Perfume Directory

Encens et Lavande (1996)
by Serge Lutens


Encens et Lavande information

Year of Launch1996
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 152 votes)

People and companies

HouseSerge Lutens
PerfumerChristopher Sheldrake
Parent CompanyShiseido

About Encens et Lavande

Encens et Lavande is a shared / unisex perfume by Serge Lutens. The scent was launched in 1996 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake

Encens et Lavande fragrance notes

Reviews of Encens et Lavande

This is one of those fragrances that surprises you. It starts off one way and then switches gears suddenly, and when it does, it's straight-up fantastic.

This is, as the name properly states, incense and lavender. Upon first spray, I get a "dirty" lavender. It's lavender, but seems almost like it's been tainted by something. It's initially a muddled blend that made me wonder what the fuss was about. And then the next ten minutes is where the magic happens. A wonderfully-crafted incense seems to just rise from nowhere, like the Kraken from the sea, and boy is it good. It's frankincense and myrrh that you're smelling, and as others have pointed out, if you've ever spent time in a Catholic church, you will know this scent immediately. I've always loved the smell of church incense, and the lavender -- and this is GOOD lavender -- gives this a wonderful backdrop, creating a soapy vibe behind the church-like incense, which on its own can sometimes border on acrid. It's a wonderful yin-yang, and rather than the lavender and incense being in a state of push/pull, they harmonize with each other wonderfully. The longer you wear this, the better it gets. Sillage isn't great, but when you have a scent this intense, I think that's a good thing. Longevity is decent, so no issues there. You need to go easy on the trigger with this, because the power on this ramps up dramatically after a few minutes.

The only issue with this is the price point, but with overpriced fragrances nowadays, it's not totally shocking. Is it worth the $200+ for a 75ml bottle? It depends. If you are a person who has paid or is willing to pay that much for a fragrance in general, this is totally worth it. Like Caron's Pour un Homme (1934) did with lavender and vanilla, this is a perfumer taking two basic "notes" and blending them masterfully.

Big thumbs up on this!
12th June, 2019
I'm not really enjoying this. On me, the lavender is chalky and dry, but also shrill and metallic. I think the overall idea of combining lavender and incense is clever, especially as there's a dirty wood undertone to lavender that could melt into frankincense quite nicely in theory, but I just don't like the way the lavender smells here.

To be fair, hours in, when the lavender is mostly gone, I'm left with incense and weird sheen that actually works quite well, but I just don't think it's worth it.
13th January, 2019
Serge Lutens was a make-up artist on call for much of the fashion world throughout the mid-to-late 20th century, eventually helping to push a dark and dour harsh image of black on black, which he conveyed in his early perfume work with Shiseido as well. However, his involvement with makeup receded and work with perfume increased until late in life, when his own house was launched in 2000, just like Frédéric Malle. Key differences between Lutens and Malle however is Lutens actually composed his own perfumes before hiring out, still creates make-up, and doesn't seek to be a prestige "greatest hits" of the industry's most-reknown perfumers, but rather reflect his own style, with help. Lutens compositions run the gamut from simplistic like Lush, to vintage Guerlain-levels of complexity, depending on who's making what, and sitting price-wise between the average niche house to the ultra-luxe prestige brands like Creed or Xerjoff. Encens et Lavande (1996) predates Lutens as a house, and like Féminité du Bois (1992), was originally part of the Lutens line under Shiseido. Encens et Lavande was composed by Christopher Sheldrake, who moonlights as a frequent contributor to Lutens, even though he also is creative director of perfumes at Chanel. I'll admit I was a tad underwhelmed by this, but only at very first. Most niche houses I've tried so far turn their amps to 11 with sillage and note pyramids, as if to justify the high price, but this is literally just "incense and lavender" as the name suggests, with a handful of supporting players. After a few hours on skin, I started to understand why, and my appreciation of it's fundamentalism grew, but it's still not my first option for lavender. The scent has been moved from the main line to the exclusive line, so it's only available in a 75ml "bell jar" for which this house is known, available only directly from Lutens or maybe Barney's of New York if one is near you, guaranteeing that if you pay the price of admission, you'll likely be the only one in your area wearing it.

