Serge Lutens Miel de Bois : Perfume Review

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Mieldebois68

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

Sometimes one becomes captivated with the beauty of a composition upon first inhaling it, and sometimes it takes more time. In the case of Serge Lutens Miel de Bois, repeated exposure does indeed uncover new facets; however, these discoveries do not result in my increased appreciation for it. Quite the opposite, I realize even more why it does not appeal to me. Part of the problem is that I envision a magical forest of trees dripping with honeyed nectar, yet instead I end up in an alley filled with malodorous miasmas.

Phenylacetic acid in extremely low concentrations has a luscious honey and animalic malt odor; however, in large dozes, it becomes distinctly urinous. Miel de Bois seems to explore the latter aspect of it, and the dry accord of woods touched with animalic leather provides a supporting arrangement which does nothing to dim the effect. …

Overdose of an ingredient is often relied upon in order to achieve an excess, which in a perfectly harmonious structure manages to draw attention to its dissonant presence thus endowing the perfume with a memorable trait. Féminité du Bois relies on an overdose of cedarwood-toned Iso E Super, Dior Poison on fruity damascones, and Donna Karan Be Delicious on the green violet leafy richness of Undecavertol.

Exaggeration is also present in many of Serge Lutens’s creations, often with shocking results as in the case of Tubéreuse Criminelle. However, while after the initial mentholated blast one encounters the creamy sweetness of tuberose in the case of Tubereuse Criminelle, Miel de Bois does not offer any comparable transformation, other than slightly softening its dry woody accord. In general, fragrances that are merely pretty do not hold my interest for long, while admittedly unpleasant ones do not elicit a desire to experience them more often than needed. While Miel de Bois is certainly off the beaten path, it is a path I try to avoid.

Notes include ebony, oak, guaiacwood, aloewood, honey, beeswax, iris, and hawthorn. Miel de Bois is part of Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido export line. Online, Miel de Bois is sold at Aedes and Escentual.

Please see other Serge Lutens reviews:

A La Nuit

Bois de Violette

Bois et Fruits

Bois et Musc

Bornéo 1834

Cèdre

Chergui

Cuir Mauresque

Fleurs de Citronnier

Fumerie Turque

Gris Clair

La Myrrhe

Rose de Nuit

Tubéreuse Criminelle

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56 Comments

  • N: Lovely review and you have nailed it dear V! MdB is my least favourite SL.
    Hope you are very well and have a great weekend. February 17, 2006 at 3:33am Reply

  • helg: I couldn’t agree more ,dear V.

    Of all the compositions of mr. Sheldrake for Lutens this I find singularly lacking. It is simply put not true to its name : the honey doesn’t sing through , the woods are swamped by the dull bitterness combined with a sickly note that reminds one -sadly- of urine indeed! The result is unfortunately an unpleasant perfume.
    Whereas excess and shock value played an integral part of the composition of Tubereuse Criminelle and Cedre , here it is only “une touche du trop”.

    However I know of one person on the boards who swears that colleagues tell him he smells of lilies when wearing this.
    But still , I wouldn’t be swayed : it has more detractors than fans for a reason , I think. February 17, 2006 at 4:06am Reply

  • Judith: Great review! This has to be the least popular SL; almost everyone I know hates it! But I did send my sample to a lovely swapper–a woman of impeccable taste and many perfumes–who adored it! I was, of course, happy, but I always wonder about these things–how much of the difference results from skin chemistry, from sense of smell, or from the indefinable “taste” (memories, assoications, etc.)? February 17, 2006 at 7:00am Reply

  • Denver to Paris: Yup, I’d say you hit the nail on the head with this review — but ever in your subtle way. Between Miel de Bois and Muscs Koublai Khan, I believe Serge Lutens has managed to cover the whiffs of incontinence. Now all he needs for the Nursing Home Trifecta is a fragrance stinking of overheated, processed food, and we’ll be set. February 17, 2006 at 8:33am Reply

  • Marina: Absolutely agree.
    I know some people find that it smells…disagreeable, reminding them of…disagreeble things 🙂 It is simply harsh on me, all the way through. It starts harsh and it does not improve. February 17, 2006 at 8:40am Reply

