Genre: Floral Oriental
I was delighted to find Bois de Violette available for testing – even purchase – at Bergdorff’s recently, and given its reputation I plied my way past one of the most pretentious and ill-informed sales associates on planet earth to try it.
For me, wearing Bois de Violette was like lying in a snug cedar box filled with candied violets. Funereal, isn’t it? Well, Bois de Violette is not a "happy" scent. In fact, it’s close, dark, and thick, especially for its first hour on the skin. After that the lugubrious opening accord begins to sweeten and soften – first very slowly, then with exponential acceleration. Just when I think Bois de Violette is going to careen into the side rail of my tolerance for powdered sugar, its engine catches fire, and the resulting cloud of smoke redeems it for me. Once Bois de Violette settles in to its drydown I’m treated to the familiar smoky, spiced honey base that so many of the Lutens fragrances share.
Bois de Violette is an impressive, hard-hitting scent, one of those that I can admire without actually liking. All for the best, as far as my wallet is concerned, since it’s at least one much-praised niche fragrance that I won’t have to buy.
(An aside: Smelling the two side-by-side, it’s clear that Bois de Violette is the inspiration for Tom Ford’s ugly little Black Violet. Were Bois de Violette widely distributed in North America, Mr. Ford need not have bothered.)
A swarm of sweet blue-purple violets, adding up to a haze of sweet blue-purple scent. The cedar base is discernible after a few hours, but it remains firmly in the background. The violets here are both plasticky and candied, lending a juvenile, bubblegum-happy air to the perfume. I find violets difficult, though. No matter what the composition, they find a way to bully and talk over the other notes, leaving most violet scents (for me, at least) to perform as a singular blast of purple blue noise, sweet, high, and penetrating. The smell of violets in perfumery is so powerful and dominant that I cannot find any contrasts in tone/pitch or any significant development in fragrances that rely on them. And without contrast in tone, or development of a scent over time, you do not have sophistication. In my opinion.
Genteel Bois de Violette offers the wearer the loveliest satisfaction in the categories of florals and greens, then rounds them out with that Lutens/Chanel bois interpretation. My favorite part is the violet top that makes my head swim delight upon application. The heart notes hum along with what I find to be a perfect touch of spice (which is to say, with timidity). The dry down makes me want to curl up in my own arms to smell the woody base right at nose-to-skin level. Chanel’s Bois des Iles is sweet and desirable in winter, but BdV's “bois” is less vanilla sweet, making it ideally suited for springtime temps. The only way to improve upon it is to spray more.
Celestial, classy, aerial. Powdery and bright, with a delicate and elegant structure of violet petals on woods. Overall, I get an unexplicable sense of "blue" colour here - try it wearing blue garments and you'll get what I mean! Quite close on skin but really persistent.
13th February, 2014 (last edited: 05th April, 2014)
The first time I tried Bois de Violette I kicked myself for having bought Feminité du Bois a few months earlier. You know that shitty feeling of having bought the good, and then finding the better? I quickly came to the conclusion, though, that I prefer Feminité for most purposes and would choose it over BdV if I were to have just one. BdV brings into relief a feeling about Feminité that I could never quite get my nose around. Feminité’s boozyish combination of fruit, wood and flower expresses itself with a dried-fruit resinousness that I find nowhere except in the SL Feminité and Bois perfumes. Without using any of the classic perfume resins/oils (benzoin, olibanum, myrrh, spikenard, peru balsam, cistus labdanum) Feminité synthesizes a flower/fruit/wood that has the same stickiness and chewy quality that we associate with botanical resins.
Bois de Violette, while gorgeous, removes the stickiness of Feminité in order to focus on the highs of the added violet. The result is that it speaks in a higher, perhaps prettier register, but loses some of the implicit harmony of Feminité’s middle register.
The Feminité / BdV dilemma fleshes out an understanding that I’ve been coming to. I’ve always preferred the range of the viola to that of the violin. In the small bit that I’ve experienced of opera, I’m instantly drawn to the mezzo soprano rather than the soprano. The majority are drawn to the most prominent, the one that shines the brightest, the highest in the hierarchy. But just listen to Marilyn Horne singing Rossini and you’ll understand why I’ve come to prefer Feminité du Bois to Bois de Violette.