The interesting thing about Encens et Lavande is that it grows louder over time, since lavender isn't the most boisterous top note when not helped along by citrus, and incense gets pretty warm and aromatic once body heat reaches it. This isn't the first perfume I've worn that sorta had a "dry up" instead of a dry down, but in all cases, once the plateau is reached, they do come back down the other slope and reduce to skin scent levels. However, because of this "creeping" nature, I'd warn to go with a few sprays or splashes if from a Lutens bell jar, then wait before using more. The development of Encens et Lavande is pretty obvious: you get a very raw French lavender note like Lavande by Jean des Salines (1945), but all by itself with just a smidge of clary sage underpinning floating around, giving Encens et Lavande a slight green tinge. The incense comes in within minutes, like somebody moving a crossfader slide across a mixing desk, panning in the myrrh-like incense until it's 50/50 with the lavender, reaching full volume of the experience, then continuing to pan the olfactory channels as the scent grows quieter until the incense is in front of the lavender as the name suggests at skin level. Longevity is average and sillage moderate at best, but quiet at worst. Encens et Lavande is probably the most-basic of scents from the house, the "comfort food" of the Serge Lutens line, which may explain why it's an exclusive. Lavender is always a good work or casual scent, and is generally versatile enough for all engagements including formal ones, although I often associate it with bedtime so that's where I'd have this seeing the most use personally. Encens et Lavande also doesn't like cold weather. I'd still take the Jeans des Salines over it, as it has tobacco in place of incense, lasts about as long, and has a brighter lavender (plus costs a fraction as much), but that's no besmirching to Serge Lutens as a house, which also plays home to iconic experiences like Chergui (2001) or Muscs Koubläi Khän (1998).

Compositions like Encens et Lavande often sit at the crux of the "what is niche" debate, because they don't seem very niche being simple, comfortable, almost ordinary compositions that could be released by any mall-brand perfumer like Bath & Body Works, or compounded by a head shop to chase the smell of marijuana away. However, the real question here is if you were handed vials of lavender essential oil, myrrh, sage, and some perfumer's alcohol, could you make this? Well, maybe... in a fashion, but not exactly. Yeah we can harp on about quality and provenance of ingredients, uncompromised artistic vision appealing only to the most refined connoisseurs, and pat ourselves on the back for paying the $220-$300 per 75ml bell jar that it costs for what is a basic lavender fragrance made by the creative head at Chanel but for another label, and who exactly are we convincing if we do? Serge Lutens has always been about selling a style, not material quality, as his start was in make-up, not couture or even furniture like Clive Christian, so getting your "money's worth" isn't a valid argument with this house, as you're literally buying an aesthetic, not so much a product, which is no different than letting Jackson Pollock cover your wall in paint splotches for a cool million or two. Encens et Lavande is a very fine lavender indeed, sold at an exclusive price point, and because it doesn't pretend to be something else, it gets a thumbs up for me, even though I think lavender scents in general are just too common to ask for this level of exclusivity. If you have the coin to spare and don't have a problem parting with it, Encens et Lavande is one of the best "near-soliflore" presentations of lavender I've ever encountered, and I've smelled a lot of lavender, plus live where grows wild and is also grown/sold, so I wouldn't make a claim like this lightly.
11th October, 2018 (last edited: 12th October, 2018)
I used to love this scent and wore it a lot. I took a break for a year or two and finally started wearing a new decant. I'm not sure what happened but there is something in the scent that causes me to sneeze--which it did not do before. It is also far less complex then it used to be. I desperately wanted to love it because I used to and can finally get a bell jar and thought this was signature scent worthy--but after trying it twice and sneezing non stop I can't wear it anymore. If I wasn't sneezing then every time my wrist went by my nose I felt an annoying tickle in my nose.

The drydown is still lovely and I adore it but I cannot get past whatever is making me sneeze. Maybe its the reformulation thats causing me to sneeze--if it doesn't make you sneeze and you can get past the opening the drydown is as gorgeous as I remember--not too sweet as some Lutens tend to be.
30th May, 2018
Simple but fantastic. Encens et Lavande is pretty much a two note scent: high quality lavender paired to a gorgeous, airy incense note. The lavender is bright, radiant and leads to a dry down of fuzzy incense, ethereal but still substantial. This is the most satisfying incense accord in the Lutens lineup. It is slimmer than Gris Clair, but just as tenacious. Sillage is quite good for its style, as I do keep getting lovely gentle wafts throughout.

Encens et Lavande (together with Gris Clair and Oxford & Cambridge) is one of the best lavender scents I've come across. Fans of Oxford & Cambridge would perhaps appreciate this for the starkness of the composition. The lavender note, though, is richer and similar to the one in Gris Clair. Encens et Lavande might also appeal to lavender fans who find Gris Clair to be too ashy.

Very different from most other things in the Serge Lutens lineup. It is calm, meditative and introspective. This is not complex, unlike Gris Clair, Eau Noire or Dzongkha, and is unlikely to satisfy anyone after a complex lavender or incense scent.

Encens et Lavande is a case study in simple beauty and elegance. The lavender is very good, but once it hits the hour mark and the incense joins in, the scent is sublime.


Note: Review is based on an older "Shiseido" bell jar version.
21st May, 2018
Strong, true lavender opening, followed by an ever-softening progression, which with the absence of vanilla or coumarin never achieves the powdery effects lavender scents mostly aim for.

The incense eventually surfaces for the dry down, but the lavender never leaves. They simply fade away together.

A scent combination that is not terribly inspired to my way of thinking, since both the lavender and frankincense are both similar in their densities. There is no contrast, no cleverness in combining materials in a new way, no real invention.

Another of the Lutens that does not justify its price tag, by pairing a few simple ingredients, the result of which neither inspires nor impresses.

I'll pass.
05th May, 2016

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