Bois Naufragé by Parfumerie Générale

Parfumerie Générale were kind enough to send me some samples of Bois Naufragé, Pierre Guillaume’s limited edition number for 2010,  released alongside Gardénia Grand Soir, which I haven’t smelled. The perfume was apparently inspired by Lucien Clergue’s Le Nu au Bois Flotté , a photo I can’t say I’m drawn to. Okay, it works as an abstract representation of forms, or perhaps by juxtaposing wood and torso, we’re supposed to see the likenesses and the differences. Whatever.  I’m not keen on that high art and headless women thing. It’s all a bit Herb Ritts to me. Aryan bodies. Flesh made stone. Desire demarcated within the frame. Slabs of flesh. Flat objectification. If I want bodies, I’d rather look at Helmut Newton’s more interesting challenges to the observer and the observed.

And the position the poor woman is in looks so bloody uncomfortable too. Though the snippet of armpit hair (look close) is interesting. I guess we’re supposed to think sea urchins or seaweed… Hmmph.

Anyways, Lee in dismissive mode over and done with, here’s the company puff: “In Bois Naufragé, green and salty notes – one vegetal, the other mineral — echo the memory of the sea that smoothed the wood, while the suave seawater facets of ambergris conjure sun-kissed skin, with a hint of tanning lotion washed away by a swim.” With notes of fig tree, fleur de sel and ambergris.”

No linguistic flouncing with that description really. Certainly couldn’t be entered for a prize over at Now Smell This. It’s quite a relief to read something that is straightforward, and uses most of its flourishes with care. Though I’m wondering exactly what vegetal stuff smoothed the wood – unless the sea itself is somehow supposed to make us think of plants, and I also wonder where the sea stores its memory (in the wood, silly!). I’m even happy with the way the description moves from the magical and romantic notions of island paradise (suave, conjure, sun-kissed), to the prosaic (you’re gonna need to reapply that tanning lotion baby, unless your sun-exposed buttocks are happy not to be used for sitting over the next coupla days).

When I’m testing a perfume to review (so infrequent these days!), I make notes as the smell develops. And here’s what I wrote down, near enough verbatim:

Starts arid fig woody – slightly coconutty, but not heading Carmen Miranda; three minutes in bam! with the bitter – dries out further, perhaps woody but more a little galbanummy, a touch of latexy rubberiness, like white plant sap – euphorbia. Ouch. Oh becoming lactonic. From a distant wafting, more figgy, more lactonic – but that woody coconutty vibe of Philosykos rather than fruitier, sappier qualities of Premier Figuier. Perhaps more ‘this is what we think fig smells like’ than ‘this is what fig smells like’. Green is GONE from a distance, and only there as a syntheticcy rubbery something close up. Dry still. In spite of that coconutty, now suncreamy, facet. And a little buttery something lurking in the background, shy and late. Salt maybe emerging now too – did that rubbery green smell slowly become the salty smell? One segued into the other. Sure of it. And maybe a hint of floral something. Like what? Dunno. White-ish? Quiet though, I’m sniffing close.

And now, three hours later, it is a sea scent, in hot weather territory – sunscreen, salt, and a hint of soap from the morning shower.

I like it. If I avoid thinking about the photo, I like it a little more. But it’s definitely a perfume in the ‘interesting ideas’ category, rather than the ‘wear often’ one. Not that those two categories can’t and don’t overlap for any of us. Just not for me, with this one.

I have three samples to give away. Leave a message below if you’d like one, and I’ll contact you via the email address you enter to leave a comment. I’ll declare the winners when I’m back here in two weeks’ time.

Oh, and p.s. reading recommendation of the month is David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I think we get the better cover this side of the pond – it’s a little shiny too. No matter: the contents are phenomenal either way.

Tamis May 28, 2010

Sampled this during my recent sniffathon at the Scent Bar in L.A. and all I can recall is that it's a nice fig scent but nothing revolutionary. However, I would still love to test it again so please enter me in the draw.

faith24 May 25, 2010

wow, this photo alone makes me want to try it :) i just got a fig scented candle from Archipelago Botanicals and I love the fig scent, so I would love to sample the fragrance!

kjanicki May 25, 2010

I'm disappointed that there is no "bois" in there, but I still really want to try it.

