It’s been a while since I have written about a Serge Lutens perfume, but I would seem to be the ideal candidate for Des Clous Pour Une Pelure (nails for a peel; i.e a clove-studded orange). I love both notes. I love nutmeg. And I love this blue bottle.

The scent itself has a certain fresh, untrended appeal – a bit left of centre, a bit ‘out of the middle of nowhere’, probably best suited to deep winter, although I don’t find it warming or lovely enough to be entirely cherishable. The base is a woody spiced, delicately ambered scent that takes me back to gingery men’s fragrances of the 80’s such as Ricci Club and Versace Pour L’Homme – wearable, easy going – it would make quite a nice daytime scent for just hanging out.

The top is very cloved, initially, with a fresh, grapefruity-orange-mandarin note that should feel natural and harmonious with the spices but which personally reminds me of brightly coloured Christmas candles – I don’t feel the peel is correctly studded with the spicy nails; that something is slightly off.

Monsieur Lutens has always been playful and capricious, though, making some interestingly odd little perfumes : he also likes to rejig his collection every once in a while – putting the bottles in entirely different flacons, reformulating them, rearranging the prices – in a sometimes seemingly ad hoc fashion.

Louve, Tubéreuse Criminelle, and Borneo 1834 – three of my favourites from the line – are now in these gratte-ciel skyscraper bottles and are more than twice as expensive (about ¥34,000) as those in the ‘new’ Collection of Politeness ( ¥14,500 – much more doable) which features Des Clous Pour Une Pelure, alongside some golden oldies such as Fleurs De Citronnier, Santal Blanc, Gris Clair, the cold and metallic LEau Froide and L’Eau Paille, and the abisinthine, more herbal and smoky Eau Armoise which I have yet to smell ( I can’t believe I haven’t been to Tokyo in over a year……)

A slight release, then, but one with its own particular idiosyncrasies that will probably find its own niche, quite good for a ‘spiced beginner’ if not destined to become a Lutensian Classic. At the end of the day, the prolific Serge Lutens is always bound by aesthetics – I could buy this perfume for the bottle alone – because he is a true aesthete at heart and always has been.

And I have to say I do love him for that.


Filed under clove, Spice


  1. One look and I immediately loved the bottle. I have at least 16 bottle of Serge Lutens fragrances all in the 1.7 bottle of old. I also have three bell jars. I would say that Uncle Serge is the one responsible for me to delve into niche perfumes and I still love quite a few of his originals. However, I can’t say that I have even sampled any of his latest ones. I believe the newest one I own is L’Orphaline or La Religiouse (sp.) whichever was the most recent of the two. I do have to start wearing the ones I have before they all go bad. So far, nary a one has turned and they are all quite aged.

    • Yes – they are quite good like that I think; that original quality. I like both those last two you mention up to a certain point – but haven’t LOVED anything of his for quite a long time.

  2. The description reminded me of Histoire d’Eau by Mauboussin, which I bought for the bottle without having smelled it, although now having looked it up again the spice is cardamom instead of clove. Not my thing at all. I like the pictures you’ve chosen to go with this!

    • Thanks. Serge Lutens’ makeup for Dior (I think). I love cardamom, and don’t think it has ever been done proper justice in a perfume.

      Are we pretentious to consider buying perfumes purely for the bottles? I don’t necessarily think so (one thing I have never truly understood is people who buy EMPTY perfume bottles to collect, unless they are absolutely stunning porcelain creations etc. Some people actually buy empty L’Air Du Temps bottles etc and I can’t relate at all).


  3. Tara C

    I quite like this one and will admit the colour of the juice was part of the appeal. I hate the Gratte-Ciel bottles (he seems to have a thing for tippy flacons) – not only are they unstable, the print is impossible to read (tiny, black on black). But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for his scents which were a significant part of my niche journey.

    • I think all of us feel the same.

      I didn’t know that the black bottles – which kind of appeal to me, I must say – are ‘tippy’. That would be a total no-no for a blunderbuss like me. It would be spilled before I even got home. Which ones do you have? In my case, I can’t contend with the idea that the prices just randomly almost tripled for the ones I like but the scents are half the strength…

      • Tara C

        I have Borneo, Louve, Fumerie Turque, L’Innommable and MKK in the Gratte-Ciel bottles. And yes the prices are completely insane. They used to be so reasonable! I remember paying 90€ for a bell jar way back when. Fortunately my collection is so ridiculously huge I will never run out of any of them. I have no idea what I am going to do with all these bottles.

      • Just bask among them and revel in their glory. I get HUGE satisfaction just staring at mine – and I am sure I have no way near as many as you – but just the combined collection gives me a powerful pleasure.

