Thursday, October 19, 2006

Serge Lutens Les Eaux Boisées

You may notice that Serge's new web site has re-organized the scents into (I think) more suitable categories. Today I'm doing brief reviews of the legendary Eaux Boisées, or wood-based scents, four of which started the Paris exclusives line as variations on the famous Féminité Du Bois (Lutens, Chris Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon). All were created by Lutens and Sheldrake and the available notes and launch dates are listed.

Santal de Mysore: (1997) Mysore sandalwood, cumin, spices, styrax balsam, carmelized Siamese benzoin. Many Serge scents smell like candied and curried fruits, but Santal de Mysore takes the prize in this regard. The dramatic, linear sillage of this one gradually wore me down; it smells like a sweeter, more baroque version of the initial moments of Santal Blanc from the export collection. Heresy though it may be, I prefer the balance of freshness and smoothness in the heart and base notes of Santal Blanc to the relentless assault of this one.

Bois Oriental: (1992) Cedar, Moroccan spices, vanilla, styrax balsam. Perfumistas often discuss their hunt for the coveted, elusive "Your Own Skin/Scent But Better" fragrance. This has always irked me, since I'm not one to appreciate extremely subtle, low-sillage or "close to the skin" scents - I don't want to spend $160 to smell like myself. After the pleasantly dusty top notes of Serge spice, Bois Oriental melds so seamlessly to my skin that I smell like... well, me but better. I smell clean and warm, but not really like perfume. It's nice - nicer than I expected actually and I would consider purchasing a bell jar of this one if it were not for the dozen other scents (including at least five from Serge, export and exclusive lines) that I really need.

Bois de Violette: (1992) Cedar, violet leaves and flowers. Luca Turin's top-tener and the popular favourite, Bois de Violette was to be the perfume that changed my mind about violets. Initially, it did not. Smelling wonderfully unique, peppery-powdery and assertive in the sample vial, this looked as if it would be every inch the "Defiant Cedar" that Serge described and I desperately wanted. Upon sampling, however, it seemed sour-sweet, old-fashioned and sharp and I mourned. Several weeks and a new sample vial later, I smelled romantic, mysterious and poetically doomed, like some mortal in Greek mythology, condemned to haunt night forests for a transgression of love. Oh, so that is what the fuss is all about. My first vial must have gone skunky (or at least that's what I'm telling myself.) It's still not "me" - but, really, who cares?

Un Bois Sépia: (1994) Cypress, oakmoss, vetiver, opoponax, Indonesian patchouli leaves, sandalwood. Oft dismissed as the most conventional of the collection, this one is indeed a bit conservative. Easily the most masculine scent of the bunch, its originality suffers only in comparison to the others; it is dry, bracing and elegant, the sort of thing for a no-nonsense Hepburn-type in pants and vest, striding along the ocean beaches or hiking path. "Tweed" indeed, Mr. Lutens.

Bois et Musc: (1992) Moroccan Atlas cedar, musk. A breath of cool mountain air and the most cedar-ish of the bunch, this was my initial favourite from the Féminité du Bois four, before Bois de Violette re-appeared to knock me senseless. Serge's textile comparisons are normally very good, but his tag for Bois et Musc on the new site - "A felt-like cedar" - seems wrong. I prefer the original: "Caressing, true, calm, persistent." The most contemplative scent of the collection, it suits the current season and my baby-walking lifestyle.

Bois et Fruits: (1992) Cedar, peach, apricot, plum, fig. This cornucopia has been disserviced by: a) its close similarity to the original Féminité; and b) its legion of successors. After the Mother of All Bois, Bourdon went on to create the duskier, peachy-sweet Dolce Vita for Christian Dior, and this is a less sharp, more affordable version of Bois et Fruits. Miller et Bertaux's Parfum Trouve (#1) is a rosier follower, also excellent and also cheaper and more available. I would purchase both before investing in this one.

Chêne: (2004) Oak-bark tannin, cedar-wood crystals, birch, immortelle, sap, black thyme, beeswax, tonka bean, rum, moss/undergrowth. If I eventually felt lyrical about Bois de Violette, I was immediately struck dumb by this one, which was originally part of Les Somptueux. Sometimes Serge's pompous hippie marketing descriptions confound me - the fabulous desert wind of Chergui is bafflingly described as "a long and supple fragrance, a crystal-like floral" on the new site - but sometimes they are pitch-perfect and concise. Chêne is "the comfort and magnitude of oak." Bitter, cool, abstract yet natural, and just plain big, it has an immediate evocative force. The lasting power is excellent, the sillage is personal without being undetectable by others. It is a dream-like fragrance, the archetype of what a Serge Lutens scent should be.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cross posting

I have been a terrible blogger. I'm trying to prevent my daughter from napping during the day, so that she will sleep at night and I have had few chances to post. That will be remedied in the next week. Today I have a guest post on skin chemistry over at Perfume-Smellin' Things. Feel free to cruise on over and enjoy Marina's well-maintained blog!