L’Artisan Parfumeur Bois Farine : Perfume Review



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

Warm porridge sprinkled with shaved roasted almonds, L’Artisan Bois Farine takes up the gourmand theme from the standpoint of abstraction and minimalism, both of which characterize Jean-Claude Ellena’s work. The fragrance teases slightly with its soft comforting associations, yet in its ability to transport, Bois Farine does not quite bring one to the grandmother’s kitchen. Instead, like in a swift rotation of a kaleidoscope, the elements of the composition rearrange themselves to simultaneously evoke a scent of warm skin and fresh wood shavings. The fragrance simultaneously conjures a picnic on the beach and a sculptor’s studio.

Ellena’s inspiration for the floury veil of Bois Farine was a small red flower of Ruizia cordata from the Réunion island, which sends forth a unique starchy scent, redolent of fresh dough. Bois Farine, introduced in 2003, indeed at first evokes a whole range of starchy associations from fresh wheat flour to cooked oatmeal. Delicate sweetness pervades the soft layer, softening its camphorous dryness. …

While the main accord of the composition is comprised of dry, powdery elements, the ornamenting notes change over time. It is as if the main features of the landscape remain intact, while the movement of the clouds and sun changes the mood.

Woody elements of the composition reveal themselves as the fragrance develops. A breath of woody violet envelops the heart of the composition segueing into the base. Cumin provides a surprising element, which while subtle at first, suddenly shocks one with its pungency. Yet, it quickly drowns in the rich powdery dryness, lending a very sensual touch, while at the same time dispelling the opaque quality of the composition.

Balsamic powderiness further dissolves in the vapors of sandalwood and vetiver, which intertwine to produce a cool sensation, making the base resemble a piece of polished marble that has just enough sparkle in it to catch attention. The end result is a balance between sensual and comforting, with a mélange of powdered woods, on the one hand, and sheer musk, on the other.

Notes include fennel seed, iris, white cedar, guaiac wood, sandalwood, benzoin. L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrances are available at Aedes, Barneys New York, Beautycafe, Bergdorf Goodman, Bluemercury, Neiman Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue, and Theperfumeshoppe. European shoppers can find the line at First-in-Fragrance.

Painting: Paul Gauguin, Pastime (Arearea), 1892. Paris, Musee d’Orsay.From e-impressionism.net.



  • Sisonne: Dear V, I like Bois Farine quite a bit 🙂
    It´s a wonderful unisex fragrance which one can easily wear year around though I´d tend to wear it when it´s colder because of it´s comforting woodyness/dryness.
    To me it smells almost nutty. Do you get this note, too? November 14, 2005 at 6:35am Reply

  • kaie: Wonderful review again! I like Bois Farine very much, but there are days when it smells like peanuts to me. Very strange. November 14, 2005 at 6:56am Reply

  • Robin: Bois Farine is one I am still working on. Maybe it is the cumin? But now that Timbuktu, which I intially disliked, is a favorite, maybe this one will grow on me too. November 14, 2005 at 11:11am Reply

  • mreenymo: I was not impressed by this one when I tested it in 2003.

    But your review gives me pause. Perhaps I will test it again sometime.

    Is this an example of J-CE’s love of all things salty and bitter? As I recall, BF was sweet and oatmeal-like.

    Hugs, darling! November 14, 2005 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Miriam: Dear V,

    Yet again a beautifully timed and eloquent review. You have captured both what I admire and what I loathe about this scent– its sweet foody top note, and its woody, spicy floral heart and base. When I wear it, I am only happy about an hour into it, when the “farine” has disappeared and the “bois” emerges. I like the comparison of skin and pencil shavings to an artist’s studio. I also think it smells like the wrists of a schoolchild (it has that powdery baby smell, but pencil shavings are definitely there as well). I only wish the fennel note were a bit stronger. November 14, 2005 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Laura: I remember when you had this on and I thought it was Tolu–now THAT was strange. Powdery woody notes? and a lingering sweetness. The other explanation is that I, not Bois Farine, am nuts. November 14, 2005 at 8:39am Reply

  • Marina: I have a difficult relationship with Bois Farine :-), in a sense that some days I crave it, some days I cannot stand the idea of even smelling it. Same story as with KM Loukhoum. I guess it is the desne powderiness of both, or rather not powderiness but “nuttyness”. November 14, 2005 at 8:54am Reply

  • Tara: I’ve tried this one twice so far, and it is very disturbing to me – something in this scent repels me, possibly the guaiac wood – the last time I wore it as my scent of the day I felt ill all day and could not wait to go home and shower. Shudder. November 14, 2005 at 3:43pm Reply

  • parislondres: Hi V! I got a bottle of this and have given most of it away. I do like it in wintry days.
    Hugs!! November 14, 2005 at 1:09pm Reply

  • Tania: This was such a fun fragrance! I am always cheered by a sense of humor with fragrance, and this, which morphs from peanut butter to cream of wheat and manages to be happily wearable, fits the bill. November 14, 2005 at 2:28pm Reply

  • Campaspe: People were really quite dismissive of this one when it came out, but I quite like it, despite my lack of affinity for most L’Artisan scents. It’s a pleasure to read you giving it a very serious and thoughtful appraisal. Unlike some ladies I don’t really get a “peanut butter” thing, more like a vague tahineh thing, but for the most part it is akin to preparing something for baking. Not the smells from the oven, but the smells as you prepare the raw ingredients. Very offbeat, but somehow rather fetching. November 14, 2005 at 9:40pm Reply

  • Katie: I love this one, if for no other reason than it is one of the very few nutty scents that does not turn into Play-Doh on my skin. It’s creamy on me, but not like cow milk creamy, just like almond milk creamy. Sigh. Lovely.

