Doctor Strangebuzz…

… or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Honey-bomb.

This post is dedicated to the nine of you who think Serge Lutens’ Miel de Bois is wonderful. You know who you are. You get together in dark alleys on the full moon, do your disgusting secret “handshake,” and head on inside to your deviant festivities that make a nice, skank-loving gal like me blush. They say it takes all kinds, but when it comes to stuff like MdB I have never been sure that´s true.

I love the smell of beeswax, that slightly musky, floral note – the scent of pollen on a billion tiny wings. If I´m lucky, that note winds up in various edible honeys. When I lived in Santa Fe, one of my biggest treats was buying honey at the farmer´s market from some rural apiary that boasted a particular kind of flower. There´s clover honey and tupelo honey (and the Van Morrison song by that name which makes me cry every time I hear it, because I used to rock Diva to sleep to it.) Anyone who´s been to Florida has seen (and if they´re lucky, tasted) orange blossom honey, and there are many other flavors as well.

I´ve been looking for the perfect honey fragrance – one that gives me that rich, sweet, golden smell without anything odd or undesirable. Serge Lutens´ Miel de Bois is an absolutely stunning honey, but I have to get through what is for me an almost unbearable six hours of funky-foot, musk and boxwood-smell before I can enjoy it. At the other end of the pricing spectrum, L´Occitane makes an Eau de Miel Honey Gentle Water for kids (and their moms and dads) that´s delicately scented, as it should be, and quite nice for such an inexpensive product, but doesn´t have the oomph or lasting power I´m looking for.

I need to order up another sample of Santa Maria Novella´s Acqua di Cuba, which is allegedly a tobacco scent but was was also perfect honey for about five minutes, and I thought – eureka, I´ve found it! – until that … um … that male smell came in. Let´s call it liquid male essence; I´m trying to be delicate here. Lee and I whiffed it simultaneously on our skin and burst out laughing, it´s that specific. I´m open-minded and all but I´m still not walking around smelling like that, sorry.

Then there´s that Arabian Oud store thing Louise sent me home with, Prestige (oud, sandalwood, cinnamon, saffron, patch, honey). The problem with that is, I have to put up with two or three hours of fairly strong oudh and what I thought was rose, although it´s not listed, and while that isn´t the end of the world I´d like to skip directly to the honey.

Anyway, last week I found myself out at Art With Flowers (how does that happen?) standing in front of the Lutens section. I threw caution to the wind and sprayed on Miel de Bois on my elbow, for old times. Just to get another reminder of how truly unbearable it is.

And surprise, surprise. I get it, finally. Miel de Bois is a revelation, monumental for me, because it graces the top of a fairly short list of fragrances I truly despise (another is Borneo). I had to open my mind past the idea that it would smell like “honey” – like the olfactory version of the stuff you taste in your tea – and embrace the perfection of honey in the woods. There´s that whiff of hawthorn, with its semi-indescribable smell (floral with a weird undertone of funky Frito dog-feet?) which only emphasizes the similar musky note that appears in beeswax, honeycomb, or standing next to an actual hive. The gaiac and oak add a smoky note that just upped the oddity to me until I read up on the scent a little and could then identify them (to be fair, Serge did helpfully stick the word Bois in the name).

I’m a little suspicious of my profound change of heart — this time around the scent seems to be completely missing the cat pee aroma that so many find objectionable, and which is explained in Bois de Jasmin’s hilariously polite, unenthusiastic review. Has the formulation changed? Did I sniff an old bottle (how much of that stuff can they sell, anyway?) Time will tell.

Anyway, for any of you willing to take the plunge, I still only needed one spray on my arm, and I am still fairly certain that throwing this on with abandon would kill me (which I would say of most Serges, really). And I still wouldn´t be wearing this thing to any enclosed office spaces where you don´t want people to hate on you. But I’m a convert. Let me know where the next meeting is.

Images: honeycomb, wikimedia.org; hawthorn, Carreg Cennen: www.walkcarmarthenshire.com

  • Flora says:

    BWAHAHAHA! Welcome to the dark side, my lovely……:d

  • Hänni says:

    I don’t know much about perfumes (which is why I’m here), but I have dabbled in BPAL some. I think “O” smells *just like* honey. I love wearing it. (Who wouldn’t enjoy wearing something described as the scent of sexual obsession, slavery to sensual pleasure and the undercurrent of innocence defiled utterly?)

    • March says:

      Well, welcome! I hadn’t heard of that fragrance (although I have read the book). I am thrilled to have so many suggestions for new scents to try.

  • minette says:

    and then there were ten. welcome to the tiny club… plans for the next dark-alley meeting are forthcoming… don’t worry about the handshake – you’ll figure it out.

    funny you mention orange blossom honey because that’s the one honey i don’t like – and i think it’s the first one i smelled as a kid in florida – so my love for honey came later, when i got to sniff tupelo (probably my fave) honey. now i buy local honey made with wildflowers.

    try the burt’s bees lotions – orange/honey and milk/honey for a honey fix – they smell great and feel silky. and kiss my face has an incredible olive oil soap with honey – made in greece. it’s fabulous.

    • March says:

      Burt’s Bees does smell great, and I definitely need to hunt down that Kiss My Face. They used to carry the line at our local health food store, and then stopped. I think their products are excellent.

  • Calypso says:

    This is totally off the perfume topic but on the honey topic, two of the most wonderful honeys I have ever had both stem from Massachusetts: cranberry bog honey and blueberry bog honey. If you ever find either of these in a specialty store, try them. Now maybe if they could put those tastes into a scent and bottle it I would like honey scents. But the ones I’ve tried quite simply… stink.

    • March says:

      Both those honeys sound wonderful! I like to drizzle flavored honey on … well, almost anything. Maybe not pizza.;)

  • Solander says:

    Me and my girlfriend smelled Miel de Bois in Galeria Kaufhof in Berlin and both went :-& at the unbearable sticky sweetness. The SMN one does the same to a lesser degree – I don’t get any funky note from it (MdB is more funky, as in urine) but it’s so sweet my teeth ache!
    Guess what else we smelled in Galeria Kaufhof? Pussy Deluxe! =))I might have bought it if it didn’t smell like plasticky strawberry Barie perfume…

    • March says:

      OMG. I have some ideas about how Pussy Deluxe should smell, and plastic strawberries isn’t what I’m thinking of. It should smell like …. hmmm….. Delrae Amoureuse!:”>

  • pyramus says:

    I’m one of those baffling people who adored Miel de Bois the second I smelled it on my skin. I mean just like that: it was instantaneous. I was prepared to hate it, given all that I’d read about it, but I completely got it. And no urine smell! It’s just amazing on me and to me.

    Have you tried Demeter Honey? It’s sort of like a really simplified, stripped-down MdB. You might like it.

    • March says:

      No, I have NOT tried the Demeter honey. And considering how much I like some of the Demeters (Holy Smoke, Holy Water, Coriander Tea) I should try it. Their lasting power isn’t fabulous, but they’re really, really cheap 🙂

  • Maria says:

    I know I’m late, but did want to chime in just to let you know I’m here. I’ve never tried Miel de Bois. Cat urine is one of my least favorite scents in the world, a principal reason why I don’t own cats. By association I also dislike the smell of boxwood and some eucalyptus. (The trees are not like the comforting thing you put on your chest to relieve congestion. They are cat urine trees.) Well, I guess that’s enough explanation for why I haven’t felt moved to try MdB even though, like you, I’m very partial to the smell of beeswax.

    I do not get magnificent secretion from Acqua di Cuba, which is fortunate. I was going to suggest you try Ava-Luxe’s reformulation of Honey, but I see my sister Louise already did that. Chaya said a couple of posts back that it smells like beeswax. I’m expecting an order from Serena. She may have included Honey since it’s recent. I’ll report back.

    • March says:

      Maria, thanks! I am definitely going to try the Ava-Luxe honey. I think that line’s so big I never really explore it. I love the black coffee one (Cafe Noir?)

  • sweetlife says:

    Well, well, look at all these recommendations for Botrytis. I’m scribbling down the rest of these recs, too.

    I took you up on your challenge March (issues during the sweet perfumes discussion) and ordered samps of Acqua di Cuba and MdB. I’ve given the AdC a thorough try and all I can say is…want my sample? I’d be more than happy to mail it to you. I get the honey and boyjuice at the same time, almost no development at all. The result is a skanky, vaguely urinous honey with some barbershop on top. (:| If I wait a very long time the barbershop fades out a bit, but where is that damn tobacco?

