Douce Amère (Serge Lutens)

Solanum dulcamara, AKA woody nightshade or bittersweet, is a perennial shrub native to Eurasia but commonly found flourishing in backlots and alleyways worldwide. Its violet-and-gold "shooting star" flowers are beloved by children; its juicy scarlet berries are popular with birds, and its long, straggling vines -- once believed to repel the Evil Eye -- were considered indispensable by shepherds, who fashioned them into wreaths to protect livestock from passing malediction.

Like many members of the Solanaceae order, bittersweet (douce-amère in French) contains the toxic alkaloid solanine in its berries.  Death by solanine poisoning is a horrid way to go.  Nausea, vomiting, and wracking pains lead to hallucinatory delirium, bodily paralysis, and cardiopulmonary arrest.   In past centuries, witnesses to such a dramatic demise naturally blamed it on witchcraft-- and woe betide any healer, however competent, who administered bittersweet with too free a hand.

There's no danger of either bewitchment or overdose with Douce Amère, a rather sad perfume hiding behind a wonderfully menacing name.  It's nothing more than the half-strength precursor of the vastly superior Un Bois Vanille, a fragrance as fetchingly bitter as it is compellingly sweet.  The two perfumes share anisic and woody notes as points of intersection, but whereas Un Bois Vanille heads off bravely into blistering-hot dark-roast territory, Douce Amère stays safely decaffeinated-- and boring.  All I could say after applying it to my skin was "So what?"

Un Bois Vanille came three years after Douce Amère and accordingly has three times more of everything its predecessor could boast-- including emotional resonance.   You might as well get the complete version straight away, and bypass the half-baked prototype.

Scent Elements: Cinnamon, artemisia absinthium, anise, lily, jasmine, tiare flower, tagetes, cedar, musk