    I really like your choice of images for this scent. November 14, 2005 at 10:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, I find it predominantly dry/milky, rather than nutty, although I can see where that association might come from. Yet, there is a note that reminds me of roasted almonds, however it does not last too long. It is a beautifully composed fragrance, no doubt about that. November 15, 2005 at 12:04am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaie, thank you. There are days when I smell mostly cumin from it, especially in the heart, however I do not mind that note. It is interesting how our perceptions can change over time though. November 15, 2005 at 12:05am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, you are right! I remember you mentioning Tolu (and I agreed then), which I have tested side by side, but I could not find why it resembled Bois Farine (or rather, vice versa). Perhaps, it was just the way it struck us that day. November 15, 2005 at 12:07am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, the dense powderiness/nuttiness is definitely the reason why I cannot wear KM Loukhoum, despite the fact that I love all of the notes and even all of its stages. Yet, together, it all makes for a rather difficult fragrance for me to carry off. Bois Farine does not quite fall in that category, because it is not as sweet. But I can see what you mean. November 15, 2005 at 12:28am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I thought of you right away when I noticed how pronounced was the cumin. My thought was, “Aha, that is the reason R. does not like it.” 🙂 November 15, 2005 at 12:30am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, ah, yes, salty and bitter! 🙂 No, I would not characterize Bois Farine that way either, although I cannot say that it was particularly sweet to me. It seemed more of a fresh flour scent in the top notes, drying down to become woodsy. There is a very subtle sweet element here, but it is most welcome as otherwise the composition might have been too dry. November 15, 2005 at 1:09am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, your schoolchild wrist reference is great! I can definitely see the baby powder scent, although it vanishes quickly enough and assumes a more sensual quality. Farine aspect is what I vacillate on, however it seems to have grown on me. November 15, 2005 at 1:12am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, it is definitely a perfect winter fragrance. Perhaps, the reason I have been reaching for it more often is precisely because of the fact that the weather is turning cooler. It is very comforting. November 15, 2005 at 1:13am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, I love the sense of humour in fragrances as well. There is something very unconventional about its juxtaposition of notes, and this is what appeals to me the most. And yes, it is very easy to wear, which is always a plus. November 15, 2005 at 1:14am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, that sounds like a very unpleasant experience. I have had this happen with Timbuktu and Miel de Bois, which is why I am a little bit reluctant to revisit these fragrances anytime soon. Timbuktu might be more palatable for me though. November 15, 2005 at 1:16am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: F, yes, you are so spot on with tahineh. I thought about the comparison only later when I was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Unroasted sesame seed is what I smell in Bois Farine as well. I find it to be a wonderfully composed fragrance that produces a range of associations for me. November 15, 2005 at 1:22am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, I love Gauguin’s work, and Pastime is one of the my favourite paintings. I love its wistful character.

    Play-doh comes to haunt me again. 🙂 November 15, 2005 at 1:25am Reply

  • marieantoinette: I don’t smell any cumin and I am sensitive to it. Are you sure it’s an ingredient? November 16, 2005 at 3:28am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I smell that spicy, sweaty note of cumin quite distinctly in the heart of the composition, however the body chemistry might determine whether it is going to be evident on the skin or not. November 16, 2005 at 1:09pm Reply

  • Mercedes Rey: Like Marina, I have a very difficult relationship with this scent. I don´t reach for it very often, and when I do, I don´t smell my wrists all day, like I do with Ambre Narguilé, for example… I just don´t know if I hate it or love it, surely it is interesting and original, but… November 29, 2005 at 10:53am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mercedes, I enjoy it very much, however it is not of the fragrances I wear very often either. Yet, whenever I do, I am always struck by the fact that it is interesting and unusual. November 29, 2005 at 12:09pm Reply

  • Mark: On a lark one day in 2003 on vacation in Mendocino, I stopped into PerfumeMendo, and walked out an hour later with a bottle of L’Artisan Dzing! for my wife. It’s risky for a man to buy perfume for his wife, because sense of smell and preferences vary widely. But she loved it, scents being too personal to attribute approval to someone else’s liking.

    I called Judith at PM last month and explained that I wanted to try my luck again with the same line of perfumes, wherein she recommended Bois Farine. The product arrived, and I decided to try it on a piece of paper (what do I know about how perfumes should be sampled?). Smelled pretty strong and almost industrial. Not good. At this point I assumed that I had blown it, and that my wife would not like this new scent any more than I did. I was reminded of how the collective smell of the perfume counter at department stores always leaves me wondering how anyone can buy that stuff and wear it. More precisely, I ask myself how I can put as much distance between myself and that counter in the shortest amount of time.

    When she tried on the Bois Farine, and let it sit for a while, however, we both ended up liking it very much. She’s worn it every day since, which is the only endorsement that matters.

    As a man, I like Dzing! and Bois Farine because of what I can only term their earthiness. Neither are pungent or flashy, but rather have this well-being character about them. And my wife likes both very much. It doesn’t get any better than this. December 25, 2005 at 10:09am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mark, sounds like a great selection! I must say that both of these L’Artisan fragrances are fascinating, and I am not surprised that both of you ended up liking them. Olivia Giacobetti and Jean-Claude Ellena are among my favourite perfumers, and these two fragrances are good examples of their work. December 26, 2005 at 8:02pm Reply

  • Eileen: For me, Bois Farine begins by smelling like a gourmet peanut butter cup from a fine chocolatier. I agree with Mark, who talked about the “well-being character” of this scent. It’s got a floury, warm feeling that lingers after the candy shop opening. It really makes super-busy floral scents seem frenetic and exaggerated. September 30, 2011 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Iryna: Smells like hay to me! )) January 8, 2014 at 8:14pm Reply

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