Gingerbread. Delicious, right? Sure. But the stuff of luxury scents?
Serge Lutens certainly seems to think so. In his new scent, Baptême Du Feu (or Baptism By Fire), the now 74-year-old award-winning perfumer and art director puts gingerbread’s lightly spiced sweetness front and centre.
Created in partnership with Lutens’ long-time collaborator Christopher Sheldrake, Baptême Du Feu is the latest in a series of gourmand fragrances that also includes Five O’clock Au Gingembre, Un Bois Vanille and Jeux De Peau. So far, so straightforward.
But this is Serge Lutens, the man who – prior to working for French Vogue and shaping a visual identity for Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido to turn it into an instantly recognisable, globally successful brand – was described as being “on the moon” by his schoolteachers. Which goes some way in explaining why – instead of a press release announcing a budget-busting celebrity-packed ad campaign – Lutens launches his scents with bizarrely worded blurbs that are more poems than press releases. For example:
“My emotion is fluid. Like wax that flows into a mold, it solidifies what attracted me, here, this heart of gingerbread…”
So it’s probably not, having read the above, surprising to learn that theories as to what inspired Baptême Du Feu abound. Some claim it takes its cue from the confectionery Lutens gorged on at fun fairs as a child, a kind of trip down memory lane for the nose. Others, however, take the fragrance’s campaign imagery as a clue to its origins, arguing that this image, plus the maroon colour of the fragrance itself, suggests it’s intended as an olfactory commentary on our increasingly trigger-happy, weaponised society. Your run-of-the-mill spritz, this is not.
So what of the fragrance itself? Well, it’s similarly complex; an amorphous tangle of gingerbread (undoubtedly there, but it’s more potpourri than pudding), tangerine, the distinctively antiseptic-floral quality of castoreum and the fruity scent of osmanthus all resting on a bed of woody notes.
It doesn’t, however, really smell like the gourmand fragrance it’s being marketed as – it swaps a gourmand’s saliva-inducing edibleness for something that’s enticingly sweet, sure, but still somehow metallic, like it’s been laced with something.
And that’s exactly what makes it worth buying. Serge Lutens is nothing if not a man of surprises. Don’t be surprised when his fragrances turn out to be the same.
Available from Liberty, priced £95 for 50ml eau de parfum.
Bottle: A rectangular glass vial; filled with liquid the colour of a donut’s jammy filling, or something more sinister.
Fragrance notes: Gingerbread, gunpowder, tangerine, castoreum, osmanthus, woody notes.
Best for: Men who like their scents to tell stories.