Ah, Thanksgiving…Turkey, yams, pumpkin pie…But also cold, dreary weather and the imminent arrival of winter. Being a big fan of sunny summer days, I fail to find solace in brightly colored autumnal leaves or the first delicate snow on the ground, and generally I am not in a thankful mood at the end of November. When I am this cold and miserable, I reach for my beloved woody-oriental scents*, and if I feel grateful for anything, it is for these wonderful fragrances.
The one that I am perhaps most grateful for is Bois des Iles by Chanel, one of my “Holy Grail” scents; whenever I smell it after a (always short) break, I keep wondering why do I bother owning other scents, forever looking for more scents, and chasing after new releases, when clearly nothing can compare to the perfection that is Bois des Iles. Part of the exclusive Rue de Cambon collection, it is a blend of sandalwood, vetiver, tonka bean, vanilla, ylang ylang, iris, coriander, rose, jasmine and aldehydes. The notes sound quite ordinary, yet somehow they combine to create a miraculous scent, smooth, soft, infinitely wearable. Luca Turin said it best when he called Bois des Iles “un magique vin chaud qui guérirait des maux de ce monde”, a magic hot wine that would cure evils of this world (Le Guide).
Created by Ernest Beaux as the first woody fragrance for women, Bois des Iles is the proof that wood can be feminine, warm and sensual. Ironically, contrary to that statement, the fragrance actually starts rather dry, earthy, and cool (iris), there is a certain astringent sweetness to it that I believe is the coriander note. This is the scent of a dryad, a tree spirit of Greek mythology, a creature that is both otherworldly and crucially connected with this world. As the fragrance develops, it “warms up”, and the sensual aspect becomes more apparent. Different lists of notes tell different things, some mention bitter almond and gingerbread notes, and some don’t, but, on a good day, with the right skin chemistry, those two notes are very apparent, they are like a dark golden shimmering core of the scent, the warmth that illuminates Bois des Iles from within. Sometimes, there is even a cinnamon-like note in the scent, and when it is there, Bois des Iles is at its warmest and most luxurious, not just hot wine, but a veritable magical elixir, an olfactory equivalent of liquid gold.
I love both the Parfum and the Eau de Toilette version, but, sacrilegious as it may sound, I think I actually prefer the latter. Parfum is more powdery to my nose and disappears much faster, while Eau de Toilette is actually smoother and softer, and the wonderful, warm and elegant drydown of sandalwood, vetiver and tonka bean, though staying quite close to the skin, lasts for many hours.
Bois des Iles is available at Chanel.com and Gloss.com, where 0,5oz of Parfum retails for $160.00 and 3,4oz for $80.00.
*From Michael Edwards: The family of Woody-Orientals emphasizes the woody character of floral Orientals; their flowers and spices play second string to the dominant sandalwood and/or patchouli notes. The Oriental influence is more noticeable, too, and balances the deep wood notes.
**The first painting is Hiver Approche by Zenker; the second is The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan.