Serge Lutens Bois de Violette : Perfume Review



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

Chris Sheldrake and Serge Lutens created Bois de Violette in 1992, inaugurating the stint of Serge Lutens as a leading figure of the perfume line for Shiseido at Les Salons du Palais Royal. There is a tendency both to relegate cedar to the masculine, while violet to the feminine domains. One is sharp, resinous and potent, another is soft, modest and sentimental. Yet, Bois de Violette blurs these conventional distinctions so effectively that it cannot but be appreciated for this reason alone. Of course, the ingenuity and the beauty of the composition is another reason to sample this fragrance.

The top notes settle into a mélange of violet leaves with their fresh cut grass scent and soft white cedar, which gradually allows a clear violet note to appear. At first, it is just a glimpse of violet, misted over by sweet and resinous notes, however, the adagio of violet gathers force and takes the center stage. Cedar in Bois de Violette acts like corps de ballet in Marius Petipa choreographed pieces, in which dancers in the background hold same poses for long stretches of time, with minor permutations, thus providing an essential backdrop, without which the ethereal beauty cannot be achieved. The violet is sweet enough to temper resinous notes of cedar, while cedar, in turn, prevents it from becoming a confection-type or powdery violet. It stays close to the skin, creating an olfactory vision of opalescent silk.

Photo: Swan Lake by St. Petersburg’s Ballet Theater. Swan Lake is an example of classical Petipa choreography.



  • mreenymo: Hello, darling V!

    Funny, but D and I were talking about the very same thing you just mentioned–perfume is a much more affordable hobby than clothes, handbags, jewelry (unless you make it, like I do), even shoes. Can you imagine the bills if we had a serious shoe addiction? The shoes that I have I love so much, I feel they are irreplaceable. Lucky for me that I have a great shoe repair man. And, I never much liked handbags because they are too cumbersome and bulky. Clothes? Well, let’s just say that something about retail price tags and outrageous mark-ups offend me. :):)

    So, perfume it is.

    And, I have always loved violets. Love the color, love its sugary sweetness, love the way it smells.

    I tested a smidge of BdV from a small sample vial that a darling MUA member sent me last year. I was intrigued, and look forward to testing it again some day.

    Hugs! July 20, 2005 at 11:47am Reply

  • parislondres: I adore Bois de Violette and it is a fragrance I wear when I wish to concentrate on work. Thanks for the review darling V. Will catch up very soon.

    xoxo July 20, 2005 at 9:20am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear N, I remember it being your favourite, or rather one of them :), as is only reasonable to assume about collectors like ourselves. I do like the entire Boix range, with Bois et Fruits being another one I particularly enjoy. xoxo July 20, 2005 at 9:51am Reply

  • Robin: I would swear this one has a touch of cumin, or something cumin-like. I just can’t wear it. *sobs* July 20, 2005 at 1:54pm Reply

  • parislondres: I do enjoy Bois et Fruits too. It is another favourite. You are right – we do have WAY too many favourites but I am happy that we can appreciate such lovely creations.

    xoxo July 20, 2005 at 10:51am Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂 As I was telling Mr. P, it is a much less expensive hobby than clothes, handbags, jewellery. However, come to think of it, I like all of those things too, although definitely not as passionately. My most expensive hobby must be travel though. I am a nomad at heart. xoxo July 20, 2005 at 10:55am Reply

  • Tania: I only have one sample vial of this, given to me by whom I no longer remember, and I put off trying it for such a long time, because I generally find violet fragrances too candy sweet and girly. This is one of the only treatments of violet that has really stunned me. But drat, I don’t remember much about it except that I liked it and it wasn’t the sugary powdery mess I’ve come to expect from violet in perfumes, so now I have to go use up the rest of that vial, and there shall be no more until that day I finally visit Paris. July 20, 2005 at 10:57am Reply

  • Victoria: Tania, have you tried Caron Violette Précieuse? It is another violet that is anything but sugary and powdery.

    Bois de Violette was a violet revelation to me as well. Even though I do not mind some powderiness in fragrance, sweetness tends to ruin many compositions for me. July 20, 2005 at 11:05am Reply

  • Tania: Violette Precieuse! Isn’t it discontinued? I never did try it, although I’ve considered buying it online unsniffed on the basis of several reviews. July 20, 2005 at 11:56am Reply

  • Tara: I too found Isfahan faded quickly, which is a pity as it is very nice. I disliked BdV the first time I tried it but now I’ve developed a real passion for it.

    Wish I could find a lovely violet scented lotion to layer it over now. July 20, 2005 at 4:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: Robin, I never liked handbags either, because I dislike having to carry things with me. However, my mother happens to have a passion for them, and she always gives me handbags as sort of “just because” gifts. I have amassed quite a collections because of her. Yet, my favourite remains a vintage handbag lovely Farran spotted for me in NYC. Now, that one was probably the only purse I purchased myself.

