When I went to Sniffa in October, I went a day early so I could go to CB I Hate Perfume in Brooklyn. I met a couple gals there, and we sniffed all sorts of fun things.
But it was his Wildflower Honey that entranced me. Later that night, in the movie theater as I watched Coco before Chanel, I inhaled the sweet, musky honey smell like a force field – the weather that weekend in New York was dreadful (is this the Winter of Dreadful Weather?) and I was sick-ish. The golden smell of Wildflower Honey made all the pain go away.
But I’d been in a hurry and hadn’t bought a bottle, so I ordered one up when I got home. It arrived and … it just wasn’t the same. Whatever they make “honey” scents out of, as many of you already know, can go wrong in all sorts of directions – total anosmia, or boxwood (aka “cat pee,”) or the smell that we on the Posse delicately refer to as “sperm.” (Yup – it must be March posting this morning, although Lee’s giving me a run for my money.) In fact it was Lee and I who laughed at the intense spunk note (is anyone still reading?) in Santa Maria Novella’s Acqua di Cuba. Here, let me quote from their website: This masculine scent, with a pleasing mix of tobacco and leather has decisive and dry undertones. The perfect gift for a man. And if you’re a manly man who wants to smell like sperm, well, Cuba’s your scent. (Okay, okay, it smells perfectly normal, a honeyed tobacco smell, on/to all sorts of people.)
Back on topic: I emailed CB (yes, I know him. He speaks to me. And I bought my bottle at full retail.) and described the problem. He sent me another bottle which he mixed himself. And … FAIL. Utter, utter fail. Let me emphasize that he couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful about it, and we had a long, interesting exchange about the ways that weather, and the fact that I was sick, could have affected my perception. The upshot, though, is that I have a bottle of Wildflower Honey that I can only smell the ghostly edges of, as if I were seeing the outline of a shape and none of the sculptural detail. It’s very frustrating.
So I did what any rational person would do, which is buy a full bottle of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois. There have been rumors forever that MdB was going to be axed; surely it must be the least popular of the line? But it lives on, although the most recent news from Helg at Perfume Shrine is that they’re pulling it, along with Santal Blanc, Chypre Rouge, and Douce Amere, from the export line. Miel de Bois is “a sensuous woody Oriental scent with notes of ebony, oak, gaiac, aquilaria aguillocha (used to make incense sticks) and honey all resting on base notes of beeswax, iris and hawthorn.”
I tried MdB when I was first getting to know the house o’ Serge, and I hated MdB with a passion. I thought it was one of the thickest, furriest, most unpleasantly strange things I’d ever smelled. And because of that, and some part of it, after all the hideousness, that got its hooks into me, I kept trying and trying and trying. And for me, well, once I tried it, we were pretty much done with other perfumes for the day. It was all I could do to live through that one.
And then awhile ago, I fell for it. I don’t want to say I “got it” because that would imply some awakening of a higher intellectual plane of understanding, or some such. I put it on, and I put up with the first bits, which are hawthorne-y on me and, okay, a hair rough – that magnolia/Cheeto smell that’s a bit like rancid butter. But after that? It’s like standing in the warm embrace of the sun. In heaven. While angels play their harps. And etc. I totally understand why many, many people are honey-haters in perfumery. But if you’re a honey-lover, IMO you haven’t walked the walk unless you’ve tried Miel de Bois.
Here, let me quote from TS in The Guide – “animalic floral,” one crummy star. And here’s why: “Phenylacetic acid smells like honey in dilution, like urine at concentration. Miel de Bois (honey of wood) gets the balance drastically wrong and smells like a New York sidewalk in July. A very small percentage of people find it floral and don’t know why the rest of us are howling.”
A full bottle of Miel de Bois will last me until the sun explodes, I’d imagine. And the ride is pretty different if you dab vs. spray. Dabbing takes away from some of the terror, but let’s face it – you’re making a commitment here, putting this on. Go Big or Go Home. You have to spray. Because although you get the worst – really, that buttery, furry part at the beginning is a bit much – you also get the best when you spray – the sweetest part of the honey itself, the part right in the center that smells the way a drop of excellent honey would taste on your tongue – and I never get that unless I spray it.
I feel guilty wearing it out; I wonder if people around me think I’ve wet myself, even though that’s not how it smells to me. On the plus side, if I sidle up to the girls six or eight hours after spraying, they spontaneously exclaim that I smell wonderful, so it can’t all be in my imagination. If you get it on your clothes, it will be there until they disintegrate. I’m just saying.
And now… I really want to try it layered with Santal Blanc on one arm, and Fleurs d’Oranger on the other. But I’ve had a sinus headache and I’m too scared that the combination on the wrong day would be so punishing I’d never want to smell MdB again. My personal bet is that MdB might well bury SB, but if it worked, it could be magic. I’m thinking FdO + MdB would be astonishing – orange-flower honey! – unless it makes me retch and reach for the Liquid Tide. What say you? Does anyone else layer Lutens? And I’m talking the ballsier ones, not Clair de Musc (which I put on almost everything, if it needs some sparkle.)
UPDATE: okay, I layered MdB and FdO, which is like inviting Genghis Khan and Godzilla over for dinner; who’s going to die first? As it turns out, Genghis and Godzilla are quite the conversationalists. It’s two parts FdO to one part MdB, and nobody wanted to sit next to me at dinner, but my god, it’s gorgeous. FdO suppresses the Cheeto-feet of MdB nicely, and that honey really works with the orange blossom while muting the cumin-y note at the top of FdO that bothers some folks (although not me.)
PS. For folks interested in honey, there are links to my earlier honey posts here and here. Also, we’re having an image upload FAIL, so until we get that resolved, you’ll have to imagine a nice photo up there.
Source: full, wrapped bottle of MdB purchased from eBay seller in Canada; private sample of FdO.