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July 14, 2006

Guerlain Bois d'Armenie : Perfume Review


I confess that I approached Bois d’Arménie with a fair deal of apprehension. Despite my initial expectations, I have not found myself as moved by the L'Art et la Matiere collection as by the other Guerlain fragrances, from the treasured vintages like Rue de la Paix and Fol Arôme, the timeless classics like Mitsouko and Chamade to the more recent gems like Attrape-Coeur. Certainly, L'Art et la Matiere, which includes Angélique Noire, Cuir Beluga, Rose Barbare, and now Bois d’Arménie, has the aura of opulence and elegance that marks some other Guerlain classics; however, the effect in case of Cuir Beluga and Angelique Noire is rather self-conscious. Rose Barbare was the only fragrance I found distinctive, although even in that case, I wished for an edgier interpretation. …

Created by Annick Ménardo, Bois d’Arménie (Armenian Wood) is based on the aroma of scented paper used as incense since the 16th century. Papier d'Arménie, which as the story goes, was created to enjoy the medicinal properties of benzoin, is still popular in France, and those familiar with its sweet woody powderiness will recognize the source of inspiration for Bois d’Arménie. It does not have the complexity of the Guerlain classics, nor does it offer the multifaceted transformations marking the fragrances that made the house famous. Instead, it is a panoramic take on the incense theme, which is executed in an elegant manner, combining transparency and softness. Given its graceful and harmonious composition, I would not hesitate to call Bois d’Arménie the best of the L'Art et la Matiere collection thus far.

The first impression is of the transparent cloud of smoke, tinged with the familiar Guerlain iris, which intensifies as the composition dries down. However, the floral notes are rather delicate, serving as the soft accents to what essentially is the smoky woody composition with pronounced balsamic sweetness. The rubbery rose of guaiac wood lends its rich smokiness to the woody accord. Despite the strongly accented wood and incense notes, the composition is remarkably soft, staying rather close to the skin. Yet, before the vanillic sweetness of benzoin laced with sheer smoke has a chance to attain a tame demeanour, the effervescent jolt of patchouli adds more interest to the arrangement. Its sweet fireworks against the soft vanillic backdrop persist into the drydown, which only subtly hints at the initial incense origins of the composition. Those who like their incense hot and smouldering will probably wish for more darkness; however, as an interesting woody composition, Bois d’Arménie offers much to enjoy. 

Like Rose Barbare, Bois d’Arménie is the least Guerlain influenced composition from the L'Art et la Matiere collection, merely hinting at the house’s love affair with the powdery notes. Perhaps, it might prove that the most successful Guerlain fragrance in the spirit of the house is not the one bound by its traditions, but rather the one that finds an inspiration in them and creates a universe of its own.

Bois d’Arménie includes notes of "pink pepper, iris, rose, coriander, benzoin, Indonesian patchouli, incense, precious woods, musk and balsams." For the time being, Bois d'Armenie is exclusive to 68, Champs Elysées store, however it can be ordered by calling 33 145 62 52 57 or writing to Francoise, who is responsible for overseas sales, at .

Photo of incense smoke from



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