Fourreau Noir by Serge Lutens: Battle of the SL Lavenders Round 3

Fourreau Noir by Serge Lutens, 75 ml Palais Royal Bell Jar. Customized by me

Notes: Lavender, Almond, Tonka bean, Vanilla, Incense, Patchouli,, Cedarwood, Musk

“White holster or sheath dress, it can be formidable. Tonka bean and incense, its leathery character only comes into its own in darkness or night. With all the virtue of vice, it is a black sheath dress.”

Fourreau Noir’s opening is unmistakably the scent of sweet almonds. Within about a minute I can start to smell lavender, sweetened by the almond and tonka bean.

This combination, though light and warm weather sounding, fairly quickly (within about 5 minutes), the lavender almond confection is darkened by chewy molasses. Within another few minutes, there is a creaminess that is added which mellows out the sweetness. These notes play together beautifully through the dry down.

About an hour in there is a liqueur that pops up. Fourreau Noir remains creamy and sweet but not cloying. Certainly a gourmand to delight the senses of all genders. Then comes a bit of smoke and wood – the incense and the patchouli. Unlike in other fragrances, there remains a lightness that keeps this fragrance mostly seasonless. In my mind, Fourreau Noir is not a heavy fragrance, despite there being a darkness to it.

Limited Edition 75ML Fourreau Noir Bell Jar (no longer available)

2 hours in, it does become a bit sweeter, reminding me somewhat of my favorite parts of Douce Amère – a smokey, creamy concoction but lavender and sweet almond rather than Earl Grey and absinthe. 

Then I can truly smell the incense of Encens et Lavande, but sweeter than EeL. 3 hours in the sweet boozy and smokey aspect are in the background with the incense in the foreground. It is purely unisex at this point. The fragrance continues to shift throughout the day, at times the sweeter almond and lavender combination, and at others the incense, reminiscent of Encens et Lavande taking over the almond. The lavender is always, always, the star.

IRVING PENN (1917-2009) 

Mermaid Dress (Rochas), Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Paris, 1950

“A fourreau in French means a sheath for a dagger as well as a form-fitting dress… ready to embrace the voluptuous contours of a widow’s body. Maybe you’ve heard of the brown bean used to extract vanillin? Its name is the tonka bean. It grows in abundance on a tree in the Amazonian rain forest. Sweet and fluid, its fragrance lingers, living its mark.”

When I decided to dive into the Serge Lutens lavenders, I had no idea how unintentionally progressive the path I chose would be. Gris Clair is most decidedly conventionally masculine, with Encens et Lavande sitting staunchly in the unisex camp. Fourreau Noir may be the most conventionally feminine option, but I think the sweetness is balanced enough that it would not be off-putting to nearly anyone.

Is Fourreau Noir full bottle worthy? 100% yes. While I tasted Encens et Lavande as fully bottle worthy, I know that it is in part for personal reasons – with the scent reminding me so strongly of my grandfather. Fourreau Noir, like many other SLs, is a nuanced and well balanced composition. It has the power to transport and delight. It has a lightness to it, but also manages to conjure up some dark magic. If it wasn’t obvious, I purchased my own full bottle of Fourreau Noir and did a little personal customization to emulate the limited edition version that was previously released.

As the battle has now concluded, it is a tough call on which lavender reigns supreme. There are a few ways I envisioned lavender fragrances – the classic sweet lavender fields basking in the French Provence afternoon sun; the clean masculine fragrances like Tom Ford’s lavender palm; or a calming, relaxing, linear lavender one might find in a winding down ritual. One thing I didn’t really fathom was dark lavender. One that comforts you in a chilly, but familiar place. Or one that delights with promises of a bewitching treat.

I think it is safe to say that Gris Clair, while beautiful in its own way, is not quite my cup of tea, and I would put it in last place in the rankings.

While Encens et Lavande is absolutely masterful and the most unisex, it is surpassed by the beauty of Fourreau Noir. There are very clearly elements of Encens et Lavande in Fourreau Noir, and just when I think I’ve dreamed Fourreau Noir to be a gourmand, I’m blessed with the not sweet, smokey incense that I very much love in Encens et Lavande. A very enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars.

Fourreau Noir is available in the U.S. exclusively from It is a part of the Palais Royal collection and is priced $290 for 75ml.

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