Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Shiseido Féminité du Bois

I have not read the new book by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez called Perfumes: The Guide, but here on their preview site, it's stated that Féminité du Bois (1992, Chris Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon) was modeled after Caron Parfum Sacré (Jean-Pierre Béthouard) which was modeled after Chanel Bois des Iles (Ernest Beaux), and that subsequently, the Serge Lutens Bois series and Christian Dior Dolce Vita (Pierre Bourdon and Maurice Rogers) were based on the same fruity woods accord originally created by perfumer Pierre Bourdon (correction: Pierre Bourdon is not credited for the creation of Bois des Iles). I also thought it was an interesting point, that what launched Chris Sheldrake's career was his use of the overdose of woods, which mirrors what I've read in Michael Edwards' Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, about the overdose of ingredients in Joy, Shalimar and Chanel No.5, and virtually all great perfumes all the way up to Angel that made them great. However, I do have one major reservation about giving anyone the crown when it comes to being the technological pioneer of overdose technique. You see, I know Chanel No.5 is called the first Aldehydic Floral (no doubt because of the use of overdose of aldehydes), but I still wonder what to make of Caron Infini, an Aldehydic Floral created by Ernest Daltroff in 1912 (before the reformulation in 1970), 9 years before No.5, and also of Armingeat Reve D'Or (Golden Dream) created in 1905 which, according to the British Society of Perfumers, was the first Aldehydic Floral.

The Challenge of Creativity
A lecture given to the Society by Mr. Bernard Chant on November 11th 1982

"Though Chanel No. 5 is recognized as the first Aldehydic fragrance, created in the mid-twenties, the truth is that the first Aldehydic fragrance was Reve D'Or, or Golden Dream, created in 1905 by Armingeat."

After all, Infini and Reve d'Or would only be classified as Aldehydic Florals if they had the overdose of aldehydes to make them smell as such. What is it that gives Chanel more credibility than Caron and Armingeat? Perhaps I should ask why Pierre Bourdon is credited not only for his creation of this fruity woods accord but also for propagating the technique of overdosing an ingredient in a scent. Had this never been done before by anyone else before the creation of this fruity wood note? I think Luca Turin's narrative helps to create the story of patriarchal perfume lineage passed down from man to man, or real men to real men, from Bourdon to Sheldrake, but to say Bourdon propagated the technique is more romantic prose than historical accuracy. It's like saying jazz was handed down from Armstrong to Hancock, propagated by Charlie Parker (sort of--I'm not saying these perfumers are the equivalent of musical giants), and I know men who think like this but it's grossly generalized and inaccurate. It can be argued that Houbigant Quelques Fleurs (1912) was an overdose of floral notes, too, but the overdose of flowers doesn't make for the most "manly" conversation.


Shiseido Féminité du Bois is, of course, a woody Oriental. The notes are listed as cedar all the way through from top to bottom by many sources. Whether it's really cedar or a technological breakthrough accord I'm smelling, I get the same strong woody, dry, aggressive base in all of the Serge Lutens Bois scents and in Christian Dior Dolce Vita, but Féminité du Bois smells like the master, the vanilla version, and the unembellished simplicity of it is most elegant to me. As a side note, Chanel Bois des Iles is to me like the Aldehydic Floral Chanel No.5 only woodier, although it doesn't register as a particularly overdosed woods scent any more than Creed Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie (1870) does, and I really don't think Caron Parfum Sacré smells like any of the Bois scents by Bourdon/ Sheldrake, and certainly not like Caron took the idea from Chanel Bois des Iles.

(Edited to add: I couldn't remember before, but now I know who Pierre Bourdon is: He composed Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, the spicy iris-woody scent I've grown to love. He's also credited for creating Davidoff Cool Water for Men.)

(Inage: www.shiseido.co.jp)