takes from Versace and Gucci, although the incense note here blows away the norlimbanol they're likely using 10 to 1. The incense in particular is like Encens et Lavande by Serge Lutens (1996), minus lavender.

Perfectly unisex, and balancing the expectations of modern niche with the expectations of the old heads raised on Annick Goutal, Etro, and the late Jean Laporte's L'Artisan Parfumeur and Maître Parfumeur et Gantier, La Couche de Diable is if nothing else a good and interesting take on rose oud, with the signature Lutens moroseness delivering the expected Squidward laugh from every spray, tall, dark, and Lurch-like. Do your little Wednesday dance to the Molchat Doma song that is currently burning up TikTok and Instagram while wearing La Couche de Diable, and you'll fit right in, I promise. As for me, this is yet another Lutens I'd consider picking up, and that's a good thing as I found a lot of the things people rave about from this house to be nice if unremarkable for the price points they carry, although I must also remind you that most folks now knee-deep in Lutens were picking them up from discounters 15 years ago when they were only $50 a bottle at most. As much as folks like to say otherwise, price point does affect perception, especially if you're not Scrooge McDuck with a vault of gold to swim in that you can throw angrily at fragrance purchases when you see something you want. In summary, this new-meets-old niche approach is perhaps more cause for alarm than the name; but as you might suspect, the devil is in the details. A worthy addition to the line as far as I'm concerned, and worth sampling if nothing more. Thumbs up
15th January 2023
For those expecting, finally, an oud from the house of Serge Lutens this was a bit of a disappointment as anything resembling the qualities we usually associate with reconstructions of the smell of that noble rotwood is buried deep in a maelstrom of powerchords: maple syrup; the tight, over-ripe, close smell of dried fruits; smoked, almost burning cinnamon; and what seems like a whole string section of resins sawing mightily away. This is a woody amber in the in-extremis style we associate with Uncle Serge: everything is on the boil, concentrated and unapologetic. It’s what, in my imagination, a fiery night scene at Jemaa el Fnaa (a place I’ve never visited) could smell like. Devils resting or otherwise I’ll leave to the more spiritually inclined.

9th April 2022

The old adage goes, 'the devil is in the details.'

The devil also apparently rests in his bed, waiting for you to allow him to arise in your mind. We all seem to think that if there were a fragrance to reflect what seems to be such a parable, it would smell offensive (well, some folks seem to think so anyhow given a number of other reviews I've read) but no, not at all, this smells beautiful, if not dark, brooding, and beguiling.

I think more of Mara in Buddhism, and the fears that arise, particularly the existential, those of loss, of death, of ceasing to exist. We all find ways to distract ourselves, resist the feelings, run away from truth—hiding from these fears, and we do so through manifesting behaviors: greed, gluttony, sensuality, consumption, delusion. Perhaps its a stretch for me to suggest that Christopher Sheldrake wanted La Couche du Diable to represent the embodiment of this (after all, did Guerlain and their perfumers really intended Samsara to represent the cycle of suffering?). This fragrance though, as I wear it and reflect during a tenuous time, has me meditating on the relationship I have with scent, transcending fragrance itself. How does it distract me? How does it help me to tune in and befriend difficult feelings?

There is a lining of tangerines and citruses, a periphery of light within the depths of the labdanum accord which eclipses all else. Any other element here serves as an accent, or shading at most. I believe Sheldrake might have used a natural derivative of cistus-labdanum produced by Biolandes called Hydrocarboresine. I have a generous amount of it as I adore it, a perfume in itself. It is at the other end of the spectrum from, say, olibanum resin, it is unctuous, resinous, and smoky, with the sweeter highlights of cistus contrasting with the leathery and organic backbone. The whole composition feels like viewing brightly-hued stained glass windows against the negative space of a dim church interior. Light and dark. The story of life.

So facing the devil in its bed means stopping, and this fragrance makes me stop, and that—and this fragrance, is tender and real.
9th March 2022
Qualtitatively and stylistically, this feels very much of a piece with the classic Sheldrake/Lutens run that established the brand as a standard-bearer for niche fragrance. It seems that that stylistic continuity did more harm than good to its reception; it was received as an also-ran.

