Notes: Lavender, Amber, Tonka Bean, Iris, Dry Wood, Incense
“This is pollen wafting over an abandoned city. Grey like ash floating on the breeze, dust shot through with sunlight. Lavender, and then, to make this lightness grey, frankincense — I adore it! In every sense, it censes my senses!”
While I not so patiently wait for the temperatures to drop, my nose has turned to lavender. Being French, I’m genetically predisposed to love lavender. And I do – I’ll gladly consume it in my lattes, confections, and enjoy a daily whiff with my body soap. But it isn’t something I’ve truly enjoyed in perfume.
I originally blind bought Gris Clair back in early 2016 as a part of a sizable order from FragranceNet, when I was still dipping my toes into the house. I had received some very generous decants from a friendly online acquaintance, and I wanted more. As I was greedily poring over online reviews, a 50ml bottle of Gris Clair found it’s way into my cart. Up to that point, I hadn’t really tried too many lavender fragrances, the most memorable of which was Lavender Palm by Tom Ford from a decant I had purchased.
I remember when I first tried Gris Clair being able to appreciate the fragrance for the beauty of it’s composition, though I essentially wrote it off as being too conventionally masculine for my tastes. I would keep the bottle for whenever I was “in the right mood.” Fast forward 4.5 years later and I haven’t touched it in the last 4. I recently purchased a decant of Encens et Lavande (full review coming soon), and I felt compelled to revisit Gris Clair.
The opening of Gris Clair is a more straightforward lavender than I remember. It is woody, herbal, and most notably – *icy*. It is not a field of French Provencial lavender basking in the sunshine. Instead, my mind flashes to frosty lavender buds, clinging to their woody stem in a frigid wind. And this image is mostly unwavering through the development of the fragrance.
Within about 5 minutes, the straightforward lavender, becomes more masculine. While it isn’t listed in any notes I can find, I wonder if there is clary sage in this, which gives the lavender a fruity earthiness and in my mind is partially driving the masculinity. About 10 minutes in, I can detect fennel or anise. There is a slight sweetness to the lavender, which I don’t remember when the bottle was newer. But over the next hour, I can smell the sweet lavender playing with the fennel. There was an interesting moment when I happened to take a bite of something minty – it completely amplified both the herbal notes of the fragrance, and the taste of the mint.
Approximately 1 hour in, and there is a new note – incense. Not a musty incense where one might be reminded of an old, decrepit church, but rather…woolly. Complimenting the iciness and cold feeling, comes the scent of a wool sweater. I’m tickled and I can’t help but be reminded of work conversations that I had in the dead of winter last year. Woolly, of course – you can think of soft and warming merino wool (or perhaps something itchier), but it can also mean “vague or confused in expression of character.” There is a certain weight to the term – physically and philosophically. If you’ve made it this far, you may realize that Gris Clair is a bit woolly in more ways than one.
The wool aspect of the scent really takes over and becomes the star, with the herbs, lavender, and woods playing a supporting role for a few hours. This is not something that I recall from when I first purchased the fragrance. Has Gris Clair aged like a fine wine, with notes developing in ways that can only come with time? About 4 hours in, there is a return to the more masculine lavender. The woolliness remains pronounced and the combination can evoke the image of clean woolen sweaters. It can remind you of fresh laundry in a way, but I feel the other notes keep you out of doors, where there is a chill in the air, and quiet rolling hills all around.
In short, I like the Gris Clair I am smelling today, that has sat in its bottle for several years, quite a bit more than when I first purchased it. It may still read as a bit too conventionally masculine for me, but I kept coming back to it the past 2 weeks in order try and better understand it. It is certainly an elegant, clean fragrance, that is just a little bit “rugged.” It still remains a fragrance that I would only reach for if I am “in the right mood,” but perhaps I will be in that mood more often.
It has better projection and longevity than quite a few of my other fragrances from Serge Lutens, lasting for a good 8-10 hours. I sprayed it directly on my skin, and waited about a minute before putting my shirt on, and I could still smell it on the shirt days later. It is not a skin scent, and those around you will be able to smell the icy lavender.
Gris Clair is no longer available as a part of the Export Line (now rebranded as La Collection Noir), but has been instead moved to the L’Eaux series. It is available to purchase in the U.S. from Violet Grey for $150 for 100ml.