A River Runs Through It – Review: Serge Lutens Jeux De Peau

I have been rediscovering my love for woody perfumes these past weeks, and Jeux de Peau is one of the best. Here is my review from last year to refresh your memory and maybe make you take out your old sample once more…

The good people of Serge Lutens offered to send a sample of their newest release Jeux de Peau to the recipients of their newsletter. Of course I couldn’t be fast enough in sending off my answer of “Yes, please!”. The coveted sample took its sweet time and an extra round in the Austrian mail system until it arrived on my doorstep on the day of the international release.

That way I had the chance to read many reviews before I smelled it, and they all fed my curiosity and incredulity, I had no idea what to expect, so many different descriptions, so many images evoked. But what everyone seemed to state unanimously was the presence of the scent of buttered pastry. Yum, I am all for eating pastry, but do I really feel the need to smell like a croissant?

Okay, the first sniff -

I had to laugh out loud! The first whiff is indeed delicious! Fresh, warm, sweet baked goods, a caramel note that is a little burnt, the sweet air of a bakery store.

But, BIG but, for me this lovely bakery scenario last all of two minutes, if that, then Jeux de Peau starts to veer in other, no less interesting, but non-baked goods associated directions for me. And a what good thing that is!

What is most prominent to my nose is a spicy celery note and then a blooming of fruity-apricot scented osmanthus. The woody backdrop of sandal wood lies there soft and warm, as a rich, yet never overpowering canvas upon which, a little dance of spicy, almost incense-y at times and slightly sweet puffs of air takes place. They hush in and out of my awareness.

Jeux de Peau is almost linear, but not steady. There is constant movement, like a river of scent that seems still, but is alive with thousand of tiny waves and movements, over stones and past outcroppings of the shore, over sandbanks and deeper pools, over smooth pebbles and jagged rocks.

The perfume has uncharacteristically low sillage (for a Lutens), it wears close to the skin, paying tribute to its name, but it lasts for a long time. With every wear I seem to note something different, a 1 ml sample does not last long, and I am lucky I got a second one from a perfume store, but even two samples are not enough. With this scent it will take several more wearings to sniff out all the nuances. The last time I wore it I got a distinctly salty, savory bread note in the drydown that I had previously missed.

Jeux de Peau is a gourmand scent in the very best sense of the genre. This is no bakery to me, this is the idea of a bakery, filtered and refined, rendered abstract, removed from reality, seen through the eyes of an artist and thus becoming something else, something higher – art.

Once more – while fully prepared to not like this, to be sceptical, to chart it all up to hype, to imagine M. Lutens sitting and having a good laugh about all of us scrambling and falling over ourselves to get our hands and noses on his newest offering (and no doubt he is smirking a little at least!), I am impressed. Impressed with the depth of this creation, with the artistic rendering of an idea, with the so much more refined execution of something that could have ended up mundane and literal in lesser hands.

Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens are indeed a dream team, I imagine them communicating on a basis by now that is above speech. Sheldrake’s masterful execution of Lutens ideas, the minute direction of every technical step of the creation by Lutens – as I imagine it at least, I don’t know the first thing about their actual method of working – seems to me like a perfect pairing.

I have many perfumes in my collection, and many of them are by Serge Lutens. You could say I am a fan, but by no means an indiscriminate one. I have as many Scents of Horror that came out of the Palais Royal as I have beloved fragrances. (see Perfume Reviews for other Lutens perfumes)

But I have nothing that is similar to Jeux de Peau. It is undeniably Lutensian/Lutenesque, there is the signature of other creations in Jeux de Peau, it is clearly part of the oeuvre. It is like recognizing a Mozart composition even if you have never heard this particular concerto (although Mozart is probably not the best comparison, Bruckner or Mahler would be more fitting). But despite the recognizability as part of something bigger, Jeux de Peau is the most unique fragrance I have encountered in a long time.

The image of a river is certainly not what comes to mind for many people, but it is what this scent evoked in me and the longer I think about it the more it fits. It is a quiet, but powerful perfume, it looks innocent but it has the power to drown you, you need to be able to swim, then you will fully enjoy its pleasures.

After the initial delight with those yummy top notes that are no more than a gimmick, a little joke on the part of the master, Jeux de Peau took its time to reel me in, I was not enamored from the first wearing. But by the third time, I was smitten.