  • Christina H.: I guess I’ll be the loner here and say that I actually enjoyed the sample I had and was expecting the worst from everything I’ve heard.I was pleasantly surprised,but on the other hand,MKK threw me for a loop!I suppose we must chalk it up to skin chemistry and individual tastes!Thank you for the review.It was very interesting! February 17, 2006 at 8:45am Reply

  • marchlion: I have a pet theory that Serge, who clearly likes to shock a little anyway, designed this one using the brief: give me something most people will hate, and then they’ll talk about it, and try it just to compare it to some of my other admittedly weird creations… I would describe this one as “boxwood-y,” but you and I both know that’s a euphemism. Although you probably DO know: is it the same chemical family creating that smell in urine? I do find that, oh, five hours later it is reduced to a breathtakingly beautiful honey, the most naturalistic I have encountered, but walking around for hours beforehand smelling like pee just isn’t worth the payoff. February 17, 2006 at 10:00am Reply

  • Evan: Hot, sweet urine, with a slight woody tinge, as if one had just relieved themselves on a cedar in the forest. I actually like perfumes that play around with repulsive elements (many classical perfumes do this in one way or another)- Muscs Koublai Khan is one of my favorites of the Lutens line. Take a sniff of Jicky, which has an unwholesome undertone that is brilliantly tempered by the lavender. But this one is cloyingly repulsive without being particularly interesting- the phenylacetic acid (and perhaps other phenylacetates, they all have a honey-sweet-urine aspect) jumps to the fore and just sits there. Miel de Bois could possibly work if one applied only a drop, but why bother? February 17, 2006 at 10:09am Reply

  • Evan: I would also add that it’s the smell of fresh urine, before it is acted upon by bacteria (that’s what causes the ammonia smell). There must be a link between honey and urine chemically, perhaps someone reading knows about this. February 17, 2006 at 10:18am Reply

  • Tania: Yes, it’s total hot piss on a New York sidewalk. And weirdly sweet, too. Maybe diabetic hot piss. February 17, 2006 at 11:15am Reply

  • Tania: Also: real live lilies, especially in warm weather, smell somewhat like piss. February 17, 2006 at 11:26am Reply

  • carmencanada: When I sprayed on Miel de Bois, within five minutes, at another counter, a rather staid French lady mentioned something about it smelling like a bakery… So clearly there was no objectionable smell coming from me, although she did seem to consider it was a bit strong. So did I. Like Evan, I don’t balk at slightly dirty scents, and, yes, fresh urine and honey do have some molecules in common (and I agree with Tania, so do some lilies) though my knowledge doesn’t extend so far as being able to name them.
    That said, MdB was indeed a scrubber on me, though I loved the idea and wanted dearly to love the fragrance. February 17, 2006 at 11:56am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, yes, Miel de Bois might be the least successful from the range, as try as I may, I cannot find any aspect of it appealing. February 17, 2006 at 12:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: E, I would certainly imagine that there are people on whom the effect might be much softer, and I know several such people whose taste I admire. To me, it simply combines cloying and sharp in the most unappealing manner. I cannot get over the urinous effect either. February 17, 2006 at 12:05pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, come to think of it, honey sniffed straight from the jar does not have the most appealing of scents. That animalic malt aspect is certainly there. Same goes for beeswax in too large of a proportion. February 17, 2006 at 12:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Denver, I admit that I very much like Muscs Koublai Khan, which has a smooth animalic effect (strong though), and if applied judiciously, it is rather appealing. I cannot find a comparable appeal in Miel de Bois. February 17, 2006 at 12:10pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, harsh is a good word, because it does indeed have that harshness that does not seem to soften with time, other than slightly. I suppose that if it were less harsh, I would have even not minded the animalic, malted aspect. February 17, 2006 at 12:11pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Christina, I have no doubt that it is completely different on you than it is on me. Of course, memories, etc. must play a role. I am glad to see that it is working for someone. February 17, 2006 at 12:13pm Reply

  • Liz: I had a very weird response to this fragrance. I often refer to it as the most horrific perfume I have ever smelled, but in fact when I first applied it, for about two minutes I was sort of in love with it. This is because it really did smell like honey (urinous or not), whereas every other honey scent I’ve tried smells primarily like maple syrup or beeswax, which are not unpleasant scents (beeswax is particularly lovely), but they do not smell like honey. It was the Bois – the horrible Bois – that finally led me to the scrubber sponge. I am not a great fan of strong woods in general, but I couldn’t see how even a woods lover could find this fragrance appealing. And so the search for a true honey scent continues.

