Wednesday 25 October 2023

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule for a Minuscule price! - sampling the sample sites as Bonkers turns 14


Well, that's unusual...I am writing this post on my actual blog anniversary as opposed to a few days or weeks later, or not at all. I shan't make a big deal of it, as it doesn't seem warranted now I am only posting once a month or so, and I am sure I have lost some of my regular readers and commenters because of this sparse frequency. But people I will never know are still finding their way to the archives with their 756 posts - not necessarily meaning to, mind, as I suggested in this piece about blogging 11 years ago (see the full thing here):

'And the other important point to mention – and the final reason for keeping a sense of perspective - is that, crucially, many of your readers will land on your blog by mistake… Some of the more peculiar search terms that have directed people to Bonkers include: “leopard fantasy”, “Bo Derek naked”, “Anne Hathaway’s cottage opal flash parfum”, “Slovakian hobbits biscuits”, “swingos hotel Cleveland”, “card nuisance call boss telling her to do some work”, “kidnapping lillies” (sic), “what is the landform of Ohio”, “avocado” and “slime”.'

The weird thing is that we get tourists fetching up in Stafford by mistake who are also looking for Anne Hathaway's cottage, albeit not its associated perfume, if there even is one? Traffic is still traffic though, so I will cheerfully take all-comers. 

And though I am not posting often, I have been doing quite a few perfume "consultations" for friends or even friends of friends behind the scenes - one chap bought a bottle of L'Air du Desert Marocain on the back of his epiphany at my house - so fragrance is very much an ongoing interest. I have, however, largely lost any curiosity about new releases, as my tolerance for plethoras is much reduced these days. Plus I am only dimly aware of the latest crop of perfume blogs, because I still cling to those of my "generation" of 10-15 years ago. My blog roll is a frozen tribute to them, even though some of the titles are dormant now, and a few of the links may not work. I am even a bit out of touch with my cherished clutch of perfume friends - the aftermath of Covid and the chaos in the world generally may have played a role in that.

Despite this backdrop of drifting in my own becalmed backwater, and having more to do with fragrance wearers "in the wild" than the personalities in the blogosphere, occasionally, very occasionally, a new scent hits me in the solar plexus that I come across by some other route than a tip off from a fellow blogger, my usual source of information in recent years ever since I fell off a cliff as far as the brands / perfume houses were concerned, and they stopped sending me things to try.

To explain how this discovery came about, I need firstly to mention that I have recently joined a Qigong and a Mindfulness class. There is a bit of meditation tacked on at the end of the Qigong class and a bit of Qigong incorporated into the Mindfulness one. I didn't get on with Tai Chi which I also dabbled in - it was like a slo-mo version of Pan's People, with choreography that far exceeded my powers of coordination, but Qigong I can do, and it does wonderful things to me in return. "Postural diazepam" I called it. As things have turned out, this post from 2010 was eerily prescient, as the class I now attend is indeed under the auspices of the u3a (University of the Third Age).

Anyway, at the end of a recent Mindfulness class the leader started reminiscing about the smell of pure sandalwood oil from Mysore, and asked me if it was still used in modern perfumery, and whether I knew of current perfumes with a goodly dose of quality sandalwood of whatever provenance, so I said I would go away and have a think. I consulted a few blogs and YouTubers who had done their "Top 10 sandalwood fragrances" - there was quite a bit of crossover with the ones I had thought of, such as Guerlain Samsara, Diptyque Tam Dao, Hermes Santal Massoia, Le Labo Santal 33 etc - but several by Serge Lutens were not on my radar, including the one that most piqued my curiosity, Santal Majuscule. What's not to like about sandalwood being "writ large", in capital letters? ;) I had a sudden urge to try this apparent behemoth, and checked its availability on the sampling sites. 

Source: pinterest

First off, I bought a 1ml sample from Fragrance Samples came promptly, and knocked me sideways. I immediately rushed to run Santal Majuscule through the Boisdejasmin-ometer, as my taste in perfume is spookily aligned with Victoria's. Sure enough, she gives it four stars, and I will leave her to parse this beautiful rose and sandalwood scent, with its creamy, dusty base and meditative quality, making it the perfect accompaniment to a Mindfulness class!

Notes: sandalwood, rose, cocoa, tonka bean

Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule : Perfume Review - Bois de Jasmin

I quite agree with her use of the word "tender", which is exactly how it reads to me - a gentle murmur, a dreamy romantic scent, not shouty or scratchy or majuscule at all! I expect I am drawn to it because I love PG Brulure de Rose, which also has a powdery rose and chocolate accord. But Santal Majuscule is quieter and more refined somehow, much as I love Brulure.

