One Thousand Scents

Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Time

I'm trying to post twice a week starting in February. Still every Friday, but with luck and perseverance, also on Monday or Tuesday. We'll see how that goes.

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If you're a niche firm, it helps to have a gimmick of some sort. État Libre D'Orange's is to give their scents provocative names like Putain des Palaces (Hotel Slut), Don't Get Me Wrong Baby I Don't Swallow, and Sécretions Magnifiques, with borderline-pornographic labels to match. Bond No. 9's is to name their scents after (and base them on) various parts of New York City (and why hasn't some French house done the same, with the various quartiers and arondissements?).

Ginestet's gimmick is...well, just look at this bottle.

I mean, just look at it!

That's not wine: it's a fragrance called Le Boisé, with the sprayer under that red cap that looks like the foil cap on a wine bottle. And it comes in a wooden coffret, like some really rare, precious vintage! If you can look at that and not think that you have to at least try it if not own it outright, then there's probably no sense in reading further.

Le Boisé* opens with a whole lot of wood. It's meant to be evocative of the oak casks that wine** is aged in, but it doesn't smell of oak to me. Instead, there's a big wall of cedar and sandalwood, in that order: the cedar dominates for a while, and then eventually cowers in the face of the sandalwood. A slight fruity note suggestive of wine grapes and a little curlicue of spice are also present at the beginning, but they don't last.

And that's just about it. A bit of vanillic warmth in the later stages keeps the scent alive, but mostly it's all wood, very dry and austere, and actually pretty stunning. I'm working on a sample of Le Boisé, and the more I wear it, the more I want to own it--not just for that splendid bottle, although I concede that's part of it, but because my taste seems to be changing, or expanding. I still love sweet, dark oriental scents, but in the past few years I've found myself opening up to the sort of stringent fragrances I disdained in my twenties. I would have hated Le Boisé back then: now, I can't seem to get enough.

*Google Translate shows the limitations of machine translation by translating "le boisé" as "woods". But no. In French, the root past tense of a verb is generally formed by replacing the ending "-er" with "-é": for instance, the root past tense of the verb "fatiguer", "to tire", is "fatigué". This also serves as an adjective: "fatigué" means "tired". If this seems familiar, it's because English works in exactly the same way: the past tense of the verb "to charge", say, is "charged", and this is also the adjective: "a charged situation". So "boisé" doesn't mean "woods": "bois" means both "wood" and "woods", "boisé" means "woody" or "woodsy" (or "wooded"), and "Le Boisé" means "the woody one" or "the woody thing", an unimprovable description of the scent and a sterling case of truth in advertising.

**Ginestet, an old French vintner, has two other winemaker scents, and where red-wine Le Boisé is pretty obviously aimed at men, the Sauternes-themed Botrytis and the white Bordeaux-inspired Sauvignonne are made with women in mind: the bottles alone will tell you that.

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