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.