Notes: Burnt orange peel, gunpowder, gingerbread, fresh ginger, cedar, incense, cinnamon, osmanthus, castoreum
Bapteme du Feu is a strange fragrance. Translating to literally Baptism of the Fire…flexible to Baptism By Fire, and more loosely perhaps – Trial by Fire? When I initially heard its name – I envisioned something akin to a campfire sort of fragrance (or even bonfire, because well, this is Serge Lutens). As someone who is on an eternal hunt for all of the smokey fragrances – that’s not what this is.
“Imagine a village fair where the smell of gunfire from the shooting range mingles with the sweeter aroma of gingerbread, cinnamon, clove and candied orange and you have Baptême du feu!”
Bapteme du Feu’s opening is bitter. It is a mix of sharp orange peel and dark incense. After a few minutes, the pungency does begin to soften. There is a slight potpourri aspect for a few moments, likely from the emergence of some not sweet spices. When you focus on the notes, you realize that there is quite literally a gunpowder note. Perhaps Uncle Serge meant it to be from a nearby shooting range (small French towns are strange after all, more on that later), but couldn’t it be from fireworks?
The citrus and incense remain through the life of the fragrance, but there is a slight creaminess and sweetness that comes through after about 30 minutes – I imagine it is the gingerbread and cedar coming through. For me, Bapteme du Feu has an effect that is both warming and strange. In a way, the spices and orange remind me of Gluhwein (also known as Glög). Mulled or spice wine is not really keto friendly, but it was a beverage my husband and I always enjoyed at this time of year through the Holidays. So in this way, it reminds me of cheery times with friends and merriment. It is comforting in that way.
But it is also a fragrance that for me conjures up a different time and different place. Merriment, certainly. There is some extremely vivid imagery described in Susan Hill’s The Man in the Picture of masked revelers at a Venice Carnival gone bad.
This also leads my mind to old photos of my sisters (pre-Lauren days) as children at a festival in France where they quite literally burned a stuffed clown. A clown that would literally haunt your nightmares as it is, but this one is on fire to boot.
Don’t believe me? Oh, but I come bearing receipts. Warning, the below may induce nightmares. Or at least scar you when you think of clowns. Or festivals. Or Fall!
And, well, who knows how long these sorts of festivals have been going on. Perhaps Serge Lutens attended a similar one – enjoying candied orange and ginger treats. Maybe some adults were sipping spiced wine. And perhaps, that smell of fire wasn’t gunpowder from “a nearby shooting range” but rather a burning clown.
Be warned that Bapteme du Feu is a commitment. After spraying it in the morning after my shower, I could still smell it on me the next morning. It has a good amount of projection, so definitely try this one first at home on your own.
Happy Halloween dear friends! May this post terrify you more than the entirety of 2020.
Bapteme du Feu can be purchased from Saks Fifth Avenue for $150 for 50ml.