How this clean, subtle lavender scent captured the nose of a non-floral enthusiast.


Photography ByDREW ESCRIVA

I’ve never been a fan of floral fragrances. Rose, lavender, jasmine, peony—visually, I’m attracted, but they don’t satisfy my olfactory system. My nose, by nature, is intrigued by woody notes (I love a burning campfire) or anything reminiscent of sea salt and sunscreen (I was raised in Dallas and dreamed of living seaside).

My hostility towards flowery perfumes was exacerbated by the fact that, growing up, my mother worked for Donna Karan fragrances and would come home each night clouded in an intensity of roses and gardenias. Those potent concoctions filled every room in the house, leaving a lingering—albeit invisible—trail behind her. Since then, I’ve always cringed a little at anything harnessing the (overpowering) power of flowers.

But all that changed last fall when I was introduced to a blooming masterpiece that I could actually wrap my head around. Six months before the launch, the team at Serge Lutens brought me to Paris to unveil their latest scent, Gris Clair, at their new boutique on Rue Saint Honoré. One sniff, and surprisingly, I was hooked. At first, it smelled like Brittany bottled, reminiscent of the salty sea breeze and spirit of Saint-Malo after a storm. The dry-down, however, revealed a surprising secret: Lavender, at its base, is what gives this multidimensional smell its bewitching and lingering depth. More specifically, dried lavender embers gently warmed by the sun’s rays. With additional notes of smoky amber, tonka bean, and incense, it’s not a far cry from those earthy attributes I have always gravitated towards, but with a simultaneously fresh—and yes, flowery—finish that happens to be equally alluring on both men and women.

It’s one of those fragrances that isn’t instantly recognizable, which I love. But it reels you in after a single whiff. For all my fellow floral nonconformists out there, this bud’s for you.