Serge Lutens De Profundis

I am afraid of death. Tremendously, panic-attack-inducingly afraid. I believe that when we die, the screen goes blank. Game over. We never see, hear, or experience another thing again. I have prayed and begged for the comfort of religion. But as hard as I have tried, I cannot make myself believe in a God or an afterlife. Many members of my family, and of millions of other families, were murdered in the Holocaust. I have seen the blue marks left in the gas chambers by Zyklon B. I have seen the ovens. The idea that there could be a God who allowed their deaths to happen is far less acceptable to me than the idea that there is no God at all.

There are a few things that are able to temporarily ease my profound fear of death. I remember the gasping relief that I felt the first time that I read Walt Whitman’s triumphant declaration: “And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.” His words gave me hope that death might somehow be a little different from the horrible nothingness that I had imagined. Serge Lutens De Profundis provides that same hope and comfort.

In last year’s Midnight in Paris, Gertrude Stein explains that “the artist’s job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence”. With De Profundis, Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake have fulfilled their artistic obligations to us. Those who do not care for the traditional Lutens style should know that De Profundis is a total departure. There is no stewed fruit or spices. De Profundis is a cold chrysanthemum scent. It soothes and quiets my fears like a cool hand on a fevered forehead. Its green notes produce a gauzy effect, as if its wearer is already on the other side of the veil that separates the living and the departed. De Profundis is mournful, but it is also terribly beautiful. When I dabbed it on, I felt a little less afraid.

I do not think that I will ever wear this perfume again, so I would like to give my sample to one of you readers. To enter, just leave a comment letting me know that you’re interested. Anyone is eligible to enter, regardless of location.

67 thoughts on “Serge Lutens De Profundis

  1. Like you I have trouble believing there’s a God who would allow so many atrocities, but strangely enough the idea of death has never really bothered me. Maybe it’s because I always fancied the aesthetic of vanitas, or having a certain affinity for historical figures who met their untimely ends much too soon and often tragically, but I think there’s a certain beauty in death — that’s probably the closet Goth girl speaking there. Whether or not there’s an afterlife, I’m not certain. I was raised by religious parents & would consider myself someone who while I cannot reconcile many things with organized religion or even the belief in God, I don’t know if I feel that there’s nothing after this. I suppose that being ingrained to believe something as a child still lingers on after all these years. Really, I simply don’t know & I don’t expect anyone else to have any better answers either. If I had to identify with a religion or faith, I suppose I’d consider myself Gnostic.

    That said, this sounds gorgeous. Poignant & mournful, cold yet comforting. I would absolutely love to give it a sniff. I’m guessing this is one that can only be purchased through the Serge Lutens boutique, but that bottle. Oh my.

    1. “I simply don’t know”- I consider this the most reasonable view possible about death and religion in general, and wish that more people would adopt it!

      The bottle is absolutely beautiful, and the juice itself is the prettiest purple color too. Thank you for entering!

  2. What a powerful review!

    Thinking of the Holocaust (although none of my relatives were involved – I can’t imagine how that would feel) makes me loose faith too. The cruelty of the human race makes it difficult to believe in a ‘higher being’.

    Is it weird to say that I’m not scared of death as such, but scared of how I might die?

    You have made De Profundis sound so beautiful I would absolutely love to try it.

    1. Thomas, thank you so much for your kind words. The concept of God that I find most plausible is one that created the world, but is now no longer able to have much of an impact on it. Sort of like a parent who loves their child, but is unable to control what they do.
      I don’t think that’s weird at all!

  3. I’d love to try it!

    My relatives have died in the Holocaust as well, and my mother now studies of what people remember about it and how they talk about it — not just for survivors, but for anyone who knows of it. Many people have a hard time even talking about it!.. I have not seen the ovens and have never been to the sites. I probably never will…

    1. Yes, my father’s father never talked about his experiences in the camps with him. The only time that my father ever heard him discuss it was on a tape made for the Holocaust museum, long after his death. Your mother is doing very difficult and very important work.