    Would love to see photos of your jewellery!
    xoxo July 20, 2005 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: Tania, yes, it is discontinued, much to my disappointment. However, it is still widely available online, which is where I bought my bottle. July 20, 2005 at 12:13pm Reply

  • LaureAnne: I think I remember that BdV was one SL I almost liked. Still, I always hit a wall with his fragrances–and it is an unscaleable one, at least so far. Very interesting entry and comments! July 20, 2005 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dear L, hope that this week is going well. Glad that you liked the post. Well, there are so many other fragrance to like that I am never worried if I find something I do not care about, which happens more often than not these days.
    xoxo July 20, 2005 at 12:47pm Reply

  • Campaspe: Hi there! Sometimes my experience of BdV is precisely what you describe. Other times, the cedar leaps out of the corps and shoves the prima ballerina out of the way. I know that Luca Turin doesn’t think much of the “skin chemistry” theories about this sort of experience, and maybe he’s right, but still, there you are. I wonder if some days my nose just registers cedar more than others. July 20, 2005 at 12:52pm Reply

  • Victoria: I have similar experience with La Chasse Aux Papillons–some days orange blossom is more prominent, yet on others I notice jasmine more. I am not sure how to explain it. I would not say that body chemistry does not matter at all, but I wonder if our ability to detect particular notes more than others depends on some olfactory characteristic/state of health, etc. For instance, women have a much keener sense of smell, with its acuity positively influenced by the levels of estrogen. Therefore, we are more sensitive to smells in the first half of the cycle. Maybe, that is a factor in terms of our perceptions differing over a period of time. July 20, 2005 at 1:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am sure you right, however I do not notice it. Do you also dislike Santal de Mysore and Fleurs D’Oranger? For some reason, I thought that SdM might be something you like.

    Oh, a question–is it me, or does Isfahan by OJ fade quickly? I am really enjoying it, but for some reason it refuses to last. Perhaps, I underapplied. July 20, 2005 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: Tara, have you tried Penhaligon’s lotions? I generally do not layer, but I know that their lotions tend to be very nice. Penhaligon’s have a violet scent in their range.

    It is a pity about Isfahan. I just sprayed it again liberally, however it is still fading. I suppose that it is the price to pay for the wonderful ethereal feel of it. July 20, 2005 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Robin: V, I like Fleur d’Oranger, although I get a tiny hint of cumin from that too. I have not tried Santal de Mysore yet, but love Santal Blanc.

    How odd, Isfahan is amazingly long lasting on me…it easily makes it through the day. July 21, 2005 at 10:44am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, now I am sad that Isfahan does not last on me. On the other hand, M&B Green, green, green… fades on me without seconds, yet it lasts on you. I still like Isfahan very much. July 21, 2005 at 10:54am Reply

  • Dusan: Drat! I’ve only tried this from a wax sample and I really liked it but not sure whether it would turn powdery on my skin. Your review makes me feel that’s not likely to happen, but I would like some reassurance because I have a chance to order a bottle online (albeit unsniffed) wink wink.
    Also, if I’m not bothering you, Vika, which do you think is more my thing (and I believe you know my tastes by now), BdV or Gris Clair? I find both of your reviews too appealing to resist an unsniffed purchase 🙂 March 28, 2014 at 9:03am Reply

    • Victoria: Dusan, it doesn’t turn powdery on me, and instead stays woody and crisp. But some people have issues with violets and find anything violet powdery. Maybe, it’s better to get samples from Surrender to Chance or another decanter first? Otherwise, it’s an expensive and risky blind buy. March 28, 2014 at 11:33am Reply

      • Dusan: Thanks so much for taking the time to reply to me, Vika!
        I’m too impatient to wait for the samples to arrive from the US but I suppose you’re right 🙂 So I take it you feel Gris Clair isn’t something that would appeal to me? March 28, 2014 at 11:51am Reply

        • Victoria: Not my first choice for a good lavender. It’s nice, but not outstanding. March 28, 2014 at 11:55am Reply

          • Dusan: Got it! Thanks again! 🙂 March 28, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Sharon: I have a sample of BdV from LuckyScent, which I ordered with a slew of other violet scents. Once I sniffed this one on my arm, I immediately thought of a much-loved Victoria’s Secret scent called simply ‘Victoria’ which might predate Lutens. They are both deep and sweet and have the nearly identical dry-down. My bottle of ‘Victoria’ is old now, so I’m not sure if it might have reformulated itself while it aged. I love BdV and wish I could afford more than a sample vial. August 21, 2014 at 10:56am Reply

    • Victoria: You know, I see exactly what you mean! Victoria had lots of woods and lots of violet, and the effect is even more dramatic than BdV. But unfortunately, it is discontinues and not likely to return. August 21, 2014 at 11:32am Reply

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