Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

By Chelsea Nusbaum, Fragrance Contributor

Chelsea grew up in Los Osos, California, which is a small coastal town. She completed her undergraduate degree in Literature/Writing at University of California, San Diego. She recently completed her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Professional and Technical Writing. Chelsea currently works as a proposal editor for a local defense company. She loves to freelance and edit, but between her full-time job and awesome pets, what little time she has left she devotes to fragrance!

Red-Hot Romance: Serge Lutens Rousse

Rousse explores cinnamon’s spice aspect. The top notes are candied–think Hot Tamales–with the composition getting drier and spicier as it wears, until it is ultimately warm and creamy at the base with the scent of cinnamon starring throughout. The official notes are listed as mandarin, cinnamon, cloves, spices, floral and aromatic notes, fruit, cinnamon wood, precious woods, amber, musk, and vanilla. If it sounds gourmand, it isn’t. It is, in fact, quite dry. Dry, spice-centric fragrances can feel like an big, empty cathedral on a cold day. Rousse hangs some curtains on the cathedral’s windows, carpets the floor, and cushions the pews with some throw pillows.

It opens with a blast of cinnamon. As it mellows, tendrils of vanilla and musk creep in. This is also where I smell the juicy orange of the mandarin, a bright spot of orange on a pallet of muted maroons and russets. A woody heart keeps the cinnamon nice and hot and out of bakery territory. The vanilla, musk, and amber gradually intensify until they’re on nearly equal footing with the spices. By the drydown, they’ve eclipsed the spices altogether. Rousse is warm, but feels sheer rather than heavy, so you could wear it year-round, although I find it works best for fall.

What makes this fragrance particularly intriguing is a left-of-center lipstick accord, which is waxy and vaguely floral. I can’t help but think of a bold, matte red lipstick on a smoking hot redhead. Think Christina Hendricks in full retro glam makeup as Mad Men’s Joan. What could be better for Valentine’s Day?

If all this red doesn’t rev your engine, Frederic Malle Noir Epices is a similarly spicy unisex perfume that dials down the cinnamon and swaps Rousse’s creamy base notes for patchouli, cedar, and sandalwood.

Bombshell imagery aside, this scent is squarely unisex. Released in 2007, it is part of French perfume house Serge Lutens’ export range (meaning it is available outside of Europe). House nose Christopher Sheldrake composed it. Lucky ducks who live in Paris can go to the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido to sample Rousse or buy a bottle. The rest of us can buy samples at The Perfumed Court and The Posh Peasantt and full bottles at ucky ScentBeauty Habit, orAedes. for $120. Parfum 1 sells it for $108. Some Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Neiman Marcus stores carry Serge Lutens exports.

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16 thoughts on “Red-Hot Romance: Serge Lutens Rousse

  1. Ana G.

    Just got a compulsion to buy this!!

  2. Chelsea,

    You spoke a few important words:
    and spices.

    I don´t have Serge Lutens fragrances, though I’ve read much about it. Here in Brazil there will be found to prove :( :(

    “Rousse” – I think is a special fragrance. The notes are attractive.

    Congratulations and thank you
    for this review.


    • Chelsea

      Commes des Garcons Harissa and Penhaligon’s Elixer are somewhat similar to Rousse, maybe they are available in Brazil? Unfortunately, I can’t think of any mainstream fragrances with those notes. Anyone?

  3. GinaTheresa

    Wow – awesome review! And thanks for the links to those websites. I’m always frustrated by how hard it is to sample fragrances that aren’t sold at the local sephora. Now that I’ve discovered these sites that offer samples – and sample sets! – for reasonable prices, I think I’ve found a new obsession. Thanks so much!

  4. Donna Cooper

    Sorry you better stock up on Rousse. Its being pulled to the Paris Boutique range only.

  5. Meerschweinchen

    Oh! I have to get it. I am a sucker for cinnamon!

  6. bella

    sounds lovely! almost started drooling :) shame it’s sooo expensive

  7. Ryan

    Have you tried L by Lolita Lempicka? If so then is this anything like it? Thanks!

    • Chelsea

      I have tried L by Lolita Lempicka, and they are not even close. They do share some notes, but the amber and vanilla are much more intense in L than in Rousse. L centers on immortelle flower (which is sweet and syrup-y), and Rousse on cinnamon. I like them both. :)

  8. Denise

    I really like Rousse and I have a 10ml sample. I like to wear it over my cinnamon body cream. Spicy but not overwhelming . I have several Serge Lutens fragrances that I like better but one day I might buy a full bottle of Rousse.

  9. Alicia

    Where can this be found/bought in Canada?

  10. Caitlin

    Oh gosh, I wrote about this one for Valentine’s Day too!

    I never get the waxy lipstick smell from this one and I don’t know why. I just get nice warm cinnamon and amber. I think it’s lovely though and it’s a shame it’s apparently headed for the bell jar exclusives.

    • Chelsea

      I thought the waxy lipstick smell was really obvious, but I cruised the MUA boards and only a few people seemed to have smelled it. Lucky me, I guess. 😉