  4. Gee, could there be a more intriguing way to entice us into wanting to try this juice? SL should hire you to write their copy! Count me in, I want to sniff for myself what would conjure up such intense feelings.
    I do feel lucky that I was brought up with a clear belief in the afterlife, wherever it might be, but I do believe my soul lives on in some world, in some state, ever reaching closer to “God” or whatever anyone chooses to name that infinitely creative essence.

    1. From your lips to Serge’s ears, Sujaan!! 🙂 Although I must say that SL really might need a new copywriter. The De Profundis copy was all over the place. From Fragantica:

      When death steals into our midst, its breath flutters through the black crepe of mourning, nips at funeral wreaths and crucifixes, and ripples through the gladiola, chrysanthemums and dahlias.
      If they end up in garlands in the Holy Land or the Galapagos Islands or on flower floats at the Annual Nice Carnival, so much the better!
      What if the hearse were taking the deceased, surrounded by abundant flourish, to a final resting place in France, and leading altar boys, priest, undertaker, beadle and gravediggers to some sort of celebration where they could indulge gleefully in vice? Now that would be divine!

      Your faith is truly a blessing. My father is a physicist and an atheist; through no fault of his own, he passed on to me his belief that an afterlife was simply not scientific.

  5. There’s something about perfume that puzzles me. I’ve always been seduced by hot, sweet perfumes, but when I wear them it only takes a little while before I grow tired, even nauseated by them. Instead, cold, dry perfumes fail to grab my attention at first, but if I wear one of them (a good one) it’ll always work well with my skin and make me feel better.
    My idea is that the first category represents life, and the second death, in a way, so I think that De Profundis would be perfect for me. I just need to try it to know…

  6. I just watched Midnight in Paris the other night and was struck by that quote as well. I also loved, loved, loved the portrayal of Hemingway and it got me giggling quite a bit. Have you smelled Midnight in Paris the perfume? A man friend of mine wears it, I like it quite a bit on him.

    I definitely want to try De Profundis; as a green scent fan and owner of Bas de Soie (I’ve read of similarities between the two), I suspect it will be right up my alley.

    1. I would fund a spinoff about the Midnight in Paris Hemingway with my college savings. That actor did an AMAZING job. I have smelled Midnight in Paris and really enjoyed all the aldehydes!

  7. I feel the same way about religion, and death being the end. Dont be afraid though. As they say, just live every day like it’s your last!. Im interested in trying this, so enter me in the giveaway.

  8. Ari, I am keen to try this. Your description of a green fragrance is lovely. throw in a little spice great,then add a ‘coolness oof ice’ and maybe perfection? i’d never know unless i try it.
    Regarding your fears,i have no clue what occurs after death,but one thing i do know is that I have met many Holocaust Survivors when working as a nurse. Quite a few,part. the women’ would tell me stories/incidents they had never even told their children which i have never forgotten.As for death,I have held a hand until it becomes limp and cold ,hearing the person’s last breath.This i consider a privledge. Thank you for your generosity.

    1. Saffy, your comment really touched me. Your patients were so lucky to have you with them at the end. My hospital experiences have shown me that a wonderful nurse like you can make an absolute world of difference.

  9. I didn’t find it depressing, I found it beautifully written. Consider me entering! (Can’t wait the read the rest of the comments when I’m not captivated by Grey’s Anatomy.)

  10. What a lovely lovely post, Ari. I can almost feel a ‘hushhh’ around me as I finish reading your post. Like you I want to believe but often find it difficult to do so, so I call myself agnostic (because really, I’d love to believe..:)). I do believe in the ‘act of believing’ and the power of faith because I think faith (in any ‘thing’ or ‘person’ or ‘point’ or ‘God’ ) focusses the brain. Also I think life is easier with faith. My fear though, is less of dying but of losing loved ones..

    Oh and I’d love to be entered in the draw (It seems almost sacrilegious to tag this line on to the comment)

    1. Lavanya, thank you so much for your kind words. I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said about faith. Even without religion, there are so many things to have faith in- like our fellow people, or the quality of Lush Bath Bombs (my faith is about to be tested, as I am writing this on my way to the bathtub!)

  11. A moving post, Ari. I have never had faith or a belief in any kind of afterlife, nor a fear of death, at least in the abstract — can’t say that I will be so sanguine at the actual moment.