    The MdB is sitting in my to-try drawer, mocking me. I keep waiting for a good day when I’m working at home and don’t need perfume to lift my mood, and it’s under 85 degrees. Soon, soon, I swear!

    At any rate, shoot me an email if you’d like the AdC, and I’ll throw in some Botrytis, too. And if you should happen to want to get rid of that oud, rose honey stuff, well… :d

    • sweetlife says:

      Er, make that “issued” — too much AdC on the brain, I suppose. 😉

    • March says:

      Sure, I’ll swap ya! I’ll email you. That is too darn funny about the Acqua di Cuba. I read some reviews somewhere, and I didn’t see that anyone else had my, uh, problem…./:)

  • Divalano says:

    Beeswax is one of my favorite smells. Why can’t we have a perfume just like that??? I was so hoping you weren’t going to the MdB place, that you’d found The Answer someplace else. Wahh!!
    I have a sample of MdB. I keep it in its little zip lock baggie b/c if I let it out it stinks up everything else. It’s a little monster in there just waiting to take over. And I want to love it. I want dark rites, I want to be the wild thing under the moon. But alas, I put it on & get sweet. Sweeter. More sweet. Choking now. Intensely sweet. Smothering sweet. I get the honey & none of the madness. But I refuse to give the sample away. Every now & then I retry, waiting for the dark bees to grace me.

    Tried Boytris, btw & it was nice but insipidly sweet. Gave it to a friend, it’s lovely on her. I have sweet magnifying skin. Mea culpa

    • March says:

      Well, don’t give up yet! Look at all those suggestions people made. I’ll let you know if anything works out. Come on, if we can send a man to the moon … (I just typed “moom”)

      I’m curious to retry Botrytis because I wonder if it’ll be great or a train wreck.

      Hahaha on your samp. I have one just like it of Borneo, sealed in its own baggie, loose somewhere in the house. I cornered it in the laundry room but it scuttled away when my back was turned. I’m terrified Hecate will find it and dump it in the HVAC system and we’ll have to rebuild the house./:)

  • violetnoir says:

    Uh-uh…no way, no how…I ain’t putting that stuff on my precious body ever again. No matter what you say, babe, MdB will always conjure images of cat pee. Always!!

    Hugs!

    • March says:

      Ma cherie Violetnoir, as you know (because of your name right there) “Miel de Bois” translates from the original French as “pee on trees…”

  • Robin says:

    One of the nine, signing in!

    MdB smells good, but I admit that it doesn’t fill any of the “usual” requirements of perfume. I never wear it out of the house.

    Borneo: no chance, ever.

    • March says:

      R, that deserves a special category, worthy of a post: Fragrances We Never Wear Out Of the House.

      Along with a related topic: Fragrances We Never Wear In Front Of Our Loved Ones, Because They Asked Us Not To (I have several in this category, oddly enough…):o

  • Gaia says:

    Welcome to the dark side! *cackling with evilness*
    Tom is going to love this post. If his the master, I’m the high priestess. I’ve got the right look and the bottle (which out of all my beloved Serges, it’s the one I’m going through the fastest).

    Have you heard the story how my husband thought MdB was his Gris Clair and sprayed himself silly just before heading out to work? And it happened twice. His employees have been very afraid since.

    As for more suggestions, I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to, but that Gaultier2 perfume smelled a lot like honey on my skin. It was like someone took MdB and run it through an edge-removing sieve.

    • March says:

      :-& Oh my god. I can’t believe they didn’t send him home to shower. Actually, I can’t believe he could squirt more than once and not realize he was putting on Satan’s Beehive.>:) I’m with you now, but I still think the bottle should come with some kind of advisory sticker to prevent just those sorts of accidents.

      • March says:

        I like Gaultier2 quite a bit, but on me it’s pretty amber-y, more so than honey. I think it smells like the base of Le Male, if you took everything else out. The body oil is wonderful.

    • tmp00 says:

      You bet I am loving this post!

      How on gods green earth do you mistake MdeB for Gris Clair? Lordy, please tell me you don’t keep the Windex on the same shelf as the mouthwash!

