Calorification or…All buttered up and no pain to go!


– a review of Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau

In an ideal world, there would be no such emotion as…guilt. And no such thing as calories, either. Just run with that thought for a moment…Fancy all the chocolate you could possibly eat, and you would never see it on your thighs. Fancy every sinful thing to stuff in your mouth…every dessert, every bit of patisserie item, every napoleon, every Sacher torte and cheesecake and whipped-cream indulgence you can find room for – and it would never, ever show! No frantic calculations on the treadmill, no panting, gasping, red-faced run up That Hill And That Vertical Stairway– the one that nearly kills you, it’s so steep – as you pay your penance for indulging all your lowest sugar-laden cravings the day before.

What a concept! What a world! As we all know and only too well, that’s just not how it happens, alas.

Or is it? Because now the Great Punster himself, Serge Lutens, has unleashed ‘Jeux de Peau” upon a suspicious-minded perfumed planet, and because I strongly suspect an imp hiding in that elegant French gentleman, I rather suspect the joke is on…us!

We Who Would Dare To Indulge…If Only.

‘Jeux de Peau’ is itself a pun…a ‘play on skin’ that is a play on the French expression ‘jeux de mots’ – a play on words. In other words…a pun. When my sample arrived, it also arrived with an elegant beige and black card, and the enigmatic quote:

“A first response to solitude: hot bread.”

I’ve done my penitence in a bakery – literally – and during one of the hottest summers on record, so I know a thing or two about “hot bread”. I know about things like the acrid scent of fresh-milled flour and the smell of sugar burned borderline black, and pastries pulled out of ovens not two minutes before, oozing their buttery, flaky secrets, singing in their cinnamon-perfumed soprano voices:

“Eat us. You know you want to!”

So…is this pastry in a bottle? All the indulgence and none of the calories, less of the guilt? Toast or pain perdu on a solitary bed on a Sunday morning when you finally kicked him out and you’re left alone in splendid bliss to crunch toast all over the bed as you read the Sunday papers and drip jam and butter on the duvet?

No.

Remember, Monsieur Lutens loves his puns. This was very much not what I expected, but quite a bit more.

Right out of the bottle, that burnt note leaps forward, the genie in the bottle, and it is dark and it is gorgeous and when was the last time I ate toast, even? Burnt, buttery…and smoky sandalwood, and I can’t believe it, but is that coffee?
Yes. With loads of sugar, or is that caramel? It is! Burnt, sandalwood, caramel, coffee and I’m thinking this is a very sexy breakfast (he wasn’t kicked out!), and then comes the moment I have to laugh. Laugh at my overheated imagination, and laugh at this perfume, and that doesn’t happen often!

On stealthy feet, a luscious, sweet, cinnamon-tinged osmanthus exudes its honeyed apricot and begins to bloom. It grows lusher and sweeter, the epitome of Apricot, before it cedes center stage after a long while to the sandalwood – hello, lover, where have you been? – and cinnamon drydown, a touch of musk and maybe myrrh that lasts and lasts. And lasts. This is a Lutens, after all.

Whee! What a rush! And that’s just breakfast, baby!

Not very overpowering or even particularly sweet, ‘Jeux de Peau’ has dessert in its soul, but not in its heart. It’s the whole breakfast tray and that devastating sandalwood too, and therein lies yet another pun on the name itself. ‘A Play On Skin’.

It will take days to wipe this lascivious grin off my face. Days, I tell you!

This is a gourmand, an Oriental gourmand, but it is not your usual gourmand. It is unexpected, unisex, elegant, and like so many Serge Lutens creations, a journey, a story, a vignette or tableau in a bottle.

I was expecting the boulangerie. Instead, I got the morning after. With a laughing osmanthus thrown in.

Uncle Serge did not let me down. And although I know the joke is all on me (and the duvet, and the breakfast tray, and…), I forgive him everything!

Think about it – how many puns have you met contained in bottles? 😉