    As for De Profundis I am very curious about a scent which so sharply divides reviewers and would certainly be interested in trying it. Cold green notes are appealing. And I wouldn’t want to break a New Year’s resolution so early by failing to enter one of your draws. 🙂

    1. Linda, this isn’t actually the official draw for the month! I just wasn’t sure what else to do with the sample, lol! Even as an oriental fragrance lover, I’m definitely a fan of cold green notes as well.

  12. Ari, what a fittingly profound review for De Profundis. So moving and so personal – thank-you. I very much share your feelings and envy the the reassurance religion brings others. Thank you for that quote also from Midnight in Paris, which I think is very true.

    Is it because it is still mournful despite being comforting,that you don’t want to wear it again? You just don’t want to go there? I can totally understand that kind of self-preservation.

    1. Tara, thank you very much. I think that I do not want to wear it again because even if it comforts me about death, it still reminds me of death. It would be like if someone said “You’re probably going to recover from cancer!” Even if that is very good to know, you still just reminded them that they have cancer!

  13. What a beautiful post you have written. I would love to try this new potion that Lutens has created. I think you should change your major and become a full time writer. You have such a great talent. That and your marvelous personality is what keeps us coming back each day for another review.

  14. Lovely post, Ari. Being the typical scientist, I’m an atheist. I’m comforted to know that no matter what could really be steering our lives, I’ve made the most logical conclusion for me based on observation. Theists are often confronted with the “Job Problem,” or why does a benevolent god let bad things happen to good people. Even if I still believed in a deity, I would have major issues with a being that allowed genocide of any scale, especially a catastrophic scale such as the Holocaust, occur. I agree with the above post that you should develop your writing; it is so captivating! On the other hand, being a scientist is one of things that makes my life special, and working on my Ph.D., I know it can be discouraging! Stick with the biochemistry, it only gets better. Thanks to you, I’ve really started to explore iris fragrances, and I would love to try another ice-cold green floral. Thanks again for the post!

    1. P.S. Kudos to you for being so honest with yourself about death. Most people can’t confront their own thoughts about anything, let alone one of the most fundamental questions of human existence.

    2. Jenn, thank you so much for the scientist perspective! Science at Hopkins has been particularly frustrating for me because I am only good at one kind of science: molecular biology. But to get to molecular biology courses, which are all upper-level, I have had many pre-reqs (chem, physics, etc) which are not at all to my strengths and in which I have done very poorly. So while I still believe that I could be a good scientist, at this point nobody else does 😦
      I am so happy to hear that you have started exploring iris fragrances! I hope that you get a chance to try De Profundis!

      1. I’m the same way Ari! The way to go is to show that you really care about the molecular biology by joining a lab and getting real research experience. That’s how I got into grad school, despite my mediocre grades. I can do experiments like no other. Keep your chin up!

        1. What an inspiring comment to read! I have (what I think is) a super good idea for research that involves using the sense of smell to predict one’s risk of developing schizophrenia that I am hoping to get professors interested in this semester. I will think of you as I try to make this research concept a reality, Jenn!

  15. I am a person of faith and the prospect of death terrifies me, too. It is a part of the human condition we all struggle with.

    I would like to try this perfume, although I’m a little scared to now! 😉

    1. Susan, that is really interesting to hear. My friends who are religious have always seemed puzzled by my relatively intense fear of death. Thank you for sharing your perspective, it is a new one for me.

      1. Intellectually, I can contemplate death and not be scared. But thinking about what it would actually be like? Or how it would affect my daughter? How can anyone not find that scary.

        Doubt is the other side of faith; in my view the person who never doubt doesn’t have a very strong faith. I know that many would beg to differ…

        1. I have become very frustrated with the way that doubt is becoming stigmatized in the Orthodox Jewish community. Judaism has never been about blindly accepting God! When God told Abraham that he needed to find 50 decent people to save the towns of Sodom and Gmorrah, Abraham haggled it down to 5! Abraham was punished for blindly following God’s order to sacrifice Isaac; he was supposed to have known that God would never demand human sacrifice! Questioning, and thinking critically about why you believe the things that you believe, is what leads to truly strong faith (in anything, God or otherwise).

