Serge Lutens Boxeuses : Perfume Review

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A few years ago, I attended a dance performance that was a mixed bill of classical and modern. After the audience was treated to two long modern pieces, in which dancing was somehow secondary to scenery, it let out a collective sign of pleasure and relief,when the curtain rose to reveal a classical ballet set. This incident illustrates my feelings about the latest launch from Serge Lutens. Having been uninspired by Nuit de Cellophane, bored by L’Eau and mildly interested in Bas de Soie, I find Boxeuses a welcome return of Lutens’ seductive, romantic and smoldering Oriental muse.

boxeusesA woody-leathery composition, Boxeuses (which means “boxer” in French) will strike a chord in an ardent Lutens lover, especially those of us who yearn for Lutensian darkness and its tendency to perplex. The dominant element of Boxeuses is leather, which is set against a dark woody accord. Before the full richness of the leather drydown unfolds, the prelude of ambery-leathery and unctuous castoreum as well as incense-smoky labdanum sets the stage. Moreover, the contrast with sweet and floral notes allows one to experience the beautiful richness of smoky leather, crafted along the lines of Russian leather, which combines the birch tar smokiness and the animalic aggressiveness of isobutyl quinoline (classical leather aroma-material.)

An abstract gourmand facet courses through the composition, from a faint caramelized maple syrup accent and crisply sweet anise to a luscious plum. The effect is seductive, and it made me crave cuccidrati, those addictive Sicilian Christimas cookies filled with a mixture of figs, raisins, orange peel, anise and cinnamon.

Boxeuses recalls the supple, apricot permeated leather of Daim Blond more than it does the dry, spicy leather of Cuir Mauresque. It is also takes inspiration from the woody violets of Féminité du Bois (and naturally, its more austere sister Bois de Violette.) Yet, more so than being a redux of other Lutens fragrances, the effect Boxeuses produces is reminiscent of a French grand parfum like Guerlain or Chanel.

My first instinct was to compare it to the gold standard of leather, which is Chanel Cuir de Russie. Although both share the Russian leather accord, Lutens treats it in a bold, dramatic manner, while Chanel’s aura is more refined and elegant. The iris forms a rich veil over Chanel’s leather, while the leather in Boxeuses is framed by incense and woods. Also, there are plenty of typically Lutensian oddities about Boxeuses—the jack-in-the-box sensation of anise, the bold strokes of labdanum and damascones–that make it part ways with classical tradition. Yet, the composition exhibits the subtle layering of notes and a dark, rich depth that is often missing in contemporary fragrances. All in all, among the latest Lutens, it is a fighter on whom I would place my bets.

Boxeuses is part of the exclusive range available from Palais Royal Shiseido.

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12 Comments

  • carmencanada: To me, Boxeuses substitutes the iris of Cuir de Russie with a Prunol-like accord, which Lutens introduced at the very outset of his work in Féminité du Bois. But as you say, Lutens works in a more exacerbated register and therefore there is stronger tension between the punch of the leather/smoky/burnt notes and the mulled fruit/ionones, which I feel is bridged by the caramelized effects.

    On another note, it’s been almost 5 years since I first commented here (or on any perfume blog), and that was about Cuir Mauresque, so there’s another twist in the spiral (rather than saying we’ve come full circle, which we haven’t…). Glad you’re back! August 27, 2010 at 2:46am Reply

  • Style Spy: Oh, my word. Oh, my word! That bottle!! Leather! Amber! Labdanum!! Anise!! Oh, I think I really, really need to sniff this… August 27, 2010 at 7:37am Reply

  • Carla: Your last paragraph is exactly what I was waiting for – a way to experience it before I get a chance to actually smell it! Love Lutens! August 27, 2010 at 7:58am Reply

  • Madelyn E: So glad you are back Victoria.. I do love Cuir de Russie for a classic leather though. Sometimes the Lutens are too complicated for my taste.. August 28, 2010 at 8:13pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Just got back from a short vacation with friends in Berkeley to find this, V. What a nice way to ease back into my work! Your impressions sound very similar to Denyse’s, and this sounds delicious enough to try to get my hands on a sample or decant (and my god, that bottle!) but I think I can be patient.

    I had a strange experience with my perfumes in California–the air was so fresh, and the light so startling, that somehow even my light perfumes, like the Different Company’s Osmanthus, felt overdone and out of place. (I did wear Sel de Vetiver a few days, but with a very light hand.) I had brought along a saffron attar to share with my friends, and that felt more right. (Interestingly, my friends had a small collection of colognes from the New Orleans perfumery Hove.) Really, it made me more interested in the softer style of natural perfumery in general. I can see why, even beyond the culture, that movement has it’s heart in Berkeley and Southern Cal.

    I’m sure I will recover and be ready for big Lutensian operas in a few weeks, though! August 30, 2010 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Congrats, dear D! What a date! : ))
    I agree with you overall, it is the most classical of all Lutens. There is something distinctly retro about it, although the general impression is still modern. I think that I prefer it to Cuir Mauresque for its treatment of leather. August 30, 2010 at 2:26pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: SS, I love these limited edition bottles! If I displayed my collection, I would be very tempted to get all of them. August 30, 2010 at 2:27pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Carla, it is worth smelling. I would say that it is what I wanted Daim Blond to be. August 30, 2010 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Madelyn, nice to see your comments! Hope that you are well! August 30, 2010 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: A, welcome home! I returned from my vacation in Canada, and I felt that I also did not feel tempted by even my lightest fragrances. The salty marine air was the best perfume one could wish for.

    You know, I have been making this same discovery. In early fall, I ease out of florals and heavy orientals for my day-to-day wear, and I gravitate towards attars, something with less diffusion and more intimate feel. And often I skip perfume altogether (well, I do not wear any when I am working, but that’s for a different reason—not to tire out my nose,) because the smell of early fall air is wonderful—slightly smoky, nutty, crisp. August 30, 2010 at 2:32pm Reply

  • Flora: Oh boy, I can’t wait to try this fabulous thing – but of COURSE it’s in the Exclusive range! 🙁 September 11, 2010 at 1:44am Reply

  • Maison Parfum: Boisdejasmin, I hope your vacation will be full of good fragrance… Just don’t forget to have them when you go back home.. September 15, 2010 at 4:38am Reply

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