      You can be my High Priestess any day! :d

      • Gaia says:

        Well, the boxes look the same, and he just didn’t bother actually reading the name. Or thinking after the first spray. He did his usual three… Then boarded a train and the PATH to Manhattan. I’d pay to see the look on the face of his fellow passengers.

  • Marina says:

    “You get together in dark alleys on the full moon, do your disgusting secret “handshake,” and head on inside to your deviant festivities that make a nice, skank-loving gal like me blush.” And of course Tom is the master of the Dark ceremony. :d> :d

    • tmp00 says:

      Dats right! :d Master of the killer-bees-on-crack! :-b

      Don’t know if Botrytis is for you if you can’t stomach the winey note, March. But then again, if you’ve come around on MdeB, anything is possible. I, of course think it’s wonderful: softer and less angry-smelling that MdeB. That first note in the Lutens smells like the bees are pissed that you opened their hive..

      • March says:

        Your review of the Ginestets made me want to try all of them. I’ll never know about the wine-y note unless I try. By the way, your description of angry bees is perfect.

    • March says:

      Tom and Gaia — initiating everyone into Satan’s Beehive.

      Be very afraid.

  • Patty says:

    Did you know I had changed my mind too? Now, I have to keep my square dot I spray on my hand at least a foot away from my nose, but from that distance, Miel de Bois is really pretty damn stunning and warm and cuddly. I totally get it.

    Hey, is that my old friend Pestilence on his mighty steed in vaulting over the backyard fence?

    • March says:

      Yeah, okay — Patty, hon — if you can hear me — HANG ON, just HANG ON! I’m sending the squad to dig around in your backyard and find your pod right NOW!

      ‘cuz the day Patty likes honey is the day I fall for Borneo.

  • Judith says:

    Well, hmmmm. Maybe this will happen to me someday. I will work up my courage and try it again—–someday. In the meantime, I will only say–I LOVE Acqua di Cuba! And it IS sweet tobacco on me–like a certain type of cigar (NO, NO! Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).:”>

    • Judith says:

      PS There’s a honey-oud scent that Diane used to have called Wafi–I think it’s great!!:x

      • March says:

        Adding this one to my list! And I should retry Acqua di Cuba, if you like it. Who knows? It could have been a bad bottle. I haven’t read anyone else discussing “that smell.”:”>

  • sariah says:

    Oh March, you’ve gone over to the dark side. Anything new/interesting at Art With Flowers? Haven’t been in ages.

    • March says:

      He’s shifted the stock around some. Still the Serges, TDC and Carthusia. He’s got some one-offs like Smiley and the Absolut Absinthe (that’s not quite the right name) and the Inekes now, and some other things. We should take another trip — I’d love to resmell Passage on you!\:d/

  • katy says:

    😡 I love Miel de Bois 😡
    Always…\:d/

  • Elle says:

    Still dark here and just wandered in from a night of deviant Miel de Bois club activities under a three quarters moon (we make do when it’s not full and the mood strikes). I’m sure the eight other members will be trailing in soon to post. 🙂
    I truly did adore this from the start. It may help that I never spray on perfumes and only ever have applied a tiny amount of this. And maybe it’s skin chemistry. Anyway, this is my favorite honey scent. I used to adore Botrytis, but now find it cloyingly sweet. *Must* try Prestige. Have you tried DSH’s Lush Honey or Mahjoun? I haven’t tried it, but I’ve heard that Vinci-Rakos’ Honey is excellent.

    • March says:

      I’m clearly going to need a decant of this. Perhaps I’ll get a non-spraying one, dabbing seems the way to go. And I’m going to retry Botrytis, along with your other suggestions, thanks!

  • Louise says:

    First Feminite de Bois, then Miel de Bois? What the heck is going on here, March? Actually (my word now, since you used up your usages 🙂 ), I find it utterly fascinating how smell taste changes over time. I keep a bottle of the original Guess perfume around to remind me of what I loved in the 80’s.

    I like honey well enough, and do like the honey in the Oud thing I gave you a samp of, but can’t abide Serge’s use of it in MdB. The honey in Fumerie Turque bothers me some days, and I have to cut it with a light, light spray of Messe de Minuit. Actually, that’s yummy.

    I do have an even more honeyed mix from the Arabian oud shop (page me), and Ava Luxe has a new scent simply called “Honey”. I haven’t had great luck with her fragrances on my-but it might be worth trying to satisfy your wild girl sweet tooth.