  16. I’ll just say that I identify strongly with what you wrote and feel the same way. From all I’ve read on the blogs, De Profundis is strange and interesting (and polarizing for some), and I’d like to try it. Thanks for the drawing.

  17. Ari, it’s a very touching review, thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. While I’m not afraid of my own death, I am afraid of dying and I’m terrified of death of my loved ones. Because of that I was very wary of this perfume (and still don’t like the idea of dedicating a perfume to a death). But I tried it (thanks to a friend who sent me a sample) and I really liked it. I wish chrysanthemum note would live longer on my skin but in general I like the perfume and might eventually get a decant of it (so no need entering me into the drawing, I’ll leave more chances to somebody who hasn’t tried it yet).

    I’m as atheistic as they come, religion hasn’t even been a question for me at any stage of my life but I can’t help playing devil’s advocate (hehe) in this case: it’s not a very mature or intellectual argument against G-d’s existance – “he has allowed something to happen”. But you know that yourself, right?

    1. Thank you so much, Undina. I’m so glad that you liked De Profundis, I agree that it is very special (and that the beautiful chrysanthemums are too short-lived!)

      I think that the maturity of the argument depends on which iteration of God one has grown up with. I grew up with the Old Testament God, and in the Old Testament bad things pretty much only happened if God wanted them to. When a nation was cursed or wiped out, the Torah presents it as being the result of God’s desire. I have even had very religious teachers (I attended a Jewish private school) tell me that I should not be sad for the people who die in tragedies, such as September 11th, because God had a plan for them. Some plan.

  18. Beautiful post, Ari! I agree with you on the afterlife, I don’t believe in it myself and would describe myself as a agnostic at least, I don’t believe in a deity that has a interest in us personally.
    I have seen a lot of death, mostly of the very young (I’m a pediatrician). Somehow that has made me less afraid of dying, I guess because the familiar is less scary. I think that for many today death is something abstract and that most of us have less practical experience than earlier generations and maybe that makes us more afraid.
    I would love to smell De Profundis, maybe it would be comforting on the days I’m sad (the the sadness doesn’t go away although you’re less afraid…)

    1. Eva, thank you so much for your comment. My father is not afraid of death (the neuroses come from my mother’s side of the family), and he also attributes it to having been exposed to death as a doctor. I’m very interested in your theory that death is more abstract for us these days- somehow it is even more frustrating that we can put off death for so long but still fall prey to it in the end.

  19. A moving and beautiful post, Ari.
    There is beauty to be found in embracing our fears, though I’d take your lead and not necessarily want to do so on a regular basis (with the perfume).

    1. Thank you so much, Dee. Does that mean that you would not care to be entered in the drawing? 🙂 I can be the kind of person who embraced my fears waaaaay more than could ever be considered healthy, so I don’t consider this post brave or interesting- it is just my thought process.

  20. I am just back from attending the (wholly secular) funeral of someone who didn’t believe in the afterlife. He faced the prospect of the void very bravely, I must say – especially as he was only my own age – but I am like you and very afraid of death. I don’t want to not be there anymore, even though my non-existence didn’t seem to trouble me unduly for aeons right up until 1959.

    I haven’t tried this scent and the floral note in question doesn’t really grab me on the face of it. However, I loved your description of it as a “cool hand on a fevered forehead”, and your review is so powerfully written generally that I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to try it.

    1. Vanessa, this and your Facebook status about the funeral were so hard to read. It sounds like you and his friends gave him the sendoff of a lifetime. Thank you so much for your kind words about the review.

  21. Death is a sadness for me, but not a fear. I won’t try to change your mind, but I’ll share a few thoughts on the possible existence of God: I don’t think there’s any way to prove or disprove a higher power. I don’t believe human scientific knowledge encompasses all there is to know. I’m not convinced that a lack of action on the part of God to prevent atrocity is proof that he does not exist and/or is malignant, although I admit that the idea of God’s allowing humans to have free will and control of their actions is not one emphasized in Judaism (in my limited study of it). I visited Auschwitz in 1990, and my experience there has stayed with me. So difficult to talk about still, but it is in my heart to support and protect the chosen people.

