Fourplay: Lutens’ Bois Series

Autumn approaches, and in celebration we’re inhaling two of the scents from the Serge Lutens oeuvre — Bois et Musc and Bois et Fruits, both scents from his Bois series, which also includes Orientale, Violette, Santal de Mysore, Chene and Sepia, all part of the Palais Royal non-export line. (March started to include Miel de Bois in the series but discovered it’s not. She now knows after consulting with Osmoz why it’s so funky — in addition to the odd boxwood note you can get in honey, the base has “animal notes” and hawthorn — the sort of footy smell that attracts flies in addition to bees, if you’ve ever stood next to a tree in bloom.)

When looking up the dates of these fragrances on Basenotes, it’s interesting to observe that the Lutens/Sheldrake team have been playing with variations on the theme for awhile. Feminite du Bois (for Shiseido) dates from 1992, as do Violette and Oriental, whereas Musc is as recent as 2005.

First up, Serge Lutens Bois et Musc:

Bryan: I find the whole collection absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know how else to describe the dare I say it “soft” approach to wood and (insert other note). Bois et Musc could have been a title given to ALL of the insipid men’s counter releases. In the Serge bottle, I get a perfect balance of warm woods and a dusting of animal (a beautiful beast at that). I adore this one, and just to show how truly, well, balanced this beauty is, this is Mom’s favorite from the line….I almost had a heart attack when she chose this at the shop in Paris….I still wear it though, odd as that is….leave it to Serge (and Chris).

Patty: This is probably my favorite of the boisees, next to Un Bois Sepia. The open is a little B.O’ish, but the musk in it settles in better on me with less fruity cedar and just a little bit ‘o the skank running around in it to keep it interesting.

March: As a recent convert to Feminite du Bois after several false starts, it´s fun for me to sniff the relationship between that and the Serge Lutens Bois scents. I think Bois et Musc would be a perfect alternative for anyone who really likes Feminite but finds it a bit too sweet on the skin. Bois et Musc starts off with a stronger cedary blast than Feminite, and for awhile I wasn´t sure how that was going to work out for me. But as it fades a musky sweetness emerges, rather than the almost macerated fruity sweetness of FdB. There´s nothing dirty about that musk base to my nose – sexy, but not dirty. I think they´re both gorgeous, and both are rich and woody enough to be unisex. A preference for one over the other would probably be driven by how you feel about your cedar and/or your spoonful of fruits. I´ll still take FdB.

Lee: Both this and Bois et Fruits were the only two Bois series scents I’d never got round to smelling, except in wax form. All hail Patty, the Great Enabler. Now, I probably love this series more than any other – holistically at least – in the Lutens oeuvre; from the candied-violet peekaboo in the forest of Bois de Violette, to the sweet curry and sandalwood voluptuousness of Santal de Mysore, to the soaring simplicity of Chene, they’re all masterpieces to my nose. Bois et Musc has the same waxy quality that’s in FdB and Bois Oriental, but for me those other two win out. The autumnal spice of BO works better for me than the vaguely animalic nods of BetM, at least in late September. In February, it might be a different story altogether. I’m also anosmic to some musks – go figure.

Next, Bois et Fruits:

Lee:These are dessicated rather than dried fruits, as though they’ve been exposed to air over years and their aroma is mixed in with dust and debris and the passing of time. There’s an austere, dark sepia quality to this one, perhaps a sense of something once charred in the past, a trace of burning still lingering. The Salons Shiseido calls this ‘candied cedar’. It isn’t, unless that slight burning sensation I get is reminiscent of caramel. I’d call it Burnt Umber Cedar; it’s a melancholy, odd scent that draws me to think of my past as an old photo and that boy staring back at me as an alien from another country.

March: You would think, in theory, that something called “and fruits” would be sweeter. Weirdly, you would be wrong. There´s something dry and dusty about this scent, a faint bitterness that is an interesting foil for the woody base. If FdB is a 6 on the sweetness scale, and Bois et Musc is a 3, then this fragrance is a 1. It´s a dark, inward scent rather than a luminous one – the sort of thing that might appeal if you like, say, Serge Lutens´ Rose de Nuit. For me? It´s the luminosity of Feminite I find so compelling, so naturally I´m not really spellbound by this one, but it´s a beautiful scent, and probably the most complex of the three.

Patty: This one always surprises me. I keep thinking I’ll get a fruity thing closer to Feminite than what Fruits serves up. It is dry and not sweet, more woods than anything else. Much more wearable than FdB has become (don’t hate me, March, just when you finally came around to it!)

Bryan: Of all of them, I expected to dislike this one the most. I was terribly wrong. March said it beautifully (duh) that this is not your sweet fruity wood scent. I thought this would be simply too much cedar and too much plum. This is more of that precious cedar which Serge exhalts like no other with a coloring of plum skin. Red is by far my favorite color and if I had to assign a color to this scent, I would go with crimson….if that makes any sense at all.

  • Robin says:

    I don’t know why the Bois series doesn’t appeal, and FdB hasn’t grown on me yet either. I’ll stick w/ my Miel de Bois & Santal Blanc…

  • Maria says:

    Of the Bois series I’ve only tried Bois de Violette and Chene, but I love them both–especially Chene. I’m still hoping it will be available for export in however limited a way soon.

    Well, gotta go teach students who don’t want to learn.

