Shiseido Feminite du Bois : Perfume Review

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Girl_with_pearl_earring

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.

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36 Comments

  • primavera24: Although FdB seems almost one of the great legend of Shisedo here, I’m ashamed to say but I haven’t tried it yet. The bottles are very hard to find to us. There must be a lot of Feminite du Bois widow. So I’m lucky to read your review about FdB, I think I could understand the scent quite clearly. Thanks 🙂 I like Bois de Violette a whole lot, by the way. February 10, 2006 at 1:09am Reply

  • kaie: Your review is beautiful! It makes me wish I still had a bottle of Féminité du Bois. I wore it when it first came out and then I never bought it again. Maybe it is time to buy it again. February 10, 2006 at 2:13am Reply

  • N: Dear V – I loved and wore this many years ago and enjoyed it very much. Your lovely review has made me want to buy this again. I am a great fan of Bois de Violette and Bois et Fruits as you know.

    Hope you are well. February 10, 2006 at 6:50am Reply

  • Judith: An absoutely stunning review of a fascinating perfume–one of my all-time favorites! Those who are interested in buying it in the US might want to know that it is available through Amazon (which seems to have deals with several online perfume shops now) for the very reasonable price of $65.00 (I am, of course, not affiliated with them; I wish I were–I would be rich and able to afford more perfume:) February 10, 2006 at 7:16am Reply

  • Rafael: Dear V,
    Your review of FdB is just lovely as always! Regarding this marvelous composition, I’d say it’s one of my favorites for its remarkable originality which lies on its perfect woody notes. The cinnamon touch is a great thing as well. Pity it was discontinued in the US and that it’s pretty hard to find at free shops outside Europe.
    Regards, Rafael. February 10, 2006 at 8:19am Reply

  • marchlion: I am embarrassed to admit this particular fragrance was the one that confirmed my suspicion that whatever “Serge” cedar Chris Sheldrake is using is a ringer for the smell of intense B.O. on me, although reading your note I am wondering if the Iso E Super has anything to do with it? BdeV does precisely the same thing on me, as does Iris Silver Mist…. it’s just wretched. Any theories? February 10, 2006 at 8:29am Reply

  • Marina: I absolutely worship and adore this one. 🙂 Thank you very much for the review, such a pleasure to read about one’s Holiest of Grails! 🙂 February 10, 2006 at 9:36am Reply

  • Linda: It sounds wonderful! I haven’t tried it yet but I love and wear Bois de Violette. February 10, 2006 at 10:30am Reply

  • Tania: One of my favorites. I was just taking a big whiff of it last night, actually. I hoard the little bit of it I’ve got left. Of all the Serge Lutens Boix, which is your favorite? February 10, 2006 at 10:39am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Primavera, I know that there are other very interesting Shiseido fragrances which are available only in Japan. I have always been curious about them. Glad that my review gives a hint as to what Feminite du Bois would smell like. Bois de Violette is also one of my favourites. February 10, 2006 at 11:37am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaie, sometimes one needs a little nudge. 🙂 I also tried the parfum, and it is stunning. I recommend it highly. February 10, 2006 at 11:38am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, I bought Feminite du Bois the last time I visited France, but recently I had a chance to try the parfum. Do you know how widely it is available? I certainly have not see it here. February 10, 2006 at 11:39am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, thank you. Also, thank you for your recommendation. That is a great price! I recall seeing bottles of Feminite du Bois for over $150 at one point at that great auction place! 🙂 February 10, 2006 at 11:40am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Rafael, I can never get tired of admiring Feminite du Bois, and like you, I find that the cinnamon touch is wonderful. The woodiness and sweetness of spice blend perfectly with the main accord. It is indeed a pity it is so difficult to find. February 10, 2006 at 11:42am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I would never have thought about that. Do you notice it in others as well? Bois Oriental, Cedre? February 10, 2006 at 11:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, thank you. Glad that you enjoyed it! February 10, 2006 at 11:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, do try it, if you get a chance. It is such a beautiful perfume. February 10, 2006 at 11:46am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, it would be Bois de Violette. I also like Bois et Fruits, but if I want the fruity cedarwood theme, I would rather pick Feminite du Bois or Dolce Vita, to be honest. They strike me as more complex. February 10, 2006 at 11:47am Reply

  • marchlion: Have not tried BO although the initials are perfect! 😉 The Cedre is also the same effect. It did cross my mind at some point that it might be my perception of the smell rather than reality, so I had the SA sniff the Cedre, and others sniff the BdeV and the FdeB, and their reaction was, wow, that smells terrible on you. 🙁 Some of the other Serges are great on me, though, the only unifier I can seem to find is the cedar in these. (Assume there’s not much or any cedar in Chergui, Arabie, Douce Amere, Oranger, Clair de Musc?) February 10, 2006 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Robin: Cracking up at March calling Iris Silver Mist “wretched”! M, I get a cumin-ish BO in several SL fragrances too. February 10, 2006 at 12:34pm Reply