Joe May 24, 2010

Haha... okay, I'll admit I like the photo. I didn't think about it as a headless woman thing. And it's not like women's buttocks do much for me... I guess I just like the variation of gray tones. The wood looks silvery to me, like in an old gelatin print. In any case, I'm curious to try this, though I for the life of me can't think what the hell FIGS have to do with the beach, or driftwood, or whatever.

BPerfumed May 24, 2010

Wood-fig and then sea... sounds divine... Please enter me in the draw. Thanks! Az for the photograph, probably in the minority here, but does seem strangely appealing to me.

janh May 23, 2010

Is the girl in this picture alive? Inquiring minds...

Mikael May 23, 2010

Always love your posts Lee :) Please include me in the draw as well!

Laura M May 23, 2010

Aryan bodies? Huh? Lee, where do you get that? I don't know Clergue's work, but that photograph is not the worst abstraction of a woman's form out there. The interesting thing is that the blogs all seem to be reproducing this photo, even as authors dismiss it. So now we're all stuck with the image in our minds! At any rate, I'd still like to try the perfume! Thanks, Lee. :-?

Mimi Gardenia May 23, 2010

I meant the photo is an 'odd piece' . :)

Mimi Gardenia May 23, 2010

I tried Gardenia Grand Soir and didn't like it much but I would love to be in this draw ! The photo looks very very uncomfortable an odd piece. Thanks ! :)

Zazie May 23, 2010

I don't know if it's too late... But I'd live to try this: sounds like an interesting comfort scent! Please enter me in the draw!

Rednails May 23, 2010

Please include me in the draw. I've never smelled a perfume from this house. Thanks.

Daniele May 22, 2010

That photo does nothing for me, either. She looks like she was just dumped there, unceremoniously. I'd love to be entered into the draw though... something tells me it's the only way I'll be smelling this one, and I'm intrigued!

Thea May 22, 2010

this sounds interesting - please include me in the draw!

helenviolette May 22, 2010

I will hop into the draw too if I may!

HollyGolightly May 22, 2010

Fig and salt sounds kinda wonderful to me. Please include me in the draw!

Valentine May 22, 2010

Hmmm, I'd really love to give this a try. I'm all about salty, close skin scents rather than big oriental, gourmand clouds of perfume, so this sounds interesting.

melanie May 21, 2010

My son has been traveling in South America the past 3 months; recently he was in Mendoza, Argentina, on the western part of the country up near the Andes. He toured a winery, and they have an aroma room. I'm not the most technologically savvy of people, but this link will take you to a photo of the aroma room, and the caption listing some of the categories. Did you know that aroma rooms exist? sounds interesting.

Lilybug May 21, 2010

Salt, fig, woods, sunscreen? Yum. Please put me in the draw :)

Julie May 21, 2010

Please enter me in the drawing! I'm a big fan of Philosykos and this does sound interesting, if nothing else.

Claudia May 21, 2010

I've yet to try a fig perfume, so throw my name into the hat for the draw. I hate that picture too. And I hate opening it on my office computer. Oops!

Robin R. May 21, 2010

Good work, Lee. You've made me want to try this, despite your reservations about it. Please throw my name in the pot, if you'd be so kind. That pic. She looks like she's wearing cheap suntan-coloured pantihose; there's a disconnect between the colour and texture of the skin on her legs and arms. I just can't lose that impression, I'm afraid. I love Pierre's PG Jardins de Kerylos. It's my favourite fig, 'smatter of fact, so I'm surprised that this one sounds as though it's missed the mark (or maybe it's a bulls eye conceptually and it's just not the most wearable thing). How would you compare the two, L. - or anyone else who's sniffed them both?

LindaB May 21, 2010

Hello- Sounds interesting and relevant for this time of year in the increasingly hot Northeast. Please enter me in the draw, thanks!

Elisa May 21, 2010

I love fig, haven't found one that smells as good as Philosykos yet. (I wonder if Womanity will be the scent to give me fig with sillage?) Please add me to the draw!