I knew I needed more of the stuff, but the price of a 10ml decant on Fragrance Samples UK was £27.50 approx, so I googled some more suppliers (there are loads here these days, unlike the old days when you had to send off to The Perfumed Court or Luckyscent in the States!). Next up I landed on Scent Samples UK, who were offering the same amount for a mere £15, including p & p. Well, that seemed too good to be true, given that 50ml of this perfume retails for £125, which should work out at £25 per 10ml, much closer to the Fragrance Samples UK price. I googled reviews of Scent Samples UK on Trustpilot, and they were a bit mixed, but not worryingly so - or rather not to the point where I didn't dare risk an outlay of £15...

The decant also arrived very quickly, but on my first spray I couldn't detect the lovely dusty base - it was thin and very topnote-y - like a designer take on Santal Majuscule for a younger audience, if you can imagine that. I was disappointed and couldn't decide whether to send the perfume back or keep it for "casual spraying", with it being so relatively cheap. Then I had the idea to buy one more small decant from a private seller in a Facebook group, to help me figure out which was the true version, "best of three"-style. I was sure this person's bottle would be kosher, as the culture of that group is very straight and honest.

I also wrote to Scent Samples UK, explaining what had happened, and how I was going to wait till I had a third sample to test before taking a final view, and they were fine about it, saying I could send the decant back for a full refund if I wasn't happy after doing that comparison, whilst also drawing my attention to the possibility of natural variation between batches. The bit about the fragrance being crafted by skilled artisans amused me for some reason.

"It's essential to note that variations in the scent and colour of Santal Majuscule may occur due to its unique composition and craftsmanship. Each batch is carefully blended and crafted by skilled artisans, which can lead to subtle differences between batches."

So sample No 3 duly arrived, which smelt close to No 1 from Fragrance Samples UK...but meanwhile, I kept spraying the decant from Scent Samples UK, and lo and behold I suddenly got the full dusty, powdery experience! I think that very first spray must not have had all the ingredients in it, a bit like a vinaigrette bottle that you need to shake first, haha. Then I remembered that I had covered this very topic in an old post somewhere, which took some finding, but here it is:

Bonkers about Perfume: A Probably Preposterous Notion - The Unrepresentative Squirt

I do believe that I may have been experiencing the same phenomenon of "the unrepresentative squirt", and wrote back to Scent Samples UK accordingly, thanking them for their offer of a refund but saying it wouldn't be necessary after all. How they manage to sell 10ml for £15 is still a mystery though...did they get a bulk discount from Serge Lutens, or acquire some old stock on the grey market, or a job lot of testers, or are they having a fire sale prior to shutting up shop? Maybe Santal Majuscule is their loss leader, but if so it seems an odd one to choose. 

So there you have it...I am delighted to have enough Santal Majuscule to be going on with, and to have discovered a scent to which I have the same visceral attachment as I do to Brulure de Rose, yet which is softer and more "Mindfulness class-appropriate".


Portia said...

Hey there Vanessa,
AH MAY ZING! 14 years. Next year we must have a party.

Santal Majuscule is gorgeous. I once had a 10ml decant arrive from Andrea in the UK. Used it once and it fell over off my printer on the desk and smashed. Cue sadness and SCENT! I rushed out to tell Jin of my drama while grabbing towels to soak up the mess. He came in, smelled it and said, "That's so good, you better buy a bottle." I had to write perfume in another room for a couple of months.

Portia x

Anonymous said...

Hi V

Happy 14th Birthday! Quite the achievement. I like how your consultations are keeping your interest going.

I remember liking SM. The dusting of cocoa over rose and sandalwood was very comforting even if the overall oriental style wasn't my thing.

I've just got my parents going to tai chi though they said most of the class are doing movements of their own :)


Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping Bonkers going for so long. I always enjoy your posts and hope they keep coming in whatever frequency you choose. I have done both tai-chi and Qigong for a long time. Sadly my fantastic teacher had to stop and I find it hard to keep it up without a weekly class. Totally agree with the calming nature of this practice, I miss it a lot.

I have a bottle of Santal Majuscule, it is in a cupboard where I have stored perfumes I don't wear for a while, but I will take it out again and see how we get along. The boisdejasmin-ometer he he...

Anonymous said...

That was Hamamelis!

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

I am pleased to hear you love Santal Majuscule too, but what a shame about your accident with the decant! We have all bought perfume from Andrea, hehe, if you mean the Andrea in York? I got a decant of Armani La Femme Bleue, which I am still eking out.

