Chanel Bois des Iles Les Exclusifs : Perfume Review

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Forest

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

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. Chanel 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 favorite 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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26 Comments

  • parislondres: I love this perfume and thank you for the lovely review. Rather sad here because I have a few drops of the parfum left and I will wear this and finish it today. I get the gingerbread-like note which I enjoy and it is so autumnal and comforting to me.

    It is a beautifully made perfumes and one of my contemplative fragrances. I wear this when I need to concentrate and get work done. As you know, I also find SL’s Bois de Violette very calming (very different in character but still perfect for those times when you need to be left alone to get some quality work done). The drydown is superb and I enjoyed wearing the parfum. Have been wondering whether I should replace it – maybe one day….

    Hope you are very well and that you have a lovely day dear V!

    Hugs! September 20, 2005 at 4:36am Reply

  • Laura: I’ve had the strangest experience with BdI-I adored it and wore it often and had the perfume and edp (or was it edt) versions. Then one day I could no longer stand it. Not one whiff, not one sniff. It had turned sweet and suffocating on me. It is very sad because I liked it so much. I gave away my bottles. September 20, 2005 at 5:32am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I´m so sad that I can´t remember my impressions on Bois des Iles when I tested in Paris – but I think I liked it – at least I don´t have any negative memories ;)
    The sales lady at Chanel boutique was very nice & let me try the perfume version of Cuir de Russie which I adore.
    I´d love to test Bois des Iles once more – I hope I´ll get the chance! September 20, 2005 at 6:58am Reply

  • mreenymo: V, I may have to test this one again, because your gorgeous review is nothing like the EDT that I tried. Maybe the parfum version is better.

    On the other hand, my relationship with Chanel fragrances is still evolving. I used to hate all of them except No. 19. Then, thanks to wonderful perfume friends like you, I tested more of them and fell in love with Cristalle, Coco and Coco Mlle. I still can’t get “into” Allure or No. 5 or Gardenia or any of the others…but there’s still hope! :):)

    Hugs! September 20, 2005 at 11:21am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, I am always happy to see another Bois des Iles fan. I remember when we tested the parfum and how much we both liked it. It is indeed a very contemplative fragrance, that makes me feel as if I am bathed in the golden light. It is indeed something I wear when I am in my introspective mood. There is nothing that can rival it in elegance.

    I only have the EDT, although the parfum purchase is something I should consider. Maybe in the winter? :) September 20, 2005 at 11:39am Reply

  • Marina: Vikochka, Bois des Iles is my No 1 scent, the holiest of all holy grails :-) Thank you so much for reviewing it!! I had no idea Beaux was inspired by Pikovaia Dama, how interesting. I am so happy to see my beloved, my preciossss reviewed and reviewed so wonderfully. September 20, 2005 at 11:44am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear L, I had a couple of similar experiences with other fragrances. I am not sure if something in the perception changes, or whether it is the body chemistry issue. I am sorry that it happened with Bois des Iles for you. September 20, 2005 at 11:48am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, it is a fragrance that needs its own day to experience it properly.

    Cuir de Russie is another amazing fragrance. I love it in the parfum. Did you end up buying it? September 20, 2005 at 11:51am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I am so happy that you rediscovered some of Chanel fragrance you did not like before. I think that tastes evolve, and I recall only recently not being taken in at all by No. 22. Now, it is among my favourite fragrances. Strangely, I became lukewarm towards Gardenia as the time went on.

    Hope that you are having a great day! September 20, 2005 at 11:55am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marinochka, I was so curious by this fact that I ran to my bookshelf and reread Pikovaya Dama. Bois des Iles does not conjure the same darkness as the story, but there is something mystical about it. I am glad that you like it as much as I do. I treasure my bottle of the EDT, and I think that the next trip to Paris might result in the parfum purchase. Spasibo za kompliment! :) September 20, 2005 at 11:57am Reply

  • yann: great review ! I used to wear Bois des Iles a lot, and alternate with Cuir de Russie, definitely these are gorgeous on both women and men. Ernest Beaux is definitely my favorite perfumer ! September 20, 2005 at 12:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Yann, thank you! Cuir de Russie is one of my favourites as well. The iris is weaved in so wonderfully with the leather that each element is in perfect harmony. Ernest Beaux was such a genius. I never fail to be amazed by the beauty of his compositions, nomatter how often I revisit them. September 20, 2005 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Tania: I got both Bois des Iles and Cuir de Russie last autumn, and it was one of the best (and until recent insane adventures, definitely one of my biggest) fragrance purchases ever. Both are permanently on my top ten list. The aldehydes that strike me as so played out in Chanel No. 5 (not No. 5’s fault, just the contempt that comes with familiarity), where they shine an especially vivid light on a nice but otherwise unsurprising jasmine-rose, seem to make the sweet woods of Bois des Iles so expansive that the smell wraps you like a cloak. And the gingerbready warmth is unbeatable. (Like other things that have nutmeg or cinnamon + a balsamic/vanillic + a citrus like bergamot, the top accord reminds me, fleetingly, of Coca-Cola.)