  • Divalano says:

    After leathers, woods scents are my favorite. I’ve been wanting to try all the SL Bois, & more so now. I’d crossed Fruits off my List b/c you know, fruit. Sweet. But … now I see it must go back on. Still not sure I need to try Violette but … well, perhaps.
    So far I have Chene … which may be too dry but requires further testing, and Oriental, which I might love. I’ve been waiting for cooler weather to fully road test both. Still hot & humid here in NYC.
    So now off to pick samples wardrobe to pack for Seattle/Portland trip. Gee. Surprise, it’s chilly-ish and rainy. Pack Bois!! 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Oh yes – chilly northwest is perfect for the Bois! Or vice versa… My fave is Oriental y’know… (excluding Chene and SdM for the moment)

      • Divalano says:

        Packing samples of Bois Oriental, Nelli Rodi Bois, Dzing!, Cuir Ottoman, Datora Noir (which might be wrong but I do love it in the rain, which both Portland & Seattle have in abundance), & Poivre Piquant.

        Just think, a mere year ago I was going on trips with only one measly vial of scent. To think!

        • Lee says:

          People working in the erotic arts (amongst other things) need a whole line of scents I think. Should be de rigueur!

  • Dusan says:

    The only SL from the Boix series I’ve tried is the spectacular Chêne (waves to the lovely Erin). Thanks to your great reviews guys, I now feel compelled to make a pilgrimage to The Perfumed Court. All I need is a bag of ducats and a mighty steed. Ah, the life of a serf… 😀

    • Lee says:

      You don’t have those sort of things round your parts these days?

      Oops, that sounded rude. I meant in the geographical sense…

      • Dusan says:

        Nothing’s round my parts these days, I’m afraid… geographically, too. 🙂
        Seriously, I shouldn’t complain much. For lack of les Boix, I reach for my FT and Chergui for a cosy-up.
        Still, I’m setting aside $$$ for a trip to the TPC…

    • Patty says:

      Chene is spectacular, serf or no.

  • donanicola says:

    Oh B****r! I’ve just completed an order from TPC and dithered over BdF and decided (how?) not in favour of FdB (oh the reverse, how cute. Now I wish I’d ordered both – sigh. Next time. Looking for my first SL full bottle purchase and the Bois series certainly attract me though I love Rose de Nuit. Thanks for the lovely reviews.

    • Patty says:

      You can’t go wrong with FdB, I swear! It’s really beautiful and gives you such a great feel for all of the Boisees since it really encompasses them all. If you find parts you like in there, it helps you to know which of the Boisees you are most likely to love.


      Rose de Nuit is gorgeous, just pure-d grow-up rose.

  • Marina says:

    I love all the Boisees, perhaps Bois et Musc most of all.

  • Louise says:

    Lord, I’m boring, maybe loyal, too. While I like many of the Bois series scents (especially Bois et Musc), I am so overwhelmed by my love of FdB that the others just seem like bits o’my love. I have come sooo close to buying several of the Bois over the years, yet never felt quite moved enough.

    Great fourplay!

    • Anne says:

      Louise, I know how you feel. Bois Oriental is one of my HG’s so while clutching that bottle in the first stages of pure lust, I tried all of the above mentioned. It was bad timing. Nothing else even had a chance. Now that the lust has simmered and a more lifetime bond of love and respect has formed between Bois Oriental and me, I think I can try the other Bois’ with a more open heart. :)>-

    • Patty says:

      Totally get that. I used to love FdB more than the individual ones, except BdViolette, but now I’ve switched for inexplicable reasons! Could just be my mind is going. 🙂

    • JenniferR says:

      Well, as I’ve said probably too many times in my few posts to the ‘fume blogs, my fragrance obsession as an adult began with FdB, back when it was first released and you could buy it everywhere. (still sobbing …) And I have fallen out of love with it and back in several times. Ultimately, I think I’m still with Louise on this one.
      But I was tremenjusly excited to start working my way through the Bois series when I found the decanters about a year ago. I still haven’t smelled all of ’em, but thanks to a good friend I’m eagerly awaiting delivery of my Very First Belljar (not a bois, but Rose de Nuit) and as many samples as she can get for me (not just the outlying Bois). Bois et Musc is at the top of the list — I still haven’t tried it.
      But Bois et Fruits I really expected to like better than I did. If I got the sumptuous dark dryness that March describes, it might have bumped Rose de Nuit from the top of my list. But instead on me it’s pale, pallid, insipid, kind of like an office-friendly version of FdB with the most interesting bits left out completely. I want March’s version!

  • chayaruchama says:

    I smelled these in 1998, when we were last in Paris.
    I loved them both, but was limited in my purchases- so I bought Un Bois Sepia, Santal de Mysore, Bois Oriental[ I had Un Lys, ISM, BdV already at home].

    Strangely, upon re-sniffing- BeM smells more cedary, and less creamy, than I remember; but I always adored BeF.
    [I have back-up bottles of Sepia, Santal,ISM, and FdB]

  • tmp00 says:

    Oh and even if it’s not included, Miel de Bois is gorgeous

    Just wanted to get that vote in.

  • tmp00 says:

    You know, I have these sitting in one of the Perfumed Courts Velvet bage- I will have to examine these further later.

    • Patty says:

      You really should! I can’t remember what your take is on the Boisees, but if you like them or FdB, you should like most of the Boisees. For some, the sum is better than the parts, but for me, I like the parts better than the sum. /ducks/