    Also, Muscs Koublai Khan is a masterpiece (I of course had to stick that in). February 17, 2006 at 12:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, I think that I would agree with Evan–if applied in very small quantities and given enough time, the honey aspect actually comes out clearly. However, it is too much trouble for me for something I do not like for the first 5h. Phenylacetic acid is actually present in urine and sweat, and it is responsible for some of the smell (of fresh urine). February 17, 2006 at 12:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, I cannot agree more that many of my favourites explore smells that are conventionally not accepted. I was wondering for a long time why I who can enjoy Muscs Koublai Khan (the most animalic composition I have encountered), can’t bring myself to be interested in Miel de Bois. I think that it is because of its harshness paired with cloying elements. A urinous undertone on top of that simply does not make it more appealing to me. February 17, 2006 at 12:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, yes, phenylacetic acid is eliminated from the body via urine and sweat. I am sure that Miel de Bois contains other phenylacetates as well.

    On a slightly different topic, here is an interesting article found from BBCNews:
    “The research team say though there may be many factors involved in the phenylacetic acid response, because its chemical structure is very similar to that of amphetamines, it may be that this chemical is part of a “runner’s high”, a phenomenon linked to natural endorphin activity in the brain. They suggest phenylacetic acid could also be important because it can cross from the blood to the brain, something endorphins cannot do.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1565230.stm February 17, 2006 at 12:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, this is making me chuckle… February 17, 2006 at 12:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I find that real lilies have a fair bit of animalic warmth to them. Some are not very pleasant, some are more delicate. February 17, 2006 at 12:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: D, that is an interesting comment. I have not encountered that one before, although I did hear lilies, which I can believe. The first time I wore Miel de Bois, I was simply shocked by it. I have revisited it since then, and in the privacy of my home I wore it for much of the past week preparing to write a review. It certainly did not grow on me. February 17, 2006 at 12:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I was just making this point above that honey does have a malted animalic aspect to it, and I usually like it as an accent. Here, it is the smell of honey, but intensified beyond a point which I find appealing.

    I cannot agree more on Muscs Koublai Khan! February 17, 2006 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Liz: On a related note, MKK deeply wants a honey scent to layer with. He tells me so on a regular basis. I have tried a few, and the result is so close to being divine – if only the honey scents were a little truer – that I am determined to eventually find a great one to satiate MKK’s sweet tooth (that is, his sweet but also somewhat malted and animalic tooth). 🙂 February 17, 2006 at 12:44pm Reply

  • Robin: Can’t argue with anything you said V, but love MdB anyway 😉 February 17, 2006 at 1:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I do not know any true honey scents I am afraid. They are all either too sweet or too waxy. Ironically, I think that Miel de Bois might the closest thing to honey, but I doubt you would want to layer it with MKK. Have you tried it? February 17, 2006 at 1:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I am glad to see Miel de Bois having another fan (I know maybe 3-4 people so far). Perhaps, it is contingent on the body chemistry to a great extent. February 17, 2006 at 1:10pm Reply

  • Laura: Malodorous miasma! Miasma de Bois! O frabjous day!
    ok, that’s enough !!!! for today. Funny and interesting review, you funny and interesting V. February 17, 2006 at 1:11pm Reply

  • Liz: V, I have not tried a Miel de Bois + Muscs Koublai Khan layering experiment. It might be a fun pre-shower Saturday morning project, but I wish there was a way to mathematically or surgically remove the Bois from the equation… February 17, 2006 at 1:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, you are too much! 🙂 Glad I made you laugh. February 17, 2006 at 1:17pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, please do it and let me know how it went. Perhaps, the woody dryness will be less apparent through the animalic softness of MKK. February 17, 2006 at 1:18pm Reply

  • violetnoir: V, simply stated: This one smells like cat pee.

