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September 20, 2005

Fragrance review: Chanel Bois des Iles

Forest

Some fragrances are admirable from a distance (Yves Saint Laurent Opium), being masterfully composed, yet only marginally wearable. However, there is a category of fragrances that are beautiful from any perspective. Bois des Iles is one such composition, in which every element is just perfect and every facet is stunning.

It is said that Ernest Beaux, a Russian émigré, was inspired by “The Queen of Spades,” when he created Bois des Iles in 1926. “The Queen of Spades” (La Dame de Pique) is an opera by Tchaikovsky, based on Aleksandr Pushkin’s story of love and obsession. Bois des Iles is a scent that awakens my nostalgic yearnings. Its beauty has the same melancholy effect as a walk through the autumnal forest—the soft light diffused through the golden canopy of branches, the bittersweet scent of decaying leaves, the awareness of the autumnal transience.

Bois des Iles was a fragrance Ernest Beaux named as a favourite among his compositions. Playing with the traditional categories, Beaux composed a feminine fragrance that emphasized the strength and darkness of woods, a traditional masculine domain. Slightly bitter, crisp notes segue into the heart of iris, rose, ylang ylang and jasmine, followed by a spicy note of coriander. The genius of the composition lies in weaving dry woodsy notes with hazy sweetness of a floral bouquet refracted through the aldehydic prism. A juxtaposition of sandalwood and vetiver with vanillic darkness of tonka bean and warmth of amber conjures a sensation of walking into a fireplace heated room. While the chill of the air still clings to the skin, the languorous warmth of fire overtakes quickly. The drydown of Bois des Iles contrasts wonderfully with the cold medicinal breeze in its top notes and hints not only at the presence of beautifully carved sandalwood ornaments, but also a plate of freshly baked ginger bread emanating its luscious spicy aroma.

While designated as a feminine fragrance, Bois des Iles would be elegant on a man. Although the EDT is beautiful, the parfum takes the perfection to another level. It is luxurious, smooth and enveloping, with more emphasis on sweetness. Notes include aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, peach; jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, iris, ylang-ylang; vetiver, sandalwood, benzoin, musk. Both the EDT and the parfum are available from the Chanel boutiques and Gloss.com.

Photo: Autumnal forest from www.naturescene.co.uk/ forest/home.htm.

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