Today I have luxuriated in the edt and parfum layering of Bois des Iles; and I still have a problem with the top. It's better with the parfum version, but the top doesn't quite work for me. About an hour and a half in, we're into the mid and/or base, and it smells like deliciously edible Chanel. But the top is a soapy wood I don't really love. Still, I can't exaggerate and give it a thumbs sideways. The mid and base are delicious.
The vintage version contains someone the best sandalwood I have experienced, preceded by an opening touches of bergamot, rose - gorgeous! - ylang-ylang and the famous gingerbread-vanilla drydown, the latter more marked in the EdT. The original is of stunning quality, with the perfume displaying a dark leathery undertone at times that masterfully combines with the Mysore.
The Les Exclusifs reformulation's sandalwood is quite ordinary in comparison, with much more aldehyde in the top note, a peachy muguet-iris drydown on my skin and a white musk in the base added. More on the floral side, still good but miles off the stellar experience that the original provides. This version gives me a longevity of six hours, the original perfume more than double that.
The original is a grand classic. The new version still very nice. 4.75/5 for the original perfume.
Genre: Woody Oriental
Others before me have described Bois des Îles in accurate detail, and I see no need to retread that ground. I will say that to my nose Bois des Îles has much in common with its sibling Cuir de Russie, especially the prominent doughy iris root, the animalic civet, and the labdanum-tinged amber drydown. Perhaps I’m deluded, as I haven’t seen the observation made before, but I can’t escape the feeling that the two share some crucial DNA. I’ll even posit that whatever core features Bois des Îles and Cuir de Russie share account for the unparalleled sense of indulgent luxury they both express.
Bois des Îles is simply and without a doubt one of the most compelling wood-centered fragrances I know. I rank it alongside (the vintage) Santal Noble as the finest treatment of sandalwood that I’ve encountered. What more can I add? Only that this is a true classic, one of the few scents that every serious student of perfume must smell at least once in order to appreciate the full scope of olfactory art.
How do you write about something that turns your knees to jelly every time you smell it? I am a gibbering, drooling idiot in the face of Bois des Iles. Along with Shalimar, it is my one true love. If we are talking honestly about Holy Grail perfumes, the ones you would take to the moon with you if you could only pick two or three, then this is the one that would take a spot without me even hesitating to think about it.
Although the notion of Holy Grail scents is deeply flawed because it implies the search is over once you have identified it/them - and as perfume aficionados we all know that the restless search is never truly at an end because we will always want to smell EVERYTHING - there are a few scents we all come across that we recognize as standing head and shoulders above everything else we have smelled thus far. Like true love, this might happen only once in your life, maybe twice if you are lucky. I think we all know instinctively when this scent comes along - it performs the rare trick of appealing to your head (intellect), your heart (soul), and to your loins (desire) simultaneously. For me, this is that scent.
It smells slightly different to me each time I wear it, because, like the real Mysore sandalwood I smelled as a child, there are many different facets to sandalwood that we can pick up - it is simultaneously milky, woody, creamy, soapy, and rosy. Sometimes I get the aldehydes at the beginning, sometimes I don't get them at all. Sometimes I pick up a brief pop of bergamot at the beginning and other times it goes straight to the rosy, woody heart. When I do pick up on the aldehydes, they present themselves to my nose as a sort of bright coca cola note that is just delightful and downright delicious. This effect must be from the combination of rose and lemon and aldehydes, because I have sensed this effect in another perfume, Incense Rose by Andy Tauer to be exact (although the scents are completely different aside from this one bright coca cola accord). Whatever the cause, the bright lemon-rose coca cola accord is like a handful of bright icing sugar or sherbert sprinkled over the scent, giving it a gently effervescent and most delicious "flavor".
This scent is mostly all about the deep sandalwood heart and base. It is fairly linear. But when a smell is this good, you want it to be linear, because you want to go on smelling it in continuity, for as long as it lasts. I know that the current Exclusifs EDT version does not contain any real sandalwood, so it is an artful, clever composition that relies on the perfumer's skill to present and recreate all the wonderful, shape-shifting aspects of real sandalwood from Mysore, hence the slight varying tones between creaminess, woodiness, sweetness, rosiness, and milkiness. But it all melds together in one warm, delicious wood accord that feels comforting and approachable. Like high art that you can wear as a hug.
I don't want to wither on, but if you think Chanels are stuffy and cool, I urge you to try Bois des Iles. It is the first Chanel I ever tried that had that human warmth that I appreciate in the older Guerlains, and it's the first time I ever thought of a Chanel perfume as being truly sensual. Beautiful, interesting, unique, and deeply soulful, this is one perfume that engages the head-heart-loins axis like no other (barring, perhaps, the great Shalimar).
04th June, 2014 (last edited: 13th June, 2014)
One of my favourite Chanel's ever. Simply marvellous! So great and timeless. I enjoyed Luca Turin's review in his Guide, I feel quite the same. Perfect for men too. Won't try to convince you or describe it – just try it, at least once in your life!