    Hugs! February 17, 2006 at 1:49pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, admittedly, I do not get this one, because I recall cat pee as having an ammonia aspect to it. Miel de Bois does not have that to my nose, although the sharpness is certainly present. February 17, 2006 at 2:21pm Reply

  • KS: V: I’m wearing Miel de Bois today and do love it! I’ve gotten reactions that range from “you smell like a church” to the usual “cat piss” comment…no one has exclaimed “HONEY!” save one person…who ran and bought a bottle too. I must believe that only the most finely tuned, exceptional nasal geniuses can appreciate this! HA! (Or is there a “miel de bois gene”?) I acknowledge its weird vibe, its ruthlessness. To me it smells like honey poured on a funeral pyre…creamated ash still hot to the touch…hints of singed hair and bone and precious woods abounding. Appalling? WHY? Somehow I picture a Hindu funeral ceremony and that does not bother me…it adds an exotic aura to the scent. When my bottle is empty I shall buy a new one. K February 17, 2006 at 2:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kevin, I remembered that you mentioned liking it, and yes, you are an exceptional nasal genius! 🙂 I think that in this case, the perceptions and the associations we draw with these perceptions is what plays the main role. I would love to smell it on someone else just to appreciate the effect, and I am sure it smells great on you.

    Actually, I can completely understand the link to church, because the beeswax candles used in Orthodox churches have a comparable smell. February 17, 2006 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Prince Barry: Another one here who really loves MdB. When I have worn it for work, colleagues have commented that it smells like Stargazer Lillies on me. February 17, 2006 at 2:30pm Reply

  • Evan: OK, when I get home from teaching my class tonight, in the interest of science and art, I’m going to see what happens when Muscs Koublai Khan is mixed with various phenyl acetates. I personally think that it’s a perfect note as it is, with plenty of (subtle) sweetness, but we’ll see. I’ll report back.

    V, interesting to hear that phenylacetates are a component of urine and sweat and have a link to amphetamines. I wonder what relationship honey has to the various systems in bees. It’s not a waste product. I wonder what role the phenylacetates play in the scheme of things. February 17, 2006 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Katie: I still have yet to try this one, but good lord, I am dying laughing here: so much pee talk! Usually the discussion here is on all the pretty smells, but today it’s all pee. And yet, this topic has taken a turn for the interesting and informative. What a good choice for posts, today, V. February 17, 2006 at 4:28pm Reply

  • Bela: Well, I don’t care: I like it. I won’t rhapsodize about it, but it certainly doesn’t smell nasty on me. Must be your skins that are responsible for those horrid smells. LOL! February 17, 2006 at 11:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Barry, I am sure that it smells wonderful on you. Your mention of lilies made me think of a scene from D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers when Paul Morel walks around the garden at night and discovers the smell of lilies. It is such a beautiful scene! February 18, 2006 at 12:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, I am all anticipation! What happened? Please share the outcome of your experiment.

    As for phenylacetic acid and honey, that is an interesting topic. I should ask one of my biology students. February 18, 2006 at 12:17am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, phew, good thing it turned out to be informative. I laughed out loud myself at several junctures. I would not discourage you from trying Miel de Bois. In fact, I would be curious to hear your take on it! February 18, 2006 at 12:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, hey, I love Eternity, and I do not care for anyone says. So, wear Miel de Bois in good health and spirit. I am sure that it does not smell awful on you. I doubt that my skin is the issue here, because I notice the thing I described on paper as well. I cannot say that it is downright disgusting as what others notice in Miel de Bois, although I find it distinctly unpleasant. I am not one for too much sweetness, for one thing. Perhaps, you have the perfect chemistry for Miel de Bois, so I am glad to hear that it has another fan. February 18, 2006 at 12:22am Reply

  • Charles: I think I like your style of writing as much as your reviews… well done.
    It is true that I have not been reading your reviews but for only a few months however I can not remember a review as unfavorable as this one but, of course, I very well may be wrong. I read your piece last night and decided I would make it my scent of the day for Friday, actually I did half the chest with Miel de Bois and the other half with Santal Blanc. Let me start by saying that I do enjoy Miel de Bois very much and this urine reference stated by many, not only here, but many places I fail to get. It could be I have not smelled urine in a
    long time. To Me Only, Wood Honey has always been a very warm feeling scent and according to the published wood notes, some of them I found interesting
    such as ebony, oak, aquilaria (eaglewood resin), gaiac wood, aguilloch(incense sticks).
    Fresh out of the gate I am hit with iris with honey floating underneath ever so slowly moving upward with a slight hint of some sort of wood… now I guess if I tried real hard – I could make the iris that I smell into the smell of urine but you know, I am not thinking that way so it goes away to warm honey in a box made out of different kinds of exotic woods, some wet but mostly dry. It would be more interested to find out the chemistry make up of those of us this fragrance likes. Now that would be a review… I love it. Cg February 18, 2006 at 4:18am Reply

