Feminité du Bois: Fruit, cedar, spice and everything nice

a game of textures and colours

If ever a fragrance managed to include all the warm and cosy notes in the world in one bottle this was Feminité du Bois. Initially released in 1992 as a Shiseido release, it joined the Serge Lutens line in 2009, when Serge Lutens left Shiseido.  It was conceived as a contradiction. The incorporation of cedar, a classic masculine note, into a feminine composition. It was the child of a collaboration of Pierre Bourdon and Christopher Sheldrake.

Feminité du Bois opens with a candied sweetness, something that has become sort of a trademark for Serge Lutens. It is candied plum and apricot and every dried fruit that you can think of  thrown together. Cumin also plays a huge part in the opening. It cuts sweetness down with its earthy, dusty qualities. A generous sprinkle of high quality pencil shavings supports the entire composition and forms the heart and base of this perfume. Floral notes add a lift and spices warmth. All this is quite nice but it really doesn’t sound breath taking, does it?

What is amazing in Feminité du Bois cannot be described through a listing of notes. All this has been done before. What is unique in this fragrance is texture. Or textures to be more precise. Because all these different textures seem to co-exist in this one. Sometimes you catch a whiff of the sweet stewed fruit sticking on the back of your throat. Moments later there is this dusty quality coming from the spices, sprinkling the nostrils almost making you want to sneeze. Polished cedar wood competes with everything, winning most of the times. Violet cuts through with a velvety quality. Honey makes everything stick together. Feminité du Bois is not a great perfume for using original notes. It is a great perfume for creating a kaleidoscope of textures and colours, all dancing together on skin, keeping you guessing. And there is also proof for this.

Allow me to introduce exhibit A: Christian Dior Dolce Vita.  a perfume released in 1994 and created by Pierre Bourdon himself  with the collaboration of Maurice Roger. The note list is almost identical and it is obvious too. Same cedar base, cinnamon and spices, fruits and florals. But how do they compare? You can read a very detailed historical and olfactory comparison by The Muse in Wooden Shoes here which will be a lot more informative. The only thing that I can add is that back in the early 90′s Dolce Vita was so much more fashionable. It was sparkly, it fizzed like champaign. It didn’t have the slightly claustrophobic atmosphere and dark hues of Feminité du Bois. It was feminine and intoxicating. It was really lovely. But what has happened to it? It looks like it is still in production but I have not seen it around in ages or even hear talk about it. Feminité du Bois is still going strong. Dolce Vita would have been impossible to pull for a man. Feminité du Bois is seems to be shifting from sweet fruit to warm wood when it touches masculine skin.

It’s all about proportion and textures in perfumery. I would urge anyone who spends a lot of time dissecting note pyramids before deciding what to try on skin to find samples of these and try them side by side. Note listing practically identical. Perfume character couldn’t be different.

Notes from Fragrantica:  ginger, cinnamon, cedar wood, peach, plum, orange blossom, violets, spices, vanilla, sandal wood, benzoin, musk, cinnamon

Notes from my nose: plum, apricot, spices, pencil shavings, honey

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About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas http://pantelismakkas.blogspot.com/. You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.

15 comments

  1. http://maisqueperfume.blogspot.com/2010/04/feminite-du-bois-edp-serge-lutens.html

    if you wish to read my impressions…

    I like this fragrance, but it gives me headaches sometimes.

    I prefer Attrapé Cours by Guerlain to tell you the truth. Your thoughts? XX

    • I just read your piece Simone. We have to get together and smell things! I can’t believe how we used similar words and ideas to describe this. It goes to show how important the idea of texture is in the creation of this perfume. I haven’t smelled the Serge Lutens version of it and I haven’t smelled Attrape Coeur. Guerlains are not available in Greece. My friend Saif kindly sent me some samples that I wanted to smell but Attrape Coeur was not on my radar at the time.

  2. GeM

    Pencil shavings! —> this is what I like the most about your impressions: That’s it, it is TRUE!
    I never was able to put this into words!
    (although I never tried the former version of FdB I think that you’re reviewing, but I can assure you of that pencil shavings as well)

    I’ve been talking about FdB on Olfactoria’s just a few minutes ago, that’s funny! It is another true love scent of my life, along with SL’s Fleurs d’Oranger and LouLou Cacharel. Now I have nearly finished my bottle. Anyway, maybe to enhance a more feminine side (I agree with every single thing you’ve said), I used to wear it layered with a honey & orange blossom body lotion that it’s discontinued now -for which I have no substitute yet-, and what I really LOVED the most was that combo effect. It worked dreamy! So I’m smiling with you ‘honeyed’ impressions, too. Now when I wear it, people use to say ‘what does it smells like cinnamon?’ (It’s funny how they tend to simplify) and some other people are only able to refer it as a ‘woody smell’ and that’s all. No textures.

    Well, this is an exceptional creature. ♥ Great review!!

    Now I remember that Dolce Vita was the signature of a friend of mine when we were teens: I wore LouLou and she wore Dolce Vita haha! Maybe that’s the reason I liked FdB when I smelled many years later.
    When I smelled again DV just a few time ago, I still found in it a resemblance with FdB… but for some strange reason I find DV less wearable today (despite the thing it seems I’ve been lately interested in the most ‘sultry’ vintage scents as you can imagine, as LouLou, Yvresse, Parfum de Peau etc…). But like it happened to me with Trésor by Lancôme, I feel Dolce Vita a little dated and generic for my taste.

    • GeM

      PS: What I like the most of FdB is that is ALIVE. I mean like a pulsation: it gives a warm heart-throbbing effect that sometimes is embarrassing. I always think in that Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ scene, with Scottie and Madeleine under the monumental ancient woods and touching the tree circles while she’s confessing her dreams.

    • In a strange way what used to be a novelty in Dolce Vita back in 1994 now smells dated. It still is one of the great head turners. It just makes you want to ask “what perfume are you wearing?” but it smells a bit… old lady now.

  3. You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one, Féminité du Bois has more texture to it than any other perfume, it feels like purple velvet to me.

    How do you feel about the newer Serge Lutens re-issue? I haven’t ever tried the original, but the general consensus is that it’s ‘fuller’ than the re-issue?

    Also, that bottle is a thing of beauty, is the cap made out of wood or is it a wood effect? Or is it just the light tricking me?

    • To me it takes all the colours of natural amber, from honey to deep purple. It is shifting all the time. I have never smelled the new version. The Greek perfume market is so weird it is easier to find a vintage bottle than the new version. The cap is not wood but it does have the grain of wood. Olfactoria’s photo of the entire line of bottles is amazing. Especially the extrait version. I have some of the extrait coming my way courtesy of my friend Saif.

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  5. At last I managed to wear it and now I can respond while sniffing. To start, its one of the Lutens scents (along with Serge Noire and Vetiver Oriental) that I find extremely difficult to spray on me although I like to smell on other people. I like the wonderfull cedar note that dominates the composition almost top to base (how the hell he does it!) I also like the well rounded apricot -plum jam still bubbling in the pan and the moderated floral addition to it. What I dont like is that haunting spice bouquet of cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove that wants to rule over every other note existing in the heart of the fragrance. The original bottle is a beauty and its a pity it is discontinued.

    • This haunting spice bouquet is what gives to me sense of texture as well as a claustrophobic atmosphere. I think the degree to which the spices dominate the composition depend a lot on how close you smell the skin. From a distance the spices are less obvious and FdB has a sweeter aura. Putting nose on skin brings out the spices and a dusty vibe. Maybe this is why you prefer to smell this on others rather than on yourself.

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