Jil Sander Woman III: a handsome woman


After my long pause I feel that my posts are becoming more personal. I focus less on what is happening to the ever growing perfume market and more on what happens inside me. So as much as I am reluctant to write reviews of discontinued scents I believe that the name of this blog, Memory of Scents, justifies an indulgence of my own preferences and scents I enjoy at the time. Jil Sander Woman III was released in 1985 and is now discontinued but having a great love for all earlier releases of this house I looked for them and I have almost completed my collection of masculine and feminine scents from this label. The masculines are almost revolutionary, even by today standards. The feminines are more classical, chypres usually. Woman III however is a shocking scent. With its roots deep in classic perfumery it defies classification and analysis. It is usually classified as a floral or woody chypre but reviewer consensus seems to be that this is a woody masculine scent. In fact it seems to me that in this scent two narratives coexist in parallel.

jil-sander-woman-III-eau-de-toilette-100-mlWoody notes and dry patchouli are obvious immediately followed by a grey aura of oak moss and ambergris. Even though semi-official note lists refer amber, I am almost convinced that a disambiguation is needed here. I can’t smell anything reminiscent of the sweetness of amber. What I can pick out though is the salty, almost ozonic vibe of ambergris. Ambergris is an ingredient, amber is an accord and they have nothing in common. The oak moss/ ambergris combination create a spacious, blue-grey accord that I have smelled in Nabucco ΓΦΛ/LOV and it completely dominates Woman III. This accord is almost like a phantom lavender note, and in this case is responsible for the masculine vibe of this scent. The patchouli heart blends so beautifully with it creating a goth atmosphere. But as the scent starts to heat up on the skin, a jasmine heart blooms and breathes life to the arid, dry composition. There is no discordance in this scent, but I can’t help but picture this fleshy jasmine float inside a wooden, dusty cage. The flower never touches the cage, it remains suspended in mid air, sending whiffs of narcotic nocturnal blooms through the openings of its dry, salty container.

Jil Sander Woman III is a monument of creativity and classicism. It gives me the impression of a composition so perfectly studied and so outrageously ambitious, that it aimed to embody The Perfume, with a capital P. It tries to build on the chypre structure but make it larger, broader, woodier, adding bits and pieces of other genres. The result is a monolith of a scent that transcends styles and genders. The note listing from Fragrantica and Parfumo read like a long, tedious shopping list for an elaborate dinner. all the flowers in the garden, all base notes known to man, woods and spices. Even coconut is listed, which doesn’t make an appearance not even for a brief moment. I am certain that these ingredients do exist in the composition. But the magic happens when they all blend together to create a perfume so centred, so poised, so monumental, that speaking of individual notes is frankly useless. I like to wear Woman III in the evening, even if I have nowhere to go. Wear it like a warm, fluffy, black cashmere sweater, or like a red blanket that shelters and warms my dreams.

It is not clear who the perfumer of Jil Sander Woman III is. Parfumo cites Michael Romani. Fragrantica attributes this to Michel Almairac who also authored Jil Sander Woman 4 and the equally ambiguous Joop Homme among other well known fragrances. I list both for research purposes.

Notes from Parfumo: Aldehydes, Bergamot, Hyacinth, Coriander, Bay leaf, Nutmeg, Orange blossom, Pepper, Rosewood, Carnation, Geranium, Honey, Orris root, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-valley, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang-ylang, Amber, Benzoin, Oakmoss, Coconut, Musk, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Vetiver, Cedar

Notes from my nose: Patchouli, Cedar, Oak moss, Ambergris, Jasmine


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.


  1. rachel

    This is one of those scents from my youth that I remember loving. Thanks for reminding me I also liked Joop for women were they similar?

  2. What gorgeous imagery you present of this perfume, Christos! And I like it that you’re allowing your perfume posts to be personal (I use the word “be” rather than “become” because I think your posts have always been very personal … that’s why I love them, and I’m glad your giving yourself permission to continue in that vein). ❤ And writing about discontinued perfumes is important, I think, because each post in its own way helps map out the history of perfumery. (Or at least that's my idea of what happens when various people across the perfume blogosphere write posts about their favorite discontinued perfumes.)

  3. Hey Christos,
    Sadly I never did smell it but you write about it so lovingly.
    Portia xx

  4. Dutchie

    I really, really miss it since it was discontinued. A total shame!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: