There are siblings who have markedly similar personalities. Growing up together, sharing one or both parents, living in the same household, all these elements leave an indelible mark on their preferences and behaviors, regardless of how different they seem to present themselves to others. The same principle can be applied to fragrances that share, among other things, a common creator. In this review we will focus on the eldest of two sisters that were born in the nineties.
Back when Mr. Serge was at the helm of Shiseido, he envisioned a fragrance based not on the classically feminine oriental or chypre harmonies, but on dry, austere and manly woods. Uncle Serge has stated that an encounter with a box made of cedarwood in Morocco left a mark of fragrant interest in him, which eventually translated into this scent and later to some of his other creations. It is certainly not the first woody composition directed at a female audience, but his progressive vision cannot be denied. It was innovative in the early nineties, now “…expresses the masculine side of femininity and vice-versa” as said by Luten’s PR.
Upon the first spray, Féminité du Bois opens with a blast of spices laid over a dry cedar note. To be specific, the spices are a triad of cloves, cinnamon, and very perceptible cumin that although it is not listed among its notes, its presence is so obvious that its effect on the composition is indisputable. After two minutes, the plum and peach, faint in the beginning, take the spotlight right next to the spices. The fruit notes sweeten the arrangement, balancing the sharp edges of the cedar and spices.
This arpeggio between cumin and plum reminds me of Femme by Rochas after being masterfully saved reformulated by Olivier Cresp in 1989. However, the fruits here never seem to attain the fullness of Femme and the cumin never becomes bodily. These fruits are not fresh, nowhere near overripe. They are instead dried and reconstituted in spiced hot tea. The impression, next to the cedar and the high dose of iso E-Super is that of opulence contrasted with austerity, which can be slightly unforgiving to some. Yet, I would not call it inaccessible.
Now, there is an element within the formula that is responsible for keeping all the other notes in perfect cohesion. That is violet, or rather alpha-isomethyl ionone. Its powdery aroma is the source of harmony between the aggressive spices, the fruits, and the dry cedar -notes that otherwise would be in discord. This dissected violet never takes center stage. Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon managed to integrate these disparate accords into a well-blended composition, a success that was further explored by Sheldrake in other scents for Lutens. Bourdon did the same for another house. Let´s call that one “the sister”.
The scent is mainly linear with little noticeable changes other than the spices lowering their volume over time, stays close to the skin, and has good lasting power. Back in the nineties it was aimed towards the female consumer, but nowadays it would be fairly easy to categorize it as a unisex fragrance. This is a moody scent for someone with a profuse character shaped by the teachings of the past. Its contemplative nature makes Fémenite du Bois delectable up until its dusk.
Name: Féminité du Bois
House: Serge Lutens
Concentration: Eau de parfum
Nose: Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon
Release Year: 1992 originally for Shiseido, 2009 for Serge Lutens
Category: Woody oriental
Reviewed Batch: circa 2017
From personal colletion.