Perfume Directory

Bois des Îles Parfum (1926)
by Chanel

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Bois des Îles Parfum information

Year of Launch1926
GenderFeminine
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 561 votes)

People and companies

HouseChanel
PerfumerErnest Beaux
Parent CompanyWertheimer

About Bois des Îles Parfum

One of several Chanel scents available exclusively in Chanel boutiques.

Reviews of Bois des Îles Parfum

Chanel Bois des Îles (1926) is the awaited follow-up to the landmark Chanel No. 5 (1921), and created by Ernest Beaux upon request by Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel to be what has been accepted as the first woody perfume for women. Unfortunately, it never made the same level of cultural impact and ceased production sometime after Chanel's passing, as did much of the original Chanel lineup outside the best sellers. Chanel resurrected the perfume in the 1980's when a younger Jacques Polge decided he wanted to tinker with the formula and make a modern masculine iteration as Chanel's house perfumer, to sit alongside a re-released original. This tinkering resulted in the creation of the limited and now ludicrously-coveted Bois Noir (1987), which sat alongside Bois des Îles briefly in 1989 when it finally saw reissue, until the formula of Bois Noir was altered for what was considered a more widely-palatable and mass production-friendly Égoïste (1990) the following year, with Bois des Îles quietly being discontinued again. Now the legendary perfume said to be inspired by Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades is a part of the Les Exclusifs range in Eau de Parfum form, while the original pure parfum concentration is available at boutiques or select counters at higher-end department stores, packaged much like it has always been. In an age of niche perfume selling exclusivity and a breaking down of gender barriers in perfume, Bois des Îles is as artistically important now as it has ever been.

The fragrance is the root of Bois Noir, Égoïste, and No. 18 (2007), but doesn't precisely resemble any of them, as all of them have borrowed parts of Bois des Îles and focused on making a new scent around those borrowed parts. In the case of the first two, Jacques Polge created semi-orientals with sweet citrus at the head, while with No. 18, the damask rose and musk became the focus, but Bois des Îles is in effect the "complete picture", being far drier and more complex than its "children". The opening is classic chypre, with bergamot, peach, neroli, and stinging aldehydes in a fashion not unlike Guerlain Mitsouko. Iris and muguet counterbalance rose, indolic jasmine, and ylang-ylang in the heart, which provides a tart and sensual floral experience for which grand old chypres like this are known. Bois des Îles does not become lost in the conventions of its style however, as an amazing sandalwood emerges, giving gravitas to the name which translates as "Wood of the Islands", joined by oakmoss, musk, a feathering of animalic styrax, and a tonka/vetiver tandem to reinforce the arboreal theme. Like many classic chypres, this was offered to women but would be equally elegant on a man, and carries a grace that is out of time compared to modern synthetic florals or freshies. Various concentrations produce focuses on various facets and differences in perfomance, but the tested parfum/extrait is an all-day affair yet still more transparent than one might suspect an extrait to be. I also get a bit more sweetness from the two parfum variants compared to the sadly-discontinued eau de toilette, and imagine the long-gone cologne was likely drier still due to a shift in focus to top notes that tends to happen with eau de cologne concentrations.

Overall, Bois des Îles was just niche before the term existed, and exhibits a character many modern niche perfumes possess inasmuch as it focuses on a particular theme and has all of it's composition bent towards it, plus will only appeal to people who enjoy that theme, with no use whatsoever to a wider mainstream market looking to just smell "good" or "pretty". Bois des Îles is a handsome perfume for anyone who loves a rustic and slightly sultry floral woody chypre experience that reveals multiple sides throughout the wear yet remains centered on a woody theme. Sometimes you'll catch rose, other times you'll get some peach, and yet others the jasmine and animalic aspects will come out to play, but always that sandalwood, softened vetiver, and oakmoss underneath will remind you why Beaux gave this a name rather than a number like it's older sister. Bois des Îles can be hard to sample outside a boutique as only stores provisioned to carry the Les Exclusifs range offer any form of the stuff, but if the great old dames like the aforementioned Mitsouko, Joy Jean Patou (1930), or Hermés Caleché (1961) appeal to you, then Chanel Bois des Îles is a definite pit stop in your fragrance journey. For everyone else just looking for Chanel's "greatest hits", this one might be a pass because it is a rather "serious" perfume due to its warm and dark nature, and there aren't many instances where it could be worn for somebody who isn't an enthusiast anyway. However, once you fall in love with Bois des Îles, you might increasingly find yourself making exceptions to wear it. Woodsy, wild, and wonderful, but not to be approached carelessly! Thumbs up.
23rd April, 2019 (last edited: 25th April, 2019)
A lovely fragrance in its own right. For me it comes off as a gentle floral with a slightly sour or bitter, wood accord (which isn't a bad thing). It has a mellow base which lasts on my skin.
04th March, 2018
(When I can smell this) it smells like I have died and gone to the most beautiful spicy, creamy sandalwood heaven! The ylang ylang and sandalwood combo put me into some kind of wondrous stupor from which it is doubtful I will ever return. Bois des Iles is utterly delicious and delicate and reveals a vintage Chanel's typically smooth sophistication. Unfortunately though (and this is a large drawback for me), I can barely smell it. I even bought the parfum in hopes of gaining some kind of projection and/or longevity, but no such luck. I am genuinely sad about this because I can envision wearing BdI as a signature scent of sorts, if only I didn't have to huff like a maniac to catch even a whiff of its gorgeousness. :-(