    Lovely, lovely review. Please don’t enter me in the draw as I have a sample of De Profundis which I have not yet tried – the purple color has been dissuading me, isn’t that silly? (I don’t like purple. Which is probably even sillier.)

    1. Mals, I for one am very grateful that we chosen people have wonderful folks like you supporting us. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I actually like the purple color of De Profundis! I find it prettier than the dark purple of Sarrasins.

  22. Death is a mystery and a grace.

    Who would want to live forever in a place that is host to Holocausts – and there have been many, many such things here.

    Our culture is very familiar with pain, murder, horror – but are these things the true nature of death? One can lead to the other, but I am not so sure each one IS the other.

    I was honored to be witness to my father’s death process over the last week of his life, at home. He generously shared some of the mystery with us and it was all things: unbearable to transcendent and all things between. For all of us, including him. But he also moved out of life with joy. Not the fluffy sense of happiness that most people mean when they say “joy”, but something deep, wild and fierce.

    That process has inspired in me a great desire to do hospice work. I have not been able to do it yet, for various reasons, but it remains a goal. There is much to learn and much to give and receive in that work – not least of which is an acquaintance with Death in its many guises – friend, enemy, ultimate destination, at least for this life. I’m not so sure you can fully embrace life without fully embracing death, for they are either side of the same coin.

    I find that to be fully alive, I need to be as fully aware of my death as possible. Once there is friendship, however tentative, in place of unbearable fear new horizons open up.

    Thank you for your honest and thoughtful post – I wish you the best in your journey. Have joy!

  23. I have the desire to be more fluent in english language… definitely I’m not in the mood to put my thoughts on this into words.
    Thanks Ari, for sharing yours.

  24. I look at it this way: I didn’t care about not existing before I was born – I won’t care about not existing after I die, either. Although frankly, with all the interesting strides in paranormal research that are being made in the last ten years, I’m doubtful that the human spirit evaporates after leaving the body. That’s just my two cents.

    Thanks for the wonderful review. Sounds like one of a precious few Lutens scents I can get behind. And also, thanks for plugging my blog! I really appreciate you and all my readers.

  25. My grandmother survived the war and saved not only hers but the life of 3 other people. She put her life more at a risk than anyone else to actually save those three people, but she didn’t give it a thought. She saw people die right beside her, she went through pain and fear and hunger and never, ever stopped believing. Even when I got to her with all of my questions and doubts, she never stopped believing or started questioning her own believe for a second. She saw God as an instance that makes the being, existence itself possible, not more and not less. She always said, we are responsible for our actions, there’s no one else to blame. Every decision we make has its consequence.
    She believed the spirit is something like energie that keeps us going until our body is done. After that it becomes, again, part of the whole, which is the universe itself and whatever’s behind it. She died peacefully.

    Many years later I visited the place where she had to fear for her life for so many hours, for so many days and years. I stood on the court, where my grandma had to stay for hours in the cold, without shoes, I’ve seen the ovens, I’ve sat in the gas chambers. But you know what? I’ve seen worse.
    The holocaust wasn’t near the worst thing human beings did to themselves. The crusades, the witch trials, the many, many wars in which ground stripes were practically erased, people were brutally raped and tortured and then slowly killed. Considering thousands of years of war and pain, millions and millions of people dying in pain, the holocaust was one bit. We can be glad there was no high-tech in the middle ages. Probably none of us would live today. Human beings went through so much pain and so much brutality during so many years, I’m not even sure If not any single one of us has a brutal killer in its family history. Why questioning the holocaust? You would have to question humankind itself. And – no one else.

  26. Einstein couldn’t give a damn to be born jewish , he was agnostic but more on the atheist side of things.Stephen Hawking is also an atheist and believe the universe doesn’t need a god its all about the laws of physics. If the two most intelligent men the world has ever known are godless atheists it’s good for me. Death is part of life like stars we born and die. My son died of cancer at age 4, I was told by religious freaks it was god’s plan to take him’ well that monstrous sadistic vengeful god must have a bug mental problem maybe that’s why this world is ugly and so atrocious. My son lives through me I’m not afraid of death its part of lifed I d love wear this perfume.

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