Aparatchick May 21, 2010

I love fig scents and have quite a few in my collection (soon to include a split of this coming my way, so no need to enter me in the draw). Fig, salt, seawood? Slightly weird? Sounds good to me! And yes, Lee, I've seen a website somewhere that compares US and UK bookcovers and you usually get the better ones.

k-scott May 21, 2010

Nice review Lee! While I too would prefer Helmut Newton by far, I kinda like the photo that inspired the perfume. She sure must be uncomfortable though, you're right about that! I live on the gulf coast of Florida and love the unique way I smell after sitting at the beach for eight hours (salt, sweat, fresh air, hot skin, sunscreen) but no longer have the time to actually sit at the beach for eight hours. It sounds like maybe this perfume would give me a shortcut? I'd love to try it, please enter me in the drawing!

Tamara May 21, 2010

I don't really care for fig in a perfume, I associate that scent with candles and room spray for I used to work in a lil' pharmacy that sold Thymes products and the like, so thats what I think when I smell anything fig -creamy or green. But I must say that I work really , really hard so my arse can look like the one in this photo! It made me laugh at myself thinking about it. Have a beautiful weekend Lee , it's been cold over here and rainy for the past week, I'm so tired of the iffy weather.

Disteza May 21, 2010

What the heck, I like PG as a line, so go ahead and throw me in the draw. I'm not sure that I've ever wanted to smell like a salty fig, but I've eaten enough hot, honey-drizzled salted figs in my time to know that they are one of the good things in life, so smelling like them can't be all bad. :x

Linda May 21, 2010

I rather like the photo, because I like the model's matte skin and puff of armpit hair against the luminous driftwood; if I take it as being all about qualities of light (and not uncomfortable contortions/dead models) it's lovely. It does give me an intense impression of the scent and touch of human hair and skin. I think I'd love to try this one, if I'm lucky enough to win. Thanks for the drawing and fascinating review, Lee!

maidenbliss May 21, 2010

The photo has been bandied around for some time, armpit fluffed w hair is disgustville to me. Is there a disgust emo? I hope she does a lot of yoga as posing takes a little time and that looks so uncomfortable, not to mention scrapes and splinters Did you read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, Lee? figs, salt, seaweed and sun....what's not to like? delicious!!:x

Janet May 21, 2010

I completely agree with you about headless women photos! Don't get me started. I am looking for a good salty fragrance so please enter me in the draw. Love your reviews Lee.

donanicola May 21, 2010

Agree that pose looks most uncomfy and I'm not going to start thinking about splinters :o I love the driftwood aspect of VC&A Bois d'Iris and also love fig notes so I'm intrigued. Please can I be in the drawing!

Cheryl May 21, 2010

Thanks for the book recommendation. There's an idea for a topic: matching a scent to wear with the book you are reading (???) The photo annoys me too. It just looks so uncomfortable...I keep thinking her hip must be getting bruised... BUT please enter me in your draw. I have a fascination with ambergris. I've never tried a fig perfume. No idea why. It sounds like they were trying to do something interesting.

Kirsten May 21, 2010

Hi Lee! Please enter me in the draw. I'm looking for something new for summer and figgy sunscreen sounds delish. K xx

Occhineri May 21, 2010

I'm a big fan of PG & would love to try this!

Olfacta May 21, 2010

I love your real-time review. This is the thought process I go through, too, when sampling a scent. So much more accurate than a lot of the flowery folderol that's out there! I like the picture as a representation of form, but let's face it, few people look at a naked-woman photo that way, and it brings to question the photographer's real intent.

Mrs.Honey May 21, 2010

Did you get salt? I am wondering if this is the same one that was reviewed elsewhere and they did not get any salt.

sybil May 21, 2010

I'm not a big fan of figs or this photo...but should I get a sample, I'll try not to be a dismissive sniffer and give it a fair try. Once again, a great review!

Kate May 21, 2010

This one is top of my list to sample. However rubbery aspects may not fuel my fire. Fig was my entry into niche fragrances and I quickly lost my love of it until Ninfeo Mio due to the green. Wonder how the quickly disappearing green in this one will play out with the fig and salt and rubber!

Fernando May 21, 2010

"I like it. If I avoid thinking about the photo, I like it a little more." Sounds right. It applies to a lot of perfumes, too...

