Ah, bread! Oh, bakeries! Unless a doctor tells me I’ll start to disintegrate — quickly — if I don’t stop eating white flour, I shall munch my way through many more loaves, rolls, cakes, and cookies in my lifetime. When I was a little boy I had strange ideas about bread. Though my live-in grandmother made fresh breads once, or sometimes twice, a day, I felt “homemade” bread was no better than a homemade belt (Jethro Bodine, anyone?) or a homemade pair of shoes (the horror!) I was a clueless little snob. As the rest of my family (and neighbors and friends) devoured my grandmother’s biscuits, I insisted on store-bought bread for my meals: a soft/doughy, sweet mess/mass called Sunbeam.
Serge Lutens’ new Jeux de Peau (“skin games”) was supposedly inspired by childhood scent-memories of warm, crusty breads at little Serge's local boulangerie. Though I’m a bit tired of food-y scents at the moment, and associate most of them with winter (please, no more cocoa or tonka bean for awhile, perfumers), my nose was “open” to the possibilities of a bread fragrance.
Depending on what you read, Jeux de Peau contains (perhaps): a wheat note, a “toasted” note, coconut (or is it cocoa?), licorice, apricot, immortelle, sandalwood, incense, and amber. Jeux de Peau starts off smelling sweet (think caramelized sugar) and toasty; in its first minutes on skin, Jeux de Peau smells like sticky buns glazed with maple syrup. There’s also a rich and dense aroma that pops up briefly, bringing to mind coconut macaroons. A toasted bread note intensifies and “dries” the fragrance in mid-development, evaporating some of that “moist” sugar. Jeux de Peau’s base notes smell of “fresh,” nutty sandalwood (very pleasant, and tinged with what smells like osmanthus) and a breezy/sheer amber accord — not at all heavy.
I would categorize Jeux de Peau as “cute” and “fun” but too good (and complex) to be simply a “novelty” fragrance; it’s a “freshly baked” idea put successfully into perfume form. Since I have nothing quite like this perfume in my collection, I'm thinking of adding it to my to-buy list for autumn (which isn’t to say Jeux de Peau is too heavy for summer, but my warm-weather fragrance diet usually consists more of citrus-y and light floral sorbets than “breads” and pastries). For a full tea house experience layer Jeux de Peau with Five O’Clock au Gingembre.
Thankfully, my palate matured, and I eventually learned the worth of real bread, to the extent that no matter where I travel in the world, I always visit a bakery or two as soon as I arrive in a new city — even before searching out perfume shops. Imagine!
Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau Eau de Parfum (definitely unisex, decent sillage, long lasting on skin) is $120 for 50 ml; for buying information, see the listing for Serge Lutens under Perfume Houses.