Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque:
Finest Pipe-Weed Fragrance This Side of the Southfarthing

December 16, 2010:

Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque eau de parfum can be purchased from the official Serge Lutens website, as well as from Barneys.com, where a 75-ml bell jar is currently priced at $300.

Images: film stills of actors Ian Holm (as Bilbo Baggins) and Ian McKellen (as Gandalf) from the 2001 film The Fellowship of the Ring can be found various places on the Internet; photo of Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque bottle is from Barneys.com
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“It’s fifteen degrees, with a real-feel temperature of minus five,” the weatherman said when my alarm clock went off this morning. “Winds out of the west gusting up to 31 miles per hour.”

This is pretty much what he has said all week. On Monday, I managed to complete my walk through the fields near my house, but the icy winds gave me brain-freeze (the kind you get when you eat ice cream too fast) and made my ears ring and ache as it cut through the hood of my Thinsulate parka and wool cap. On Tuesday and Wednesday I gave up on walking and tried not to feel out-of-sorts about it; there are days when it’s best just to hole up and accept what is. A tobacco perfume is handy comfort for the holing-up part, and of these, there are few better than Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque.

Despite its exotic name, Fumerie Turque, to my nose, is the very aroma of old-fashioned pipe tobacco, the kind I rarely see anyone smoking anymore and which I have come to associate with Oxford dons and men who wear corduroy jackets with leather elbow patches. While perfume fans often describe Fumerie Turque as smoky (which I concur with in the top-notes stage), to me it smells mostly like tobacco leaf fresh from the pouch, in the moments when it is being fingered and tamped into the barrel of a pipe. Fumerie Turque smells aged, dry, pungent and sweet, all at the same time: here is the scent of J.R.R. Tolkien’s pipe-weed—the rich smell of Middle-earth and hobbits and their beloved Old Toby and Longbottom Leaf.  The scent of everything that is good and right about the earth (as Samwise Gamgee or Meriadoc Brandybuck might say; Tolkien himself was a committed tobacco-pipe smoker, frequently photographed with a pipe in his mouth)—and the very air of contentment.

What I most admire about Fumerie Turque is that it breathes. I often find tobacco perfumes unrelenting, with an overwhelming amount of patchouli or amber taking up much of the real estate. Fumerie Turque’s graceful composition, on the other hand, spirals and swirls like smoke—the richness of its tobacco accord nobly upheld while, at the same time, unburdened of any heaviness. Like a symphonic ode to tobacco, it has both movement and little harmonies built into it that add complexity, allowing one’s nose to drift away from its tobacco theme and come back again. Eventually its melody rests on a light but scrumptious chord of honeyed vanilla and amber, the sweetness of which is subdued, as if it has been weathered to perfection by the passage of the tobacco that preceded it.

(The list of fragrance notes for Fumerie Turque include: Corinthian raisins, white honey, candied Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, smoked leather, beeswax, Balkan tobacco, Peru Balsam, patchouli, tonka bean, styrax, and juniper tar oil.)

I could continue to wax on about it, but if I have made you think about hobbits, their wonderfully homey holes, and Gandalf the Grey when he is sitting with Bilbo at his birthday party, indulging his love of the halfling’s leaf, then I have said enough.

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