The life of Féminité du Bois is far from being boring and some big names from perfume industry are connected to it. In 1992 Shiseido created the scent under the supervision of Serge Lutens who has collaborated with them since the `80s as a designer and make-up artist. He had a huge impact on the image of the brand and I remember vividly those ads that became emblematic for Shiseido with lithe models in stretch black costumes posing in a theatrical manner. An year before, in 1991 Lutens has already launched his own brand presenting the first scent Santal de Mysore and in 1992 he added a few wonderful creations all inspired by the wood theme called “Bois” (de Violette, Musc, Fuits, Oriental and Sepia) – all sharing the same DNA with the classic Féminité du Bois from Shiseido – proving that the original had a successful recipe. An interesting aspect is that Shiseido`s version was created by Pierre Bourdon in partnership with Christopher Sheldrake who later moved as in house perfumer at Lutens. After that both perfumers, Bourdon and Sheldrake made other versions of Féminité du Bois – Sheldrake made that Bois series while Bourdon Dolce Vita for Dior a happy scent which despite many reformulations still maintains a cheerful sun infused character.
So Shiseido`s and Lutens versions coexisted for more then a good decade until Shiseido decided to remove it from production somewhere around the mid 2000`s (I have no official information, but I remember in 2006 it was still available in Germany and I cannot tell you how much I regretted later not buying a few bottles) and concentrate instead on the crowd pleaser Zen collection that now includes numerous editions (although none of them manages to beat the original woody-rose from 1964).
But let`s take a closer look and compare a bit Shiseido and Lutens versions of Féminité du Bois.
Technically both are very well executed evoking that dark atmosphere, so typical for Lutens. What amazes me primarily is the fact that, despite an intense note of cedar the fragrances are very feminine. In general, cedar is a striking note present mostly in aromatic compositions for men, but in Féminité du Bois it has been mixed with sweet accents of candied fruits, ripe plum, juicy peach and spices forming an inviting scent. It makes me think of the high mountain cold air, the dark pine forests, burning logs in the fireplace and the smell of a home made pie freshly removed from the owen and powdered with cinnamon.
The composition is dense and enveloping, but also pretentious, it does not intend to satisfy everyone. A scent with a very strong personality. For me the perfect time to put Féminité du Bois would be during autumn-winter as I observed it has a glory moment when outside is very cold: it achieves perfection when is a bit lived-in, after several hours. Put it behind the ears, on wrists and on your coat then have a long walk in the chill air. When you`ll come back in the cozy house having cold red cheeks you`ll smell divine for sure. That’s for me the perfect scenario to wear this fragrance.
Both versions are bold and intricate and will take you on long and captivating journeys. At a side by side test a few subtle differences appear not allowing me to call them twins, but sisters. If I pay attention at the consistency of the structures, the original version from Shiseido appears to have a more rounded scent showing warm facets of riped fruits and resins right from the start which are equal in force with the cedar, while in the other one it looks like the cedar gained more volume over them making a statement in the opening and continuing to spread it`s cool and sharp coniferous nuances on a much larger radius almost touching the limits of the dry down. So the cedar kind of sits on top of everything and the scent seems therefore more woodier, as if some wood splitters would fall over a bed of dried fruits, instead of evoking a hot magma of fruits and resins that melts out from a pine`s trunk, as the old juice used to be.
Behind that special charisma of the original version was a powerful and sensual mixture of honey and beeswax which many are suspecting that was secretly amplified by Iso E Super, and this important combo has not been transferred in the Lutens version – maybe Sheldrake didn`t felt the need to repeat himself. I would not say that the Lutens version is therefore in contrast minimalistic, oh no, the complexity hasn`t been completely lost, it`s just a tiny bit attenuated, as if you`d smell the original through a veil and some of that thick nuances of spices, resins and fruits may not all cross the fabric, appearing a bit pale in odor, reduced. But the juice is still good, nevertheless. To be fair I like both editions.The price of the original is now quite prohibitive (if you get the chance to find it on ebay because mostly I see only miniature bottles on sale or the Eau Timide version which is far too weak) therefore I will enjoy the miniatures I have found in flea markets. While thinking lately at Féminité du Bois and writing this down I have set my eyes on Bois et Fruit which I hope to own in time for the cold season that is about to begin. How about you – do you get these differences? If yes, which version do you prefer?