The perfume that launched a thousand ships.
For me anyway.
Bois de Violette was my first bottle of Serge Lutens. My first dropping of an ungodly amount of money on a fragrance. My first idea that this whole perfume thing had more to it than I ever imagined.
It is the Proust Questionnaire writ en perfume: When and Where were you happiest? If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? What historical figure do you most identify with?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Before we get into me handing over my credit card at Barney’s while doing some deep breathing exercises, I suppose it’s important to note that Bois de Violette is a flanker.
The original. The big Momma. The first Serge Lutens is Feminite du Bois originally by Shiseido. It is iconic. It is one of the best. And it is a shining example of what niche perfumery can do. Check it out. I’ll review it some day.
In the meantime, experimentally, Christopher Sheldrake (the perfumer) decided to dink around with the formula and pop up one of the notes to 11 while keeping the “bois (i.e. woods)” intact. What followed was Bois et Fruits, Bois et Musc, Un Bois Vanille (Which always makes me go “That is one Woodsy Vanilla!”),Orientale, Santal de Mysore, Chene, Sepia and Bois de Violette. While I have given good sniff to some of these, I can only speak to Violette.
It’s a darker violet than most violet perfumes which tend to be rather simple and girlish.
It’s a rainy day at the library.
It’s a deep thought.
It’s an Eddie Izzard riff on European history. Same gender confusion and all the better for it.
This is not a perfume of sex, death and religion but rather a dissertation regarding all three.
My parents love to watch a show about Monarchy and they do impressions of the host who always says very British things like, “So it remained for years, ” except it comes out “yee-ahssss.”
And so Bois de Violette is professorial in nature and has a bit of a tweediness and yet it is as French as French can be. Mr. Proust, we meet again.
But for this Midwesterner…
Who gives a shit? It’s great!
In the words of a fellow American philosophizer, the esteemed Gomer Pile, “Makes ya think.”
(My reaction when I smelled Bois de Violette for the first time.)
It DOES make you think. It’s thoughtful, studious, and takes itself a little seriously, and yet in the end it’s simply the one of the greatest violet perfumes ever conceived. So prepare yourself, Bois de Violette may ask you the big questions:
What is a trait you most deplore in yourself?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
What flower do you like?