    I’m so happy that it’s getting a little colder. Out come the sweaters, the jackets, the boots, and the Bois des Iles. September 20, 2005 at 12:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, I especially love the iris powder that seems to scintillate in the heart of the composition, lending a wonderful touch to the other floral notes. You are spot on about the ability of the scent to envelop. Although it is not about to get cold here until a couple of month from now, I do not care. The autumn is already here for me. I like the weather to be autumnal on my birthday, and the end of September is usually cold in most place I have lived. Therefore, the associations will be created, if needed. :) September 20, 2005 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Sisonne: V, no I didn´t buy it – I felt really sorry, but – as you know – I bought so many other fragrances that I couldn´t afford it.
    I´d like to have the perfume version & the one from Gardenia & maybe Bois des Iles & …oh well ;D
    We don´t have a Chanel boutique in town, so perhaps I have to wait a while until I´ll get to visit one. September 20, 2005 at 12:59pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: S, yes, too many perfumes, too little time… I am almost thankful that there are few perfume shopping options near me, although internet makes things very easy to access. I am not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. :) September 20, 2005 at 1:08pm Reply

  • Michel: great review !bois de jasmin
    “bois des isles” such nice name i loved the name before, and i smelled … do you know there was an other perfume composed at the same period by Beaux for Chanel,”Sycomore”, one day perhapes is gone live again.
    i’know you’re not a fan of “iris poudre”, but for me this is the same story : maturity and exotisme in fact on my skin the santal,the vetiver and the tonka of ‘iris poudre”are very présent. September 20, 2005 at 3:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Michel, thank you. I have always been curious about other Beaux creations that are no longer available. I also hope that they will be resurrected.

    I like Iris Poudre, and I think that you are right in that these elements are common to both compositions. Of course, the finished results differ, but it is fascinating to compare. September 20, 2005 at 4:22pm Reply

  • Robin: One of my favorite scents, although I’ve never tried the parfum. Am almost afraid to, for that matter…don’t need yet another expensive habit, LOL! September 20, 2005 at 4:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: The EDT and the parfum are a little bit different, with sweet notes more pronounced in the parfum. While it is sweeter, the effect is much smoother. Nevertheless, I think that Chanel EDTs are always really well made, and that Bois des Iles is perfect in any concentration. September 20, 2005 at 4:35pm Reply

  • Lost: One of my favorite fragrances V. It is perfect for fall and elegant beyond description. I have recently fallen in love with Cuir de Russie (thanks T). I do look forward to trying Chanel No. 5 parfum. Perhaps it is my winter of Chanel. Thanks for a great review. Is Cuir de Russie next??? Please say yes – soon :) September 20, 2005 at 10:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: F, “elegant beyond description” could be the only thing one needs to say about Bois des Iles. I also fell in love with Cuir de Russie all over again when I tried the parfum, but even in the EDT it is magical. I shall have to review it for my leather week, and it is coming soon!

    Chanel No 5 parfum is wonderful. I also love the EDT, while the EDP is my least favourite (still beautiful, but not like either smooth and rich parfum or opalescent EDT.) September 20, 2005 at 11:44pm Reply

  • Lisl: My mother wore Cuir de Russie. I remember a heart-stopping note in it that made it the only perfume for me. Then, it disappeared, no longer sold in the U.S.

    Years later, on a trip to Paris in 1986, I found it in the Rue Cambon and bought several bottles for my mother. But it wasn’t the same. That same note was so fleeting I thought I imagined it. My mother said the same thing.

    What a loss. June 2, 2007 at 10:27pm Reply

  • Lisl: My mother wore Cuir de Russie. I remember a heart-stopping note in it that made it the only perfume for me. Then, it disappeared, no longer sold in the U.S.

    Years later, on a trip to Paris in 1986, I found it in the Rue Cambon and bought several bottles for my mother. But it wasn’t the same. That same note was so fleeting I thought I imagined it. My mother said the same thing.

    What a loss. June 2, 2007 at 10:27pm Reply

  • Erry: I tried BdI Edt on the tester paper yesterday … I liked it but my husband said it reminded him of men’s toilet. He preferred No. 22 which was sprayed on my wrist, i liked it also. I ended up buying nothing. well, i guess it’s still a long way to go till I find my HG fragrance. October 8, 2011 at 8:33am Reply

  • Victoria: I can sympathize! It takes time.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile October 9, 2011 at 8:14pm Reply

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