  • marchlion: Gad, Robin, don’t even get me started on the cumin! I’ve learned to overlook it in the Oranger… it’s not the cumin that’s registering as armpit, though, it’s definitely something else. The cumin I only smell if I stick my nose right up against my skin. The BO Note is …. this unbelievable miasma floating all around me. You have NO IDEA how brokenhearted I was about the ISM. I bought it twice, thinking maybe there was something wrong with the first decant. Nope. I am the source of the problem. February 10, 2006 at 12:52pm Reply

  • Tara: Thank you for a beautiful review of my Holy Grail scent. This is the one scent I would keep if I had to give up all others. I also enjoy Bois Oriental and Bois de Violette the most out of the other Bois series at SL, although I enjoy them all to different degrees. February 10, 2006 at 1:56pm Reply

  • paru: It’s very interesting to read about the connections people make between cumin and body odour. I guess I always connected cumin to Indian cooking and have always been perplexed by the less appetizing association. But I suppose some of these associations are made when we’re quite young and perhaps don’t change much over time. February 10, 2006 at 2:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, maybe it is how the woody bases of those perfumers play out on your skin. Sometimes individual body chemistry plays a very important role. February 10, 2006 at 6:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, yes, that was pretty funny! February 10, 2006 at 6:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, another thing I noticed is that certain iris synthetics do produce that effect. Also, vetiver does once in a while. I had a similar experience with Caleche. However, the juice from my bottle purchased a couple of years ago does not produce anything of a kind, so I guess Hermes must have done something to the composition. February 10, 2006 at 6:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, glad that you enjoy it too! Bois de Violette is the one I consider to be the most beautiful of the series, because the marriage of violet and cedarwood is perfected, orchestrated by a very interesting and yet simple accord. Bois Oriental is the one I grew to like more over time, and now I would say that I prefer it to Bois et Fruits. February 10, 2006 at 6:52pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, yes, the associations are difficult to change. I encountered cumin in food much earlier than I encountered it in perfume, but while I can definitely understand the references to sweat, I do not find it unpleasant. In small quantities, it can be very sensual. February 10, 2006 at 6:54pm Reply

  • julien: Hi dear.
    Even though i think féminité du Bois is very beautiful it has a dark side and it is not so easy to wear.
    I prefer the “luminous” version of it in Dolce Vita by Dior,wich is much more joyous.

    By the way,i seldom like cinnamon in perfumes…not for the smell,that i like,but it stays forever on my skin and has something distusting .

    Chemestry again…

    Kisses,j. February 12, 2006 at 10:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Julien, yes, I know what you means about darkness. I do enjoy, and I love Dolce Vita as well. Both are stunning compositions. February 12, 2006 at 11:10am Reply

  • Strange Accord: I found a personal shopper in Paris. She will purchase things for you and ship them to you. She is an American woman who has live in Paris for a number of years. Because fragrances such as Bois de Violette are not available to us in the United States except via Ebay at highly inflated prices the cost of her service fee might make this a relatively economical option. If an individual wanted several fragrances from one shop or a group paid her to make one shopping trip it could be quite economical. She charges for her services by the hour. Her rate is $50 an hour. She has a lovely website at http://www.priceparis.com/index2.htm . I haven’t used her service, yet, but because some of the Shiseido fragrances are so hard for Americans to get, I thought I’d suggest this option. February 12, 2006 at 5:51pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Interesting! Thank you for the information. February 13, 2006 at 2:05am Reply

  • Håkan Nellmar: Wonderful review of one of my favourites. Feminité du Bois is a beautiful and daring composition. Thank you also for the information on Iso-E Super. I had no idea that was what gives it the cedar smell. I only knew that it doesn’t smell like atlas cedar oil.

    I heard Bourdon worked especially on the spicy notes in FdB. February 15, 2006 at 4:38am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Håkan, every time I wear Feminité du Bois, I am struck by its beauty. It simply unlike anything else, and yet it has a strange familiarity about it. As for Iso E Super, it is really a fascinating material. It can assume many different nuances, and cedar is one of them. February 15, 2006 at 11:32am Reply

  • mowglijazz: This is my absolute favorite scent of all time. I live in Canada, and it is available here – however, it makes me dizzier than drinking 3 pommery pops and chasing them with a drag on a black sobranie… It must be all the aldehydes! I am completely, utterly devistated… February 11, 2007 at 11:57pm Reply

  • caro: What a beautiful review! i am proud to say it is my most cherished bottle of perfume! i bought it in Paris years ago and fell in love with it, when in Sephora i was enquiring for a fragrance that had sandalwood or woody aromas in it and when exposed to it, it stood out so much in comparison with the others i had been smelling, i was just hypnotised! i really love it, in me, with time it smells like spiced incense, but deep, i love it, also because i keep feeling the smell throughout the day; now, since i love violet as well, i am now willing to try Bios de Violette as well! February 24, 2016 at 12:09pm Reply

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