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.
A 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.