I have to give it a thumbs up for its sheer beauty, with an emphasis on 'sheer.'

Edit: Just received a vintage bottle of the pure parfum and am swooning over its even dreamier, woody beauty. This also has enough depth and projection to keep me in a happy daze for quite some time. Smells like true love!

Edit: Two vintage bottles later: how did I ever live without this one?
02nd October, 2017 (last edited: 13th May, 2019)
A classic aldehydic fragrance with themes of vintage Chanel. Not overly sweet or floral, it is a balance of Ylang Ylang and vetiver. It doesn't come across as a floral despite the Rose and Jasmine notes. This smells classy and an Evening formal scent.
24th August, 2017
Bois des Iles the best sandalwood fragrance I've smelled, and one of the best fragrances I've experienced, period. There are aldehydes, florals, and semi-sweet fruit and spice notes in the opening - but they're so well blended that it's nearly impossible to pick them apart from the perfectly harmonious whole. There's an unbelievable sensation of smoothness.

The accord morphs fairly quickly into a surprisingly direct sandalwood phase. The florals recede, and we're left with a semi-dry, somewhat powdery sandalwood note. It's glorious. So many sandalwood scents bury the note with fillers and try too hard to augment some facet of the note, with often unfortunate results. For that reason, I've been underwhelmed by most sandalwood scents I've tried. Bois des Iles lets the sandalwood augment the character of the rest of the accord, instead of the other way around. The sheer quality of ingredients here is what makes that approach work. Few scents in this price range are so clearly worth their price.

Men and women can easily wear it. Quality is top notch. It's unique, yet extremely comfortable to wear. People love it. Outstanding.
03rd March, 2017
I blind bought a decant of this when I just started learning about fragrances. It wasn't a big leap of faith; I have worn and loved Chanel No.5 since my mid teens, and I had just smelled and fallen for Egoiste in my local perfumery, so when I read some reviews saying Bois des Iles lies somewhere between those two, I was pretty convinced I would love this fragrance.

Upon trying this-perhaps due to those reviews- this is exactly what I got: something halfway between Egoiste and No. 5. Absolutely lovely, but at that stage I was wondering if my very limited fragrance collection was in need of something that, at the time, seemed a subtle variation on what I already had rather than a distinctly different fragrance.

Well, 2 months later, I changed my mind. I have been gently, but firmly won over by this scent. The more I smell it, the more I see its resemblance to its offspring Egoiste. However, the differences have also become increasingly apparent.

Let's compare them both to food.

Egoiste is the most delicious slice of cake at you favorite local bakery. It's an excellent bakery, that uses only the highest quality organic ingredients. The resulting product is sweet, rich, and warm, yet light and perfectly balanced, like a clear golden brown syrup infused with woody spices. It's the kind of delicacy that you treat your friends to when they're in town, and something you come back for time and time again.

Bois des Iles is that same cake, but made by a 3 Michelin star chef. It's a cake, but it's so much more. It's much more subtle and far more complex. The same sweet woody spices are treated with a lighter hand here, and they have been delicately layered with fragrant florals and a hint of the richest cream. It's at the same time more restrained and more surprising to the palate, both familiar and distinctive. It's the kind of desert that brings tears to your eyes when you eat it, because it is such an expression of skill and beauty.

Needless to say that I have now fully realized that I need a full bottle of this pronto, and that having both Egoiste and Bois des Iles in my very small collection is absolutely necessary.

I think this is an excellent fall/winter fragrance, but I'll probably wear this just as happily in hot weather.

If you are interested in this fragrance, but don't have easy access to a vendor to test it, try Egoiste and try No. 5. If you love both of these, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll love this with a passion!

It has a subtle sillage, and moderate longevity.



11th October, 2016

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