Shiseido Féminité du Bois is a brilliant revelation that cedarwood, a note considered to belong in the sphere of masculine perfumery can be made into the main theme of a feminine composition that does not compromise the resinous dryness of wood for the sake of fitting with the traditional concepts; nor softens it with flowers until the wood looses its unique texture.
Serge Lutens oversaw the creation of Féminité du Bois for Shiseido, and the fruity, violet tinged cedarwood accord that radiates in it is the backbone of the entire Lutens Les Eaux Boisées series, which include Bois de Violette, Bois et Musc, Bois Oriental, Bois et Fruits, Santal de Mysore, Chêne and Un Bois Sépia. Created by Pierre Bourdon (who subsequently worked the plumy cedarwood accord into the luxurious richness of Dolce Vita (1995)) and Christopher Sheldrake in 1992, Féminité du Bois arranges the spicy top accord with the weightless floral heart. …
The entire composition rests in the strong embrace of cedarwood, dusky like the shadows that contrast with the dazzling light of Vermeer’s paintings, elevating simple moments into visions of disarming beauty. Féminité du Bois exquisitely captures the texture of raw silk with its transparent layers of notes, the clinging dryness of woods interspersed with the velvety flesh of red plums.
On a technical level, the silky duskiness of Féminité du Bois is achieved not so much through the cedarwood oil, but via an overdose of Iso E Super, a material which has little smell, other than the impurity in it that presents an interplay of hues, like an iridescent coating of an oyster shell. Refracting through specific notes, Iso E Super can assume either the radiant warthm of amber, the balsamic dryness of cedarwood or the sweet darkness of violet. In Féminité du Bois, Iso E Super harmonizes violet with cedar notes, allowing for the rough edges to be smoothed away, while retaining the strength of woods.
The fascinating quality of this radiant composition lies in its ability to weave a fruity facet into the woody layers, without clichés of sweet and sugary notes that dominate many feminine fragrances. At the same time, it carefully blends the gender line without appearing androgynous. Ultimately, like all things beautiful, Féminité du Bois is suitable for anyone who would appreciate it.
Féminité du Bois includes notes of cedarwood, orange blossom, rose, violet, honey, plum, beeswax, clove, cardamom, cinnamon. The fragrance is discontinued in the States, however it is still widely available in Europe. Online, it can be found from various discount fragrance stores.
Painting: Jan Vermeer. Girl with a Pearl Earring. c.1665. Oil on canvas. Mauritshuis, the Hague, Netherlands. From abcgallery.com.
Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.