Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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I know what scent I’m wearing tomorrow for Christmas. In fact, I’m wearing it now and as I sat down to write this post, my husband, sitting at the opposite end of the couch, exclaimed, “You smell sooo good!”

Yet I wouldn’t have tried it were it not for the good people at Beauty Habit, who sent it to me as a sample with my latest purchase. I had absolutely no plans to seek out Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Au Gingembre after the reviews I read last spring, when the fragrance first launched. They were mostly echoed complaints  of “meh”—and who wants to spend their time and money seeking out a sample of that? 

But today I’m sitting pretty with this scent on my wrists and, let me tell you, it’s true that Five O’Clock Au Gingembre won’t stand the world on its head, but it’s anything but “meh.”  If you can imagine partaking of a delicate nibble of crystallized ginger while relaxing in a sauna, that’s the feeling I get when wearing this scent. If a fragrance could impart true warmth to a person, this one would deliver the kind of warmth that settles deep into your bones, soothing and comforting and smelling luxuriously of wood. This wood aspect isn’t mentioned much in reviews, but I get a rich and refined cedar note from this scent that reminds me of the finely planked cedarwood of an expensive sauna. As cedar is a common basenote in fragrances, I might not remark upon the cedar were it not so incredibly fragrant and smooth, not to mention so ingeniously married to the notes that preceed it: Five O’Clock Au Gingembre’s clear, almost sparkling, candied-ginger note, as well as its masculine hit of bergamot in the opening, which tempers the sweeter notes of honey and vanilla that follow. 

The notes in this fragrance have a way of keeping it nicely balanced between the feminine and the masculine; I could easily envision a couple sharing a bottle of this. And though the name might lead one to believe this is foody—and thus scare off those who don’t care for gourmand scents—I find it neither too sweet nor even too gingery. True, ginger is the star note here, ever so lightly candied and accompanied by a tea note and a dusting of dark cacao. Yet there is such delicacy in the treatment of these notes that any resemblance to food is surely to the most dainty of dainties: a pale, dry, ginger ale, maybe. At the very most, ginger thins of the type my great-grandmother once made, achieved by rolling the dough until it was so translucent you could read the newspaper through it. 

Mostly, Five O’Clock Au Gingembre is a dry scent: dry and sparkling at the start, which is where it could best be compared to ginger ale—and dry and warm after that, once the gorgeous cedarwood note kicks in. 

In the same way that ginger is taken to calm a stomach and relax the body, Five O’Clock Au Gingembre is the kind of scent that can calm a frazzled spirit, but to characterize it merely as a comfort scent wouldn’t do it justice. As its name suggests, there's something old-worldly charming about it. Ginger is 'old country'—it’s not something we smell in modern-day America, except in stir-frys. Who makes time for tea and gingerbread these days? Who even drinks ginger ale, for that matter? I think it could be surmised that if you are in the habit of having tea and ginger—or having a ginger drink of any kind, and not a Starbucks latte sipped from a paper cup in rush-hour traffic—then you are either properly British or someone of a sensual nature who values leisure. (You are perhaps also someone who loves perfumes and owns too many of them, but let’s save that for another time.)

If such notions sound more quaint than charming, you probably won’t like Five O’Clock Au Gingembre. But, for me, it’s the perfect scent to ward off the gloomy chill of winter, with enough of a wink towards delight that when I wear it I feel like I’m on holiday. Which I am, and, hopefully, so are you. Let’s raise a cup of cheer, shall we?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Warmth and Charm of Serge Lutens Five O'Clock Au Gingembre

December 24, 2008:

Serge Lutens Five O'Clock Au Gingembre can be purchased at BeautyHabit.com, LuckyScent.com, Aedes.com and other places where Serge Lutens scents are sold.  $135 for 50 ml.

Bottle image is from LuckyScent.com.