You may have read about my bottle embargo, so sadly the only chance I have to get a full size of Jeux de Peau is, when somebody gives it to me. (Maybe somebody who recently got a car?!) I want need have to have would very much like to add it to my collection.

For times when I need reassurance, something to hold onto that is complex and deep, but soft and cozy at the same time, Jeux de Peau seems perfect.

If you are in doubt about this perfume (as I was before I really got to know it), it is worth your time. I am glad Lutens has created something so strange, yet likable, so unique, yet wearable.

Try Jeux de Peau! You know you want to! :)

Image source: sergelutens.com, Jordan River Courtesy of Photo8.com
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About Olfactoria

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This entry was posted in Fragrance Reviews, Gourmand, Oriental, Serge Lutens, Woods and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to A River Runs Through It – Review: Serge Lutens Jeux De Peau

  1. Dubaiscents says:

    How funny, I just bought a bottle of this yesterday! I think it smells like kettle corn (caramel popcorn?) but, in a better way :-). I loved it immediately and can’t wait to wear it in the winter (not that we really have winter here). I call it my “comfort scent”. Of course, I checked this review before taking the plunge on a FB. Hope you are enjoying your vacation, I tried some Eau d’Italie and thought of you.

    • Olfactoria says:

      Ha, we have similar taste indeed. :)
      Caramel popcorn sounds delicious, I’d love some right now, but after all the Pasta and Gelato I’ve eaten in the past three days, it’s a good thing I have none.

  2. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Sounds like the whole kitchen is in there – and although I’m an avid cook Jeux de Peau didn’t work on me. Just like the recent releases of SL didn’t. I’m all for his older pieces though…

  3. Zubi d'Nova / Melissa de Blok says:

    Funny. This was my first Serge Lutens on skin, and I thought it was gross, haha! Then I started liking it during the drydown, and was amazed to still find it on my skin the next morning. After fruity florals, I was like, “WOAH!”.

    Now, I am not sure I like it. It has everything I want, but there is a note in there that makes me iffy. I shall retest properly thanks to you. :)

  4. masha7 says:

    I bake a breakfast bread with Lebanese 7-spice powder each week, and when it’s baking, it smells EXACTLY like Jeux de Peau. Lebanese 7 Spice powder has nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, and mahleb, which has a cherry/almond aroma. So I really like JdP as a perfume, but don’t need it, since I already smell it coming from my oven! SL would definitely know about this spice powder and bread, and it makes me wonder…no osmanthus in breakfast bread, though.

  5. Amy Bella says:

    The first time I tried this I thought I was hallucinating… celery??? Really? The note is very prominent on me, but I love it! Jeux de Peau is so cozy and delicious and more savory than sweet. I see a full bottle in my future at some point, too.

  6. Philipp says:

    I still have my sample in my “winter fragrances” box… waiting to be tested again. Between Jeux and Praline de Santal (two gourmand-ish sandalwoods) I prefer the latter.

    • Olfactoria says:

      I have both and I think the PG is more overtly gourmand. Both are gorgeous though.

    • Praline de Santal is a very interesting comparison – I adore the opening of that one, but I just find it has NO staying power whatsoever (or I’d have a bottle by now).
      Jeux De Peau is a very clever fragrane, I really like it and will probably end up with a bottle one day.
      Santal Majascule has a veryyyyy similar vibe going on with the gourmand sandlewood, and although I have dismissed it very quickly – (when my sample arrives) I’ll be sure to test it proper and I think I may prefer the cocoa rose over the apricot/anise/sandalwood of JdP :)

  7. Undina says:

    I really like JdP, it was my first SL’s perfume (just a decant, not a full bottle). I still have half of the decant and will get more once it’s gone. Just this morning I was sniffing it and thinking if I wanted to wear it but then I decided it was too hot for it.

    You used to write longer reviews! See – you’re becoming an even better writer! :)

    • Olfactoria says:

      I prefer JdP in cooler weather as well, which we had plenty of this summer. ;)

      Regarding your last sentence, do you mean it’s better to say what I have to say in less, but more concise words?

      • Undina says:

        From what I got working in a magazine (IT, have nothing to do with writing – other than having a lot of writers and editors around), the better writer/reporter you are the more precise you are with your descriptions and the less words you need to convey the same amount of information.
        So, what I was trying to say: obviously you’re getting more masterful (not that I complained before) :)

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