You must have been blogging for as long as me I'd have thought, in different places?

Vanessa said...

Thanks T!

As I said to Portia, you are another long term blogger, and someone else of my generation, as it were.

Glad you can appreciate Santal Majuscule though it isn't your normal style.

I smiled at the story about your mum's Tai Chi class. I think people doing their own thing is also going on at the one I tried - and apparently you can hurt yourself if you are not careful, for the movements are more challenging than they seem.

Vanessa said...

Hi Hamamelis,

Thank you for your words of encouragement - I think I will just tick over for the foreseeable future. To my surprise I realised that if you divide 756 posts by 14 years it actually works out at a post per week!, which is not bad going. I must have been very prolific in the early years. ;)

I was interested to learn that you not only own this perfume, but also have done Tai Chi and Qigong. I find the Qigong moves more doable at home - my teacher has gone off for a fortnight - but if I had kept up Tai Chi, I'd say there would be no chance of doing that on my own, haha!

Portia said...

Yes Vanessa, Andrea in York. Going through all the decants for the New Idea 2023 I've come across quite a few from her. So I sent her a thank you and it just happened to be her wedding day. What a spooky coincidence. Andrea was always so lovely and generous. Hope she has decades of calm, comfortable living ahead with her spouse.
Started APJ Feb 29 2012 but had been lurking and commenting for a couple of years prior.
Portia xx

Anonymous said...

You went into my Spam so I have only just found you!!! I am always pleased to see you as you make the day brighter.

You could say that the SM is the big sister of RB, the mature, more voluptuous of the two, the one you wear in the evening. I never thought I would like a perfume with cocoa as a note, but these two are lovely and don't make me in the least nauseous! I was quite fond of Sarah Jessica Parker's Covet which was slightly reminiscent of them, a bargain to boot and now sadly gone.

Congratulations on your birthday, and may you have many more ..... the blogosphere is rapidly losing its wonderful contributors and we need you, no matter how infrequently you get to post.


Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

What a lovely coincidence about your writing to Andrea on such a happy day! She has been a major enabler of us all.

Ah, I knew APJ was round about the same time as me...

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I am surprised Blogger is still sending email notifications to people given my "spotty" posting frequency - I could imagine that it would decide to curtail the service due to lack of activity. ;)

Ooh, you have caught me out with your acronym...RB? Is this another Serge Lutens you are referring to? I still have a mini of Covet somewhere, I think. A very singular scent, it was.

Thanks for all your support of Bonkers, it really is appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I was being lazy and then accidentally reversed the letters - RB in my head was Rose Brulure, when of course it should be Brulure de Rose!

Of course I support Bonkers! You are unique and tell such interesting and "bonkers" stories with humour - don't even need the perfume bit. I hope you may continue for many years to come.


Tatiana said...

Happy Anniversary! I'm always delighted when I get an email notification that you've created a new post. I am ever grateful that my on-line search for Armani Sensi led me to your blog.
I do love a good sandalwood scent and Santal Majuscule is a good one. Comparing it with Brulure de Rose reminded me that my bottle of BdR is running low so I quickly searched on-line and found a bottle at half off.

Undina said...

Happy Blogoversary! 14 years is a looong time! I hope you’ll keep doing it as long as you have at least some interest in perfumes. I love your style, so, in reality, it doesn’t even matter whether you write about perfumes, music or bathroom renovations.
I liked Santal Majuscule and used up a decant that I had. If I weren’t on a no-buy, I would have probably bought a bottle: you can still get it for under $80. Maybe next year.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Sorry for the very late reply - Blogger hasn't been notifying me of comments lately. Brulure de Rose, got it! Yes, I quite agree that SM is the older sister of BR. ;)

Thanks again for your kind words about my will indeed inspire me to continue.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

So sorry for the late reply - I was notifed of Undina's comment and then spotted the rest!

I had forgotten the Armani Sensi connection between us...I do still treat myself to a dab of that from time to time from my little miniature. It is in fine condition all these years later. Whyever did they discontinue such a lovely perfume?

Good score on BdR! I am living in the wrong country, haha. I am able to buy decants of it though from the sampling sites that have popped up lately, so they should keep me going.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thank you! Also for saying you don't mind what I write about - "perfumes, music or bathroom renovations" is a pretty good summary of my typical topics too. ;)

Glad you are also a fan of Santal Majuscule - it seems to be cheaper in the USA then, if that is the full retail price. Well done for staying strong in terms of your no-buy policy.