Whither the cult fragrances? You know what I´m talking about. No? Let me refresh your memory. Not so long ago – when the Earth´s crust was still cooling and before the fragrance-industrial complex started releasing something like 800 scents a year – a new fragrance like Luctor and Emergo´s People of the Labyrinths (a.k.a. POTL) would come out and perfume fanatics would talk about it forever. On the message board, in the blogs, folks would be singing their praises over and over and over about some interesting new release like Anne Pliska, or Fifi Chachnil, or Narciso, or what have you.
Robin at Now Smell This and I were just lamenting the flood of fragrances and flankers, and how folks don´t seem to rhapsodize over specific scents quite as long as they used to. I´m absurdly pleased to see Worth Courtesan appear semi-regularly on the Top 10 list, which I like to consider my own contribution to cult adoration, since so far as I know I´m the first blogger to lug a bottle home from the U.K. and rave about it. (An aside to any of you who´ve tried it – um, how´s that going?) But I wonder how long it will be before everyone´s moved on.
I miss those perfume-cult days.
So I´ve joined up. Today I´m turning my back on my truckload of new samples to blog against the grain about a cult scent – one of the original cult scents – I´ve only recently and happily fallen in love with: Shisedo´s Feminite du Bois (notes via Osmoz: ginger, cinnamon, clove, plum, peach, orange flower, violet, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla, benzoin). It was created all the way back in 1992 by Christopher Sheldrake and Serge Lutens, the precursor to Lutens´ Bois series. I´d tried it several times, and each time I was assailed with an overwhelming note of B.O., courtesy of the cedar. I like skank as much (okay, more) than the next person, but there´s nothing sexy about that heavy B.O. note on me. It´s revolting. I would sigh and move on.
Then several months ago I was in an airport somewhere, waiting to board a plane, killing time in the duty-free shop, when I picked up a bottle of FdB and pondered again how brutally unfair it was that I couldn´t wear the fragrance in that gorgeous bottle. I sprayed some on, which was both masochistic and inconsiderate before getting on a plane, but my mind was addled – and lo! It was so beautiful. It was everything I could ever have wanted.
Some of the most rapturous reviews I´ve ever read of a scent focus on Feminite´s development, but on me it´s fairly linear. The cedarwood is strongest in the first ten to fifteen minutes, and if you´re going to get the stink that´s probably the worst of it. Separate from that, it is a perfectly weighted blend of sweet fruits, spices, woods and benzoin. It is every bit as voluptuous as that bottle, strong but not overpowering, feminine but not flirtatious. I have read it described as “dark,” but to me it is as luminous as the full moon on a midsummer night. A man could wear it if he had some tolerance for the fruit-confit aspect, and there´s plenty of sandalwood to offset it. I will note here that my original observations about the B.O. aspect aren´t entirely imaginary; Louise has two bottles, and one seems to us to be quite a bit more B.O.-laden than the other. She likes the B.O. bottle because overall the scent lasts longer on her. I, with no longevity issues, prefer the softer bottle.
I love all the bits of this scent. I love it when I put it on. I love it nine hours later. I love it when I put on a shirt I wore the day before and its scent is still present. Some people find it too sweet on their skin, but not me. I´ve been wearing it to bed, because that´s how comforting I find it, and that´s a huge departure for me. I generally don´t wear scents to bed other than something really tame like Berdoues´ Violettes de Toulouse (or, more accurately, I just wear whatever six scents I have on, unless I´m so disgusted I shower first and then put on the Toulouse to ward off niche fragrance nightmares).
Feminite is perfect on its own, of course. But it also layers nicely with jasmine (I like Montale´s Jasmin Full) and it would probably work with other florals and maybe even leather, given how creamy and sweet it is.
Finally, a tip for Feminite lovers: I discovered (accidentally, of course) that FdeB layers wonderfully with a particular hand lotion I think I blogged on once – The Naked Bee hand and body lotion. It smells like orange blossoms floating in a bowl of honey, it´s alcohol and phthalate-free and not animal tested and blah blah blah, and it works wonders on my extremely dry skin, in addition to smelling luscious. (Their travel-size shampoo/conditioner is pretty fabulous too). Wearing the lotion and Feminite du Bois to bed together is almost more luxury than I deserve. Almost.
Embarrassing footnote: I think what I’m wearing is the Eau de Parfum, courtesy of Louise. As usual, I could be wrong. It has plenty of oomph, though. Let’s see if Louise chimes in.