This may not be the most complex or daring fragrance in the Serge Lutens line, but it is indisputably my favorite. Despite the name, there's nothing diabolical about this. There's an air of mystery about it--a fragrance cloaked in shadow--but it's nevertheless alluring and a bit cozy. This strikes me as the Sheldrake/Lutens equivalent of something like Lubin Idole EDP: dark woods, spices, orange peel, blended altogether with a bit of an amaro/root beer feeling.

This was initially hailed as the Lutens "oud" perfume, though the oud here is far from bombastic. I get a fruity oud accord here, though this is more focused on labdanum, so you could argue that this is fundamentally a dark amber scent, though if this is an amber, it's an unusual one.

This doesn't drown itself in sweetness as so many fragrances do these days, which allows the labdanum to shine. The cinnamon and orange peel and oud/wood nuances may seem straightforward, but in that classic Sheldrake style, it continually reveals new nuances and facets as it evolves on skin.

Thumbs way up.
11th December 2021
“"How can one attend the coronation of Satan without ever once having tasted sin? Oud and labdanum come together to create a diabolical and sumptuous veil of indulgence and remorse for a first transgression."” – – Serge Lutens website

I missed the coronation, but at first whiff, it was a swanky event, with a lot less brimstone than you might have expected.

Mostly, I agree with the positive reviews already posted. If you like labdanum–—and I do—–this is great. The oud is relatively tame (meaning neither barnyard nor searingly synthetic), which in this case is probably a good thing. There's some amber and spice to "keep it oriental," but the amber isn't too sweet, the spice not overbearing, and thankfully no dollop of vanilla to turn it all to marshmallow. Although I'm not rushing out to buy a bottle, I'd say it's FB-worthy, and if I stumbled upon one at the right price, I'd probably nab it.

We all smell what we smell, of course, and I respect Dane; but, as someone who's iffy about amber and despises tomato paste, I gotta say his take is a head-scratcher for me. Tomato leaf, maybe, but only in passing. Ah, well: more for the rest of us!
14th September 2021
The opening is a rich woody mix, with oud in the foreground. It a fairly refined synthetic oud, when compared with the harsh versions often found in newer releases. The other component is a strong labdanum, that is equally sophisticated it its unobtrusive intensity. Soft glowing citrus hints - tangerine and orange - as well as r discreetly dark rose are in the background, but the rose ins never prominent on me; this is not a typical rose-oud for a change.

Sweeter aromas develop in the drydown, with an amber-soaked cinnamon more evident. The spicy side is enhanced buy a dark saffron. After the opening the whole has an increasingly resinous and musky character, which always remains fairly smooth without any significant harshness.

AN agreeable autumn scent with some complexity in its development, whilst not being overly exciting. 3.25/5.

I get moderate sillage, very good projection, seven hours of longevity on my skin..
4th March 2021
I really like it. The opening is a bit sweet, in the style of Jubilation XXV, then the oud fades somewhat and the sweetness gives way to notes of church frankincense. The name of the perfume is a fail though.
11th September 2020
Paint by numbers Lutens

With every new release from Serge Lutens we wonder, is Uncle Serge back? For a moment, La Couche du Diable, with its signature moody drama, you think to yourself, yes, he has returned. However, when one recalls earlier scents such as Tubereuse Criminelle or Fille en Aiguilles, you are not so sure.

The opening hits you with a rich, molten labdanum that carries the sweetness of stewed fruit a la Lutens. The notes and name would suggest the potential for something dirtier, but the oud here is entirely defanged and overpowered by the labdanum, offering smokiness and depth although this grows stronger in the dry down. Overall, the scent is dark, pleasing and bears the house "aesthetic" but it also feels a little rote.
30th December 2019
Amber and tomato paste. There may be an exquisite drydown, but I couldn't get past the first 30 minutes to find out.
26th November 2019