One Thousand Scents

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brisk: CSP Bois de Filao

There are times when I wish I could try scents completely blind, not knowing who manufactured them, who designed them, what was in them, what their bottle or box looked like. There isn't any other way to have a truly unbiased idea of what the scent is, uncontaminated by expectations ("It's the new Beckham scent so it's probably crap" versus "I am so pumped to try the new Chanel!"). I even thought I might try an experiment, taking a dozen or so vials of things I hadn't review yet and reviewing them completely blind. (I aborted it at the thought-experiment stage: it didn't pan out for various reasons.)

But a scent and its universe are all of a piece, inseparable, so all you can do is try to get past your prejudices and consider the scent for itself--what it's like on the skin and in the air.

All this occurred to me as I was inhaling and thinking about Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Bois de Filao, which I've been wearing for a couple of years now. Would I like it as much if it were the latest Escada young-men's scent? If I could buy it in a drugstore for thirteen dollars and change, would it still smell any good to me, or would I be railing about how cheap it was, how completely like every other men's scent?

I honestly think the answer is no, because--and this is true of a lot of niche scents--Bois de Filao has a certain weirdness about it; it doesn't smell like the usual fresh-ozonic-citric fragrance peddled to the eighteen-to-thirty-five men's market, because it isn't.

Bois de FIlao opens with a sharp, almost fizzy citrus note wrapped up in bone-dry papyrus. In the core is an equally dry greenness allied to that ubiquitous clean patchouli plus a sharp glitter that derives from the also ubiquitous baie rose, which sounds in English as if it ought to be a floral note ("bay rose"?) but is in fact pink peppercorn, "rose" being the French word for "pink" and "baie" meaning "berry". The base is warm but unsweet, with woody notes, more patchouli, and a clear crystalline amber: I love sweet, luscious amber as much as the next person (more, probably), but sometimes it's nice to experience a scent that doesn't turn into a pool of syrup at the end. It lasts for hours and hours, and it stays amazingly there the whole time; it doesn't just wimp out near the end.

BdF is marketed more or less as a unisex scent, and a patchouli-loving female friend of mine wears it, but it most definitely reads as a men's fragrance. It's crisp and upright: though it doesn't actually say "autumn", it's a great scent to wear when the air is cooling around you and the leaves and crunching underfoot.

(It just occurred to me that I wrote this entire review without even saying what "bois de filao" means, is, or smells like. It's French for "filao wood", which in English is known as ironwood. I have no idea what ironwood smells like on its own; it's also in Givenchy's Pi, but I can't find any point of similarity between the two scents.)


  • I think the same things all the time!

    I'd like to smell and review some fragrances blind - without knowing what I'm supposed to be smelling. I think we are all impacted so much by ad copy and brand mystique. But, then again, I'd have to do the blind experiment to really know the truth.

    By Blogger Abigail, at 8:22 PM  

  • I only got to know Bois de Filao yesterday - wouldn't have thought it a men's fragrance,ever! Am going to buy it if Dsquared She Wood doesn't appeal.

    By Anonymous Joanna, at 9:52 AM  

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