  • Amandampc: Great review per usual. The phenylacetic acid info is very interesting; is this used often to “channel” the essence of honey? I have a honey-scented cream from an etailer and have found that it, like Miel de Bois, exudes that heated, vaguely reeking, potentially urine-esque tinge; frighteningly, though, once I became accustomed to it (in the case of the cream at least; I don’t own Miel de Bois), I began to actually LIKE it! Horrifying. And I have sampled the Miel several times and like it too – actually better than any other SL I can ever recall trying! My odor receptors, like much of the rest of me, are evidently coded to go against the grain. Oh well! February 18, 2006 at 11:10am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Charles, thank you for your nice compliment! It is true that I do not have many fragrances I outright dislike, and in fact, I would much rather have fragrances like Miel de Bois which elicit strong responses in me rather than “oh, yet another overdone theme (fruity-floral, Angel copy, etc.)” Still, I do not like to rip something to pieces without explaining why it gives me the kind of opinion that it does. However, fragrance experiences are very personal and perceptions of the same thing can vary based on a number of factors, from personal experiences, memories and chemistry.

    Phenylacetic acid (and other phenylacetates) are what I have been working with lately, and their urinous undertones are very pronounced in high concentrations. When diluted, the smell of honey (with a tinge of animalic warmth) is clear. The first time I smelled Miel de Bois, I was struck by the high concentration of phenylacetates in it, and the urinous note is what I noticed before anything else. So, it might be just that I am more sensitive to it. If Miel de Bois pleases you and smells great to you, then nothing should prevent you from enjoying it! February 18, 2006 at 3:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Amanda, thank you! Phenylacetic acids and various other phenylacetates are used to render the honey note. In low concentrations, they smell very much like honey. I have a sample of phenyl acet linalyl, which is very beautiful warm honey, and I am just to envision a way of blending it with some jasmine and wood, using it as a subtle accent. I do applaud Serge Lutens for going against the grain, even if the result not something I care for. At least, it generated this vibrant and interesting discussion. February 18, 2006 at 3:47pm Reply

  • Bela: V, I was joking. I don’t wear Miel de Bois (I only wear Fd’O): it’s much too sweet for me, but I like to put some on sometimes at home and sniff it.

    There are *so many* fragrances I can’t stand, I’m glad when I find one I don’t mind. 🙂 February 20, 2006 at 6:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, that I can completely understand! These days I am finding that out of the new releases fewer and fewer appeal to me. So much of the same thing done over and over again. February 20, 2006 at 9:45pm Reply

  • Tara: This was quite possibly one of the top five worst things I have ever smelled. Since I love nearly all SL scents, when this one came out I skipped the paper test strip and spritzed it eagerly directly onto my arm at Barney’s. I recoiled instantly in horror at the stench – it really smelled like nothing so much as a soiled baby’s nappy. I had to rush to the ladies room to scrub up to my elbows. I think only Norma Kamali’s Incense gave me a worse shock. I shudder at the memory. February 21, 2006 at 7:14pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, I can imagine doing that myself. I usually find all of Lutens very beautiful, even if they have repulsive elements. I am coming to the conclusion that it is the sweetness and sharpness of Miel de Bois that made me dislike it. February 22, 2006 at 11:15am Reply

  • Kathi: Miel de bois has been my signature scent for seven years now, and when the house of SL decided to stop the sale in regular perfumeries, I startet an odyssey through the world of perfumes to find me something else that would make me happy. Now, I own a row of classics and other niche perfumes, but I still love Miel de bois and I could gather two bottles I keep now. On me, it never smelled like something unpleasant, but like precious, elegant honey with a very dry and appealing iris-note. Everybody always loved the scent on me, and wearing it, I feel like the queen of the forest. November 3, 2012 at 3:57pm Reply

  • Natalya Baranova: Wow, so many people hate this! I don’t smell anything offensive at all, just excellent honey, a little bit exaggerated, which is a great part about it. Interesting. On the other hand, Secretions manifiques makes me gag. I find it the most horrendous smell ever. March 3, 2016 at 8:40pm Reply

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