        I haven’t smelled L’Innomable I don’t think. Only in passing when my nose was too full to smell anything else at Isetan in Shinjuku.

        What is it like?

      • Tara C

        L’innommable is a combination of benzoin, frankincense and a resinous, ambery dry down with a hint of cumin. Pretty much only suitable for winter. I checked and I also have Cuir Mauresque.

      • I have that also and have worn it twice !

        I wish I had Fourreau Noir instead

  4. Uncle Serge is always up to something new. I thought being a little bit off was part of Lutens’ charm? From Harrod’s: ” perfume bottle’s emerald hue intensifies the beguiling appeal.” I don’t know, none of Mr. Lutens fragrances have appealed to me enough to justify the price.

    • I agree about the something being off thing with many SLs, but usually in a stimulating way. I think it is just my personal perspective – I don’t feel the orange note is quite right here – but I can imagine others loving the bright orange cordial aspect. The black bottles are completely beyond my price range, but when they used to be in the $100 orbit I did collect a few over time and rather enjoyed them.

  5. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Way above my head both financially and qua stAture (?): the bottle would be living dangerously among all the junk in my overcrowded house!
    But I like reading your comments: that leaves almost an impression of smelling and sniffing by proxy. Like hearing the murmuring of a conversation that one is not part of; it feels comfortable and comforting both, without actually taking part. It takes me back to my youth when I could hear people talking but would dream along on my own.

    • I LOVE this idea and know exactly what you mean. Pleasant prattle out of earshot; muffled but good humoured; it is nice we can even be having such chit chat about oranges and cloves given the terrors of the last year….. x

  6. I have adored Oncle Serge fragrances since he worked with Shiseido and involved in Feminite du Bois, then of course as soon as the Salons du Palais Royal opened I had to purchase the first scents.
    I am not as smitten with all of his newer releases as I was with his earlier offerings, but I do adore La Couche du Diable, and Des Clous pour une Pelure, which is a great scent to just spritz on and go. I will also have to chime in with Tara C on how “tippy” his Gratte Ciel bottles are. Just trying to put the bottle down, after using the tester, almost ended in a domino-like experience; they are quite unstable. The writining on them is almost impossible to read as well. If you never needed a magnifying glass before, you will for these. All in all, I would probably purchase one when I run out of what I now have, such as Cuir Mauresque or Musks Kublai Khan, which I adore so much.
    All the photos you have included are gorgeous, and the book cover at the top is the book I just ordered for my birthday. It is all about Christian Dior adverts through the years, including many by Serge. I just love it!!!

    • Me too. Pure style!

      Glad you like the Clous: the orange note works for you? This is one of the very rare occasions on which I feel I could do a better job myself. I am a total clove freak: recently I have been making and burning incense sticks coated in patchouli and clove essential oils- pretty intense. You have to pity Duncan sometimes.

      • Yes, the orange note worked on my skin. I tend to sweeten and enrichen most fragrances I wear, so the orange became sweeter, and the clove more pronoounced. I have to say though, it is not a landmark fragrance by any means, so I am sure you could have created something far more exquisite with the ingredients used in it.
        I too adore clove, I use it very often in cooking; making many Indian meals, I use 6-8 cloves instead of the usual 3-4. I just can’t get enough!! I would adore having incense of patchouli and clove burning, sounds so relaxing and comforting. I am sorry that poor D does not love the scent as much as you. I would think he would enjoy it though, it seems it would destress after a long day.

      • He has no choice in the matter!

  7. Robin

    Damn, I just wrote a reply and lost it. Oh, well, off to bed. Thanks for another interesting piece, dear N.

    • It is horrendous when that happens ( more and more to me recently ); tech stress is like no other. I have lost entire posts I have spent whole days on and been speechless

    • Robin

      Ah, I thought it was just me. It is SO discouraging somehow, having to do the same thing twice, only with the original thing to have to shoot for, when it’s not really in the memory banks. Stress, yes, disproportionate too, it feels. Thanks for commiserating.

      Short form: I am not pleased with Serge Luten’s pathetic reformulations of his original brilliant compositions, reduced to 20% of their complexity and intensity, prices raised in proportion to quality reduced, so seeing fancy new packaging and new releases — especially if Neil Chapman is somewhat less than ecstatic about them — doesn’t get me too excited: in fact, I’m just reminded of earlier, lost glories of the house, and re-pissed-off.

      But I love that teal colour.

      • A teal orange – clearly he is still slightly perverse.

        Watered down versions – who needs them? We are the same – we know, and cannot be duped. All prickliness and savour had been removed – just a water stain.

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