Sarrasins opens with a powerful and radiant blend of flowers featuring artificial nuances of aldehydes and metallic notes but nonetheless good, elegant, foggy and somehow rarefied even if at the same time quite dense, rich and powerful. All is centered around flowers (a dry, austere, grey, refined, silky and shady accord of jasmine and carnation refreshed by slight balsamic notes) supported by a light woody-herbal base and perhaps a hint of benzoin too. As minutes pass Sarrasins warms up turning towards more sweet and delicate territories, always keeping it ambiguous and quite austere: the "graphic" feel is like opening the windows in a dusty, abandoned, once sumptuous room of an ancient house, with the white light enlightening dust, abandon and greyness. A really elegant, somehow baroque scent, distinguished in a cold, almost arrogant way; so cold it almost smells, paradoxically, a bit anonymous. It has however a peculiar and intriguing charm, an odd, icy, dark and unfriendly sort of elegance and refinement. Beautifully awkward.
Comparisons with the earlier À la Nuit are inevitable, but Sarrasins is its own scent. It is a less voluptuous, less indolic jasmine, and altogether more reserved – maybe even severe. I almost immediately get a very green and somehow austere jasmine out of Sarrasins. I also smell some hay and the merest touch of camphor or menthol. The camphor remains in the background, but it does put a cool edge on the central jasmine. Though I don’t find any actual tea in Sarrasins, it does leave an impression of green tea with jasmine.
Sarrasins continues in its green jasmine groove for some time, gradually growing sweeter and smoother as it develops. Then at length the floral accord sharpens, and in so doing begins to lead the scent in a new direction. Having grown sweeter, Sarrasins now becomes somewhat hard-edged as well, and then remains comparatively cool and aloof throughout its lifespan. Part of this increasing sharpness may be due to the spicy carnation middle note.
Sarrasins doesn’t so much alter as fade during its drydown. It clings stubbornly to its jasmine and reveals only a hint of sweet, powdery musk and creamy woods. I get nothing animalic, and certainly no civet or castoreum in the base. It’s also completely free of the sweet, syrupy base accord that’s common to many Sheldrake-Lutens fragrances. When applied very liberally, Sarrasins reveals some darker, leathery overtones, and more vanilla or coumarin in its base, but on the whole it’s a remarkable comfortable and congenial scent coming from the house that brought us Muscs Koublaï Khan and Tubéreuse Criminelle.
In fact, with its camphoraceous, medicinal edge, Sarrasins could be taken as an attempt to do for jasmine what Tubéreuse Criminelle does for tuberose. If that’s the case, Sheldrake and Lutens have lost their nerve, for Sarrasins is a far less challenging scent. If anything, it’s a sibling to Un Lys, or even Gris Clair, which are likewise crisp and clear. At no point does Sarrasins become thick or heady, and it wears quite close to the skin. I think ubuandibme is accurate in describing it as "sheer" and “transparent,” qualities that Sheldrake and Lutens have rarely achieved during their partnership. It conspicuously lacks the near-hallucinatory accuracy of Un Lys or Sa Majesté la Rose. In all of these respects it smells more like something L'Artisan Parfumeur or Hermèssence would do than what's expected out of Serge Lutens. Its limited projection and unusually crisp, green-tinted floral character make Sarrasins a “safer” scent than À la Nuit (or many other jasmines for that matter,) and I think it will work well for either gender.
So sexy they should put a warning label on the bottle. It explodes onto the skin with a huge roar, like a bull mounting his mate, all purple and engorged, half-ferocious, half-lustful - a mentholated and rubbery jasmine so ugly-beautiful you just can't tear your glance away. It is down and dirty sexy in a good way. I love indolic scents, so the opening is calling my name.
I have seen reviews referencing poo, though. I think that our smelling brains are just very sensitive to suggestion. While it is true that scatoles naturally occurring in feces are the same scatoles naturally occurring in jasmine, just in much lower concentrations, the two smells created by the two concentrations of scatoles are not very alike at all. In fact, I grow jasmine on my balcony and it may come as a surprise to people who have never had a chance to smell jasmine when it flowers in nature that it smells just exactly like this: dirty, creamy white flowers with a hint of fecal decay as an undertone. But I get it, some people are sensitive to indolic scents and references, so even the mere hint of feces is enough to give this girl a bad old reputation. But I would think that anyone who gets on well with the copious amounts of horse poo in Cuir de Russie and elephant dung in Dzing! would rub along nicely with Sarrasins too.
There is something fruity in the middle (apricot? cherries?), and something spiced (clove?), and although I am no expert, to my nose, these notes in the middle combine to produce a delicious hay smell, like cut hay damp on top with summer dew and dry underneath, laid out in the sun to dry being being baled. This mixed damp and dry hay smell also feels like chamomile tea, because to me these two smells are very similar (and equally attractive/calming).
The jasmine rests on top of this base throughout, fanning its petals and blowing hot jasmine fumes into your face, just being its own, wonderful, natural self, true and unapologetic. I confess that I smell no leather or suede in the base, and it is acknowledged to be a leathery, dry base. This is a dry, unsweetened and not too creamy jasmine, which manages to feel both airy and earthy at the same time. I find it intoxicating and sexy, especially in the middle notes which smell like jasmine and hay mixed together and left out in the sunshine.
For me, Sarrasins was a love at a first sniff. The brave opening, full of jasmine, classified by others as "blast" slowly recedes into dance of jasmine and something animal and suede leaving you (or at least, me) feeling very decadent no matter what you wear or do. There is only one negative - it stains as hell.
Lutens' own A LA NUIT is the reference pure jasmine scent for me. After a long search I found this intense pure green jasmine to be the truest soliflore for that flower.
SARRASINS simply adds a light, sophisticated leather note to A LA NUIT, making it simply a variation on the former. This is one instance where a repetition of the original name with a modifier would be called for, such as A LA NUIT CUIR.
The effect is that of smelling a fine French or Northern Italian leather glove that has been handling fresh jasmine flowers.
Nice but too close to A LA NUIT to be considered an original concept.