Serge Lutens La Proie Pour l’Ombre Review


Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre, part of the Gratte-Ciel collection and its three key notes: licorice, leather and vanilla – Pictures: bottle by Serge Lutens, licorice via Stock photos, leather via Ecoloquest and vanilla via Vanissa, all edited by Emmanuelle Varron.

Writing about a Serge Lutens perfume is undoubtedly one of the most complicated exercises for any journalist as the ingredients are not often fully revealed by brand, so you trust your nose to tease out notes (usually no more than three). The olfactive the storytelling invariably uses a literary tone, full of mysterious symbols in connection with M. Lutens personal history. Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre, the new perfume in the Gratte-Ciel collection (available worldwide from September 1), is no exception to this. But what does “(Lâcher) la proie pour l’ombre” mean? In literal translation, it’s “losing the substance by grasping at the shadow”. But this French expression actually means the abandonment of a real advantage for an illusory profit (and was popularized by Jean de La Fontaine fable “Le chien qui lâche la proie pour l’ombre”, published in 1688).

And below is Serge Lutens official statement:


Serge Lutens La Proie pour l'Ombre Gratte-Ciel collection

 Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre quote – picture via Serge Lutens, edited by Emmanuelle Varron

The press kit  shares that Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre was inspired by the memory of his mother. Born during World War II, he was separated from her at an early age which had a deep impact on his life. Serge Lutens uses an old photo he found, showing two unknown women who are  somehow linked to him and his family memories perhaps of abandonment. When reading the text written by Serge Lutens, we journey into the realm between shadow and light once again (as he did in Serge Noire, a common theme throughout work). This contrasting perception, blows hot and cold, epitomizing his latest fragrance created in collaboration with Christopher Sheldrake.

Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake

Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake

Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre is for me a “true Lutens”. That is, dark, deep, heady and seemingly difficult to pin down. However, the first few seconds remind me of Dior Eau Noire, with an  licorice-immortelle duo. It’s a very brief impression, but it is striking because the perfume created in 2004 by Francis Kurkdjian is a masterpiece for me. The Lutens spirit quickly returns with the immortelle which gains momentum and sets up a leathery, spicy and virile note that seems to nod to Serge Lutens Cuir Mauresque.  As the fragrance develops Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre opens with draped in soft vanilla, which twists around a  rosy floral note. I also perceive a chocolate facet  which gives an even more delicious roundness to the skin. The  earthy and sweet licorice is still present, but stays in the background, in perfect balance with the leathery and spicy side of immortelle. At the dry down  the vanilla remains, but the perfume doesn’t lose its leathery intensity and  as I always apply perfume before I sleep, it does have  overnight  longevity.

Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre via Serge Lutens©

I add a few lines to my first impressions: by accidentally spraying the perfume a second time on my skin, at the same place where I did it a few minutes previously, an amber facet disturbs the balance of the licorice-leather-vanilla triptych; I even perceive a very luminous floral note reminiscent of heliotrope. The evolution over the hours is modified as if by magic, much more flowery and sweet, with a very present coffee note in the background, and a resinous dry down close to benzoin.

Postscript: The mystery around this perfume is how it plays with our skin: upon discussion with three people who also had access to the perfume, there are unanimous similarities (the immortelle), but some did not perceive the licorice note at all, and there is debate on the flowery facet (heliotrope, orange blossom, iris?). Is this quest for “hidden” notes, characteristic of Lutens perfume lovers, would also be a kind of losing the substance by grasping at the shadow?

Official notes: vanilla, leather, licorice.
Other perceived notes: immortelle, rose, amber, heliotrope, benzoin.

Disclaimer: Serge Lutens La Proie pour l’Ombre sample graciously provided by rue Saint-Honoré boutique for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Emmanuelle Varron, Senior contributor with contributions from Michelyn

 Serge Lutens La Proie pour l'Ombre sample

sample photo by Emmanuelle©

Thanks to Serge Lutens, we have a 1 ml sample of Serge La Proie Pour l’Ombre for one registered reader worldwide (remember, it’s not globally launched yet!). To be eligible, please leave a comment on what appeals to you about Emmanuelle’s review and which Serge Lutens perfume is for you the most “Lutensian. Draw closes 08/16/2021.


 Serge Lutens Palais-Royal boutique

Serge Lutens Palais-Royal boutique by Emmanuelle©

“Avant-première” buy or test in Paris, at Serge Lutens Palais-Royal and Saint-Honoré boutiques, Le Bon Marché, Printemps Haussmann and Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann department stores.

Available from 1st September 2021, in selective perfumeries and department stores worldwide.

Other fragrances in the Gratte-Ciel collection include Tubereuse Criminelle, and de Profundis

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