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 â€” 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.