One Thousand Scents

Friday, December 14, 2012

Noble Wreckage: Four More Lutenses



I'll dispose of El Attarine in one sentence: post-evaporation, what I have left consists entirely of bitter-orange marmalade and maple-syrupy immortelle, no top notes, no complexity, and yet despite this fantastically beautiful, which I think can only be a testament to the quality of the ingredients Lutens uses, so one day I shall have to get my hands on a fresh sample and see how much better it (presumably) is.

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A year or so ago I wrote about Bois et Fruits, one of a collection of variations on Feminité du Bois, the other three being Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, and Bois Oriental. As I wrote of the four variations at the time, "it is probably the case that you can't properly understand them until you have experienced them all in context": each variation takes the core of FdB, cedar, and dramatically overloads the scent with one of FdB's other elements — fruit, violet leaves and petals, or the oriental or musky base notes — letting everything take a back seat or disappear entirely. But as we know, scents are being rejiggered all the time for various reasons, and it seems to me that the newest iteration of FdB which I bought a month ago has been changed enough that the four offshoots that I have don't seem as closely allied to it as perhaps they once did: there isn't much violet in FdB any more, at least to my nose, making the violet-intensive Bois de Violette seem an outlier in the collection.

As with the El Attarine sample, there seem to be pieces missing from two of them, specifically the top notes, just what we would expect when evaporation has occurred. The sample of Bois de Violette is essentially a ton of candied violets on a cedar base, while Bois Oriental is equal parts cedar and a pool of warm, sweet base notes with a suggestion of the usual Lutens spice. Doubtless Bois Oriental is the sort of thing I would love intact, and even in my possibly damaged version it's glorious and durable, lasting for hours upon hours. Bois de Violette is laden with sugary violet, which makes it the most conventionally feminine of the four, and yet violet is such a mainstay of men's perfumery that I don't see why a brave man mightn't wear it either: the cedar keeps it from being merely pretty, and it is fascinating to see the two disparate elements, soft sugary flowers and sharp angular wood, in juxtaposition.

My sample of Bois et Musc is clearly the most intact of the lot: a trace of violet, a hint of spicy cooked fruit, and the expected cedar and musk, the latter much more restrained than the bedsheets carnality of Muscs Khoublai Khan. I've never been a serious fan of musk-heavy scents, partly because I'm surely anosmic to certain musks, meaning the scents dominated by them are never as interesting as I think they ought to be.

Of the four Feminité du Bois offshoots, my favourite, predictably, is Bois Oriental: I've been enslaved to oriental scents since I can remember, and this one gets it exactly right — dry cedar and sweet balsams to seduce the senses.

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