    • Louise says:

      me, not my. Why can’t I keyboard at 5 am? ISO caffeine.:d

    • March says:

      Wait, I have met my Lifetime Usage of that word? Nooooo! How’m I doing on “just” and “really”?/:)

      Hey, I’ll be calling you up for the other honey! And I didn’t know the Ava Luxe existed, thanks.

  • Lee says:

    Put me in with the ambivalent brigade. I think it’s okay. Sort of dry honey meets a Gucci pour Homme lookeylikey in a back alley for some off-the-record shenanigans. Interesting enough once in a while.

    • Lee says:

      And I’m not sure you should try Acqua di Cuba again. There are other ways to get that smell…

      YAfter all, there are couple of other things that smell like that male, erm, jus. Some elder blossom, and ivy in flower at this time of year. The wasps seem very drawn to its nectar (I guess a kind of honey after all). Perhaps we should rename it boy/man honey?:-&

      • March says:

        And ANOTHER meh. And, yeah, I prefer other ways to get that smell. Wearing it around would be a Walk of Shame.

        It’s funny how many plants have those gamey smells. I didn’t realize about the hawthorn until my UK trip in May — I buried my face in a couple of trees and giggled.

  • Gail S says:

    Just like Tigs, I too am ambivalent about Miel de Bois. I keep hearing it described as a “love it or hate it” perfume, but I feel neither. I can wear it and appreciate it on rare occasions but I will probably never use up my decant. People don’t often comment on my perfume (I guess that’s good if I’m not overspraying!), but I have actually received a compliment on this.

    Now, I know you have way more access than I have to niche fragrances, but I have to ask, have you tried Ginestet Botrytis? This is the honey-est perfume I have ever worn! And for body products, how about Les Couvents des Mihimes Honey & Shea body balm (from B&BW)? This smelled so like spun honey that I had to buy a tub but then discovered I couldn’t use it because the texture is just like spun honey also….and I just can’t slather that on all over. That’s just asking to be pollinated!

    • Gail S says:

      Sorry, that’s Minimes, not Mihimes:”>

    • March says:

      Another meh! And I’m getting my pen and paper out, several suggestions on here. I can’t believe that AGAIN I forgot completely about Botrytis — I tried it eons ago and got a wine-y note which spoils it for me, but should definitely retry, several people say it’s all about the honey. (And I want to try Sauvignonne (sp?) as well, it sounded teriffic.)

      The Couvent stuff DOES smell great. But I already have a honey lotion I’m nuts for (that Naked Bee stuff, along with their shampoo). You’re right, it is THICK — like, for your elbows or something.

  • dinazad says:

    HA! So you’ve finally found the fey, wild, laughing thing inside you? The one who runs barefoot through the woods, hair streaming,laughing, challenging the wind? Yeah, I know I’ve said it before, but that’s what Miel de Bois awakens in me. Welcome to the club, honey! The GrandMaster and GrandMistress will contact you about the rites of acceptance. Never fear, you’ll enjoy them!;)
    And then we’ll work on Borneo….

    • March says:

      Yes! That’s it exactly! There is something totally wild and a little dangerous in there. I can’t imagine ever needing a bottle of this (a decant would probably last me a lifetime) but I can see the need to have some around.

      And, uh, good luck with that Borneo thing.

  • Gina says:

    Great post. This is one that at first, I was like “wtf? is this a joke, did this go bad?”. After a time, I tried it again, and I do love it, in all it’s weirdness. It’s truly an oddity, a strange creation, something I don’t wear all the time, but find I want to smell it at odd moments. I ran to put it on after I read your post, and am again fascinated by the sheer weirdness of it. BUT, I too yearn for the perfect honey. Let me know if you ever find it, March.

  • Tigs says:

    I’m one of those truly odd people who finds this just sort of okay, not terrible, but not something to defend either. I like the beginning but then it freakishly just keeps building and building and building over time. It’s that rare wacko scent I feel sort of ambivalent about, the freak that inspires the “meh”.

    • March says:

      When you say “building and building and building” I get this ominous picture of a giant hive being constructed by an enormous swarm of bees…:-ss wow, look at all the “meh” comments. I truly did think it was love it or hate it.