Red-Hot Romance: Serge Lutens Rousse

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.