Abyss May 21, 2010

Fig seems to be the new black for this summer - Ninfeo Mio, that new Mugler, now this. Luckily I like fig so I'm always happy to smell more. Oh and thanks for the book recommendation, it looks excellent so it went straight to my wish list.

Debby H May 21, 2010

Thanks for the review and the reading rec! Do please enter me in the drawing - I'm a big fan of PG, Bois Blond in particular, and would love to try this one.

archmemory May 21, 2010

I'm a big fan of PG and fig scents. However, I sprayed this on one hand and Philosykos on the other; and frankly, since I already own a bottle of Philosykos, the 2 are too similar to justify buying a full bottle of this... And I just find the whole photo-inspiration plain silly.

gator grad May 21, 2010

You know those desperate moments when you *need* a particular note/smell, and nothing you have in your entire perfume pile works? That's where I am at with wood. So please include me in the draw! I have a decant of Eau Sento on the way, and I think that this is *the one* wood for me, from what I recall of my testing. I am also considering a few CdGs, like Palisander and Zagorsk. But maybe Bois Naufrage would work? But it sounds more figgy than woody, right? Fig was the note that got me into buying so many samples in the beginning of this hobby. I really loved the Bendel Fig's top notes (but the dry down smelled like rotten milk on me). I like Philosykos when it's breezy and in the 50s and I'm outside (it's perfect for hiking in the mountains). I like Premier Figuier when it's a bit warmer. I love Kerylos when it's warm and breezy-- in particular, this one invokes breeziness, to me, and sunlight filtered through trees. I really was impressed with PG when I tried this. But somehow, though PGs are always interesting, I just don't reach to wear them very often. But maybe this one is the one?

karin May 21, 2010

Sounds really interesting! And I've wanted to try some more PGs. Tried a few years ago, and dismissed them.

DinaC May 21, 2010

I'm a big fan of the L'A Premier Figuier Extreme, so this sounds right up my alley. Love galbanum, too. Please put me in the drawing. Thanks, Lee.

GalileosDaughter May 21, 2010

To me this sounds wonderful. Figs and salty air, what's not to like? Please enter me in the drawing. I read this review after reading Denyse's review of Womanity over at Grain de Musc. (Thank you Denyse, you are the ONLY person in the world who could write a review that would get me to consider trying another Muglerstein perfume after my trauma with Angel!) So Womanity has figs + caviar, this has figs + fleur de sel. I wonder if they smell at all alike? Is this a new trend, and if so, who was first? Reading: Just finished Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. Now reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, and can recommend both.

Louise May 21, 2010

If Dissmissive Lee likes it, I'd like to try it :d/ As for the photo-awkward, just soooo awkward, from all perspectives b-( Happy Weekend to all!

JAntoinette May 21, 2010

This has really piqued my interest this morning. I hope you also get around to sniffing Gardénia Grand Soir; I'd love to hear what you think.

aotearoa May 21, 2010

Am on a bit of a fig exploration. Philosykos lasts 5min on my skin. Would love to trial this.

zeram1 May 21, 2010

Sounds interesting, somewhere in between Diptyque and L'A. Can it be a skin issue, in that it may smell different on others? Please enter me in the drawing as well.

carmencanada (Grain de Musc) May 21, 2010

The green/vegetal part I believe comes from the carob note. When you go to the Camargue there are carob trees all over the place, and since Lucien Clergue is from Arles (i.e. the Camargue), I believe this was Pierre's way of including a green note that would be consistent with the story. His family's lab makes cosmetic preparations and I know he has access to materials not usually used in perfumery but rather in skincare, so I'm wondering whether that's how that carob sneaked in... Don't care for Clergue's work as a photographer hugely. That particular photograph is *so* ripped off from Edward Weston...

Wordbird May 21, 2010

Yup, I finally found the armpit hair. It all looks a bit CSI to me... Would you put me in the draw for a sample, Lee? I do love a fig and this sounds interesting - fig driftwood as someone called it.

carter May 21, 2010

I'm still looking for the torso, never mind the head. I DO see the armpit hair, however, with (if I'm not mistaken) a tiny speck of sea memory tangled in it, and quite possibly an anchovy~:>. Pretend that's an anchovy.